24 season 8 episodes 1 and 2 review: season premiere

Jack Bauer is back! So how is he going to save the world this time? Let a new season of 24 begin...

UK readers please note: these are the episodes that don’t screen until January 24th.

Day 8: 4:00-6:00pm

Another year has dawned, and along with it comes a new day in the life of everyone’s favourite anti-terrorist operative, and possibly the hardest man in the universe, Jack Bauer.

Few could argue Jack’s credentials for the post of Mr Badass 2010. I mean, come on! He’s not only killed more bad guys than I’ve had hot and/or cold dinners, but he’s been shot, stabbed, recovered from a heroin addiction, been tortured, and even been pronounced clinically dead. (He got better.)

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And now he’s somehow, managed to shake off a bad case of lethal weaponised bioweapon infection and is ready for more.

Yep, despite season seven having one of the biggest cliff-hangers ever, seeing Jack literally at death’s door, he’s back, apparently none the worse for wear, and playing happy family with Kim’s daughter.

Quite how the writers thought they could excuse away such a huge cliff-hanger here with a few medicine bottles and a reference to his doctor saying he’s been given the all clear is a mystery, but we’re not stupid, and we’d like a bit more clarification, please. Okay, we KNEW Jack would be okay, I mean it’s 24, after all, but it would be nice to have at least a little more explanation. Maybe the series will elaborate further in a later episode, but for now, Jack’s fine, period. Deal with it.

With a new 24-hour period ahead of us, the story this time is a little more close to home with current events, and without re-treading old ground and going over the whole episode, what we have here is a good old assassination plot.

The U.S. and the Islamic Republic (read: the generic Middle Eastern country of the month) are teetering on the brink of peace, with a historic treaty about to be signed. President Allison Taylor and President Omar Hassan are hammering out the agreement, but, as is par for the course in the world of 24, some very bad men don’t want this to go ahead, namely Doug Hutchinson, cast brilliantly as a scary Russian assassin.

Doug can play a great creepy and sinister bloke like no other, and he’s an early highlight, even if a rarely seen one in the first two hours. With some henchmen backing him up, he’s the clear anti-Jack of the two hours, and although I’ve no doubt it’ll be revealed a more powerful shady geezer is pulling his strings, he’s the guy in charge at the moment.

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It’s not long before Jack is pulled into the fray after an old CTU informant seeks him out to spill the beans about the assassination plot. Jack springs into action, despite promising Kim he’ll return to LA and retire peacefully.

This is something that didn’t come as a surprise, of course. Beside Keifer’s starring role status, showing Jack and Kim ‘nice but dim’ Bauer, with hubby and daughter in tow, laughing and being generally happy is always a sure-fire sign that the crap is about the get up close and personal with the cooling appliance. If there’s one rule in 24 that’s as solid as a rock, it’s that Jack simply cannot be happy for long – it’s like gravity, you just can’t fight it. So, sure enough, Jack is pulled into the plot and another worst day ever begins.

As an opening episode, this was a pretty good start, in my opinion. It wasn’t hugely action packed, and fairly slow going, but it set the scene and introduced the key players (at least the early ones).

It’s nice to see that the U.S government has resurrected CTU, even if this CTU is more science fiction than gritty realism. With a swanky new wood panelled and glass walled office, and an apparent law that requires every staff member to wear a bluetooth headset, this is techno-central. CTU even has access to military spy drones and futuristic biometrics. I miss the needles and truth serum, personally…

Hell, CTU NY has gone so far into the future they’ve even hired Starbuck! Presumably, New York fears that Cylons have infiltrated the populace, so who better to call? Seriously though, it’s nice to see Katee Sackhoff back on the telly. She was one of the best characters in Battlestar, and whilst it’s initially hard to lose the Starbuck-isms, her secret past side story sounds promising. But Katee, cut down on the pouting, love. You look like you’re sucking a sour sweet!

There was little room for surprises in the plot, and although it’s early days, some characters were already revealed, with the major shocker being President Hassan’s own brother colluding with the enemy.

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We’ve seen seven series so far, and so this predictability isn’t the fault of the writers, as such. With so many twists under their belts, it was always going to be hard for the writers to keep us guessing for long. I tagged President Hasaan’s brother from the get go, and the whole suspicious reporter angle was a little obvious. Then again, we’ve had the rug pulled from under us before, so maybe it’s far too early to tell the real story.

There are a few 24-cliches hanging around still. These both make the series feel warmly welcoming, like a worn old jumper, but also a little stale too, if I’m honest.

We’ve got a President who seems to rely on his own family as advisors far too much, two CTU agents in love and due to be married (you know that can only end badly), and yes, yet another inept CTU boss in the form of Brian Hastings. Seriously, guy, how many of your predecessors didn’t listen to Jack and regretted it? Will you people ever learn?!

I do love the show for its often predictable bells and whistles, so I’m not complaining, as long as the main story weaves a tale as good as previous outings. I would try to reel in the seemingly desperate forcing of technology into the show, though. CTU is more like the bridge of the Enterprise than a 2010-era anti-terrorist unit, and with such a leap forward, it doesn’t have the urgency or the right feel as with the past seasons (the one’s with CTU in, anyway).

Even uber-geek Chloe, who returns as a CTU employee, is out of her depth, but not for long, as she wisely doubts her new boss’ assumptions and asks for Jack’s help to track down the true conspirator.

Thankfully, Kim’s presence on the show was, so far, limited, and she even did something useful for a change by persuading Jack to continue the good fight – hurrah! Nice one, Kim. Now get on that plane, don’t talk to any strange men and have a good rest of the day.

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So, a promising, if a little predictable start to the new season overall, which was well worth watching, if only for Jack’s cringingly effective use of a fire axe. I actually felt a chest pain with that one!

24 will screen in the UK on Sky1 and Sky1 HD, starting from 24th January.