24 Season 3 Review
If Jack Bauer were a real person, he would probably be deemed the greatest hero alive today. Over the past two seasons of the hit real time thriller series, 24, he’s stopped terrorists from assassinating a potential president candidate, rescued his kidnapped family, stopped evil Serbian terrorists getting revenge, prevented a nuclear bomb attack by crazy Islamic rebels and stopped the United States going to war based on false information engineered to line evil oil baron’s pockets. That’s a hell of a lot of things to be proud of – even if it does cost you nearly losing your life several times and watching your beloved wife die. However, it seems America and the world need saving again and that means only one thing.
24 moves on to its third season having added several new awards to its collective mantelpiece. To add to Kiefer Sutherland’s Golden Globe winning performance for season one, the show picked up the best drama Golden Globe this year. Sutherland also received further recognition for his performance as Jack Bauer, by picking up a Screen Actor’s Guild award. These small nods clearly outline the praise 24 has been receiving over the past three years, and now Season 3 (Or Day 3 – if you want to be really accurate) hopes to continue the trend as it comes to DVD following its initial run on Sky One.
Season two ended on a cliffhanger, President Palmer was attacked by a deadly handshake at the end of the day having just averted a major panic across America due to the nuclear bomb in Los Angeles. Jack Bauer had just helped prevent a major war and was extremely close to dying following the events of the day, and we last saw him being carried off to hospital with his troublesome daughter, Kim Bauer in tow. However, Day Three doesn’t start right there; instead we’re thrown into the action three years after that troublesome second day.
The clock starts at 1pm, Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) and his new partner Chase Edmunds (James Badge Dale) are at a high security L.A jail where they are trying to seal a deal in which jailed Mexican drug Baron Ramon Salazar (Joaquim de Alemdia) will reveal connections to terrorist groups his drugs business has dealt with. This is important for Jack as he’s spent over a year undercover posing as a trustworthy friend to Ramon. Sadly Jack’s feeling that Ramon isn’t going to deal peacefully is accurate, and made brutally apparent when Ramon kills his lawyer using a pen in front of Jack’s eyes, indicating he wants more than CTU is willing to give as part of the bargain for his reduced sentence.
However, as Jack continues to interrogate the man he used to be friends with, a black van has dumped a mutilated corpse outside an L.A hospital. The unidentified body looks to have been exposed to an engineered biological virus and following some research, is deemed extremely dangerous. With no known cure and an inability to create one, initial predictions indicate that it could kill millions within the first few days of outbreak. Information regarding this situation is relayed to CTU where recently appointed director Tony Almeida (Carlos Bernard) considers it to be a potential prelude to a biological attack on the United States by Ramon’s brother Hector, who we know has already put plans into action on his ranch in Mexico to free his brother of his American jail cell. Initial intelligence reports on the virus carrier point to a plucky dumb American teenager named Kyle Singer. He’s being used to carry drugs (or so he believes) over the border to an L.A dealer for cash to help his penniless parents; all the while unaware that what he potentially holds could be the very thing that kills him and everyone in L.A.
Across Los Angeles at the University of Southern California, President Palmer (Dennis Haysbert) arrives to take part in a presidential debate with the hopes of re-election. Looking well three years on from his assassination attempt, Palmer seeks to stay in office for another four years. He’s also prepared to fight back against those who believe he is unfit to govern as the president suffers from the odd loss of breath now and then - a side-effect from his near fatal attack at the end of day two. However healthy Palmer seems to be, his brother and chief of staff, Wayne Palmer (D.B Woodside), thinks that his older brother could be a little tougher on his opponent, Senator Kelly. Against the wishes of the president Wayne starts to find ways of holding his brother’s job at the White House – even if they are a little underhanded. Though re-election is never easy Palmer’s campaign is thrown into chaos when his doctor and new love interest Dr Anne Packard (Wendy Crewson) becomes the centre of scandal through her connection to a medical research programme carried out several years prior. Add to the fact that Palmer has to consider the potential damage this virus could do to his country and for the President, it looks like the beginning of another long day.
It also looks to be the start of a very long day for everyone at CTU, especially Jack Bauer. And it looks to be the most dangerous day yet in both his personal and professional life. His daughter, Kim Bauer (Elisha Cuthbert) who now works for CTU as an I.T specialist is secretly dating Chase, Jack’s partner. Even if the task of stopping the potential virus outbreak from Salazar’s drug cartel wasn’t important enough, Jack is also battling a drug addiction to Heroine, which he obtained while undercover with the Salazar’s prior to Ramon’s arrest. Unfortunately for Jack, he’s having a hard time keeping this secret from everyone at CTU. This might put himself and the country in jeopardy if he desperately wants a fix when a terrorist attack on the United States seems very likely to occur. As with previous seasons, the clock’s ticking once again.
