24 season 8 episodes 3 and 4 review

Jack Bauer gathers some momentum, as 24's eight season starts to catch fire...

UK readers please note: these are the episodes that don’t screen until January 31st.

Day 8: 6:00 – 8:00pm

Wow! Well, this is a bit more like it. After a good opening couple of episodes that were slow yet steady, mainly placing the starting pieces on the board, episodes three and four ramped up the action significantly, and a whole slew of signature 24-isms took centre stage.

In just two hours we’ve had shootings, bombs, hostage taking, torture, the return of an old flame and a couple of shock moments, culminating in the creative use of a circular saw… Quite a ride.

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These two episodes are a very good sign, indeed, that we’ve got a great season ahead of us. Doug Hutchinson’s villainous Russian assassin creates much of the drama in the first half of this second ep, even if his character is named after the creator of the Daleks. With his plan running smoothly, he’s not afraid to dig down into his black soul, as he mercilessly offs his double police ‘buddy’ and his wife before taking place in the motorcade security force.

Meanwhile, Jack single-handedly puts an end to the whole manbag: good or bad? debate (if Jack wears one, then we can ALL wear one), and in a rather uncharacteristic show of carelessness gets caught at the scene of the crime and stunned from behind by the police, only to be tortured for being a supposed cop killer. We didn’t have to wait too long for this season’s first torture session, did we? If only the hapless copper knew just who it was he was wailing on.

The pieces soon fall into place at CTU, and Brian Hastings, whose ineptitude seems to grow by the second, almost lets all Hell breaks loose, but thanks to the efforts of Jack, Chloe and new guy Cole Ortiz (yes, Freddie Prinze Jr, but give the guy a break, he’s actually not bad), the day is eventually saved.

Davros’ plan to evacuate the President and blow up his car with a bomb planted under a manhole cover on the escape route is thwarted in dramatic fashion as Ortiz puts himself into the line of fire, literally.

This epic boom ends the first half of the double ep and, alongside the main story, Dana Walsh’s mysterious blast from the past returns, while Chloe makes notable glances in her direction as she leaves the CTU office.

Despite the two being less than friendly at first, I’m willing to bet Chloe ends up helping her in some way. Is it just me, though, or did Kevin Wade find it a little bit too easy to track down a highly trained CTU officer? I wouldn’t think people in Dana Walsh’s highly sensitive position openly advertise their address. Is there a lot more to this side story that we suspect? Hmmmm…

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We also find out that CTU NY is, apparently, in some form of underground bunker. Seriously, has CTU been taking lessons from the Bond villain school of secret lair construction, or what? There are military guards at every door, hand scanners on the lifts and a wide screen telly I’d kill for. All we need now is Dr Evil and sharks with frickin’ lasers to pop up and we’ll be set. I bet you need to have level five clearance just to use the damn coffee machine.

Of particular importance in this first hour is Omar’s brother confirming what we already knew, that he wants his sibling dead. Alright, this wasn’t exactly a shock, but a good sign that the writers aren’t going to take things slowly.

Hour two didn’t take long to get going either, quickly establishing the safety of Ortiz and President Hassan, and the weasel-like Farhad also shows his true colours, and proves that the pen is mightier than the sword, going postal at the say so of Davros and thrusting his character into a major role shift.

As ever, Jack is on the scene just in time to save Ortiz from Davros, whom he kills a little bit unceremoniously. It’s good that Jack saved the day here, again rather predictably, but I’d have liked to see a little bit more of a fight from Hutchinson’s alter ego. Ah, well.

The major plot device of this hour, aside from the introduction of Jürgen Prochnow as a menacing Russian mafia-type and Callum Rennie as arms dealer Vladimir Laitanan was the return of Renee Walker, with the expected confrontation between her and Jack.

We get a rather spotty back story of her involvement with Russian crime syndicates and she’s quickly brought on board as an expert on the Russian element, but it’s clear that she’s going to be a major sounding board for Jack’s emotions, with good odds that she’ll probably not make it through to see another 24 hours.

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Of course, she’s a changed woman, and although appalled by torture last year, she’s clearly not as easily upset now. Renee’s character is a far cry from her FBI days, and is instantly more interesting, especially as this series already seems to be heading into a darker place.

The hour, with its high-action opening, eventually died down a little, beginning to focus on what looks to be the main plot thread for a while.

The whole shebang looks to be about the dealing of nuclear armaments, decommissioned Soviet weapons, no less, and Farhad intends to overthrow his brother and turn his country into a nuclear power (is Dr Evil still on standby?).

Hopefully, the whole presidential affair with the reporter will be quashed now, as I can’t see the story going anywhere interesting. It’s served its purpose, so it’s time to let it lie and get on with more pressing matters. But the interrupted possible kiss between the two may beg to differ.

Despite the reliance on some rather clichéd Russian gangsters, and a rather unconvincing method of proving that they actually have nuclear reactor rods (amazing what a bit of makeup and a cold can do), having another atomic-backed story can only mean some epic cliffhangers to come, and with Jack and Renee teaming up undercover, I’m looking forward to what’s in store, especially if Renee and Jack keep trying to outdo each other with the most inventive use of tools and workshop equipment.

On the whole, and joking aside, I really enjoyed the final introductory double. The story certainly isn’t in any danger of stalling and the speed at which it’s shifting along is great. I just hope it can be kept well knitted together and fresh, and doesn’t run out of ideas too soon.

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I’d gladly give the episode two thumbs up, but in respect to Renee’s poor informant, I’d better make it one.

Read our review of season 8’s premiere episodes here.