Back when the producers of the 24 television movie altered its title from 24: Exile to 24: Redemption, you couldn’t help but wonder as to whether they had a double meaning in mind. Redemption for Jack Bauer – again – is the obvious thrust of proceedings, but equally, redemption for the piss-poor sixth season of the show, that collapsed under the weight of half-baked characters and tepid twists, would do no harm either.
Season six came off our screens some eighteen months ago now, and understandably, many eyes are on the early-January season seven debut of the show, to see if it can fix some of the well-charted missteps of last time round. But bridging the events of seasons six and seven is this 80-minute-ish television movie, that picks up over a year after we saw Jack Bauer last. Now, he’s living in a small African village, doing noble things like helping out the children, distributing materials, and generally proving himself to be a nice human being, once you look past the violence, torture and body count.
However, his new existence is rudely interrupted when a subpoena is served on him by the US ambassador’s Chief Political Officer Frank Trammell, demanding that he return to the States to face questions over his ‘forceful’ interrogation style. It shouldn’t be the trickiest case to prove, we suspect. After a serious conversation or two with his old colleague Carl, played by Robert Carlyle, he decides it’s time to move on. But before he can do so, a local rebel warlord, who is recruiting children to be soldiers in his battles, targets the village school. Before you can even ask the man the time, Bauer’s weapon is holstered, and the clock is ticking. Can he save the children? Can we have a good shoot-out scene in the village? Will he get them all to the US embassy before the helicopters leave in, oooh, an hour’s time? And will he snarl at a few people along the way?
Meanwhile, it’s inauguration day for the new President of the United States, Allison Taylor, played by Cherry Jones. We get to see a little verbal jarring with outgoing President Noah Daniels (Powers Boothe), but not a fat lot more than that. Her storyline is clearly more about moving pawns into place ready for January, although her casting is encouraging, and Cherry Jones is a terrific actress. It does leave you wondering though if, as some argue, Dennis Haysbert’s David Palmer paved the road for Barack Obama, will Allison Taylor lead Hillary Clinton to the White House?
The third and shortest narrative strand, meanwhile, sees her son, Roger, receiving a phone call from an old friend, Chris. Chris has uncovered something untoward at work, and wants Roger to approach his mother direct with him. Is there terrorism involved? By the time the mysterious men turn up at his house, you can pretty much guess the answer. They’re loosely linked to the character we were desperate to see more of, Jon Voight’s Jonas Hodges, who’s shaping up to the big villain we’ll be booing and hissing for the next year. Voight oozes class in the short scenes that he has, but truthfully, we barely spend any time with him. Nor do we spend much time with Roger and Chris, with the storyline not even fully set up yet, yet alone resolves.
Those are the narrative strands that weave their way throughout Redemption, but truthfully, we only get to spend any decent chunk of time with one of them. Bauer’s African adventure is well done, but you’re perfectly aware that it’s a mechanism to get him from A to B in time for the next episode proper. The usual Bauer problem kicks in, too, of course. You know that the man is damn-near indestructible, and given that in the past he’s been tortured, beaten and – yes! – outright killed, it’s going to take a force majeure to get him shuffling off the planet (that, or the main show being cancelled). Still, that doesn’t mean it isn’t good to see him doing his stuff again, and Sutherland owns the role so totally that it’s fine to sit back and let him do what he does.
However, it doesn’t take long for 24: Redemption to reveal itself as a simple nudge of the narrative, that plays no havoc with the world of 24, short of putting a few pieces in position that will presumably be re-established at the start of next year. It’s also, and this is something you would never really level at 24, lacking at times in urgency, with the ticking clock never as prevalent as you’d expect it to be.
Nonetheless, 24: Redemption is a solid bridge between two seasons, but one that gives you few clues as to whether past problems have been fixed. The new administration in the White House looks interesting, and there are some intriguing new characters. But Redemption is all about Jack, and on the small screen at least, after all these years nobody does what he does better.