24 Season 5 review – Jack deals with the ultimate evil

These season recaps of 24 tend to do better traffic than some of my ongoing TV reviews…so time to revisit my favorite.

Every long running series has that season that’s unquestionably the standout. For 24 it’s definitely Season 5.

Sure, the first season introduced what was an unprecedented experience even before binging became a household term, but Season 5 was when everything reached its peak. It would be hard for another season to top Keifer Sutherland’s Jack Bauer facing another villain at this level. Unlike some earlier seasons where you could catch up on the important aspects and backstories by letting the season play out, this one is the most rewarding for longtime viewers.

Warning if you’ve never watched the show, but want to skip ahead to see what they hype is all about — this is not the season for you. If you don’t want to invest the time in the four previous seasons, you should at least start with Season 3 before watching this one.

Spoilers follow from here on…

After his feigned death at the end of last season Jack has gone into hiding under a new alias until a brutally swift attack on his closest allies. The series had never been shy about killing off important characters, yet Season 5 still found a way to be shocking right from the start with the assassinations of former President David Palmer and CTU operative Michelle Dessler.

24 season 5 - Logan-Cummings-Novick

 

Soon after Tony Almeida gets killed as well. This was a major streamlining of the cast and while 24 never really played favorites previously, killing off three of the series’ most popular supporting characters was a major and potentially risky move.  There’s not a lot of shows that could survive after killing off so many fan favorites in a season let alone in one sequence.

This brings Jack out of exile just in time to save Chloe and uncover a nerve gas plot by Russian terrorists looking to stop President Charles Logan from signing an anti-terrorism act with his Russian counterpart Yuri Suvarov. As incompetent as ever, CTU is useless in providing much aid to Jack as new head Lynn McGill (Sean Astin) considers Jack a nuisance and problem.

24 season 5 - Bill-Buchanan and Lyn-McGill

Astin does a great job of making Lynn a prickly obstacle for Jack to work around to get the job done. The payoff for Lynn’s arc is surprising as he wasn’t a likable jerk like George Mason, but the nature of his death earned him a ton of sympathy. Maybe killing off socially awkward CTU tech head Edgar was one casualty too many, but it reinforced the threat level of this season and why Jack was so desperate to get revenge.

By this point in the series, Jack’s daughter, Kim, had outgrown her teen hostage/cougar fighter phase and was largely a non-factor. Jack’s ex-girlfriend, Audrey, plays a far more pivotal role in a better use of someone Jack loves to put him in a bad situation. Curtis Manning’s (Roger Cross) role expanded, which was appreciated after the stinging death of David Palmer.

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Palmer’s brother, Wayne (D.B. Woodside), also steps up although not quite in the same manner. And as always since her debut, Mary Lynn Rajskub makes Chloe one of the show’s strongest supporting characters.

In most 24 seasons the first half focuses on a mid-boss of sorts who’s part of a larger conspiracy that Jack takes down in the second half. This season plays out somewhat differently as Jack is on to the main threat, his former mentor Christopher Henderson (Peter Weller), early on.

24 season 5 review - Jack-Bauer-Christopher-Henderson

The big twist here is Henderson is working in cahoots with Logan, effectively pitting Jack against the President of the United States. Charles Logan (Gregory Itzin) had always been portrayed as a weak, jealous and insecure leader fully incapable of leading the country through a crisis. Early on Logan barely seemed to be able to stand up much to his wife (Jean Smart). Now he’s the instrument behind the chaos and Jack has to deal with a threat within CTU and the highest office in the country.

24 always boasted an impressive cast capable of delivering strong performances, but Itzin and Smart brought the fall of Logan’s presidency to another level. Itzin was so convincing as a weaselly, spinless character that Logan’s actions were more infuriating than any other character in the series’ history.

24 season 5 review -president charles logan

Likewise, Smart’s portrayal of the beleaguered and heavily manipulated First Lady gave her an outstanding showcase. The Logans were a reversal of the President Palmer and Sherry Palmer dynamic with enough time passed to make it work so effectively.

Sutherland was also at his finest here thanks to the material, which constantly put Jack in disadvantageous positions. Over the years 24 took heat for having minorities and characters of color playing the villains — an unfair complaint as the POC villains were a smokescreen or outright fake out for the white villains on the respective seasons. This season didn’t bother with the distractions and made the enemies clear almost immediately.

24 Season 5 - Jack-Curtis-Theo

 

As satisfying as Logan’s downfall was there’s one last gut punch to come paying off a subplot from Season 4. That was a hugely unexpected twist and this cliffhanger ensured that fans would be anxiously awaiting Season 6.

Rating: 10 out of 10

Season 5 sets up an impossible bar for future seasons to surpass and while there’s still another season that comes close, this is the gold standard of the series.

Photo Credit: Fox

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