Also noteworthy addition is Tate Donovan as Mark Boudreau, Heller’s chief of staff and Audrey Raines’ husband (wouldn’t that be a conflict of interest… or is it just a remarkable coincidence?). Mark wants to be a supportive husband, but knows that he has to be tough as steel when addressing a president who is not up to his usual feats. The best scene in the two-part premiere did not involve any torture, threats or plot twist, but decpited Mark trying to press Heller with some mock debate questions. Audrey sat next to him and grimaced as Mark bullies the president into making a clumsy error.
Meanwhile, John Boyega, who will soon be a superstar due to his upcoming role in Star Wars: Episode VII, is a nice face to see. He plays Lt. Chris Tanner, who is at the command of controlling computerized drones for the military when a hacker infiltrates the system and fires on American friendlies in Afghanistan. While his screen time is limited, Boyega makes the most of his panicked glares at the camera as he realizes his predicament. Finally, Game of Thrones’ Michelle Fairley shows up as the mysterious, dimly lit terrorist mastermind who has some responsibility for the drone malfunction.
Sutherland is strong, too. It is amusing to watch Jack so calm and tranquil as Navarro slams him with titles like “criminal” and “terrorist.” His first lines of the episode do not come until more than a half-hour in, and we almost do not realize it. Sutherland’s hushed, threatening monotone is prime, meaning it did not take much for the actor to step back into fuming in character.
If these first two hours of 24 are missing anything essential, it is the chemistry between Sutherland and Rajskub. Since there are a lot of characters and plot pieces to place and move around, episode writers Evan Katz & Manny Coto (for hour one) and Robert Cochran & David Fury (for hour two) rely too much on hoping that viewers recall the efficiency of this character teaming from earlier seasons.
Chloe and Jack only get a couple of dynamic moments together. Despite being out of contact, supposedly, for many years, by the mid-point of episode two, Chloe is already willing to supply surveillance help from a truck as Jack infiltrates a slum tenement, in pursuit of a hacker controlling the military weapons system. A few scenes of conflict and catch-up between the two old friends is missing, and their characters’ social behaviour is subservient to the crackling plotting.
Furthermore, the action sequences leave a bit to be desired. Perhaps it is the cost restrictions of the drama, one that used to have a massive per-episode budget, but the major action sequences – one at the start of the first hour, the other at the climax of the second – are choppy and chaotic. 24, at its thrilling finest, had beautifully framed, coherent set-pieces. During Jack Bauer’s escape from the CIA field operatives at the beginning of hour one, there is little spatial continuity, even with multiple camera angles. Some of the hand-to-hand combat felt clumsy as well, and it seemed more the fault of the editing team than the actors.
Another issue with 24: Live Another Day is that the viewer is accustomed to the rhythms of the drama from earlier seasons – how seemingly insignificant characters turn out to have a real stake in the story, for instance. This means that there are not many surprises when a big twist occurs at the end of the second hour.
Still, despite a few shaky sections, 24 is back, and it feels solid. It feels concurrent to an era where Jeremy Scahill and Julian Assange are alive and well, fighting for transparency on behalf of covert American operations and freedom of information. Not only is 24: Live Another Day just as brisk and thrilling as the original series, but the shows is certainly back to the topical geopolitical threats that made the series such incisive social commentary at its creative apex. The clock is now ticking, and after tonight’s premiere, I think that the pacing, performances and plotting are good enough to quell fears of even the show’s most passionate fans.