24: Live Another Day episodes 1 and 2 review

Review Simon Brew 7 May 2014 - 09:43

Spoilers ahoy, as we take a look at the return of 24 and Mr Jack Bauer...

This review contains spoilers.

The more everything changes, the more everything stays the same. There are but two notable alterations to the format for 24: Live Another Day. Firstly, it's spread over 12 hours, rather than 24. That's a long overdue move that should help navigate nagging criticisms of narrative being spread thin.

The other is that the show has moved its location to London for this 'event' (we're not allowed to call it a series anymore). After sitting through the first two hours - well, 80-odd minutes - of 24: Live Another Day, that doesn't seem to have made the blindest bit of difference to the show though.

Sure, 'projects' are now 'council estates', and there's a red bus never more than a few minutes away. A few lustful shots of the London skyline are potent clues that the geography has changed. But in terms of how the show does its business? There's a CIA office in London that looks like it's had the old CTU decorators in. There's a secret place where people are held prisoner, which could be in Dudley as much as it could London. And there are the same old 24 rules coming into play.

Example? As soon as the apparently lacking in intelligence 'girlfriend' character was introduced in this opening double header, even 24 novices would have been well versed in the upcoming twist. Every 24 drinking game should start with 'down everything when a seemingly dim person turns out to be one of the cleverest'. That's assuming said drinking game has abandoned the need to consume a beverage every time Bauer says "dammit" or "copy that". You'd be pissed in no time otherwise.

Bauer himself remains the show's biggest asset and problem. Heck, if you needed any clue as to who the movie star of the piece was, look at the extended reintroduction to Bauer we got in episode one. Other characters explain what's been going on - he's got another grandchild! He's been off the grid for years! - while he gets to look moody. For make no mistake: Sutherland is the star here. What's more, he's treated as an 80s movie star, so threaded is the material with him at the centre of it.

The problem, of course, is that we've seen so many people die or have their lives otherwise ruined by the consequences of Bauer's actions over the previous 192 episodes of the show that there's never really any peril when the character is around. The same is true here. Everybody hates him and doesn't trust him at the start? That'll change. He's held prisoner? He'll escape. There's no excitement to this anymore: he's the Terminator of primetime television.

So, as always, it's left to those around him to inject more interest. And to be fair to 24: Live Another Day's first two episodes, that's where it strikes gold. In particular, the wonderful William Devane as the latest US President, this one suffering the early onset of Alzheimer's. Devane is brilliant here, and in the scenes with Tate Donovan's chief of staff Mark Boudreau, Live Another Day was very much at its finest.

We also get the return of Chloe, played by Mary Lynn Rajskub. Mind you, at first you wonder if her performance has been mixed up with her audition tape for The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. Chloe, as long time 24 fans will know, used to hack computers and bite people's heads off. Now, she's 24's Swiss army knife. She can pretty much do anything, and look angry while she does it. We genuinely love Chloe, and can't get a spin-off series quickly enough.

Of the new additions, a few stood out. Yvonne Strahovski's transfer orders from Chuck came through, and she's the olive branch to Bauer here, the only one in the entire office of intelligent people to even get close to guessing what he's up to (another entry in the 24 drinking game: down mineral water, or at most a weak shandy, when characters fail to adequately suspect that Bauer might be up to no good). Strahovski isn't given much distinctive to work with here, but she gives it everything she's got. The most interesting part of her character thus far is her deceased, disloyal husband. That's one of many threads that the writers efficiently get into place here.

Then there's Michael Wincott, who pops up briefly in episode two. He seems all nice and reasonable here, which instantly will have those who watch Michael Wincott films chuckling to themselves.

We should note too that we get a brief introduction to Stephen Fry, as the Prime Minister of Great Britain. The overarching threat this time in the show is an attempt to take out the US President on British soil, we're told, but if the foes targeted Stephen Fry, the UK would be in uproar. Talk about opting for the lower story stakes.

Anyway, it's a very efficient, perfectly entertaining two-parter to welcome 24 back. It does what 24 does, threads in some deeper points about drones (which are ripe for further exploration), ends with a moment that will put a grin on the face of any Game Of Thrones fan and leaves you thinking nothing has really changed.

