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Friday, February 10, 2017

TV Review: 24: Legacy – The Clock Starts Ticking Once Again

As a longtime fan of the TV series 24 and its stalwart and long-suffering hero Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland), I was not totally into the idea of a reboot of the series without him. In essence 24 was more about Jack than it was about the terrorists, crooked politicians, and assorted bad guys whom he pursued. It became a tragic but intriguing narrative about Jack’s evolution from the guy we first saw playing chess with his daughter to the killing machine who became a man who gave up any kind of normal life in order to save the very country that abandoned him in the end.

Now we have a new hero in Eric Carter (Corey Hawkins) and that gave me hope that this reboot would work (I wish there had been more of him as Heath on The Walking Dead). Just like Jack he has special training and experience in the field, but he comes home to his wife Nicole (Anna Diop) and is hoping to start getting back to a normal life. In true Jack Bauer fashion, Carter has about three minutes of normalcy before the excrement starts to hit the fan.

24: Legacy stays true to its pedigree and has all the usual suspects (Howard Gordon, Manny Coto, Brian Grazer) as executive producers (and Sutherland as well). The formula that kept Jack Bauer on the run for eight seasons remains in place – a terrorist threat, inside political maneuvers, and an old friend who needs help – along with that iconic ticking clock that can get the heart start racing every time it appears.

Though the “real time” aspect of 24 is what put it on the map in the first place – along with being so timely in its depiction of events mirroring the reality of life in America post 9/11 – I was hoping that the new series would abandon that aspect of the old series. While it seemed really fresh in the first few seasons of 24, as time went on the ticking clock became a detriment and often the plot seemed contrived to fit into the time frame rather than take directions that would have made more sense over an extended period of weeks or even months.

Unfortunately, that clock is ticking and Carter barely has time to take a breath when he comes home from work when he gets a call from Ben Grimes (Charlie Hofheimer), an old war buddy who informs him that all the members of their team are being killed off one by one. A few minutes later the terrorists are bursting through Carter’s door and he is off to the start of a what promises to be a very bad day.
In what seems like a tipping of that hat to the first season of the series, we have a senator running for president. This time it is John Donovan (how great it is to see Jimmy Smits in the role) who happens to be the husband of Rebecca Ingram (Miranda Otto) the former head of the Counter Terrorism Unit (CTU) who is the first person Carter calls when he sets off on the run with his wife.

Of course, 24 would not be 24 without its resident tech geek/genius. Replacing Chloe (the amazing Mary Lynn Rajskub) is not an easy task, but Andy Shalowitz (Dan Bucantinsky) seems like he is at least as computer savvy and is trusted by Rebecca to get the job done.

And then there are the requisite and exceedingly large group of very motivated terrorists led by Bin-Khalid (Raphael Acloque) in search of a missing list in the possession of Carter’s friend Grimes. As is always the case in 24, there is more to the story – the list will provide information regarding large scale terrorist attacks across the country – so Carter puts himself on the line to get the list from Grimes and to CTU before it is too late.

In keeping with 24 tradition, the show continues to mirror the times in which we live. The fact that the hero is once again up against Middle Eastern terrorists seems somewhat uncomfortable but prescient considering what is happening with President Trump and his immigration ban, but viewers shouldn’t jump to conclusions because there is always more to the plot line. And we should expect, as always has been the case throughout the series, that the truly big bad villain will be revealed later on and may have nothing to do with the Middle East at all.

I like this reboot despite the fact that there are the usual speed bumps that are inherent in any 24 incarnation – too many characters without development, ancillary plots that seem to be going nowhere, and the never-ending possibility of a CTU mole – but we have to expect that to come with the territory.

The key to success in 24 has always been its hero and, judging from the first two episodes, Carter is quickly rising to the challenge thanks to Hawkins’s ability to handle the role deftly and exhibit emotions to indicate the toll this day is taking on him. Under all of Jack Bauer’s sometimes ruthless and many times vicious actions to get the job done, we always knew there beat the heart of a good man in a bad situation; that is what made 24 a success. It seems that we are finding the same true beating heart in Carter, a good man who will have to do many terrible things to get the job done as well.

For now, it seems that 24: Legacy is heading in the right direction, and I am glad to be along for the ride, but I am getting ready for it to get more than a little bumpy along the way.
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