Reviewed by David Williams (December 9, 2003)
Could it get any worse for Jack Bauer (Keifer Sutherland) after Season One of 24? In a word, yes; and Season Two stands as testament to that fact. The second time around, the stakes are much higher, as Jack is working to save millions of lives in Los Angeles, not just those of his family and President-elect Palmer. While the storyline is obviously different, the vast majority of the characters from the first season return and the format of the show remains intact as well … 24 linear shows with multiple storylines and arcs, 24 hours, and one hell of a day for our man Jack. When taken as a whole, although not quite as strong as Season One from beginning to end, the second season of 24 remains one of the most groundbreaking and entertaining shows on TV today.
The second season meets up with Jack Bauer one year or so after he helped save the life of President-elect, now President, David Palmer (Dennis Haysbert) and if you saw the inaugural season of the show, you’d understand why Jack is feeling a bit burned out. No longer involved with CTU (Counter Terrorism Unit) and still mourning the death/murder of his wife, Jack has become somewhat hardened and emotionally detached and it has driven he and his daughter Kim (Elisha Cuthbert) apart from each other.
However, in the show’s opening moments, just a year and some change after Season One, we start out in South Korea where we see a man being brutally tortured with electric shock. It doesn’t take too long before he succumbs to the torture and gives up the information he holds to his American captors … that there is a major terrorist action involving a nuclear device that is going to take place within the next 24 hours in a major US city. Without many leads, the Americans go off what little information they have and it requires that a former undercover agent infiltrate a gang he was once affiliated with on a previous operation. The aforementioned agent is the now retired Jack Bauer … and as previously mentioned, he’s not really interested in this line of work anymore. However, all it takes is a personal appeal from the President of the United States to ignite Jack’s patriotic spark and all of a sudden, he finds himself back in the game.
The second season is nothing short of incredible and the producers, writers, and actors are all to be commended for at the very least, maintaining all of the things that made the show so exciting and groundbreaking during 24’s inaugural season. The being said, some of the plot elements used to maintain all of the different storylines suffer in Season Two (ahem … namely Kim … cough! cough!), although, in much the same way, 24 manages to one-up itself by becoming a much darker and grittier drama than before by showing Jack Bauer as a much edgier and more intense character than previously seen. While the major players (save for Kim) only get better in Season Two, many more of the supporting characters are fleshed out as well and you find yourself rooting for more than just Jack Bauer and David Palmer … but for Tony, Michelle, Mason and others. I guess the best thing I could say about the show is that despite its few flaws, 24 manages to keep you coming back for more … week in and week out … and that’s all that Fox, or anyone else for that matter, could hope for.
Let’s take a quick look at Jack’s hour by hour itinerary, shall we? (WARNING! Spoilers Ahead! Read at your own risk …)
- Disc One -
Day 2: 8:00 AM – 9:00AM (Original Air Date: October 29, 2002)
In this extended and commercial free season opener, we catch up with Jack Bauer (Keifer Sutherland) a year or so after the murder of his wife and it’s obvious the previous season’s day has taken quite an emotional toll on Jack and his daughter, Kim (Elisha Cuthbert). We find Jack out of CTU and no longer interested in putting himself – or his family – in harm’s way and Kim is now working as a live-in nanny for a strangely troubled family - Gary (Billy Burke) and Carla (Tracy Middendorf) Matheson, and their daughter, Megan (Skye McCole Bartusiak). Recently elected President David Palmer (Dennis Haysbert) is interrupted on a fishing trip with his son and is told of a terrorist plot to detonate a nuclear device in Los Angeles and all it takes is a personal call to Jack Bauer in order to change his mind and go back to work with CTU.
We also meet Marie Warner (Laura Harris), who is preparing to marry her Arab boyfriend, Reza (Phillip Rys), today, but her sister, Kate (Sarah Wynter), is very suspicious of him and has had a background check run. Needless to say, Kate is very leery of the results.
Day 2: 9:00 AM – 10:00AM (Original Air Date: November 5, 2002)
Bauer goes back undercover in order to infiltrate a group of suspected terrorists in order to learn more about the dirty bomb located in LA. Meanwhile, the President is forced to downplay certain leaks about the bomb; Kim is forced to protect young Megan from her abusive father and in turn, he calls the law on Kim and accuses her of kidnapping; and Kate Warner (Sarah Wynter) follows up on suspicions about her sister's fiancé. Jack learns that CTU is the target of a bomb plot that will be carried out by the group he recently infiltrated.
