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Saturday, April 22, 2017

TV Review: 24: Legacy – A Mostly Satisfying Season Concludes


*This review contains spoilers.

From the very first episode, comparisons have been made between 24: Legacy and the original series starring Kiefer Sutherland as the iconic Jack Bauer. Fair or not, it is understandable because the original 24 was an undeniable juggernaut that shook up TV dramas on broadcast and cable networks with its innovative split screens, a timely terrorist threat, and a real-time scenario that included the pounding beat of that clock that kept everything at a fast pace.

Despite negative hubbub generated by some critics and fans, 24: Legacy held things together for the most part, largely due to executive producers from the original show staying on board (Howard Gordon, Manny Coto, Brian Grazer) and also thanks to a solid performance by new leading man Corey Hawkins portraying hero Eric Carter.
The original format of 24 one-hour episodes has been subsumed this time by 12 episodes that still unfold in real time – until the last one which features a 12-hour time jump to encompass the 24 hours indicated in the title. For 24  purists this has been an issue, but that also was a case in the last bad day Bauer experienced in 24: Live Another Day, so the side stories that seemed to enhance characterizations and the office intrigue at CTU that pleased many fans were no longer possible.

As I was watching this series, I kept telling myself that this is 24 despite feeling like something was off at times, which reminded me of watching the Star Wars prequels during which I kept thinking, “Come on, this is Star Wars.

Depending on to whom you are speaking, the many similarities to the first season – a senator running for president, a hero whose wife was in danger, a possible mole at CTU, a nefarious plot that is not what it seems to be, and a bad guy who was supposed to be dead and is not – were either annoyingly repetitive or just what the doctor ordered.

The season kicked off with a great first episode and then sort of sputtered along the way, and it seemed like the producers knew this and turned over a big rock and dug up Tony Almeida (Carlos Bernard) to save the day. As it turns out, Tony has a past with presidential candidate and Senator John Donovan’s (Jimmy Smits) wife and former CTU Director Rebecca Ingram (Miranda Otto), who brings him into the picture as a problem solver. They take Donovan’s father Henry (a terrific Gerald McRaney) to an abandoned warehouse (a 24 staple) where they interrogate him the old fashioned and painful way (another staple of the old show). When this produces no results and causes friction between John and Rebecca, Henry is released and we figure maybe Tony is done here (though I was hoping he might give Jack a call for old time’s sake).

Tony doesn’t get much more to do until the last two episodes when he is called by Director of National Intelligence Donald Simms (James Moses Black), who wants him to do a dirty job that is right up Tony’s dark alley. Those who remember Tony fondly from the past might have forgotten that Bauer’s old buddy turned to the dark side and then some.

The back story here is that DNI Simms and Rebecca hatched a plot just as sinister as anything the terrorists could imagine. They targeted terrorist families, and managed to kidnap Sidra Naseri (an excellent Moran Atias), the young daughter of Asim Naseri (Oded Fehr). Naseri had been helping Carter in Afghanistan but turned on him after his daughter’s abduction thinking that she had been killed. He joined the terrorist Sheik Bin-Khalid (Eli Danker) whose men were sent to wipe out Carter’s team as payback.

Carter learns that Sidra is still alive, and because Naseri is holding Rebecca hostage, he hopes to trade Sidra for Rebecca. Of course, Tony and his team have been sent by Simms to kill the girl creating a collision course between Carter and Tony. The best moments of the finale involve Carter and Tony’s fight – sort of like old 24 against new 24 – and it is a brutal battle until Carter breaks Tony’s arm, and then Tony receives a call from John Donovan telling him that Carter is there to try to save Rebecca. Did you get all that?

Yes, it is a bit of the old winding and intertwining conflicts of interest, but Tony reveals his inner goodness by telling Carter that he would go with him to save Rebecca if he didn’t have the broken arm. Carter gets the girl onto a helicopter to the Egyptian embassy and then goes to meet Naseri, and once he knows that his daughter is safe he is willing to cooperate. The exchange does not go well because Bin-Khalid is angry at Carter for killing his son Jadalla (Raphael Acloque) and starts shooting. He kills Naseri and wounds Rebecca before Carter takes him out, and then Carter makes a desperate attempt to save Rebecca.

Unfortunately, Rebecca makes it to the hospital but passes away. Her husband is devastated, and when his father comes into the room where Donovan is sitting with her body, Smits does a great job of conveying the man’s pain and also his anger with Henry. The old man admits his mistake and is willing to go to prison, but he thinks John should still run for the presidency because the country needs him.

Donovan knows that his father Henry was in cahoots with Bin-Khalid (Henry was being blackmailed because he had business dealings with ISIS) and yet, because of Rebecca’s dirty deal with Simms (who blows his brains out when he realizes that he will be exposed in the kidnapping of Sidra) she was also connected with Henry, and John wants to protect her reputation more than maintain his bid for the White House.

While loyal viewers would figure that one main character had to die in keeping with the show’s tradition, it was very surprising that it would be Rebecca – I was thinking it would be Carter’s wife Nicole (Anna Diop) – but then that would be entirely too much like the first season when Jack lost his wife, so the impact here is a bit different but has major implications if there will be a second season.

While the series had a mostly good run, the ratings weren’t terrific, but based on Hawkins’s strong performance and the show’s pedigree, Fox should give this series at least one more season to try to build its fan base and gain more viewers.
There are many possibilities with the remaining characters including Donovan becoming president, fallout from the program Simms and Rebecca put in place, and Carter becoming a CTU agent. During a touching scene with his wife, Carter promises her no more lies (he had been secretly applying to CTU), and Nicole accepts that.

As Carter goes into a debriefing with CTU Director Mullins (Teddy Sears), we get a last shot of Nicole’s face, but from her expression we cannot be sure whether she is just afraid for her husband or unhappy about his decision to join CTU. Let’s hope we get a second season so that we can find out!

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