There’s good news for many, as 24 is back in spin-off form as 24: Legacy. The one major caveat is the lack of series hero Jack Bauer, as Kiefer Sutherland has moved on to become President of the United States over on ABC’s Designated Survivor (though he still serves as executive producer here). Still, this is largely the same show that everyone should be used to, as it has all the things people are used to celebrating in its thrill-a-minute sort of way, as well as some of the problematic elements that have apparently not escaped the series. All of that in mind, this series premiere episode is a good encapsulation of what to expect from this 12-episode season.
Despite the familiar direction that series creators Joel Surnow and Robert Cochran have gone in, the biggest concern is really going to come down to just how effective Straight Outta Compton’s Corey Hawkins will be as the new face of 24. To Hawkins’ credit, he does all he can in this fast-paced first episode. His mix of stoic seriousness and general badassery as ex-Army Ranger Eric Carter allows us to see a man who has compassion for his wife (Anna Diop as Nicole) and a desire to live a normal life, but also knows how (and wants) to be a man of action. Hopefully future episodes will allow the craziness of Eric’s day to help him tackle the pitch black sense of humor that Sutherland brought to Bauer, but for the time being, we are off and running, once Eric does the same.
The episode actually kicks off in the way anyone would expect. Not five minutes into this series and we are already seeing Middle Eastern terrorists torturing an Army Ranger, while his fellow terrorists tear through the Ranger’s things. The Ranger is then shot in the head to show that these terrorists mean business. Basically, any thought that this new age of where we are at with how to depict terrorist threats on television would have changed with 24 is not something to rely on. It can somewhat take viewers aback, but surely 24 fans are familiar enough with the show’s approach to these scenarios, however troubling. One could only wonder if future episodes will turn the tables on who is really in charge (which is certainly likely, given the show’s penchant for moles from within and grand conspiracies).
Anyhow, the episode establishes that the terrorists desire a McGuffin in the form of a USB drive full of sleeper cell info. The terrorists arrive at Eric’s house and attempt to get info from him, before his wife creates a distraction and the two dispatch their would-be dispatchers. Now it’s up to Eric to piece together what’s happening, which quickly turns into finding Ben Grimes (Charlie Hofheimer), another former Ranger who possesses the McGuffin. Of course, this wouldn’t be 24 without a number of subplots and other characters, mostly revealed via splitscreens.
Miranda Otto is here as Rebecca Ingram, the former head of CTU and wife of Senator John Donovan (Jimmy Smits), who is running for President. Eric establishes contact with Rebecca, who then brings in Andy (Dan Bucatinsky), the communication analyst who seems to be this show’s version of Chloe O’Brian. Together, the plot is on to locate Ben under the nose of Keith Mullins (Teddy Sears), the new head of CTU. Oh, and Eric had to drop Nicole off with his brother Isaac (Ashley Thomas), who happens to be Nicole’s former boyfriend/drug dealer, because Eric has no one else he can trust.
Okay, so that should be all the major plot and character details needed. It all matters of course, because 24 has always been a series driven by plot. Even when that has been a detriment to a 24-episode season, things always have to happen, which has often pushed the show into ridiculous corners to get out of for the sake of stalling. Ideally, much like the 24: Live Another Day season from 2014, 24: Legacy can function at a good pace thanks to the shortened season length. It may mean this new series and the new characters associated only have so much time to make an impression, but the show also doesn’t have to support too much weight in terms of the episode count.
One thing viewers can rely on is the overwrought dialogue and tense setups that drive the thrills of this series. Even in its most predictable moments, 24 has always had a way of taking itself seriously enough to be entertaining in a somewhat humorous manner. No, this show doesn’t stop for the sake of comedic relief, but as the ball gets rolling, one can’t help but let the seriousness bring a bit of a smile to their face, given just how earnest the “good guys” are in the face of a possible threat.
Also, remember that this is an action movie stretched into a “real time-based” television series. While this opening episode has to introduce a bunch of new characters, we also get a couple of solid action beats. Eric’s handling of his would-be attackers at his home was a fun burst of what to expect from our new hero, but the episodes’ finale really delivered some fun. While not as epic as some of the wildest 24 episodes of the past, there was a solid shootout/chase in a construction area that peaked with Eric’s use of equipment to disorient the bad guys and open up a dynamic set piece.
Director Stephen Hopkins has been with this series for a long time and he has helped setup a familiar look for this show. It has allowed for many great action scenes in the various seasons and this one appears to be no different. Along with director Jon Cassar (who directs the next two exciting episodes), the filmmakers do what they can to match the craziness (and ridiculousness) of the plot and dialogue with effective amounts of tension and action. It’s enough to justify what this season is trying to sell its audience on, which, in turn, will hopefully allow the show to keep up its pace without making people wonder too hard about the absence of Jack Bauer.
In putting all of this together, I found myself not too concerned with that very absence, which seems like confidence in what this series can offer. As a big 24 fan, even during its lowlights, I am happy to be back in this silly world, as it means getting a level of network TV tension that constantly entertains, despites its flaws. Yes, the show is unbelievable at times, but it also shoots straight for the sun and doesn’t look back. It’s the kind of serialized drama that doesn’t concern itself as much with layered mythology as it does with fast-paced tension that keeps viewers in the moment. Given that there are only 11 more hours to go along with this one, that’s a ride I’m happy to be on.
Other Important CTU Intel:
- Dammit Count: 0
- Mole Watch: Otto’s Rebecca Ingram seems almost too obvious, but how about some of the people supporting Senator Donovan…
- There was another sub-plot I failed to get into involving a high school teen’s concerns that his ex-girlfriend is plotting an attack at her school. Little does he know that she’s in league with her teacher!
- Nicole talks to Isaac about Eric’s need to also be in the action because…y’know, plot.
- Only a show like this could make the line, “I wrote the counter-measure myself,” believable and hilarious.
- Sutherland will not be appearing on this show (unless there’s a huge surprise coming), but we do know Tony Almedia will be coming back!
- Having previewed the other available episodes, it is good to note that this premiere feels fairly consistent with things to come.