Alright, Season 6 wasn’t quite as bad as I remembered despite being a slog at times. I’d watched Season 7 once before and happily declared it my second favorite after Season 5 (naturally). Turns out I can trust my taste despite a decade and change later as Season 7 was every bit as exhilarating and surprising a 24-hour marathon as I’d remembered if not being that much better.
Season 6 had some moments, but overall it suffered from lackluster villains with spotty motivations. That’s not the case with Season 7, which I’d argue has the best assemblage of bad guys in the show’s history. How strong are the villains? Kurtwood Smith (Robocop’s Clarence Boddicker himself) plays a Senator with an ax to grind for Jack Bauer’s (Kiefer Sutherland) less than by the book interrogation techniques and he barely registers as a nuisance as the season plays out. Time for spoilers!
I didn’t bother rewatching 23: Redemption despite its major connection to this season. It always felt a little sanctimonious and a mini-movie doesn’t capture the tone of 24 properly.
The FBI gets Jack out of a senate hearing where he’s being painted as a criminal for his actions with the now disbanded CTU to deal with a new national threat. Why do they need Jack’s help?
Season 7 goes a somewhat soap opera route by bringing back a character we rightfully thought was dead in Jack’s longtime CTU ally and friend Tony Almeida (Carlos Bernard).
My childhood with my grandmother watching Days of Our Lives and Young the Restless notwithstanding, Tony’s miraculous recovery is a lot easier to go along with as he’s the main antagonist of the season. That’s not good for Jack as Tony knows his playbook and has a counter for all of his plays. Or maybe it’s all a ruse and part of a larger play?
CTU had been a collection of screw-ups and awful security measures for years so I didn’t shed any tears with its shut down. Besides, who needs CTU when all of the important elements – Chloe O’Brian (Mary Lynn Rajskub) and Bill Buchanan (James Morrison) — are back?
Tony has been working with some shady groups working out his grief over his wife Michelle’s murder. Now he’s back in this CTU splinter cell trying to stop an attack on U.S. soil by Col. Dubaku (Hakeem Kae-Kazim) and his boss, Gen. Juma (Tony Todd).
Juma and his crew are actually formidable villains that the writers wisely don’t have overstay their peak effectiveness. This ushers in the next level threat with nutty business owner Jonas Hodges (Jon Voight), whose private military force is being questioned under the new administration. Hodges figures the best way to preserve his group is to reinforce the need for them. Todd and Voight make for a terrific one-two punch of major villains based on similar scorched Earth endgame strategies.
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As dangerous as they are, Tony’s betrayal is actual a shock. In 24 you do kinda expect the unexpected, but not with one of the Day 1 favorites. That makes it better somehow when Tony reveals that all of his actions throughout the day have been to get close enough to Alan Wilson (Will Patton, Armageddon), the man responsible for Michelle and David Palmer’s assassinations. The secret that he kept from Jack makes Tony’s fall even more tragic and heartbreaking. Bernard and Sutherland do amazing work in the final few episodes as friends who have endured so much together at odds in the end.
Another reason this season is such a standout is the subtle feeling of a passing of the torch. When Jack first meets Renee Walker (Annie Wersching, The Last of Us), she’s a dutiful FBI agent who abhors Jack’s tactics.
As the season develops, Renee starts to realize for the greater good sometimes it’s perfectly acceptable to break a few rules and operate with your own brand of justice. Over the years the series tried to find a suitable partner/sidekick for Jack, but Renee’s evolution from idealistic agent to borderline vigilante made her one of his best if not the outright No. 1.
Wersching is slender, but pulls off the physical stunts in such a convincing manner that it would have been fine if 24 continued with Renee as the lead. While there’s no CTU, Renee still has to deal with some of the same headaches as Jack from an overprotective superior Larry Moss (Jeffrey Nordling), a prickly analysis (Rhys Coiro, Entourage) and a socially awkward computer whiz, Janis (Janeane Garofalo).
It takes a little while for Cherry Jones to settle in as President Allison Taylor, but once she does Jones gets the meatiest and most tragic presidential arc of the series. Taylor is still grieving the loss of her son, but her husband, Henry (Colm Feore, Thor), doesn’t believe he committed suicide.
Written off as in denial, Henry uncovers part of the far reaching conspiracy that puts him as a major target. While the arrival of Taylor’s daughter, Olivia (Sprague Grayden) seems like just an excuse to work in a new hostage. Thankfully that’s not the case at all as Olivia proves to be a shark in the political game adding some much needed intrigue, deception and overall messiness into the White House the likes we hadn’t seen since Sherry Taylor.
Like Tony, Olivia gets consumed with vengeance no matter the cost. It’s interesting watching two of the bigger second half players getting consumed by their need for revenge.
The action set pieces are at a high quality level from exploding buildings, parking lot getaways and a White House invasion that makes White House Down look tame.
Reflecting on Season 6, Sutherland and the writers/producers said it was a disappointment. For the various shortcomings of that season if it provided the motivation to deliver one of the series’ strongest outings it was worth it.