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INTRODUCTION: 24 is a classic example of "right place at the right time." Premiering less than two months after the tragic September 11th attacks, the entire world was on edge about terrorism. So in walked a show that dealt entirely with counter-terrorism, while giving America a flawed but heroic protagonist. The premise was solid, the execution was even better, and the final product became one of the most popular television shows of its time.
SEASON 1: The opening season of 24 came in with a fury and didn't let up for a second. This first season is, in my opinion, one of the most riveting, dramatic, and entertaining pieces of television ever. On the down side, in an attempt to prove that nothing was off limits, the first season has, by far, the most objectionable content. There is a lot of dark, sexual, and violent material here (well, more so than other seasons), so I wouldn't recommend it unless you know exactly what you?re getting yourself into.
The story has many different narrative strains. Once it got going, the show would open with this voiceover at the beginning of every episode, "Right now, terrorists are planning to assassinate a presidential candidate. My wife and daughter have been kidnapped ... and people that I work with may be involved in both. I'm Federal Agent Jack Bauer, and this is the longest day of my life." That's the long and short of it, without giving away any spoilers.
There are many constants throughout this show. Kiefer Sutherland is an absolute powerhouse in every season. There are many great supporting characters that pop up here and there, like President David Palmer, Chloe O'Brian, and Tony Almeida. The action is always exhilarating and tense. Sean Callery's musical score really adds to every episode. His theme has now become somewhat recognizable, and his underscore is excellent. The storylines incorporate everything you'd expect from an espionage show: action, drama, double-crosses, double-agents, and morally impossible decisions. The same applies for almost every season, so I won't reiterate it going forward.
Final verdict for Season 1: Minus one too many instances of explicit content, and you have yourself a rousing, suspenseful, dramatic, and sometimes tragic introduction to Jack Bauer's life. 10/10
SEASON 2: After the catastrophe of Season 1, Jack Bauer finds himself far away from CTU. But a nuclear threat pulls Jack back into the counter-terrorism game. Almost everything good from Season 1 returns here: the drama, action, character development, and a good dose of misery. The excessive sexual content is cut way back. But the story isn't as focused as that of Season 1. There's a large section of the story that deals with Jack's daughter Kim being stuck in a bomb shelter with a conspiracy theorist. It doesn't advance the story at all. Still, Kiefer Sutherland brings a sense of urgency to every scene he's in. It may not be the best 24 season, but it's still incredibly solid.
Final verdict for Season 2: Though not as focused or surprising as the first season, 24 Season 2 carries over much of the good and jettisons much of the bad from Season 1. 9/10
SEASON 3: Drug addiction, biological warfare, a tenuous relationship between Jack and Kim's boyfriend (and fellow CTU agent) Chase, and decisions that will define David Palmer's presidency. These are just some of the story-lines threaded throughout Season 3. I really love this season! The threat is original (biological) and it is handled expertly. Everything that has worked in the show up to this point, works perfectly here. Season 3 also trims down the pointless subplot habit Season 2 had. Of the first three seasons, this one is probably the most complete. It doesn't have the raw power of Season 1, but it is more balanced. Tonally, it feels like a direct continuation of Season 2, and this is a very good thing. I love the new(er) characters that are given chances to shine, like Chase, Chloe, and Michelle. There are also some really amazing moral choices that have to be made throughout the season.
Final verdict for Season 3: It may not have the relentless impact of Season 1, but it also doesn't have the loose storytelling of Season 2. At the end of the day, 24 Season 3 is the best of both worlds that is persistently entertaining from start to finish. 9.5/10
SEASON 4: It took four seasons for this show to have a real slip up. "Day 4" amplifies every problem the show has had up to this point. The story telling isn't tight, and it isn't believable. The villain is overpowered and cliché. There are useless subplots that take up way too much time. The production values are the worst yet, completely cheaping out on some really important moments. The new characters that are introduced fail to make much of an impression. There are a few positives. Jack is as good as ever. Chloe O'Brian starts to come into her own. We are introduced to the legendary Charles Logan. Tony Almeida remains the best supporting character. And the ending is very satisfying. On a whole, this is the second worst season of 24.
Final verdict for Season 4: A significant step back for this quality series. There are enough elements of worth to keep viewers interested. But the loyal fan base should be thanked for not giving up on this series after this subpar fourth outing. 7/10
SEASON 5: In 2006, 24 reached the pinnacle of its greatness. Season 5 is the definition of a perfect series of television. Every piece of the plot functions flawlessly. Once again, Jack has to get back in the saddle to stop a threat whose roots reach all the way up to the highest level of government. The political side of 24 is usually the weak point, but in this season it is captivating. Charles Logan makes for quite an entertaining president. This season's finale is an absolutely stunning series of events that is sure to leave you speechless. I can't remember a single flaw in 24's 5th season.
Final verdict for Season 5: Captivating from the word go, 24 Season 5 makes for quite the pallet cleanser after a weak 4th entry. Though the show would go on for an additional three seasons (with more to come), it clearly peaked at Season 5. 10/10
SEASON 6: After reaching incredible heights the year before, 24 Season 6 marks the lowest point in Jack Bauer's history. It's really the only time when you can call 24 "boring." The season focuses way too much on politics, and the politics are preposterous. The fact that Wayne Palmer is president doesn't make much sense. Powers Boothe (bless him) is given a very lame character to play. The showrunners try to bring in Jack's family, but it comes off as blatantly unrealistic. Jack does have a few cool moments (literally hanging a man by a metal chain), but even he is not exempt from my wrath on this season. Frankly, this season is horrible.
Final verdict for Season 6: Compared to the rest of this series, Season 6 is lame in every sense of the word. The show would never quite get back on track, but thankfully, this atrocity didn't ruin 24. 5/10
SEASON 7: This 7th season of 24 felt more like a reboot than a simple continuation of the story. Jack almost completely remakes himself between the end of Season 6 and the beginning of Season 7. The season brings the threat more to a political setting, with terrorists invading the White House (with no Channing Tatum or Gerard Butler to stop them!). It carries over some of the more unbelievable sections of Season 6, but on a whole it is a much needed improvement. It's great to have Tony Almeida back in the fold, albeit in a murky role. Phenomenal acting by Kiefer Sutherland, once again.
Final verdict for Season 7: Even if it does retain some problems from the previous season, 24 Season 7 returns the show to a high level of exhilarating storytelling. This isn't the Jack Bauer of Season 5, but it's the best he has been since then. 8/10
SEASON 8: How to end such an expansive and frankly heartbreaking show? Well there were many different opinions. A straight-up happy ending? No, that would be tonally inconsistent. Killing off the main character? No, we didn't spend 8 seasons with him, only to have him die in the end. I think Season 8 takes the best approach when it comes to ending the story. Oddly enough, this season is more about the destination, not the journey. The journey is kind of unclear. The plot lines aren't taut enough. There are a whole lot of bumps along the way. But in the end, thanks to Kiefer Sutherland's amazingly committed performance, this was a fitting end!
Final verdict for Season 8: Regaining some of the raw energy from Season 1, this 8th season of 24 marks a fitting end to an amazing show. Though not without its glaring problems, this is a proper send off to the beloved Jack Bauer. 8/10
CONCLUSION: 24 remains, to this day, a show unlike any other. The level of razor-sharp tension the series created throughout its 8 year runtime is unbelievable. Telling the story in real time adds to the long list of qualities that make the show stand out from the rest of the pack. Though definitely not for the faint of heart, 24 is one of the defining TV shows of the 2000s.