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FOX (ended 2010)

24: Live Another Day just wrapped up a successful return season for Jack Bauer, Chloe O'Brian, and the rest of the franchise's cohorts, which means we can now assess where Day 9 stacks up against the rest of the series. Does it belong near the top of the list, or must its triumphs carry an asteris,, because Live Another Day only had to produce half the number of episodes as every other day? Well, that's what I'm here for. We're not ready for the clock to run out 24 love quite yet, so it's time to count down all nine "days" of 24, from worst to best.

10. Redemption (2008): In which Jack learns that the children are our future

I appreciate Fox's attempts to fill the 24-shaped hole in our hearts created by the WGA strike with this telefilm bridging Days 6 and 7, but Redemption was entirely unmemorable, which is actually what 24 (good or bad) shouldn't be. Robert Carlyle's Carl Benton was fun, though; the show could have used that character much more—and much better—than it did.

9. DAY 6 (2007): In which there's no one left to care about and a nuclear bomb goes off in Episode 4

The heading says it all. I could go on and on about how stupid it was to actually detonate a nuclear bomb on U.S. soil a sixth of the way through the season and then choose not to explore the consequences of that one event for the next 20 hours. There've been some miserable moments in 24's history, but that one sticks out the most for me. However, while this season did end up getting some solid mileage out of the Bauer family drama and that weird performance by Ricky Schroeder as a CTU agent, the most debilitating thing about Day 6 was that there were far too few characters left for the audience to care about. That's what happens when you go for broke in the previous year, as the show did in Day 5. Sadly, none of the new characters introduced in Day 6 were worth investing in. 

8. DAY 8 (2010): In which a last-ditch effort to spice up the show by moving to New York doesn't really work

The New York setting added a little flavor to the 24 formula, but beyond that, Day 8 made it pretty clear that the show had exhausted any and all ideas. The season was too reliant on the political maneuvering (something that plagued the show in the post-David Palmer days), and even a gusto performance from Katee Sackhoff couldn't make the stupid mole storyline work. However, we shouldn't disregard the surprisingly moving and powerful chemistry between Jack and Renee, or the bloody, murderous rampage Jack went on in the Day's final portion once she was gunned down right after they finished having sex. Fully unhinged Jack was quite the sight.

7. DAY 7 (2009): In which Tony returns from the dead and Jack ponders his use of torture

The shift to D.C. worked better for 24 than its later move to NYC. The imagery of Jack Bauer running around in the nation's capital, or even being indicted in front of a major committee and walking the halls of the CIA, worked wonders for Day 7. And any time you have the chance to produce a major set piece involving a full-scale infiltration of the White House, I'm going to be into it. Day 7 maybe lost the thread a bit with Jack's introspection, but it did make fine use of a more ripped-from-the-headlines story involving a Blackwater-esque shadow group. 

6. DAY 3 (2004): In which Jack kicks heroin in 24 hours, cuts off the hand of his probable son-in-law in a school classroom

If the only criteria for this list was "Which day does Cory re-watch the most," Day 3 would be at the top. Look, it's absolutely silly from almost the very beginning until the very end; this is the season where 24 shifted into a different register, and where it became a show more about plot twists and gruesome violence/action than character. That's okay, however, because Jack kicked heroin in one day. Day 3 also gave us Nina's final moments, Kim as an agent (LOL), the underrated Chase, and all the weird stuff that happened in Mexico. Was it all good? No way. But was it entertaining? Oh yes. 

5. DAY 4 (2005): In which the series reboots (for the first time) and Jack chases Marwan all over California

Day 4 is probably best described as the most consistent and efficient season of 24, even if it didn't reach the same heights as the ones ahead of it on this list. Jack and Audrey's relationship developed more successfully than I would have expected from a show of this caliber, and the new characters managed to mix in with some of the veterans without too much of a disturbance. And of course, Marwan was an awesome, intelligent villain who propelled the story for much longer than most of his peers. 

4. DAY 9 (2014): In which the action moves to London and Jack and Chloe fight for redemption 

Our most recent day obviously had a few advantages that others did not, but I can't hold that against the show too much—especially when Day 9 was so strong. The shorter season meant a tighter and better-told story, and less time to get lost in the woods (perhaps literally) with lame characters or D-plots that had no real impact on the people who everyone in the audience cared about. While the drone stuff was problematic in spots, a trio of great villains (Margot, Cross, and Cheng) and the introduction of a strong new character for the first time in a few Days (Kate) helped Day 9 work as more than just a fun nostalgia project. 

3. DAY 1 (2001): In which Jack saves the day but loses his wife in the process and the original—and still best—mole is revealed

The series' first season gets a lot of credit for bringing such a novel concept to the screen and then executing it with relative aplomb. Fittingly, there were some rough spots along the way as the writers struggled to extend the story to the full 24 hours—most notably Teri's random amnesia fugue state or whatever the hell that was, and most of the mini-stories involving Kim—but the thrill of watching Jack make tough decisions in trying to save both his family and David Palmer is still memorable 13 years later. 

2. DAY 2 (2002): In which the show embraces its post-9/11 politics and introduces the immortal cougar

Although 24 debuted after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the show couldn't fully shift its focus and scope to reflect the political and sociocultural climate in America until the second season, and boy did it ever. Day 1 created many of the show's longstanding plots and formulas, but Day 2 truly established its politics and expanded its scale and stakes. Most importantly, Day 2 found a nice balance between some of the more intimate stories involving Jack and his "recovery" from the events of Day 1 and the bigger, full-stop terrorist attack stuff that would come to define the show, basically from that point forward. PLUS: Kim and the cougar. That glorious cougar. 

1. DAY 5 (2006): In which nearly everyone important gets killed and Jack saving the day ultimately doesn't matter 

It was hard to choose a winner between the top two or three days, but Day 5 takes the top spot because of how relentless it was in piling on the major deaths, big twists, paranoia, and misery. Although what happened in this season created a massive hole in the show that wasn't really ever filled, it was amazing to watch as it unspool. No one was safe—not even Jack, as the end of the season illustrated. Plus, this was the only season where the political intrigue actually worked and produced real surprises, which is of course in part to Gregory Itzin's performance as the sniveling President Logan. There's a reason Day 5 was 24's most popular and most critically acclaimed season: It was the best.

How would YOU rank 24's seasons? Share your own list in the comments!

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