Cometh the hour, cometh a different man. ’24‘ gets a reboot, but how timely is the return of the classic action series?
An elite team of Navy Seals take out a major terrorist leader in Yemen and return home to the thanks of the government but largely anonymous – their identities changed in case of reprisal. Eric Carter (Corey Hawkins) wants to make a new life for himself and his wife and is frustrated when he’s contacted by fellow team-member Ben Grimes (Charlie Hofheimer) who thinks the team is being stalked. However paranoid Grimes may have become, he may be right… Eric can’t contact any of his friends through the usual emergency protocols and soon he and his wife Nicole (Anna Diop) are attacked in their home.
The attackers aren’t just out for the usual revenge reasons… a strongbox disappeared during the SEAL raid and it transpires that a hard-drive with a list of sleeper cells and intended targets was in it. Carter knows nothing of it but is determined to find out. But with their identities a closely guarded secret, Eric is not sure whom he can trust. If he can’t trust his own government, will fractured family ties prove useful?
And elsewhere a political presidential campaign could be under threat… and in a school science-lab something well off the school curriculum is being cooked up…
24… without Jack Bauer? Have the ‘bad dudes’ of the world finally triumphed?
There was once a time where 24 without Kiefer Sutherland would have been unthinkable – the actor, character and show so much part of prime-time television and American viewing habits that the mere idea of separating them from each other would have been treason. But, of course, all good franchises reach that moment between watershed and waterboarding and we haven’t had a full regular run of FOX’s hits show since the 2010 season. There was a brief reprise in 2013 with the UK-based ‘Live Another Day‘ giving us a twelve-chapter ‘Union Jack’ Bauer and much talk of a possible feature-film that never made it out of ‘Development Gitmo’ but it did seem that the show might have faded away as the world outside our window became more scary in its own right.
24: Legacy might have been given a fresh coat of paint and some welcome new blood to pump through its veins, but its biological make-up is largely a clone of the source material: less of a re-imagining and more of a bespoke refitting. The result is a show that has all the necessary elements to make it work in the action tv landscape but one that is trying to reproduce a template while claiming how ‘new’ it all is – and you can’t really have both. One of 24‘s selling points was the ‘events happen in real-time‘ format, a concept that had equal positives and negative effects on its story-telling… and in keeping that (albeit for a twelve-episode run) and the familiar electronic pulses of that clock, one is never going to get away from that legacy.
When the show ran for twenty four episodes there were weeks when writers had to find ways to extend story-lines and create artificial buffer-zones and unlikely obstacles. The twelve episode structure would, you think, mean that the story could be streamlined with less connective tissue and making every second count. While the action element is kept to the fore (those here for hand-to-hand combat, explosions, gunfire etc are well catered for), the two-part premiere hurtles into several ‘Huh?‘ scenarios that run the risk of immediately reminding viewers of why they tired of 24‘s needed suspension of disbelief after a while.
The cast are fine. Corey Hawkins gives us a central character that gets the job done, a younger and leaner soldier than the weathered cynic that Bauer became. It’s a good, prominent role for a black actor, though it’s disappointing that within minutes we have the obligatory brother left behind in the ‘hood and now a major drug-dealer. Miranda Otto’s ex-CTU boss wastes some of her talent in having a character that is, so far, totally reactive to the demands of the job and to her place as supportive wife to Jimmy Smit’s hopeful presidential run. Elsewhere, a supporting cast of archetypes do as the script commands.
Perhaps wisely given the familiar structure, the production decides to not make too many nods back to actual characters from the original show (though, that being said, expect Tony Almedia next week). So it’s a little strange that one of the CTU techs makes a comment about being the cousin of Edgar Stiles, a late fan-favourite supporting character and that eh taught her everything he knew about hacking. The original 24 timescape got convoluted with sometimes months and years internally passing between seasons, but even the most brief calculations would suggest this new hacker must have been in nappies when Edgar imparted his wisdom. Again, it feels like a show torn between nostalgia and new-look.
In short, if you loved the original 24, then this series should entertain you well enough with its potential. It’s not as on-the-nose as the timely arrival of the original show and doesn’t push as many boundaries as it think it does, but it goes through the motions and emotions of a terrorist tele-novella with enough gusto to pass an hour of derring-do.
24: Legacy is broadcast in the US on FOX every Monday and in the UK can be seen from 15th February on FOX.