Day 2: 10:00 AM – 11:00AM (Original Air Date: November 12, 2002)
Jack contacts Kim and Kate Warner learns more and more disturbing news about her sister’s fiancé. Mason’s (Xander Berkley) plans change as he gets some good leads on the whereabouts of the terrorists and their bomb. CTU gets a rude awakening when the bomb goes off.
Day 2: 11:00 AM – 12:00PM (Original Air Date: November 19, 2002)
Commentary with Sarah Wynter (Kate Warner), Carlos Bernard (Tony Almeida), and Michelle Forbes (Lynne Kresge)
Tony (Carlos Bernard) and Michelle (Reiko Aylesworth) escape major harm from the explosion at CTU, as one of the computer techs (Sara Gilbert) who is badly needed to decrypt CTU’s files is hanging on for dear life. Mason is forced to make some tough decisions and is exposed to serious levels of radiation in order to get his hands on some vital information, while Jack gets closer and closer to the information he seeks. Kate reveals her suspicions about Reza to her father (John Terry) and after reassuring her, he says she should have Reza join her on an errand in order to make her feel better. One of the President’s staff, Lynne (Michelle Forbes), blames another member of the cabinet for the deaths at CTU for withholding information from Palmer.
- Disc Two -
Day 2: 12:00 PM - 1:00 PM (Original Air Date: November 26, 2002)
With CTU in shambles, Tony tells Mason that he’s leaving to investigate a lead that will take him to the Warner residence and he ends up interrogating the father, Bob, as well as Reza and Kate. A family squabble erupts when Marie learns – on her wedding day no less – that Kate has had Reza investigated. Jack calls Mason to let him know that his old nemesis, Nina (Sarah Clarke), was the source of terrorists’ information on CTU and Mason attempts to keep Jack away from her at all costs. Disturbed father Gary Matheson finds Kim at the hospital and warns her to leave or he’ll have her arrested. Kim calls her boyfriend, Miguel (Innis Casey), to help her protect Megan. Meanwhile, President Palmer meets with an ambassador from an Arab country suspected of harboring Second Wave, the terrorists responsible for planting the nuclear bomb, despite the protests of Lynne and Roger Stanton (Harris Yulin).
Day 2: 1:00 PM - 2:00 PM (Original Air Date: December 3, 2002)
Commentary with Jon Cassar (Director) and Sarah Clarke (Nina Myers)
Palmer’s ex-wife, Sherry (Penny Johnson Jerald), shows up with some information that is found to be true and Palmer confronts members of his staff on it because it went against his orders. Palmer lets Sherry in on the terrorist plot and she informs him that members of his own staff are conspiring against him. Nina gets her Presidential Pardon and she is vigorously interrogated by Jack. She tells him that she must meet her contact in Visalia or they’ll know something is wrong. Jack agrees to take Nina and Mason sends another agent along in order to protect Nina from Jack. Meanwhile, Reza and Bob begin to fold under Tony’s interrogation and Marie and Kate continue their arguing. Kim and Miguel manage to escape with Megan from the hospital.
Day 2: 2:00 PM - 3:00 PM (Original Air Date: December 10, 2002)
Jack and Nina head for Visalia to follow more leads on the nuclear device and things definitely don’t go well as Nina tries to escape. Palmer’s Chief of Staff, Mike (Jude Ciccolella), shows up to meet with President Palmer and warns him that Sherry may have her own agenda in releasing her information. Even so, all eyes are on Stanton, as Palmer suspects he is the mole. Mason’s investigation leads him to the point of death and he makes a call to reconnect with his estranged son so he can warn him about the bomb. Bob Warner and Reza are taken to CTU under suspicion of being involved with the terrorist plot. Meanwhile, Kim and Miguel are pulled over for speeding while trying to escape Megan’s father.
Day 2: 3:00 PM - 4:00 PM (Original Air Date: December 17, 2002)
Kim and Miguel are taken into custody when Megan’s mother’s body is found dead in the trunk of the car they are driving. Explaining the situation to the patrolman obviously does no good, so Kim tells him to call CTU to confirm her story. Tony brings both Reza and Bob in for questioning and is surprised to find that Bob consults for the CIA. Kate looks into her father’s files and finds money transferred to Syed Ali, the main figure behind the terrorist plot. The plane transporting Jack and Nina comes under attack.