After the slow tie up ending of the previous season, well apart from Palmer choking, it was hard to imagine how the writers could come up with another story that would be just as dynamic and tense as the first two seasons without the need to slow down. Due to the world events, it seems, the writers have solved this problem. We’ve gone from assassinations to nuclear bombs to bio warfare. More importantly is that this season’s storyline works so much better than the previous season. The aspect I was most concerned about was the dramatic change of plot from season two; where the bomb went off at midnight and then the rest of the day dealt with the aftermath. However, for the third season, focus stays on the virus non-stop for 24hrs so viewers do not get thrown around from one bizarre storyline to another, instead the bio terror threat is allowed to build throughout the season with extreme effectiveness. And those opposed to the misadventures of Kim Bauer rejoice! A cougar is not chasing her as she stays firmly put for most of the day at CTU. Justice at long last as I am happy to say that the pointless misadventures that were never needed in season two do not appear anywhere during the season.
Season three is not without its problems though, the main one being that of pace. Unlike the previous season, we’re not thrown in to the full brunt of gunfire and chases from the get go. It starts off slowly over the first four episodes, almost similar to day one where Jack Bauer never really got into the full problem of his family being kidnapped until he was about five hours into the day. The same thing happens here with an early story arc that sees Jack and Chase attempting to find Kyle Singer taking far too long to fulfil itself. Regardless of this slow tedious pace set at the early stages of the day, you have to be patient with it as when Jack takes matters into his own hands, he will as usual make up for anything that happened before hand.
President Palmer’s storyline is also a bit of a let down. The subject of presidential and political scandal is still high on the agenda but most of the situations presented fail to sustain interest and seem to come and go in the background of the overriding virus storyline. The opening story arc of his new love, Doctor Anne Packard being implicated in a medical scandal is one such example and feels like a minor side plot in the build up to Palmer’s subsequent woes as ex-wife Sherry comes back into the picture and the good doctor’s storyline disappears without a trace. I’m not saying these and other story developments for the beloved president are garbage. No, they just lack real punch and fail to involve the president to the extent we have seen in previous seasons. I say this because the centre story arc for Palmer relies heavily on his ex-wife Sherry and his brother Wayne, often pushing the powerful man himself off to the sidelines. Naturally, Sherry is a fan favourite winding up trouble yet again this season but since it’s a storyline involving David Palmer; it would have been wise to give him more screen time. The President does at last get more involved toward the end of the day as he links in with Jack’s adventures so the balance does eventually correct itself.
The writers of 24 have to be commended for day three, it fully retains its promise that nearly every character has death lurking over their shoulder ready to kill them off without a second’s notice. The major shockers of the day, and there are quite a few, prove this firmly. The kid gloves from season two, not counting George Mason’s flying a nuclear bomb into the desert, are well and truly off and just like the first season, anything can happen. All this is achieved without the need to push the story to the surreal levels seen in day two, such as the death and resurrection of Jack Bauer. The writer’s know they have no need for such absurdity and therefore can unleash some of the twists without mercy.
I feel the cast are better this season around because they are now fully aware of their characters. Some of the new cast members and their respective characters are also very interesting; Jack’s new partner, Chase Edmunds, and David Palmer’s brother, Wayne, are probably the best of the bunch as they add a new lease of life to the central characters’ lives both personally and professionally. In these roles both James Badge Dale and D.B Woodside seem like perfect additions to the cast.
Yet, it is Kiefer Sutherland who continues to go from strength-to-strength playing Jack Bauer. Other roles have failed to use his talents as a character actor and the results have made him look like one of the most emotionless men in Hollywood. You can trust me on this as I’ve seen him in films with Courtney Love when he was near the bottom of the barrel. But 24 is always a role people can look at and deem to be a resurrection of his career. For season three, Kiefer Sutherland plays Jack’s personal and professional problems as well as he has done for the previous seasons and he truly does deserve the awards he’s won. Anyone wanting proof how Sutherland can keep a tight season like this together should see the climax. Whether or not he continues to do well in Season four is anyone’s guess.
24: Season 3 is better than its previous season and comes near to matching the critically praised first. It’s slow to start off with but don’t worry about it, I assure you, it gets better as the day progresses. The writer’s have produced an engrossing story with characters fleshed out enough so you actually care whether they live or die. Well, maybe not Kim Bauer for she is only eye candy. Everyone’s back on top form from season two and if the writers can come up with an ideal story for season four, 24 will continue on it’s real time drama high very well.
Presented over seven discs 24 Season 3 comes packaged in a foldout digi-pack set, and though a final version isn’t available to appraise at the time of writing it should match those of the previous seasons well going by the photo you see below.
Video and Sound
As with previous seasons, this set is presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. Looking better than when broadcast on Sky One, 24 loses the common gloss that is often visible with any American television show on a UK channel. The transfer is near perfect as you'd expect given the relative age of the material in question. Picture detail and colour reproduction are excellent – this is particularly noticeable with the well graded skin tones. The morning and afternoon scenes show a good colour balance and the black levels during the night time scenes do not pose any issues. Another fine transfer by Fox.
