I’ve been wanting to finally re-watch 24 for many years now but when I put my old DVDs in a few years ago the picture, particularly around the trademark digital clock, was terrible and so I decided to wait for the “inevitable Blu-Ray release”… that never came. Then when I finally gave in it vanished off UK streaming sites altogether! Thankfully it’s now available in its up-rez, recreated clock graphics glory on Disney +’s new STAR category here in the UK, so I thought I’d finally have a good watch through from the beginning. Handily each Season is normally split in two halves with a greater threat looming over both, so it made decision on how to cover the series easier too. So, without any further ado, let’s take a look at the first chunk of episodes, shall we?
CTU (Counter Terrorist Unit) Los Angeles learns of a potential assassination attempt aimed at Senator David Palmer but as Jack Bauer and CTU investigate the threat, Jack’s daughter Kim runs away but ends up being held against her will when the guys she’s with kidnap her. Jack is soon having to play into the terrorist’s hands while juggling the lives of his family with that of the future President…
*spoilers appear from here on out!*
An example of the now-classic comic book style panel view!
First thing’s first, and I’ll only mention it here so as not to be completely redundant, but I LOVE the “real time” aspect of the show. It’s what drew me to it in the first place and I still think it’s one of the most addictive shows in history because of it. Even here, in its first iteration, they nail it. The tension created by the ticking clock, knowing there won’t be any flashbacks or flash forwards just the characters running headlong until the incident ends. It’s such a great format.
Day 1 kicks off with Senator David Palmer (played brilliantly by Dennis Haysbert) being targeted by a mercenary, and soon spirals from there. Jack Bauer (as always played with stoic charm by Kiefer Sutherland) is the director of Los Angeles’ Counter Terrorist Unit and soon finds out that not only has his young daughter Kim (Elisha Cuthbert) gone missing during a night out with friends, but soon his wife Teri (Leslie Hope) has also vanished and then to top things off he’s not only told there is a mole in CTU (get used to that, for the record…) but he then gets a call from the mercenary planning the hit, Ira Gaines (Michael Massee) telling him that HE is going to assassinate Palmer because he’s got his family as hostages. This day, or any other day, surely couldn’t get worse? … Oh yeah, right.
The “how’s my wife?!” scene, one of the few things I remembered vividly from the first time I watched it…
Still, there are some great, tense scenes as Jack tries to play along with Gaines while also trying to get help from the two agents he truly trusts (after a while) in Nina Myers (Sarah Clarke) and Tony Almeida (Carlos Bernard), but eventually he intentionally stops the assassination attempt anyway, though luckily for him Gaines receives word to not kill off Teri and Kim at the last second. More mind games are played, including Jack having to take Nina off to the middle of nowhere and kill her, though he sneaks a bullet proof vest on her (I won’t spoil anything, but that was a particularly interesting scene watching it the second time…) and the revelation that friendly tech lady Jamey (Karina Arroyave) was the mole inside CTU. Jack soon captures Kevin Carroll (Richard Burgi), a man who worked for Gaines and posed as the father of Kim’s friend to facilitate the kidnapping, and eventually caught Teri too. It’s a fantastic, proper air-punching scene as he steps into the back of a limo only for Jack turn around in the driver’s seat and simply ask “Where’s my wife?!” with a smug grin as Kevin tries to shoot him through what turns out to be bullet proof glass. The soundtrack that plays as Jack knocks him out by driving the limo recklessly is also great. It’s one of the standout moments of the season.
They arrive at Gaines’ hideout and several great action scenes later and Jack manages to get his family to safety back at CTU… erm, safety… yeah, and then kills Gaines for good measure (in self-defence, he did want to know who hired him…) Anyway, there are some good moments here, and I liked Gaines at the first proper baddie in 24, even if he was just a merc hired by the real villains I’ll get to in the next half. There is a series of scenes in the first two hours where Ira has to get an ID badge for his plan to work but the two women who get it for him end up being trouble, one of which is Mandy (Mia Kirshner) who will be an on and off villain in the series, and other is a less experienced woman named Bridgit (Kim Murphy). Bridgit tries to get more money out of Gaines by hiding the item against Mandy’s orders, and Ira has to meet them in the middle of a desert, where he has Bridgit shot but allows Mandy to escape. It’s the sort of villain centric side-story you just don’t get in any other show, due to the format needing a reason to keep showing characters even during times they’re just waiting for their plan to start.
“My wife did what?” “Nothing much… yet.” “Oh, okay. Wait… what did you mean…” “Never mind. For now…” “Erm…”
It’s safe to say teenage party girl Kim Bauer is the weak link, acting-wise, and can often be obnoxious to the point of you feeling no sympathy for the character despite all the horrors she goes through. Teri isn’t much more interesting, though at least she’s a bit more bad-ass (and a lot better at acting) though a scene where she willingly gets raped to save her daughter from the same fate is just… a bit too unpleasant for my tastes, even if you thankfully don’t see anything.
Another subplot that plays out across the whole season is David Palmer’s wife Sherry (Penny Johnson Jerald) becoming more and more unpleasantly ruthless in trying to keep David’s career on track, and while it does have some good bits later, here it’s just beginning with a few hints and a few moments of pig-headedly sorting things out behind her husband’s back because she thinks she knows better. It’s… a little annoying, but then that’s what the character is supposed to be, so… Sure. Not the end of the world, but not all that great either.
A round of applause for Ira Gaines. A top class villain to kick us off!
It is funny looking back at just how much of 24’s formula was created right off the bat, and while a lot of the Kim and Teri scenes drag the show down a bit from time to time, it’s still a fun kick off with some great moments of tense drama and all-out action, just like how we all like it!