- Disc Three -
Day 2: 4:00 PM - 5:00 PM (Original Air Date: January 7, 2003)
As the plane transporting Jack and Nina is going down, he implores her to reveal the location of the nuclear bomb. Assuming she has nothing to lose, she refuses and when the plane crash lands and she survives, she takes Jack at gunpoint and has him call the President. She says that she’ll reveal where the bomb is located if she’ll get immunity … for killing Jack Bauer. Meanwhile, at CTU, Bob Warner and Reza remain in custody and Reza feels it’d be in his best interests if he’d cooperate in CTU’s investigation and turn on Bob. Kate Warner is questioned over her father’s computer files and Palmer gets more proof that someone close to him is working against him.
Day 2: 5:00 PM - 6:00 PM (Original Air Date: January 14, 2003)
Commentary with Joel Surnow (Executive Producer) and Penny Johnson Jerald (Sherry Palmer)
Palmer meets with a curious press and downplays the terrorist threat. CTU uses Nina’s information in order to track down Syed Ali (Francesco Quinn) and Jack is able to draw Nina back out into the open. Jack relays to President Palmer that his team was attacked by American soldiers; a group of covert and black ops personnel. Sherry comes up with more evidence that Stanton is working against the President and Mason has a heart-to-heart with Michelle as he’s closer to death.
Day 2: 6:00 PM - 7:00 PM (Original Air Date: February 4, 2003)
Syed Ali remains the focus of the investigation and he calls Marie Warner to tell her to change her appearance and to retrieve the trigger for the nuclear device. Jack begrudgingly lets Kate play a key role in the investigation, as she can positively identify Ali and they are closing in on a mosque that supposedly houses him. Tony makes the determination that Kate’s sister, Marie, murdered Reza and President Palmer deals with the turncoat on his staff by arresting Stanton for treason and allowing him to be interrogated “by any means necessary”. Kim’s storyline really starts to drag the show down as she escapes into the woods and is caught in a hunter’s trap.
Day 2: 7:00 PM - 8:00 PM (Original Air Date: February 11, 2003)
Jack finds a trap door at the mosque and goes looking for Syed Ali. However, Ali has already given Marie orders to carry on without him. Kate overhears a conversation implicating her sister and Jack gets her to call her sister’s cell phone in order to allow them to trace the call. Jack threatens Ali; telling him that if he doesn’t give up the location of the bomb, he’ll have his family murdered via satellite, as Ali watches helplessly. Lynne tells Mike that she has proof that Sherry is working with Stanton. Kim is released from the trap by a hunter who offers her a place to stay for the night. (Ugggggh!)
- Disc Four -
Day 2: 8:00 PM - 9:00 PM (Original Air Date: February 18, 2003)
Kim’s rendezvous with a survivalist turns out to be more menacing (and stupid) than previously thought and Palmer learns from Stanton that they have known about the bomb for some time and had plans to intercept it at the last minute. Despite Lynne’s objections, Palmer allows Sherry back into the inner circle. Mason tells Jack that there are forces working against CTU finding the bomb and when a bomb is found, Jack learns that it was simply a decoy and the real bomb is still out there.
Day 2: 9:00 PM - 10:00 PM (Original Air Date: February 25, 2003)
One of the suspects working with the decoy bomb is willing to talk, but all Jack learns is that Syed Ali is behind it, as the suspect doesn’t know about the second bomb at all. During his interrogation, Kate sees Marie in disguise as she’s trying to leave the airport and Jack is alerted. After a quick chase, Jack is forced to shoot Marie in the arm and interrogate her at the Norton Airfield. After spitting out some erroneous information in order to fool Jack, he realizes that the second bomb is at the airport as well. President Palmer confronts Sherry and she admits to parts of the story about her working with Stanton – she claims she was just earning his trust in order to get close to him, but Palmer doesn’t agree and sends her away. Mason resigns to his fate and turns over the reigns of CTU to Tony and Kim realizes that she’s being lied to and tries to escape.
Day 2: 10:00 PM - 11:00 PM (Original Air Date: March 4, 2003)
Commentary with Robert Cochran (Executive Producer) and Xander Berkley (George Mason)
It’s learned that the trigger on the device is tamper proof and that there’s no way to disarm the bomb. Jack calls Palmer and tells him that he’s decided to pilot the plane away from the city and have the bomb detonate at a safe distance from LA. Mason tells Jack that he should fly the plane, but Jack isn’t sure Mason could pilot the plane far enough away from the city because of his condition. A decrypted message at CTU seems to implicate other Arab nations conspiring with Syed Ali and when Palmer hears about the language on the tape, he makes immediate plans for retaliation. Kim escapes and attempts to call CTU in order to speak with her dad. Tony puts her through to Jack and he tells her the current situation and says his goodbyes. However, as Jack is flying the plane and reaches the detonation area, he finds that Mason has stowed away … and has a parachute for Jack to use.