The concession to making Live Another Day a standalone series is lots of exposition, and we'd argue that it certainly helps to have had a little schooling in the show. It's not tricky to pick up though, and as long as you realise that everything has a twist in the tail, you'll be fine.

Final thought though: if the makers of 24 really wanted to pull the rug from under our feet, there wouldn't a single twist in the rest of the series. Now that would be unexpected.

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I thought it was fab! So glad 24 is back. I think saying that there's no excitement around Jack Bauer anymore is a bit harsh. Even though I know he's gonna be fine, you know even if he gets a hideous life threatening disease, or shot a bajillion times, I still get excited seeing him do his business.

Well that was fun. I'd argue that the change to London has made a bit of a difference, if only aesthetically - the whole thing looks HORRIBLE. It's so grey and wet and grim, all the buildings seem to be in an advanced state of decay (as do Jack and Chloe - I know he's old and she's been tortured but DAMN), the "projects" looked like the Rundowne Estate from A Touch Of Cloth... it's obviously a very clever sociopolitical visual commentary on Austerity Britain. Arf.

Otherwise though, yes, all present and correct, especially the various thunderingly dumb government and military personnel, including Agent Herp E. McDerp (the grumpy new guy who wants the disgraced blonde agent's job) and Sergeant Major Dipsh*t McWhat (sample dialogue: "What? There's a WHAT about to WHAT me up? A drone? Who's a drone? Who is this? WHAT?" BOOM).

Also, not to sound cruel or anything, but shouldn't a president with a condition like Alzheimer's be quietly relieved of his duties immediately? I mean, it's a terrible thing, but in a world where pretty much no sitting president has escaped from their office alive (or at least with their dignity and ethics intact) in 10 years... actually, maybe that's why he's getting a free pass.

Plus, Jack, with the help of ONE OTHER GUY, breaks Chloe out of CIA custody. And not just CIA custody, but secret torture-y custody. After taking everybody out while still in handcuffs. And doing his patented choke manoeuvre, EXCEPT BACKWARDS. Because of course he does.

In other words, hi 24, I missed you.

Watching these two episodes of 24 were like pulling on a favourite sweater or a comfortable pair of trousers, despite being gone 4 years it feels like you never left, the dammits, Chloe looking annoyed, the inept Intelligence agency bosses, the shady dealings within the Presidents staff, though thankfully not the president this time at least at the moment ( And does William Devane's James Heller remind anybody of The West Wing's Leo McGarry at times? Or is it just me?). It does make me wonder whether I might love this event just due to nostalgia and not for any kind of decent acting or plot...but you know what I'm okay with that. I watch 24 to see Jack Bauer kick ass and that seems to be what I'll be getting more of with this.

Couple of things
1) In one of the most heavily monitored city's on the planet how are the CIA getting away with these Tac-squad missions? Surely someone in British law enforcement or domestic protection should have noticed.
2) I may be wrong but the writers need to work on their geography, honestly it's not that hard, don't say you picked up Bauer South-East of Central London when you just showed a Hammersmith and City line tube train rolling passed his location, try just East and probably not as far (think they said 20km?), this isn't the US people.
3) Stephen Fry should not be allowed to act in something like this, it's not that he's a bad actor but for some reason every time I see him he takes me right out of the narrative, happened in the Hobbit, happened here.
4) This is more an ardent prayer, Spooks crossover? Now that we're in London, have the CIA station chief on the phone with Harry Pierce.

All in all I am greatly looking forward to the remaining ten episodes.

I found it very hard to concentrate on the plot when they're teleporting all over the place. Jack starts near the mosque in Whitechapel then runs all the way to the river in one minute. Chloe walks past Aroma bagels in Shepherds Bush and instead of entering Westfield shopping centre, emerges on some random industrial estate. I know people who live in popular shooting locals - Toronto, for example, - must experience this all the time, but it was really off-putting, especially considering the 'real time' aspect of the 24.

I can imagine this was disconcerting. Luckily (for watching this) I don't actually live in London just visit occasionally so the tube and following announcement of where they apprehended Jack was the only "Wait, what?" moment for me in terms of geography.

