No sooner did television enter its so-called golden era than it swiftly ran out of ideas. Sure, given its streamlined structure and new setting, 24: Live Another Day clearly wants to be considered new and innovative, but underneath it’s the same old show. What has changed is that while this never felt like an issue in the past, this time it feels like a genuine problem.
So Jack (Kiefer Sutherland) is back once more, here in our nation’s capital to avert yet another terrorist atrocity. The target is President James Heller (William Devane) – you remember him, he was the guy who once thanked Jack for saving his daughter’s life by telling him he could never see her again. The culprit is Margot Al-Harazi (Michelle Fairly), who is trying to digitally hijack the President’s fleet of unmanned drones to use as weapons against London for reasons too numerous to mention here.
In the 24 hours that follow, Jack will need to team up with his female CIA equivalent (Yvonne Strahovski) and Chloe O’Brian (Mary Lynn Rajskub, whose appearance suggests she’s spent the intervening years pretending her life is a Stieg Larson novel), in order to stop Al-Harazi, make amends with Heller and his daughter Audrey (Kim Raver), avoid some smarmy Russians, and wrestle with the Capital’s unforgiving tube network.
If it all sounds utterly preposterous, that’s because it is. But then again, 24 has never been a show that strived for realism. Its main aim was to entertain, and on some level it still manages to hit the mark.
The stripped back approach certainly allows for greater urgency and excitement to be sustained, with the pace-slowing subplots that plagued nearly every season in one way or another having been dispensed with entirely. Kiefer Sutherland continues to effectively lead the charge, chewing up the scenery with his unparalleled intensity. And there’s something inescapably exhilarating about watching all this absurdity play out in a permanently grey-hued London.
Yet despite this, you’re left with an overwhelmingly stale taste in your mouth once the series has finished. Though the topical drone plot alludes to a fresh sense of purpose, it isn’t long before fatigue sets in and we’re once more at the mercy of 24’s greatest hits routine. Cue agency moles (seriously, does every US Intelligence office have one?), plans for universal annihilation, and a technological McGuffin. And then there’s the bizarre inclusion of Stephen Fry as the British Prime Minster, a distracting guest appearance that has the power to singlehandedly deflate entire episodes.
Whether its popularity will be enough for Fox to order another season remains to be seen, but it must be said that, as someone who still adores many of the original seasons, this “event” is one terror plot too many. Granted there are times where its impossible to not be swept up in a moment of excitement, but for the most part 24: Live Another Day is so mind-numbingly familiar that it ironically feels like time stands still when you’re watching it.