Day 2: 11:00 PM - 12:00 AM (Original Air Date: March 25, 2003)
The bomb detonates and Kim, dazed and confused by the events of the day, and assuming her father is dead, goes into a convenience store and gets caught in the middle of another ridiculous situation. Jack gets picked up by a CTU chopper and taken back to HQ. Michelle interrogates Syed about the contents on the tape and he swears that it has been faked. Tony doesn’t buy it and Palmer proceeds to meet with the Joint Chiefs in order to ask for a declaration of war against those nations mentioned on the tape. When Jack finally gets to CTU, Michelle tells him that she thinks the tape is being used to bait Palmer in order to start a war in the Middle East and when Jack sees Syed Ali face to face, Ali swears that the tape is a fake to him as well. However, Ali is gunned down by a sniper seconds later. Jack and Tony butt heads over the true value of the recording and Jack pleads with the President to delay the military action. Jack gets a call from a mystery man telling him that the tape is a fake and they demand that Kate be turned over in exchange for the evidence. Jack is forced to sneak Kate out of CTU, as Tony disagrees with the plan.
- Disc Five -
Day 2: 12:00 AM - 1:00 AM (Original Air Date: April 1, 2003)
Jack tells Kate about the deal and asks her if she’s willing to participate. Tony becomes very perturbed about Jack taking Kate and confronts members of CTU as to whether or not they helped Jack out. When Tony learns that Michelle did, he orders all of her calls tracked. Jack meets up with one of the members of the commando team, Coral Snake, and he learns that he has been targeted for death. The commando says he’ll release the tape in exchange for a flight to get him out of the country. Members of President Palmer’s staff, Lynne and Mike, feel that the President is relying too heavily on the information of one Secret Service agent.
Day 2: 1:00 AM - 2:00 AM (Original Air Date: April 8, 2003)
Jack, Kate, and the others are under heavy fire and Jack calls Michelle for some help. However, since Tony is watching her, Michele knows that she has to be extra careful. The Coral Snake commando, Wallace (Greg Henry), is injured in the gunfight and Jack is forced to take him to a local hospital and Jack pleads with him to give up the evidence before he dies. Tony confronts Michelle about helping Jack and Kim escapes more nonsense and places a call to CTU where she learns from Tony that her father is still alive. Palmer is pressured into attacking the Middle Eastern countries and must send in the National Guard to restore order in certain parts of the country.
Day 2: 2:00 AM - 3:00 AM (Original Air Date: April 15, 2003)
Palmer awaits Jack’s word before commencing bombing, while his military advisors tell him to strike while the iron’s hot. Jack calls Tony to tell him that he has the evidence proving the recording was a fake. Palmer gets word of the proof and halts the planned strikes although Lynne and Mike disagree with the decision. Lynne hears of a rumor that Vice President Prescott (Alan Dale) is going to make a power play against the President and Mike puts her in contact with someone in the Defense Department to learn more. Jack is captured and severely tortured and he is put in contact with Kingsley (Tobin Bell), who demands to know where the microchip is located proving the recordings with Syed Ali were faked. Chapelle (Paul Schulze), from CTU Divisional HQ, calls Tony to let him know that they are coming to remove him from command.
Day 2: 3:00 AM - 4:00 AM (Original Air Date: April 22, 2003)
Commentary with Joel Surnow (Executive Producer) and Keifer Sutherland (Jack Bauer)
Jack, seemingly tortured to death, is revived by one of the bad guy’s doctors in order to get the information out of him. Prescott is ready to have his meeting declaring Palmer unfit in order to carry out the strikes in the Middle East and he urges Mike to keep the President in the dark about the whole thing. Mike locks Lynne up in order to keep her quiet and when she attempts to escape, she has a really bad fall that almost kills her. Kate and Yusuf (Donnie Keshawarz), in possession of the microchip, are beaten up by some racist street thugs who are unaware of what is in Yusuf’s possession. Kate says that she will pay the thugs off if they will only take them home so she can get to her money. Chapelle shows up at CTU and tells Tony to forget about Jack and prepare for war. President Palmer, concerned that he hasn’t been able to get in touch with his Vice President, starts to grow very suspicious. Jack manages to escape from his tormentors and calls CTU for any information on Kingsley … he also finds out from Yusuf that the thugs have taken Kate … and coincidentally, the chip.
