24’s second season, or day as it were, is a more uneven experience that its first, and this half (well, just over half) is a good example of why. We have the now infamous nuclear bomb storyline mixed in with just-post-9/11 Middle Eastern terrorism fears and more Kim Bauer nonsense than you can shake a stick at. Let’s take a look!
Eighteen months after the events of Day 1, President Palmer is informed that a terrorist group called the Second Wave is planning to detonate a nuclear bomb in Los Angeles sometime this day. CTU Los Angeles is ordered to call back resigned agent Jack Bauer…
*spoilers appear from here on out!*
Jack doing such a good job undercover that his “fellow criminal” is beginning to blur with excitement…?
The central plot of a Muslim terrorist cell called Second Wave having smuggled a nuclear bomb into Los Angeles is a fun one, if not a little… or okay way over the top. Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) is pulled back into CTU by Director George Mason (Xander Berkeley) and his old friend Tony Almeida (Carlos Bernard) when someone with connections to the terrorist believed to be at the head of the this was someone Jack was previously undercover with. In one of the all-time classic moments Jack asks for someone who was in witness protection because he was going to testify against their target to be brought to him and proceeds to kill him and saw his head off so he can reclaim his cover with a peace offering. George Mason’s reactions were rightfully crazed. Jack gets back undercover and finds out the targets were actually attacking CTU, and despite his best efforts the building is bombed. Tony and his love interest Michelle Dessler (Reiko Aylesworth) survive and manage to start to rebuild the infrastructure enough to continue to do their job.
As Jack goes from lead to lead Geroge eventually gets cold feet and tries to flee town, but gets called into a warehouse operation on the way out, a weak lead that turns out to be a legit one and in the middle of a fire fight he’s exposed to lethal amounts of radiation. With the knowledge his life is at an end within the week (which then turns to within the day at some point…) he rejoins CTU and runs it for as long as he can hold out, saying goodbye to his son and all. It’s an interesting character journey, going from leader to coward to sympathetic figure. Jack eventually finds out a connection between the terrorists and the traitor who killed his wife: Nina Myers (Sarah Clarke) so she’s dragged out of her cell and given a pardon for her past crimes if she can help find the bomb, so we get some great episodes of the viewer being unsure whether Jack will put his hatred for her aside to save everyone or not. Of course he does… just, and it does lead to some good intel. Nina is re-arrested, for the record…
George Mason is unsure which is worse: dying from radiation poisoning or dealing with Nina again… Wait, actually, the dying slowly and painfully is probably worse to be fair…
Some leads take Tony to a family wedding where the would-be husband Reza (Phillip Rhys) and eventually his father-in-law Bob Warner (John Terry) have all seemingly done business with Syed Ali (Francesco Quinn), the previously mentioned head of the terrorist cell. Now the lead up to this, which saw Reza’s soon-to-be sister-in-law Kate (Sarah Wynter) suspicious of him and hiring a P.I. just because she was a bit of a racist was pretty cringe-y, but eventually Reza’s fiancée / Kate’s sister Marie (Laura Harris) turns out to be the one connected to the terrorists, kills Reza and heads to where the bomb is. Jack eventually meets Kate when he saves her as she was moments away from death at the hands of Ali’s right-hand man. He keeps her around to positively identify Ali, which she eventually does, and soon Jack uses a staged kidnapping and execution of Ali’s children to motivate him to give up the information (Yep… it’s staged though, the child wasn’t really shot, he just believed he would be! No emotional scarring there at all…) This all leads to an airfield, eventually Marie is found and also questioned/tortured and the bomb is found. It can’t be disarmed so someone has to fly the bomb to the middle of the desert and ironically commit suicide in order for it to explode in the right place. Jack of course plays the hero card and takes the bomb up but eventually George Mason, who snuck on-board the plane, convinces Jack to parachute out and he do the whole suicide bit, though admittedly less heroically since he was going to die a slow painful death in a few hours anyway, but still!
That’s where we leave the first half of the season, the first major plot point of the bomb dealt with. There are some other good side stories, mostly now-President Palmer (Dennis Haysbert) having to deal with a group within his own cabinet and intelligence agencies working against him, including being responsible for letting the nuke get into the country, as crazy as that sounds. They wanted to cease the nuke on US soil, I guess to prove how weak a President Palmer was or something, but obviously it backfired a fair bit! Now ex-wife Sherry (Penny Johnson Jerald) comes back into his life to help uncover the people against him, but it ends up she’s in on it as well. While Sherry’s arrogance is still annoying, we do get more scenes of her being verbally kicked down a notch a few times by President Palmer, which is always nice…
“Mr. President, a nuke is about to go off in Los Angeles!” “Sure, but beyond that, are you trying to undercut my authority?”
What can you say about Kim Bauer, who takes up a good chunk of most episodes? She starts off as the babysitter to a nice couple’s young daughter, then the father turns out to be abusive so she takes the daughter away but is tracked down by the father, the daughter ends up in hospital with signs of abuse (and when the nurse accuses her Kim replies “You don’t think I did it?” and then allowes the nurse to walk away instead of pointing out that the father did it…) and Kim gets a call from her father telling her to leave L.A. because of a nuclear bomb threat and to tell nobody so as not to create a panic. She IMMEDIATELY calls her boyfriend, tells him of the bomb (FFS!) and the two try to flee the city with the abusive father’s daughter but are pulled over by a policeman who finds the abusive father’s wife dead in the trunk, so Kim and the boyfriend are arrested.
They tell the arresting officer about the bomb (sigh…) and eventually she causes the patrol car to crash and flees into the wilderness, clearly proving her innocence, and then gets caught in a trap and nearly eaten by cougars. She is saved by a conspiracy nut who, of course, she tells about the bomb which then makes him take her to his bomb shelter and lie about the bomb going off to try and keep her there. She then nearly gets into a car with the complete stranger (who she means to tell about the bomb, no doubt) but changes her mind and nearly shoots him instead. She then gets a call from her Dad who thinks he’s about to commit suicide which makes her flee from the safety of a kind stranger back into the woods to cry as the bomb goes off… Bloody hell, what an idiot, and what extremely frustrating viewing!
Looking back that’s really the only thing I have a problem with, but it does eat up a good chunk of the screen time. Some of the terrorist scenes did bring me back to the “good old days” (i.e. not) of Muslim terrorism and suicide bombings being all the rage with TV and film, in fact it’s actually quite weird to now look back at that as an era that’s now in the past. I can’t complain really, it is “of the era”, but scenes at a Mosque where the Cleric tries to tell Ali that he’s twisting the words of their religious text to no avail, or the scenes at the Walker house before Tony arrived and got involved were really dull and/or awkward-feeling, which when another third of the episode is Kim Bauer nonsense it made it a slow starter, that’s for sure…
“Ah, what a beautiful sunrise …. Wait, it’s 11:00pm?! Uh-oh….”
24 Season 2’s first major storyline is good, as in the core storyline. The stuff with Kim and even some of the early Kate / Marie / Reza stuff were really frustratingly stupid and dull respectively, so I can’t give this a strong rating. Let’s give it a half-way score and keep our fingers crossed for the second half (though my memory tells me that at least the Kim stuff doesn’t get much better…)