As 24 enters its final season, James Wilkinson looks at the main elements of TV’s most absurd and awesome spy show
In 24’s universe it apparently takes more ID to rent a DVD than it does to get a position in one of the Counter Terrorist Units. They’ve had no less than five moles in the first seven seasons (the series has had a total of 13 moles if you include those outside CTU). The first-ever mole was CTU programmer Jamey Farrell back in season one, but she was upstaged (and murdered, to add insult to injury) in that same season by Nina Myers, ex-lover of protagonist Jack Bauer. Nina was upgraded to full-on super-villain when she murdered Jack’s wife and became a recurring antagonist.
This season: We won’t spoil the surprise, but rest assured that it’s ridiculous.
Perhaps a result of CTU’s open-door hiring policy, the few staff who aren’t suspected moles are either incompetent, backstabbing or cheating on each other. Our favourite emotional smart bomb was Morris O’Brian, the estranged husband of Chloe O’Brian, CTU’s socially inept hacker. We’re guessing they came up with his character by picking words out of a hat, because he’s an English, alcoholic, promiscuous hacking genius and ladies’ shoe salesman.
This season: The dysfunction continues with husband/wife duo Dana Walsh and Cole Ortiz (the latter played by Freddie Prinze Jr). But the real trouble comes from sleazeball Arlo Glass, who’s more interested in sexually harassing Dana than, you know, stopping a missile-wielding assassin.
Late in season one the writers realised that they had nothing for Jack Bauer’s wife, Terri, to do. Their genius solution? Give her amnesia and have her wander in circles for four hours. This was pretty dumb, but only a taster for the rubbish subplots to come. Take, for example, the trials of Kim Bauer in season two. With nothing to do in the main plotline, she instead had to contend with a murderous businessman, a convenience store robber, two separate sexual predators, a false murder charge and a mountain lion. Yes. A mountain lion.
This season: Believe it or not, it features the most bizarre subplot yet, as CTU analyst Dana Walsh, actually a former juvenile criminal going under an assumed name (see Malicious Moles for more on CTU’s rubbish hiring policies), finds herself blackmailed by her redneck ex-lover.
Blasts from Jack’s past
When you have a hero as unstoppable as Jack Bauer, you need convincingly fearsome foes. And what could be more convincing than someone who’s known Bauer and his methods for years? Step forward season one’s baddie, Victor Drazen, played by Dennis Hopper sporting a bad attitude and worse accent. Since then we’ve also had season five’s Christopher Henderson, a cold-blooded killer who trained Bauer, and Tony Almeida, a good guy from the first five seasons turned bad in the seventh. But the most notable was Jack’s father, Philip, played by James Cromwell, who also played Farmer Hoggett in Babe. Although we can’t imagine Farmer Hoggett murdering one of his sons and kidnapping his grandchild at gunpoint.
This season: The writers have brought back last year’s FBI agent Renee Walker. You may recall that she spent that time growing increasingly comfortable with Jack’s extreme methods; her appearance this year is even darker – but will she be out-and-out villainous?
Awesome Bauer killings
What would 24 be without Jack Bauer’s rampages of death? A couple of hours shorter, for a start. Jack racked up 181 kills across six seasons and the 24: Redemption TV movie, using such tried-and-tested techniques as bullets, bombs and broken necks. But probably the most gruesome was in the first episode of season six when a chained-down Bauer tricks his captor into leaning in… and then bites a bloody chunk out of the sap’s neck.
This season: Rest assured that the first episode features a fantastic fire-axe/stairwell combo. Oof!