- Disc Six -
Day 2: 4:00 AM - 5:00 AM (Original Air Date: April 29, 2003)
Commentary with Howard Gordon (Writer) and Dennis Haysbert (President David Palmer)
Jack manages to get the chip back … forcefully … and Mike calls Palmer in for a meeting. When President Palmer sees his entire cabinet assembled via satellite, he knows something is wrong. Members of President Palmer’s staff speak out against him and try to show that he has become unstable and unfit to serve during wartime. Palmer doesn’t get a vote of confidence and he expresses his anger to Mike for betraying him and leading him right into Prescott’s hands. Meanwhile, Jack realizes that the microchip containing the “Cypress Recordings” is damaged and the audio files contained on it cannot be retrieved. Michelle tracks down the original author of the chip and when Jack calls President Palmer to tell him of his certainty that the recordings were faked, Palmer lets Jack know that he is now in no position to help.
Day 2: 5:00 AM - 6:00 AM (Original Air Date: May 6, 2003)
Vice President Prescott plans to keep Palmer out of sight until a press conference is held to announce that the strikes against the Middle Eastern countries have begun. Palmer convinces his guard to get him a secure phone that he uses to call Jack Bauer. Chapelle holds a meeting at CTU to let everyone know that Palmer has been removed from office and Tony butts heads with him as to why CTU seems to be completely ignoring Jack’s evidence. Jack finds Sherry also looking for the hacker responsible for the “Cypress Recordings” microchip and Sherry encourages Alex (Rick D. Wasserman) not to say anything to Jack. Under pressure (ahem … gunpoint), Jack gets Sherry to admit her role in the recordings, as well as her relationship with Kingsley, and she claims that she can get cooperation from Alex in exchange for immunity. Jack requests a chopper and Chapelle turns him down, while Tony and Michelle work to get Chapelle out of the driver’s seat. Kim returns to the Matheson’s house in order to get her things and she finds Gary waiting there for her.
Day 2: 6:00 AM - 7:00 AM (Original Air Date: May 13, 2003)
Tony and Michelle keep Chapelle doped up and out of commission, while some at Division are demanding to know where he is. Jack chases the hacker to the rooftop and has a gun drawn on him. Jack is forced to shoot him, but shoots him in the leg, which causes Alex to stumble and take a big fall. Jack has the chopper in sight while tending to Alex and suddenly, it turns away. It seems that Chapelle is back in command and has ordered the chopper home. In the meantime, Alex dies and takes much of the information relating to the “Cypress Recordings” with him. Jack and Sherry agree to work Kingsley and he has Michelle hack into Alex’s computer in order to figure out the “voice simulation” software that was used to fake the original recordings. Using Alex’s “faked” voice, Sherry calls Kingsley and offers to turn Alex over in exchange for all the information Kingsley has collected on her. They arrange a meeting and rightfully suspicious, Kingsley will have a sniper show up in case anything goes wrong. However, on the way to the meeting, Jack’s heart gives out from his “death experience” under torture and the car he and Sherry are riding in, goes off the road.
Day 2: 7:00 AM-8:00 AM (Original Air Date: May 20, 2003)
As Jack’s eventful day is coming to an end, a final effort is made to overthrow Peter Kingsley and his nefarious plans. Faced with new evidence, Mike calls Chapelle at CTU and tells him to get Jack Bauer back on the case. Sherry is wired for her meeting with Kingsley and Jack arranges for the feed to go directly to Prescott and Palmer. Sherry gets Kingsley to incriminate himself on tape and growing very nervous, he has the sniper attempt to wipe out Sherry. With all of the new evidence, Prescott calls off the planned air strikes in the Middle East and reinstates President Palmer. Hearing the news, Kingsley’s boss, Max (Thomas Kretschmann) enacts Plan B, a direct attack on Palmer himself that leads us directly into Season Three.
Even though Season Two wasn’t as groundbreaking or as consistently suspenseful as Season One, 24 still remains one of the best … arguably the best … show on television today. It’s one of the few “must see” shows left in a landscape of sub-par crap and reality garbage and Fox has given the series a DVD set worthy of a place in anyone’s collection.