"24" has been gone almost four years and while we may know what we've been doing over those years, no one knows what Jack Bauer has been up to. Monday night, some answers. Meanwhile, a review....
"24: Live Another Day," WNYW/5, 8
What it's about: The day begins at 11 a.m., London time. The C.I.A. is hunting a "high value target" - Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland), on the run four years, or ever since Chloe O'Brian (Mary Lynn Rajskub) "surveilled" him from a drone over New York City. Afterwards, Jack had seemed to vanish forever ("24" ended May 24, 2010, after eight seasons). Bauer was a wanted man - by the Russians and the Americans - at the end of the so-called "8th day," and he still is. But why is Jack in London? CIA station chief Steve Navarro (Benjamin Bratt) wants to grab Jack before he can do any damage - the U.S. president, James Heller (formerly the Defense Secretary) is in the city, along with his daughter, Audrey Raines (Kim Raver) and her husband, Heller's chief of staff, Mark Boudreau (Tate Donovan). An agent at the CIA, Kate Morgan (Yvonne Strahovski) is understandably wary of Jack. One of her rivals, however, Erik Ritter (Gbenga Akinnagbe), is wary of her.
This 12-part "special event" is expected to be the bookend to a classic series. Sutherland has said no sequels will be produced. So this is, truly, the end. (Maybe.)
My say: Your first sighting of Jack Bauer Monday night is through the lens of a surveillance camera mounted on a crablike gizmo that has skittered across the floor of a grimy flophouse. There, in a split second, is the half-lit image of someone crouching over the body of a pursuer he has just immobilized. Bauer then glances - no, glares over to the camera to stare straight back at...you.
A nicely economical shot, this tells you almost everything you need to know about Jack since last seen, most notably: He's still got plenty of unfinished business in the alt-universe of "24," which seemed to end for good almost exactly four years ago.
Four years in fact haven't really seemed to change Jack all that much. He's still all coiled rage and vengeance -- a one-man wrecking crew, a weaponized piece of human flesh and bone...
What's changed in fact is us. Since that last season in New York, and even during some of the faltering ones that preceded, TV (and culture) went off in a different direction. The new TV heroes were of the the "anti" variety -- Don Draper, or Walter White -- who struggled with their blighted souls as opposed to blighted superpowers or narco-terrorists. Jack Bauer had become obsolete. Watching him crawl out of the gloom Monday night, it's hard to shake the sense that he still is.
But that doesn't mean it's not good to have him back. It is good -- very good -- made even better by the fact that we know we won't be groaning our way through hours 22 and 23, as the last crazy plot twists shred logic, plausibility and patience (ours.) Jack does have unfinished business, but it's nice to know he only has 12 hours to get it done.
Besides Jack, "Live Another Day" rolls out the welcome mat in all sorts of other ways. For one, the ever-indispensable Chloe returns as a sartorially tricked-out cyber-punk, all dressed in black and -- like Jack -- a patriot without country. DeVane's Heller and Raver's Audrey Raines, who were characters from the late golden age of "24" ("Day 6"), get a chance to wrap their own incomplete story as well. Meanwhile, every classic "24" trick and trope is here to remind us why we got so excited about this show in the first place.
And for the requisite contemporary touches, "Live Another Day" is a banquet of current affairs issues -- or at least a salad bar at TGIF. Drones, Afghanistan and leaked government documents -- cue Edward Snowden -- are all key plot points. But at least in the opening hours, they feel more like like grappling hooks used to drag Jack and his latest "worst day" up to date, as opposed to half-baked attempts at political commentary (or relevancy).
"24," in other words, is still thankfully "24."
Bottom line: A good opening salvo for what will probably be Jack's last day, at least on TV. Enjoy it while you can, and it is enjoyable.