24 Season 3 is where the series really hit its stride. There was no amnesiac subplots, repetitive kidnappings and definitely no bobcats. This was the show’s Empire Strikes Back season. Even though the worst case scenario was prevented, this day proved costly to everyone involved.
It doesn’t hurt that this season features what’s widely hailed as the show’s best episode and features one of its best villains.
Tony Almeida (Carlos Bernard) runs CTU with Jack Bauer (Keifer Sutherland) heading field ops. The CTU dynamic is more intricate and engaging this season. Tony and Michelle (Reiko Ayelsworth) are married, which doesn’t always make for the smoothest workplace environment. Workplace love is also in the air for Jack’s new partner, Chase Edmunds (James Badge Dale) and Jack’s daughter, Kim, who’s now a CTU agent.
Ditching Kim’s Girl in Peril status gave Elisha Cuthbert more to do than playing the show’s anchor dragging episodes down with silly forced subplots. CTU also gets new tech support agents in Adam Kaufman (Zachary Quinto, Star Trek Beyond) and fan-favorite Chloe O’Brien (Mary Lynn Rajskub).
While it evolves into one of the best of the series’ run, Season 3 starts at a slow simmer. President Palmer’s (Dennis Haysbert) subplot starts off slow as he prepares for campaign debates, but heats up with a storyline involving his brother Wayne (D.B. Woodside), a key financial donor (Albert Hall) and his wife (Gina Torres).
Season 3 marked the final appearances of 24’s longstanding villains Nina Meyers (Sarah Clarke) and Sherri Palmer (Penny Johnson Jerald). Both were in danger of becoming crutches the writers would lean on every season and they wisely ended their tenures in memorable fashion.
CTU discovers a killer virus attack is in the works and Jack tracks a lead to drug kingpins Ramon (Joaquim de Almeida) and Hector Salazar (Vincent Laresca).
24 hasn’t lacked for major threats, but there’s something tangible about watching people get infected from the virus and painfully dying. Jack can stop David Palmer from being assassinated and prevent a world war, but he can’t stop the virus from leaving a massive and extensive body count.
Given that threat, the Salazar brothers would have made solid season long villains, but it’s the second half adversary that raises this season to another level. In Stephen Saunders (Paul Blackthorne, Arrow), Jack and CTU are essentially battling James Bond. Saunders can anticipate and counter Jack’s every move forcing Jack to cross lines he never imagined. The subplot involving CTU administrator Ryan Chappelle (Paul Schulze) embodies 24’s unpredictable and shocking nature.
The action sequences are exceptional this season with blockbuster style moments in multiple episodes. 24 rarely looked like a TV show and Season 3 marked the directors further blurring the lines of TV and big screen movies.
Sutherland takes Jack to Mission: Impossible’s Ethan Hunt and James Bond levels of real life superheroics. But it’s the intensity and sense of desperation Sutherland brings to the role that makes Jack such a compelling lead. Blackthorne makes for an amazingly assured villain with a coolly reserved air that makes Saunders that much more effective.
Haysbert carries the weight of a man who’s making compromises he once considered unfathomable and Johnson is at her scene-stealing best. Bernard and Ayelsworth have some great emotional moments while Rajskub brings a lot of humor as that award office mate with terrible social skills.
24 hadn’t lost any momentum by Season 3, but it was at this point that the show proved it was far more than just a gimmick based on beating the clock. It still definitely holds up for old viewers and is an addictive experience for newcomers.
Rating: 9.7 out of 10
Photo Credit: FOX