After a stupendous four-hour premiere spread over two days, we're into the standard weekly drip-drip-drip of hours and the initial ratings grabbing gimmicks have been dispensed with for now. We're into serious plotting and this year's season can reveal its true colours.
So far, I'm pleasantly impressed. Compared with season four, season five is a model of restraint. Fox News plugs have been kept to a minimum. The first fifteen minutes of the show was packed full of surprises that would have shocked many long-term fans of the show in a “I can't believe they just did that” kind of way - and not just because Chloe gets a boyfriend. And in the whole of the first four hours, there was no torture, no decapitation, no anything that could remotely be construed as excessive in a show like this. Indeed, Jack “softy” Bauer, as he should now be called, even promises to get a suspect medical aid rather than shoot him in the leg until he confesses everything. It's a world gone mad, I tell you.
24 alternates its terrorists between years. Odd years we get European terrorists, even years we get Muslims, so we're faced with Russians at the moment. Or are they Chechnyens? Or are they Canadians, given that Geraint Wyn Davies of Airwolf (Canadian fourth season only) and Forever Knight 'fame' is chief baddie?
Whoever they are, they're not as threatening as Muslims. Last year's über-terrorists had the best planning ever, with a back-up scheme even more impressive than the previous scheme ready to go at a moment's notice: kidnap the Secretary of Defense. Damn. He's rescued. Okay, we'll blow up all the nuclear power stations in the US. Oh they've stopped us. Okay, let's steal a stealth fighter and shoot down Airforce One. Ooh not quite. How about we steal a nuclear missile and blow up Los Angeles? Curses. Und so weiter... I'm sure Osama would be happy with just one of those, so to pull them all off in 24 hours is pretty impressive.
This year, we're on a slow burn. These terrorists really don't have the drive of your fundamentalist, apparently, and they like to pace themselves. That's the trouble with us Europeans: no sense of work ethic. But it's all going reasonably well and they're being modestly quiet about it all. My hat's off to them. Let's hear your demands, Mr Wyn Davies, and we'll consider them over a leisurely cappuccino.
Despite this slowish start by the terrorists, which is still packed with 10 pounds worth of C4 surprises (you can tell I've just finished watching an episode, can't you?), we're in recognisable 24 territory: lots of cyber-talk for the techies, a demonic mole in CTU for Patriot-Act supporters, lots of kung fu-ing and weaponry for the martially-minded, and a little bit of soap (and a fruit-flavoured beverage) for the ladies as various men and women pine for each other while routing IP phones and discussing protocol filters. For Hobbit-lovers, there's also Sean Astin.
If you can put aside your brain for an hour, 24 still gets your adrenal glands pumping like nobody's business. Season five has kept to the traditional 24 formula, refined it and made it better. I'm still waiting for the real kicker of a plot thread that every season has, but I can be patient. The bad guys might not be so evil yet, but the show's the better for it since it becomes ever so slightly more believable.
I'll leave you with one last thought: if you don't have a Keifer Sutherland poster above your bed by the end of the series, no matter what your age, gender or sexual orientation, I'll be very, very surprised. That man is just the coolest.
- February 4, 2006: I knew it wouldn't last, Jack
This new “no-torture” policy of Jack Bauer's wasn't his real intent at all! He was just rusty. In case you missed it, Monday's episode saw 24's Jack Bauer threatening to cut someone's eye out unless they 'fessed up (which...