TV Review: 24 – Season Three

Jack Bauer could take Chuck Norris, if you give him a full day to do so.

24 Season Three

Starring: Kiefer Sutherland, Elisha Cuthbert, Dennis Haysbert, Reiko Aylesworth, Carlos Bernard, Penny Johnson Jerald, James Badge Dale, Mary Lynn Rajskub

Series Creator: Joel Surnow

I started watching this season months ago. I generally won’t watch a 24 box set during the TV season, because the first two were so addicting, it was hard to stop for things like eating and sleeping, much less weekly television episodes and work and school. So we watched started watching season three during my spring break, which was also hiatus for most of television. We figured we could finish it off in that week, watch season four in the summer, and maybe season five over Christmas break to catch up to season six. I’ve never watched the show week to week, but would like to.

Instead, we just finished watching season three this past week, over four months after seeing the first hour. That says more about how I feel about this season then anything I can think of. Instead of taking over my spring break, instead of drawing us away from other TV shows, instead of having all-night marathon weekend showings, we let the discs just sit in our five disc changer, finally getting back to them a month ago.

I’m not saying that it was a bad season of television. In fact, on balance, I’d say it was still pretty good. But it didn’t hook me in, and certainly didn’t make me obsess about the show. It definitely improved in the second half of the season, but by then we had gotten so used to doing other things, like watching movies, that we’d generally only watch one episode at a time.

The biggest problem with this season in my mind is that they did a really poor job in making me care about the characters. Cliff-hangers can only interest me so much before they start to become tiresome and intimidating. What will draw me to keep coming back to a show, and watch several episodes in a row, is if I truly care what happens to the characters, and want to keep inviting them back into my living room. With this season of 24, they pushed the action too far from the people doing the action, to the point where the only engaging character for most of the season was Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland), and even he was much less interesting than in past seasons, mostly because he felt cold and almost inhuman. They tried to do something new with Jack this season, giving him a heroin addiction resulting from an undercover drug operation, but this didn’t connect with me the same as the guy trying to protect his family from the first two seasons, and was almost completely dropped about halfway through the season (which is silly, since it was the same day).

Elisha Cuthbert‘s Kim Bauer has always been the worst part of the show, but at least in past seasons her role helped humanise Jack. This season, she was complete dead weight, playing an unconvincing computer specialist and love interest to the bland and mostly uninteresting Jack protégé, Chase Edmunds (James Badge Dale). I can’t tell you how little I cared about their little story.

Except to say that I cared about Kim and Chase a lot more than I cared about ANY story involving President David Palmer (Dennis Haysbert), unless that storyline also involved Jack’s storyline. Be it his preparations for a pre-election debate, troubles with his new girlfriend (Wendy Crewson), dealings with his Chief of Staff brother Wayne (D.B. Woodside), dealings with his shady ex-wife Sherry (Penny Johnson Jerald), or problems with a supporter that is trying to influence him (Albert Hall) and that guy’s wife (Gina Torres), all of it was a complete drag on the show and a severe distraction from the main plotline of the series.

Or, I should say plotlines, which is my second complaint about this season. It wasn’t as unified as the previous two seaons, or as unified as you’d expect a show that takes place all on the same day should be. The first half of the season involves Jack trying to take down the Salazars (Joaquim de Almeida and Vincent Laresca) and their seller (Greg Ellis), a plan that was months in the making. Then, it shifts to a different (albeit related) threat that they have less than a day to stop, but hadn’t been planning for months (kind of makes all that planning seem stupid). While I hate that storylines and momentum from the first season were all but dropped halfway through, I can’t complain too much, because I didn’t really care for the first half. I especially didn’t like the Salazars as villains, as they came off as buffoons and poor stereotypes.

By contrast, the second half villain (Paul Blackthorne) was interesting and seemed to pose a genuine threat. His threat was so great, that it made some of the previously boring characters start to become more interesting, particularly Reiko Aylesworth‘s Michelle Dessler and Carlos Bernard‘s Tony Almeida. Also, Mary Lynn Rajskub‘s Chloe O’Brian grew on me as the season wore on, going from annoying to refreshing by the time it was over. Sadly, President Palmer only got less and less interesting as the series drew to a close.

In the end, season three was still very entertaining, but ultimately disappointing. It felt like the writers realised that the first half wasn’t going as well as they had hoped, and they changed tracks a little awkwardly (even if where they went was their ultimate plan). The action was pushed a little too far into unrealistic, ultra-macho directions, which made the characters feel less interesting and the series feel too nihilistic to truly embrace. It delivered the goods in the end, but took too long to get there.

24: Season One
24: Season Two

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