24 Season 2. Written by Robert Cochran, Joel Surnow, Howard Gordon, Virgil Williams, Gil Grant, Maurice Hurley, Michael Chernuchin, Andrea Newman; directed by Jon Cassar, Bryan Spicer, Stephen Hopkins, Frederick King Keller, James Whitmore Jr., Rodney Charters; starring Keifer Sutherland, Carlos Bernard, Elisha Cuthbert, Dennis Haysbert, Reiko Aylesworth, Jude Ciccolella, Glenn Morshower, Penny Johnson, Sarah Clarke, Paul Schulze, Michelle Forbes, Sarah Wynter, and Xander Berkeley (2002-2003): I’m a left-winger who mostly enjoyed the 24 series for what it was — a pulp thriller hybridized with an office melodrama. Indeed, only The Office dwelt more on the frustrations of the workplace during 24‘s eight-season run. In the Counter-Terrorist Unit, your bad boss and annoying co-workers are often a greater threat than nuclear weapons and biological threats.
I can see why presidential candidates on the Right kept invoking Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) during the last presidential election. He’s always right, he’s surrounded by idiots and enemies, and he’s more patriotic than Captain America (and, ironically, played by a Canadian). Of course, the series established over and over again that politicians are almost universally weasels; the only thing Jack Bauer would do with John McCain or Mitt Romney would be torture them for information, because they’d undoubtedly turn out to be part of an evil conspiracy to start World War III.
Season 2 parallels Jack’s hypercompetence and hyperpatriotism with that of President David Palmer (Dennis Haysbert), one of the most presidential fictional presidents I can think of. Both men intuitively know what’s right, have a few loyal supporters, and are opposed by well-meaning incompetents and malign foreign and domestic powers. The whole thing makes for a thrilling ride, and a fairly deft bit of parallel plotting.
Alas, Season 2 also gives us the worst sub-plot in 24 history, Jack’s daughter Kim (Elisha Cutherbert) and her endless, increasingly ridiculous adventures throughout the day. None of the adventures have anything substantial to do with the main plot, and could conceivably have been allocated to a spin-off series called The Perils of Kim Bauer. They’re funny for awhile, unintentionally funny, but eventually, if you’re like me, you’ll start fast-forwarding right around the time Kim gets caught in a leg-trap in the woods and gets menaced by a mountain lion, only to be rescued and briefly imprisoned by a well-meaning survivalist before somehow getting involved in a convenience store hold-up.
Kiefer Sutherland does a nice job embodying someone who looks like an Everyman, but who dishes out more punishment than James Bond and Batman put together, and takes more punishment than Ash in the Evil Dead movies. The supporting cast is mostly solid, with Xander Berkeley’s annoying CTU boss George Mason, made heroic by fatal radiation poisoning early in the story, and the reptilian former First Lady (Penny Johnson) being standouts. Highly recommended.