Last week, I praised the debut of 24: Live Another Day for doing classic 24 stuff in all the best ways. This week? Well, I suppose it was nice to be reminded that with classic 24, we have to take the good with the bad. The third hour of Live Another Day kept the story moving and found some time to more clearly introduce a few characters, but it also brought back that familiar feeling of people just driving and/or running around chasing one another while the show bides its time until something more interesting comes to pass.
What this episode illustrated is that Live Another Day's 12-part structure isn't necessarily going to void 24's proclivity for quasi-filler episodes. When I first heard that it would only run for half as many hours as a typical 24 season, I sort of imagined this wild, action-packed shootout from start to finish. But the reality is that this event series doesn't have an exorbitant budget, so my dreams are dashed! In any event, the truth of the matter definitely dawned on me as Jack and Chloe spent most of this hour hustling to find Simone (Emily Berrington), the deadly daughter of the early Big Bad, Margot Al-Harazi (Michelle Fairley), while CIA agents Kate (Yvonne Strahovski) and Erik (Gbenga Akinnagbe) did their own scrambling to figure out what the heck happened during the firefight in the second half of the premiere.
Jack and Chloe's hunt for Simone wasn't particularly thrilling or intense—in fact, it was weirdly casual—but director Adam Kane made much better use of the London setting than the show did in the first two episodes. Moving Jack and Simone through the street, down into the Tube, and back up again brought some fluidity to the chase, even despite the lack of urgency. I wouldn't go as far to say that Live Another Day's setting makes 24 feel completely different, but the location adds more to the show than Washington D.C. and New York City ever did in Season 7 and Season 8. Plus, Berrington's Simone had a nice little moment near the end of the chase sequence where she sliced her own leg and wiped the blood on her face in an attempt to convince other commuters that Jack was trying to kill her. I'm not sure whether the show intended to go out of its way to suggest that Jack could be pretty easily outsmarted because he's "rusty" or something, but that move worked nonetheless.
You know what didn't work as well, though? Chloe's sudden breakdown over her dead husband and son, Morris and Prescott. The downside of jumping ahead in time—and in this case, we've skipped over a four-year period—is that 24 always has to fill in the blanks with pretty clunky exposition, and apparently Live Another Day is no different. Mary Lynn Rajskub tried to bring the backstory to life with a muted performance, but there's no real way to get around an info dump that's intended to explain a character's recent history and motivation in 60 seconds. It didn't help that Chloe's family was murdered, which only further reinforces how awful the few surviving characters in this universe have it. Sure, Jack and Chloe can commiserate because they've both lost spouses, and we now have a solid idea of why Chloe joined Open Call, but yow. I get the intent, it just didn't come together onscreen.
The episode's more detailed introduction of Fairley's Margot was unfortunately bogged down by the show's typically bumpy HERE'S WHY WE'RE TRYING TO END THE WORLD speeches, but man, Fairley's kind of the perfect person for a silly role like this, no? You really get the sense that after playing a bit of a wet blanket on Game of Thrones, she jumped at the opportunity to chop it up in the 24 universe. Hour three slowed down quite a bit when it followed Simone back to the Al-Harazi HQ, but the scenes were just weird enough to feel mostly worthwhile. Unsurprisingly, Mr. Al-Harazi, a notable terrorist, was struck down by a drone attack, making Margot's revenge ESPECIALLY PERSONAL. We've never seen that before on this show, huh? Margot spying on her daughter mid-coitus, seemingly just to make sure that Simone's boyfriend Navid (Sacha Dhawan) stays in line, was a nice touch. Naveed probably isn't long for this world, and there's absolutely no reason to care about his concerns over Simone's, uh, sacrifices while she was undercover, but Fairley and Berrington make for a solid mother-daughter pair.
Elsewhere in the episode, a bunch of very familiar 24-y things occurred. Tate Donovan's Mark forged an executive order to have Jack renditioned, which surely won't go poorly for him in the next few hours, especially since Audrey started making some noise about how closely he coddles both her and President Heller. It's truly impossible to believe that Mark is just a well-meaning bureaucrat who's overstepping his authority in an attempt to protect his previously traumatized wife. That said, I do appreciate the show's restraint early on; Mark could've been much more of a caricature. Not only is Tate Donovan the perfect person to play a half-assed admirable scumbag, but this episode gave Mark a bit of a victory when President Heller's speech in front of parliament immediately went south, just as Mark expected it would. For a character who's almost certainly going to be in the wrong come hour seven or eight, Mark is okay, ya know?
Moreover, Kate and Erik's hunt for Jack and all information related to him did that 24 thing where one of the characters resorts to excessive force and illegal procedure to obtain intel. It was Kate, obviously, because she's going to be the one character within the CIA who's sympathetic to Jack's position, and perhaps to his old-school methodology. Like the first two episodes, this one hammered home how ridiculous it is that Kate could be so perceptive and yet fail to catch her husband selling state secrets. I'm hoping something actually comes of that, because if it turns out to be just the show's way of building character, it won't have been particularly successful. And by not particularly successful I mean terrible.
But! As all the best mediocre, kind-of-boring episodes of 24 do, all these events led to one heck of a final few minutes. Amid a relatively large group of people (way to make that protest look legitimate, show), Jack decided to secretly shoot a couple of randos in the leg to incite a riot, solely so he could make it into the embassy undetected. Not only did the sequence have the kind of energy that the rest of the episode didn't (maybe that was intentional), it was also well-shot and generally well-staged. While you could definitely tell what was happening, things escalated very quickly. For a series that usually trafficks in firefights in the blandest industrial parks, this was a fun way to close out the hour. Plus, 24 has a lovely track record with Jack making his way into various embassies, so I'm sure he'll just get in there, talk to everyone, and it'll all be okay. It's always okay.
– DAMMIT TRACKER: Still at one; KILL TRACKER: Still at zero, as we received confirmation that the one dude survived the attack on the neck. After these first three hours, maybe we should change it to MAIMING TRACKER?
– I know it's early, but I really hope that this isn't all Audrey gets to do for 12 hours. Kim Raver deserves better.
– Again, it's early, but when Fox promised that the show would take advantage of the shorter episode order to bounce around the day a little bit, I expected that it would happen in the first third of the season. I don't see how hour four picks up anywhere but 2pm, so that's odd. Take some risks with your format, show. That's why you're back.
– The jab from Adrian Cross (Michael Wincott) about Jack always asking for favors and following them up with gun-related threats was pretty great, with an unbelievably stoic no-sell by Kiefer Sutherland.
– I'm the only one who laughs at that photo up top of Jack on the stairs? Is there a Sad Jack Bauer Tumblr? There should be.
What'd you think of Episode 3? What would you like to see 24 try with the shorter 12-hour format?
AIRED ON 5/24/2010
Season 8 : Episode 24