You can come off with that smug, we've seen it all before attitude, but the fact that 24 still captures our attention and sends our pulse and BP through the roof, and drives our dopamine channels more than a railroad-track sized cocaine line, means it has that MOJO we've all missed for too long now. I proudly applaud what I've seen so far. If you're watching 24, there's a certain suspension of disbelief that comes with the territory -- it's practically written on the box like a cigarette warning. Go Bauer!

To be fair, they got the geography of LA wrong for six seasons, and they're FROM there. It's all part of the charm!

To be fair to the President James Heller situation, some people believe Ronald Regan starting showing symptoms of Alzheimer's during his final term...

Simon, I think you should let someone else review these episodes. I loved it...everyone I know loved it. Your review is utter garbage. You clearly aren't a 24 fan, so, with all due respect, please have someone capable of an objective opinion review this. Thanks.

" Bauer's actions over the previous 192 episodes"

This suggests that he's actually seen the entire show. Anybody who has done that without giving up deserves to be called a fan.

I'm sure he was a fan at one point, but if you think that was an objective review, you didn't read it. What I was was the review of someone who's very bitter towards the show.

If you thought the review was not objective, you didn't read it. What I read was a review of someone who enjoyed the show a lot more than you seem to think they did.

Are you saying that the reviews should take place in a vacuum separate from the previous 192 episodes? As I said, anybody who managed to sit through all of those is clearly a big enough fan to overlook 24's flaws and enjoy the good things the show has to offer, because some of those seasons were pretty rough.

It sounds to me like your comments aren't very objective. They're coloured by the fact that you consider yourself a fan.

Good lord, are you dim? Your opinion is meaningless to me. It was not an objective review, despite attempts to make it so. And yes, it should be judged as a clean slate. 24 is what 24 is and it does it amazingly. I would've preferred a review written by someone who is new to the show...not tainted by bitterness. Perhaps you should private-message Simon, since you seem so obviously intent on kissing his arse.

I'm sorry that you seem to think that because I'm in disagreement with your opinion, that makes me an ass-kisser. Also that I'm dim. In all seriousness, let's not get aggressive about this.

As you may have noticed, the first and last paragraphs of my previous comment were not serious.

I assumed that you wanted a reviewer who had seen every episode of 24 and was still a huge fan. I didn't know that you wanted someone who had never seen an episode of 24 before. There's definitely room for that kind of review; I'd be interested to see what someone made of these episodes who was new to the show. However, it shouldn't replace a review written by someone with insight gained from seeing the previous 8 seasons (and that's not ass-kissing as it applies to everyone). Personally, I love reading reviews of Game of Thrones from both book readers and non-book readers.

Spot on! For experienced 24ers, we know exactly what this 'event' is going to give us, and really can't expect anything more.
Every rug, of every fabric on this planet, has been pulled from under our feet throughout 192 previous episodes. Now we've willingly come back to stand on those very same rugs, and enjoy the same trips (that you so aptly and delightfully describe!) we've all missed for so long.

Author states "There's no excitement to this anymore"...?! honestly?? I genuinely think no newcomer to the show could possibly have found no excitement in these first two episodes. If the author found no excitement, I can't help but think they had some premeditated attitude of 'If I see similar plot twists, and action sequences, I demand that I not find any excitement in any of it', which makes me sad...

Anyway, I LOVE when Jack says "(deep breaths) (look into distance) There's no going back for me..."... How badly I wish I was a newcomer to this show, so I could be totally lured in and enticed and emotionally tortured all over again by this statement of doom!

Was anybody else confused by Yvonne Strahovski's character? The resemblance between her and Sarah Wynter who played Kate Warner in 24 Season 2 is uncanny. And Yvonne's character is also named 'Kate (Morgan)'. For a moment I thought they'd brought back Kate Warner and recast her...

I'm watching the first episode right now, about twenty minutes in, and there was this list of some of the people that Bauer's killed over the past eight seasons. References to the Drazens, Nina Myers and Vladimir Beirko amongst others. Cool. Even the Operation Proteus stuff was on there too, which I remember reading on websites years and years ago. Nice attention to details and past mythology going on there from the production.

