On Sunday, one American spectacle gave way to another: a new season of 24. This time, Jack Bauer is out, Dr. Dre is in, and that beeping countdown clock is still around to set your nerves on edge. We have some questions about 24: Legacy — 24 of them, in fact.
1. ‘24’ is back! I loved ‘24.’ Jack Bauer: what a guy! He’s here, right?
Jack Bauer is not here. This go-round is called 24: Legacy; Kiefer Sutherland has graduated to being the president elsewhere on TV.
2. So … where is Jack Bauer?
Somewhere in Russia, we think? At the end of 2014’s 24: Live Another Day, he handed himself over to the Russians.
3. Damn. At least Jack is making sure things in Russia are on the up-and-up. Who’s the protagonist this time?
That’d be Eric Carter, a former Army Ranger played by Corey Hawkins. (You might remember Hawkins as Dr. Dre in Straight Outta Compton.)
4. Yeah, he’s great! How is he in ‘24’?
Hawkins is … fine. Carter is a pretty strong-spined guy, with a strong moral compass. He isn’t written with anything approaching a shade of gray. He doesn’t deploy the tried-and-true Jack Bauer Torture Method a single time in the first hour.
5. That’s a step forward, I guess. How did Carter get dragged into this?
Short story: His Ranger squadron killed a terrorist named Bin-Khalid; now Bin-Khalid’s family is back to avenge his death, and also carry out a bunch of other attacks on American soil. The bad guys are looking for a strongbox Carter’s Army pal Ben Grimes stole, because it’s got a USB drive with a list of American sleeper cells on it. So Carter links up with Rebecca Ingram (played by Miranda Otto), who used to run CTU. But she’s since taken a backseat to her husband, Senator John Donovan. He’s played by Jimmy Smits and is running for president.
6. Love a good Smits-runs-for-president plot. How does it compare with his turn on ‘The West Wing’?
Pretty well! He’s got a certain stateliness that’s only improved as he’s gotten older (and slightly larger). Jimmy Smits is 61!
7. Wow, really? Would not have guessed.
Same. Thing is, Donovan’s dad — who is intimately involved in running the campaign — is played by Gerald McRaney, who is … 69.
8. Strange. But to my mind that’s not even the strangest thing about Gerald McRaney playing Jimmy Smits’s dad. Remember how he played Will Smith’s dad in ‘Focus’? Why does Gerald McRaney keep getting cast as the father of actors of color?
9. Fair. But Smits, McRaney, and Otto: They’ve all played political figures before, right? And well? That sounds promising.
Yep. Smits carried The West Wing across the finish line as Matthew Santos; McRaney played creepy energy tycoon Raymond Tusk on House of Cards; and Otto was Carrie’s Berlin station chief on Homeland.
10. Are they just … playing the politics-adjacent characters they’ve played before?
Basically. Senator Donovan is a left-leaning presidential candidate, his dad is a creep, and Otto’s Rebecca is a longtime agent who can’t quite shake not being in charge at CTU anymore. That’s basically one big chunk of plot on 24: Legacy, but we’re not quite sure how Donovan and his dad’s campaign will tie in.
11. Got it. Are there any more story lines on the show?
Yo: This is 24. Of goddamn course there are other plotlines. There’s the “goofy CTU analysts talking trash to each other plotline,” but instead of Chloe O’Brien and Any Dude, we’ve got Mariana Stiles (Coral Peña), a crack rookie analyst from Brooklyn College, and Andy Shalowitz (Dan Bucatinsky), who keeps insulting Mariana for not having gone to Stanford, like him. Chloe is sorely missed. Also, Andy fondly recalls how Rebecca’s hard-charging leadership style made him want to “bitch-slap” her. Is that a thing people say to each other in your office?
12. … No. Any more story lines?
You bet your ass. After escaping some home-invading terrorists, Carter drops his wife off with his brother, who’s a projects-dwelling drug lord (who used to date Carter’s wife). And one more, straight from the screwball 24 playbook: A high school student named Drew is worried that his Chechen ex-girlfriend, Amira, is plotting a terrorist attack. So he tells his science teacher. But [beaker of chemicals drops to the ground and shatters, green smoke rises and spells out SPOILER ALERT] it turns out that the guy Amira is plotting with is the very same science teacher! Also they make out.
13. If you’re a high school science teacher, which is worse: becoming romantically involved with a student, or joining a sleeper cell with her?
Let’s call it no. 2, by a razor-thin margin. But let’s get back to Carter, because he’s the center of the show and I don’t want to get fired. Carter drives the plot, and he’s the beneficiary of most of the show’s split-screens and ticking clocks.
