written by Sang Kyu Kim & Patrick Somerville | directed by Adam Kane
While I enjoyed last week's double dose premiere of 24: Live Another Day (hereafter 24LAD), it wasn't anything revolutionary nd probably won't enter the pantheon of great 24 openers. It actually felt like a throwback to the workmanlike early seasons, which is probably for the best in the long-run. 24LAD will only last a dozen hours, so it makes sense for the narrative and thrills to build exponentially as we progress through the story. The writers don't need to hook viewers as vigorously as before, because their investment of time is going to be much shorter. Unfortunately, that may partly explain why overnight ratings for this third episode dipped by 22% in the US...
"1:00PM – 2:00PM" was chiefly concerned with putting meat on the bones we were given last week. First we learned that Chloe (Mary Lynn Rajskub) has been grieving the deaths of her husband and young son in a "traffic accident" she believes was intended for her, which delivered the episode's best emotional beat when Jack (Kiefer Sutherland) offered a loving embrace. Friends and colleagues for years, now both are united by familial grief. 24's such a propulsive show that you need human moments like these to keep you engaged on a deeper level; no matter how manipulative Chloe's tragic back-story was on some level.
We also spent a good portion of time with the season's villain Margot Al-Harazi (Michelle Fairley), who is orchestrating the takeover of US drones from an idyllic manor house in the genteel English countryside. Margot's an Englishwoman woman radicalised by her terrorist husband, who now has the support of her brainwashed daughter Simone (Emily Berrington), but a probable traitor in handsome son-in-law Navid (Sacha Dhawan)—the ethnic face who's beginning to get cold feet over his family's plan. (See, this year it's the white people who are evil.)
Meanwhile, President Heller (William Devane) is still stubbornly ignoring the advice of his Chief of Staff, Mark Boudreau (Tate Donovan)—another son-in-law causing grief for an elder, to continue that theme across 24LAD's figureheads of good and evil. Mark's even forging the President's signature, to enable the Secret Service to turn Jack Bauer over to the Russian authorities. I hope Heller's entire storyline isn't going to revolve around his Alzheimer's this season, but for now it's a decent problem to overcome that's certainly relatable than hijacked military drones. The scene where the President faced a room full of MPs (who hilariously launched into a tirade of angry questions) wasn't especially believable because Brits are so deferential, usually, but the show obviously needs a few character-based climaxes.
For the most part, this episode's storylines rocked along very nicely. I very much enjoyed Jack's tailing of devious Simone through the London Underground (referred to as both "the subway" and "the tube"), and had to admire the confidence of the storytelling in having Jack essentially queue up for about 10 minutes of the episode.
24LAD is also doing a surprisingly good job with its location shooting across the UK capital. Were you expecting a tourist's view of red phone boxes, double deckers, and Jack running past Beefeaters every few minutes? The producers have wisely avoided that embarsssment. London instead feels much danker and grungier than its picture postcard reputation promoted to foreigners; council estates (or "housing projects") stained with graffiti, dark road tunnels where scary inner-city gangs lurk, pubs where someone's been killed in a toilet, and open areas full of citizens protesting with placards.
I also enjoyed watching Kate Morgan (Yvonne Strahovski) more this week, as she's proving herself a dedicated agent with Bauer-like morals and a "get the job done at all costs" attitude. There was a fun scene where she managed to get scumbag Basher (Tamer Hassan) to talk, by threatening him with a rival gang's vengeance instead of the water-boarding he expected. Was this 24 subtly signalling it realises torture isn't the best way of extracting reliable information from suspects? Glorifying torture is something the show has wrestled with from the very beginning, so maybe we'll see less of that in 24LAD.
Overall, 24LAD hasn't put a foot wrong yet. It won't recapture the feel and excitement of the show in its youthful prime (season 1-5), but it also doesn't feel quite as dumb as the show became towards the end. The location shooting is also giving it a welcome shot in the arm, if only because it's so entertaining seeing Jack run through familiar backdrops.