Review: 24: Legacy 1×1-1×2 (US: Fox; UK: Fox UK)

No longer the Jack Bauer power hour

In the US: Mondays, 8/7c, Fox
In the UK: Tuesdays, 9pm, Fox UK. Starts February 14th

When 24 first aired, it was a revolutionary series in many ways. The conceit that the show played out in real-time over a full 24-hour day in 24, one-hour episodes was original to say the least and took serialised storytelling to the logical limit. It also featured convention-breaking direction, rescuing split-screen shots from their 70s cemetery.

More importantly, it was notionally a Conservative TV show. Airing just a few weeks after 9/11, 24 could have horribly misjudged the public mood. But a daring tale of how honourable family man Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland), a former special forces soldier turned counter-terrorist agent, was able to fight back against the terrorists and win proved to be the tonic the American people needed at the time and was immensely popular. True, his tendency towards extreme ruthlessness and even torture, which creators Joel Surnow and Robert Cochrane had piloted even more extremely on La Femme Nikita, caused liberal apoplexy now it was on network TV, but it was something the audience didn’t really care about.

The show changed with the times. It adapted to the Obama years’ move away from waterboarding et al and was even able to fudge the shift of network TV away from 24-episode runs of shows to 12/13-episode runs through the simple use of a 12-hour delayed epilogue. However, its tendency to shock viewers by killing off much-loved cast members at regular intervals grew predictable and ultimately led to there being no much-loved cast members left except Kiefer Sutherland several seasons before the end.

Which must have posed a bit of a quandary for the producers when they were planning a new season of 24, because Kiefer – he no want to do 24 no more. He doing Designated Survivor. He happy to produce but he no happy to act.

Hence 24: Legacy, which copies format and general attitude and has some links to the original, but absolutely no Jack Bauer. Instead, we have Eric Carter (The Walking Dead‘s Corey Hawkins), a retired US army ranger, whose unit killed a terrorist leader. Despite his having a new job and new identity, the terrorists have found him and the rest of his unit, and want them all dead – although not before whichever one of them has a very important McGuffin reveals where it is.

Hawkins has to find out what it is, where it is and evade and stop the terrorists, with only the help of Mirando Otto – the former Counter Terrorist Unit chief and potential next First Lady to potential President Jimmy Smits. Because being 24 there’s a mole. Shocker, hey?

Indeed, despite the entirely new cast, the new show revisits many of the original’s traits. There’s snarking between computer technicians (including the cousin of one of 24‘s most famous techies). There’s also all manner of insane – and insanely stupid – twists and ideas, such as Carter asking a violent gang member who hates him to look after his wife

One new innovation that builds on the previous show is that rather than having Middle Eastern terrorists in the even numbered seasons, European terrorists in odd-numbered seasons, there are both Middle Eastern and European terrorists to deal with this time round. Yes, everyone – double bubble!

Problem here is that the European terrorists are from Chechnya, so are inevitably going to be Muslims, just like their Middle Eastern counterparts. The question is, coming as it does on the heels of President Trump’s ‘Muslim ban’, has 24: Legacy guessed the Zeitgeist with its Islamophobia as accurately as 24 did with its first season, or is it marching out of step with its potentially horrified viewers?

Time will have to tell on that one, I guess. But purely on a kinetic level, the show does at least manage to maintain the levels of adrenaline that its predecessor did, giving us action scenes aplenty shot by directors who know what they’re doing. Eric Carter is no Jack Bauer, but even Jack Bauer wasn’t really Jack Bauer until season two, and character development was never 24‘s strong point – all that really mattered was what Bauer was prepared to do and why. It’s actually surprisingly easy to slot someone completely different into the same role and for everything to still carry on exactly the same as before.

24: Legacy‘s plot is outright bobbins, with so many holes in it you could use it as a string vest. Characters are thinly drawn and exist only to perform specific plot functions. Its understanding of technology is laughable. Its unpredicatability is predictable. Its attitudes are borderline racist or maybe even just flat out racist. 

But my gosh is it exciting. Still.

  • snworf

    The world is in danger, Jack saves the world but the body count is huge. They’re continuing on, but there’s a new Jack. BlackJack. Don’t see how it’ll be better or worse than any other season of 24 — and it’s definitely not bad TV. I wish the new Jack was female — new BlackJack’s wife would’ve been great. I prefer the 12 episode arc vs. 24 episodes, just wish they’d launch them all on the same day like Netflix — personally, I think 24 is best binged 🙂

    • Hello! Welcome back! How are you?