14. Those are back?
They are! This is 24. And they’re a useful reminder that as flabby as this show can get, as poorly characterized and crystal-meth-plotted it can be, it’s still got a pretty ingenious framework for delivering maximum thrills per hour.
15. So what’s going on with Carter?
The show opens with those bad guys tracking down the soldiers who carried out the raid that killed their former boss, Bin-Khalid. They manage to kill all but Carter and Grimes. Carter hits the road in pursuit of Grimes — who, it’s suggested with classic 24 grace, might have PTSD: “He started shooting up and he lives off the grid,” one character says. Then again, 24 has always had a pretty weird relationship with drugs. Remember when Jack got addicted to heroin to blend in while undercover with a cartel? This time around, Rebecca gets the weird line: “Running CTU, it’s like a drug: hard to come down from.” Sure! CTU: the Molly of counterterrorism bureaus.
16. Glad to know that ‘24’ is still unintentionally hilarious. Are there any of those signature Weird ‘24’ moments? You know, where the writers are convinced it’s dramatic but all viewers can do is laugh?
Most definitely: Rebecca gets the call from Carter while she’s at CTU to bring her successor up to speed, so she commandeers an office and starts running the op to get Carter to Grimes, with terrorists in hot pursuit. When the new boss finds out, she uses a Taser on him. He’s like 6-foot-4. It’s pretty satisfying, in the way that watching a derelict stadium implode is, and it’s also pretty funny.
17. Does Carter find Grimes?
He does. Grimes is carrying around the strongbox in question; it’s full of gold coins and bills and jewelry. Definitely fits the spring/summer ’17 accessories trend. Carter finds a false bottom, and grabs the USB stick. It’s got a list of inactive sleeper cells on it; if the terrorists get it, they’ll be able to activate them. Amira and her teacher boyfriend will then know to trigger their papier-mâché volcano or whatever at school.
18. There’s only one copy of this list? And it’s on a USB drive? Haven’t these guys heard of the cloud?
This is 24: Legacy, but it’s still 24. The bad guys have to be bloodthirsty, interchangeable Islamic terrorist caricatures, who I’m betting will be revealed as puppets of the actual bad guys: the Russians, or the Chinese, or most likely shady higher-ups in the American government. Of course they don’t use the cloud.
19. I’m guessing Carter and Grimes go on the run. Do they get away?
Not without a firefight! Carter summarily dispatches the terrorists with, in order: a gun, a giant length of pipe rolled downhill, Donkey Kong–style, and a twisty piece of rusty wire sent right into the gut. Grimes disappears with the USB drive, and the episode ends with Carter sprinting to track him down.
20. It’s not ‘24’ without sprinting. How does Corey Hawkins’s running style compare to Kiefer Sutherland’s?
I’d say Hawkins is a better runner than Sutherland, but Bauer is definitely a better runner than Carter. That’s mostly because Carter insists on toting around a sand-colored, single-strapped, over-the-shoulder messenger backpack, which flops around hilariously as he runs from place to place. Look:
21. Didn’t Jack Bauer also have weird taste in bags?
On 24, no one’s a two-strapper.
22. Do I have this right? Carter is being chased by terrorists, but led along by former CTU chief Rebecca Ingram, who has used a Taser on the new head of CTU. Ingram’s husband Jimmy Smits is running for president, and Jimmy Smits’s dad is white.
That is all correct. Also the student-teacher relationship and the domestic drama with the drug lord.
23. Did I forget that?
You did. I forgive you.
24. Do the stakes feel a little … off? Didn’t ‘24’ usually concern itself with larger-scale attacks than something committed by a student and her chemistry teacher?
The stakes do feel weird. Though the stakes on 24 have felt misaligned ever since Season 6, when a nuclear bomb was detonated in Valencia, California, destroying Six Flags: Magic Mountain and surely killing thousands, and that wasn’t even the biggest thing that happened that season. Bauer grimaced, and then went off to go torture dudes and yell at the president. 24: Legacy isn’t a full corrective; the series still suffers from the ever-presence of cartoon bad guys and even more cartoonish dialogue. But the show, overseen by longtime 24 producers Manny Coto and Evan Katz, seems to half-heartedly reject the grossest of the beliefs that the show has held steadfast since it debuted in November 2001: that torture works, that anything is justified in the name of patriotism, that one man can fix the mistakes of a government. So, yes: The stakes here are certainly smaller. But that’s for the best. Eric Carter hasn’t tortured anyone yet, and zero nuclear bombs have been detonated over Southern Californian exurbs.