This review contains spoilers.
As the producers of 24: Live Another Day no doubt found, there are drawbacks to filming in the UK. For instance, at the point you need a go-to place to hold someone prisoner, in Los Angeles you’d just call a mate who worked at some studios down the round.
In Britain? It looks like they landed in a comprehensive school, pretended it was an Embassy, and stuck a keypad on the door to keep said captive locked down. Never mind that the door is made of wood, and the windows look barely singled glazed. Never mind the fact that Jack Bauer can walk in, and the guard has to think for a minute whether to believe him or answer the URGENT PHONE CALL coming through. All John Boyega’s character would need to do in order to escape would be to lean on the door, never mind kick it in.
But then proving the innocence of Boyega’s Chris Tanner is the thrust of this latest episode of the show, and thus he stays put. We’re gratified too that the top secret flight data that everybody is after is held on, er, a USB stick. This leads Chloe With The Dragon Tattoo to instruct Jack Bauer that he needs to find a computer with a USB port. Yep: she explains the need for USB. To the same Jack Bauer who’s pissing around with IP addresses and secure data transfers just minutes later.
He’s nothing on Michael Wincott though. Snarling more and more this episode, he’s firmly on Chloe’s side, but not on Jack’s. He’s a Swiss army knife of computer programs too, helpfully sending just the right decryption tool across the secure connection to break the hugely top secret military… oh, you know. It’s 24? Why am I even mentioning this stuff?
It’s not as if it’s a grumble: implausibility, and pointing at it while eating Doritos, is one of the pleasures of the show. And, in truth, this was a cheaper, more contained episode. For the most part, Jack Bauer was trapped in a room, waiting for a computer graphic to slide across a screen. Oh sure, he shoots two people in the chest, but they’re wearing seemingly bloody good body armour, so that’s okay.
The character developments are all elsewhere in this episode instead. At one stage, Michelle Fairley forgets which show she’s in by ordering the finger to be cut off her daughter (just the finger mind: this isn’t HBO). All so that the love of her daughter’s life, who was ridiculously thinking of doing the right thing, will be forced to pilot drones that are converging on London.
Furthermore, President Heller’s speech to MPs in the canteen at the Houses Of Parliament appeared to go well, although it took some time before we found out. After last week’s heckling, us Brits were suddenly meek, polite and applauding in the right places. Stephen Fry sagely nodded at one point. That’s proper Britishness for you right there, friends.
That said, here’s where all the talk of 24: Live Another Day being standalone was a little forgotten. For Audrey now knows about Jack, and newcomers to 24 now know that something happened involving Russians, involving Heller not backing Bauer when it mattered, and involving a lot of intense, fifth Dan glaring from Kiefer Sutherland. For two minutes, anyone who skipped 24 season 8 was in trouble. But, given how 24 season 8 bumbled along, that’s not a bad price to pay for two minutes of confusion. Just know that Audrey’s marriage is basically buggered.
Finally too, Yvonne Strahovski got something decent to do. Yes, it was the latest part of the episode to highlight the, er, ‘lax’ security around the aforementioned Embassy, but at least she got to do in seconds what a military task force outside the door had thought about for a good 25 minutes. There’s no easy way to say this, but she sort of saves Jack by, er, straddling him, declaring she’s CIA, and promising to upload his dodgy data.
A word of praise though for writer Patrick Harbinson. The startling efficiency of some of the dialogue here was an exercise in getting to the point bloody fast. Furthermore, given the most contained episode of the series to date to write, it’s to his credit that it’s kept entertaining and interesting for its running time.
24: Live Another Day still, in truth, feels a good distance away from the show on top form. But it’s efficiently working on putting the right pieces in the right places. A third of the way through, the really hard work is soon to begin…
Read Simon’s review of the previous episode, here.
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