      BlackJack – I like it. BlackJack’s wife was good in the first episode, but stood around a lot in the second episode. And boxsetting is a fine idea

      • snworf

        Yeah — she stood around, until she began eavesdropping towards the end of episode 2. I would’ve preferred BlackJack to remain in peril, with the wife’s primary goal being to save him, and secondarily, the world — along with her reluctantly assuming the primary action-spy-hero role. Seems like they may ramp her up a bit, but who knows — a dynamic duo would be acceptable. Regardless, it’s a fun roller coaster ride 🙂

        • That would probably have been a better show, yes 😉

  • Even as a conservative, I find the over-the-topness of 24 tiring. 🙂

    • The tiredness means your adrenaline glands are working 😉

      • But I’m not excited – I’m just irritated that people can’t see the lazy logic involved. 🙂

  • JustStark

    So I stopped watching it originally when it went to Sky, after, I think, the series with the mountain lion. And the reason I didn’t miss it was that even then the limitations of the real-time format were becoming apparent, with so many episodes being, basically pointless: many hours would begin with a character or characters escaping from captivity, for example, only to end with them being recaptured by the very people they had fled at the start. Or a character would spend the hour tracking someone down and then extracting information from them… and the information would be that they had to track someone else down in the next hour.

    Add to that the the plots rarely made any sense on a more than two-episode horizon (eg, in episode six someone would apparently always have known something that, had they known it in episode three, would have made their actions impossible to explain) and, well, I just didn’t think it worth it.

    Someone else called it ‘drama methadone’ and I wish I’d come up with the phrase: it looks like real drama, it is shot like real drama, the actors act it like it’s real drama, and in the moment you could mistake it for real drama, but it just isn’t drama because there’s no actual drama there.

    The only thing that saved it from total oblivion was the commitment of the cast to acting as if it was real drama — of course to do that they had to abandon any attempt to portray a coherent character (because they had to act in episode six, with total conviction, a completely different character to the one they had been acting, with total conviction, in episode three) but for the most part they managed it, which was fascinating.

    Then I watched the latest one last year, because I wanted to see what Yvonne Strahovski was doing after Chuck, and it was only twelve episodes. And it was… well, much the same, but less of it, which was better, I suppose. So I’m guessing this is more of the same again.

    I think I’ll stick with Fortitude for the moment.

    • 24 tends to make sense for a while until some ludicrous sub-plot typically involving a mole pops up. But a lot of it’s down to the writers not planning far enough ahead. Season 1 had the notorious “there’s another shooter” issue midway through because they thought they’d be cancelled by episode 16 so hadn’t got the tail-end of the season plotted out – that’s why Nina turns out to be a mole. Then there’s that season where the writers literally got so bored with the storyline that they decided to end it and start a completely new one.

      It’s a tricky discipline writing a season long story and the “Kim and the Mountain Lion” episodes show the difficulties in spades. Still, at least they planned better than they did on Heroes

      • JustStark

        24 tends to make sense for a while until some ludicrous sub-plot typically involving a mole pops up

        That’s kind of what I mean. It’s clearly written so that each individual episode makes sense (even if it doesn’t have any real plot other than a ‘capture/escape/capture’ loop), but that there is not necessarily any consistency from episode to episode.

        Of course that doesn’t make it much different to other Yank TV programmes; its just more obvious, when the other episode purportedly took place three hours ago, rather than an indeterminate time that could be weeks. It’s easier to explain people having learnt new things / forgotten things / generally changed their stances when the contradictory scene might have been a month ago rather than when it was definitely three hours ago and the camera has been on them every minute in between.

        But a lot of it’s down to the writers not planning far enough ahead

        Actually sometimes it seems to me to be the exact opposite: a consequence of totally rigid plotting ahead. So, for example, the twist will have been planned for episode 9 that X is working with the Russians. That means that, to preserve the twist, X is written in episode 6 as if they are not working with the Russians, even to the extent of doing things that would make no sense if they were working with the Russians.

        And occasionally it even zig-zags: so in order to set up the twist in episode 9, they have X acting shifty in episode 2. But then, again in order to preserve the pre-planned twist, between episodes 2 and 9 X acts totally normally and non-shiftily.

        Basically I get the impression that they have at the start of the series a big grid with revelations on it, and they stick rigidly to that grid as they go, even if that means stuff before the revelation is scheduled on the grid makes no sense after the revelation — they just assume that nobody is ever going to go back and check, because going backwards is against the whole ethos of 24. It’s all about the forward motion.

        So yeah — while early on they make have been making it up as they went along, at least in the most recent (or previously-most-recent) one, I got the impression that the issue causing the inconsistencies was not too little forward planning but too much rigid forward planning, so that already-plotted future developments were not allowed to be taken into account in prior episodes, in order to avoid giving a twist away earlier than planned. .