Since 24 rose phoenix-like from the ashes, it’s been on something of a roll.
The streamlined episode order means that the plot has moved along at a snappy pace, and many of the pitfalls and traps that usually derail a season that has twenty four episodes to fill have been excised. Unfortunately Hour Six sees several of the old issues creeping back in.
Tension at the Al-Harazi household has been a strong aspect of this season, especially with Michelle Fairley’s formidable performance as malicious Margot at the fore, but having her send Simone off on a mission to silence someone who doesn’t need silencing is an instance when the writer’s machinations show through.
For whatever reason they needed Simone to end up (presumably) hospitalised and in custody, this feels like a convoluted way of getting there. Simone is clearly a wildcard – she’s been so messed up by her domineering mother that who knows what side she’ll end up on – but hopefully the writers will be able to justify this tangent.
Similarly, the episode’s closing reveal – that Benjamin Bratt’s CIA head is some sort of mole who framed Kate’s husband – is eye-rollingly naff. The reveal of someone inside an agency being revealed as a mole is arguably 24‘s biggest trope, so it’s almost inevitable that it would resurface at some point, but there’s no getting around the fact that it feels tiresome. We’ll see where it goes, but for now it feels like a box they could have left unticked in a season that was rattling along perfectly well as it was.
Somewhat more successful was Stephen Fry’s PM, who sends MI5 to get in the way of Jack’s undercover work this week, but for good reason. People high up behaving like dolts, just so they can serve as obstructions to our heroes, is another 24 staple, but here PM Davies’ actions are perfectly understandable.
He doesn’t act out of obtuseness or spite, but merely from the evidence he has available to him – and from his point of view his actions make sense. That shows good writing, even if the contributing factor of Heller’s embryonic form of Alzheimer’s is something of a misstep (it’s clearly barely an issue at this point, and it’s hardly going to get worse over the course of one day, so why did they introduce it? Just as an excuse to have everyone overreact so severely to it?)
In the episode’s best material, we finally get Jack and Kate working together to take down the terrorist that Jack has been covertly subverting during his exile. The show has done a great job of painting Kate Morgan as a worthy partner for Jack, and Yvonne Strahovski has more than risen to the challenge. It’s also interesting to find out more of what Jack’s been up to lately, and that even in exile working as a lone wolf, he’s still risking his life to foil terrorists. Whaddaguy!
Live Another Day is at the half-way point now, and despite a few issues, is for the most part operating at a pretty high level for the franchise. It’s certainly got more quality than the last few seasons proper ever achieved.
With an effective villain, a tasty counting-clock in the rogue drones en route to London and some likable heroes finally on board with Bauer’s mission, there ought to be plenty of fun to come in the back half of the season. Let’s just hope the rest plays out more like the snappy, streamlined first half, and eases up on the hackneyed twists and tangents that began to reappear again in this hour.
Aired at 9pm on Wednesday 4 June 2014 on Sky1.
What did you think of the episode? Let us know below…