Wednesday, October 18, 2006

REVIEW: 24 - Season 3

The one where...Jack stops the virus #

The superhuman CTU (Counter Terrorist Unit) agent that is Jack Bauer serves his country once more. Along the way, people die, get tortured, kidnapped and generally don't have a nice time but then you probably knew that.

Season 3 sees Jack back at CTU having recovered from ordeals of dealing with the nuke and the death of Terry, his wife. He's subordinate to Tony Almeda the new Director of CTU but in charge of Field-Ops, a seemingly new addition to the team. For the past year Jack's been working under cover with a group of drug traffickers to buy a 'Weaponised' virus, that kills people in about 18 hours and it's effects are nasty to say the least. Needless to say, things go wrong. Big time. President Palmer is back (yawn) and has his own subplot this time, involving Sherry Palmer and the President's new Chief of Staff, Wayne Palmer, David's brother.

As ever, the action comes thick and fast, with contrived story devices thrown left and right like Plot Grenades. No other show has quite so many cliff hangers, not just in the final few minutes but also in the twentieth, twenty first and every other damn minute of screentime. For a man having heart trouble the last time we saw him Jack bounds around kicking three bells out of anyone and anything to get his *gruff voice* "job done". We even see a softer side, something we've not seen since the first few scenes of season 1 before the Presidents life was threatened. Old characters make a welcome return and some leave in a meh kind of way. Blink and you'll miss the death of a Big Bad which is the one major disappointment of this year.

No amount of disappointment however can prepare you for the blandness of David Palmer's B story. Much of the action revolves around Wayne Palmer and he has to shoulder the blame, as an actor. DB Woodside portrays Wayne like an arrogant younger sibling, petulantly throwing his toys out of the pram. Not even Penny Johnson Jerald as Sherry can liven up proceedings as we've seen her evil-woman-pretending-to-be-nice routine too often. Just how many times can the president use her, only to regret it? American Presidents have a reputation for being stupid but it would be nice to see even the fictitious ones be clever now and again. Time and again he makes choices which you feel he'd never make - you're the President David! Never heard of a pardon?

You'll be relieved to hear Kim Bauer's not put in danger umpteen times an episode having been given a job at CTU by her oh, so loving Dad, where she falls in love with...Jack's partner. Hop aboard the cliché train! New IT people jump in - do you need to be an IT specialist to work in CTU? - and work miracles with their 'future' technology. Paul Blackthorne is perhaps the best addition to this year as token English bad guy Stephen Saunders, playing malice for all he can get.

As usual characters and plot strands abound, revolving around each other with abandon; bluffs and double occur with all too common frequency and there's not a lot you think you haven't seen before - how many times can they play the "Someone’s hacked into CTU and/or are working undercover" card? Just how secure are the computers and staff in American Intelligence?

So, three seasons in and jack's looking tired. Let's hope season 4 re-invigorates the show as there's not a lot else as exciting. Dropping a point for unoriginality, 3 and a half out of 5.

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