"You clearly aren't a 24 fan, so, with all due respect, please have someone capable of an objective opinion review this."

I'm reeeeeeally not trying to start a fight but the extraordinary brilliance of this statement had to be highlighted. Wow.

I actually thought she was Jack's daughter at first!

Reagan was in office while suffering the early effects of Alzheimer's and nobody removed him.

Some people? I'd say it was generally accepted. Remember him calling Princess Diana 'Princess David'?

With respect, Zaphod, it sounds like the thing you want is the exact opposite of an unbiased review.

Thank you for your review of my review.

To answer your point: I think you're half right half wrong on whether Live Another Day should be judged as a clean slate. The two episodes so far clearly reference things that happened right up to season eight, so the makers of the show are clearly trying to attract new audiences, and keep older fans happen. I think they did a decent job there.

Your point about bias/bitterness/objectivity. Personally, I struggle with reviews where someone pretends that they don't have a viewpoint on something, but maybe that's me.

With regards my views on 24 to date: At its best, I love 24. At its worst - season 6, I'd argue - I found it a hostage to its format. I think the problem continues to be that Jack Bauer is invulnerable. As much as I enjoy watching the character, the real peril, and the unpredictably, comes from moments that Bauer is nowhere near. But how else could it be after 194 episodes and counting?

I quite liked Live Another Day, but I learned from season 5 - the best of 24 to date for my money - that 24 can go from being quite good to brilliant in a matter of weeks. I'm hoping Live Another Day will do the same.

In short: I'm neither bitter towards 24, nor was I aching for it to return (there was a strong argument that it had run its cause). As it turns out, I've liked the new run so far.


>Then there's Michael Wincott, who pops up briefly in episode two. He seems all nice and reasonable here, which instantly will have those who watch Michael Wincott films chuckling to themselves.

Indeed. :-)

Business as usual, anyway. I was a little disappointed that, having read an interview where Kiefer talked about going back to basics (and recalling the scene in the construction yard in Day 1 when things didn't move a mile a minute), that this is, to all intents and purposes, Season 9.

It's nice to have it back, and I'll always be interested in Jack doing what he does, but this double-bill was going through the motions.

"Bitter towards the show"?

Do you want to go away and think about that?

Or just go away?

Not at all like you are towards The Walking Dead then?

Yes, the motions of awesomeness

I thought the series kicked off well although, like the reviewer, I was actually a bit disappointed (particularly in the first episode) that there was so little evidence of the series being set in London. I suppose it's a tough ask, but something between the "Cool Britania" cliche of the trailer (with its black cab, gherkin and red bus/phone boxes) and almost every scene being indoors or in a nondescript location with an American cast (and the occassional British actor with a US accent) would be great. I hope they expand the show a bit more over coming weeks to really make the most of their change of location. Think how well Sherlock or Luther use the city as a guide to what I'm talking about. With suggestions that they may travel more this series (between episodes) I'd hope we get to see a few other European cities (Paris maybe?) but again without relying on indoor sets and the occassional shot of a landmark (think 1960s/70s TV shows like Department S). I'd be more than willing to live with fictional geography if that's the price to pay to have this series feel properly like 24 in London/Europe and not just 24 in Location Number 256.

The geography didn't annoy me so much as them referring to things as being a certain number of 'blocks' away... yeah they're Americans, but with the road layouts in this country, it just doesn't make sense!

That's something we've never really been afraid of showing in Britain though. We have some great areas, we have some tragically shite ones. I think it was nice and adds some grit to the series to show things as they are rather than trying to resolve issues in a location that is otherwise a Utopia.

Lot of BS comments here. Jack is back. Jack ends baddies. We heart Jack. Mint.

glad I wasn't the only one lol

As soon as I saw Michael Wincottmy my thoughts were Bad Guy straight away lol
Good to see him in this .

Actually I for one would cheer if Jack winds up chucking Stephen Fry off the Eye...
Thought it was great stuff and a return to the form of the earlier seasons. Of course it's all about twists, and you had to be pretty dumb not to see the Russian Doris a mile off - but that's the point really.
It's fun to watch CTUery set in my home town.


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