Just like the season two box set, an English Dolby Digital 5.1 track is provided. While this is appreciated it seems the track is mostly front centred, although that's not necessarily a bad thing. Dialogue and sound effects are clear but there is little in the way of directional sound placement, in for example, shootouts.
While there are no major issues with the soundtrack, it feels a little underwhelming.
Audio Commentaries by Cast and Crew on Selected Episodes
Following the trend set by last season’s DVD box set, the third season of 24 has six commentary tracks - one on each disc of the set. Some of the series major actors including Kiefer Sutherland, Carlos Bernard, Reiko Aylesworth and Sarah Clarke are present along with producer, Howard Gordon, and series director, Jon Cassar. We also have an odd but interesting set of commentaries featuring Riley Smith (Kyle Singer) and Mary Lynn Rajskub (CTU’s Chloe).
The commentaries for this release are a noticeable improvement on Season Two - especially in terms of participation from Kiefer Sutherland who takes his time to discuss the main element of the story, the virus. Carlos Bernard makes two appearances in the commentaries, one teaming him up with on screen wife Reiko Aylesworth and another teaming him up with fellow CTU agent James Badge Dale. His commentary track on season two was the best of the bunch for his silliness and again he adds humour to his tracks, whether it’s his recollection of the sound team making a swear word rap of him or his retelling on how Kiefer Sutherland frightened the crew on day one of the first season.
While there are plenty of insightful views from people talking about the complexities of the characters, we still get quite a lot of the usual backslapping. Reiko Aylesworth tends to gush praise over her fellow cast members, as do some of the crew saying how fantastic the season cast are. Despite these nitpicks, the commentary tracks are quite entertaining and, for any fan of 24, a must.
Deleted Scenes with optional director’s commentary and branching into episodes
On the final disc of the set, as well as accompanying their respective episodes, we have a selection of 22 deleted and extended scenes. You have the option of watching the scenes branched into the appropriate episodes, as well as with an optional director's commentary on the final disc. Unfortunately, no effort has been made to resolve the branching issues that plagued season two - the extended scenes are a particular problem as you'll end up watching the extended version and then being returned to the episode at the start of the shorter final version - this means watching the same scene unfold twice and is unnecessarily jarring. Real branching would have been a major improvement, even if it wasn't seamless.
The scenes themselves offer little to expand on the plot, although they do reward the viewer in terms of additional drama and thrills. The scenes have all been through post-production, meaning a reasonable quality transfer and sound and special effects in all the right places.
Boys and Their Toys
This short but very insightful look at the technical side of 24 is an overview of the second unit’s filming of an action sequence. The selected sequence takes place during the climax of the 10am-11am episode and while it's quite short it offers a lot in the way information. The second unit make it clear as to just what is involved in having two fighter jets fly over L.A. and apparently destroy a helicopter. It covers things like getting authorisations from the appropriate government authorities such as the police and Pentagon. It would have been nice for this to be a little more in-depth, but it's an entertaining and recommended featurette.
Bio threat: Beyond The Series
A quick note before you watch this special feature, as Kiefer Sutherland says at the start, it’s probably not suitable for children or anyone in the slightest bit squeamish. The feature includes such specialities as scientists cutting open Racoon brains to aid in virus research. Bio Threat is a serious and graphic look into the research done for season three’s main storyline – The Coredilla Virus. There are no cast interviews and this is no glossy discussion show on viruses. What it does feature is an explanation on how the writers and producers went about creating their deadly weaponised virus strain. Also adding contributions to this segment are doctors, professors and scientists who have a profession in the research of deadly biological diseases. While it offers little additional input from the major stars of 24, it makes up by detailing clearly how some of these viruses work and how terrorism in the world today could very well make a bio terror attack a horrible reality. It is a real hard-hitting featurette which is a very nice addition to the box set though it may not fully appeal to those wanting to see how 24 is filmed.
24: On The Loose
This short behind the scenes featurette looks at the filming of the prison scenes during the 5pm to 6pm episode. Feeling similar to season two’s 90 minute documentary focusing on that series final episodes, this shorter and more compact featurette shows life behind most aspects of the film crew as well as the extras on set. They like to make it clear that being an extra is no happy life. Also, series Director, Jon Cassar, is shown losing his temper as he is put under pressure to finish filming within a strict time limit and he verbally lashes out at his team because a shot is not ready to be filmed. Kiefer Sutherland also takes part and in interview clips offers his opinions on prison life and making the story of 24 more realistic by shooting on location at a mental asylum (a mock up of the L.A prison). Nearly all the major scenes of this episode from games of Russian Roulette, to helicopter chases and the final breakout are looked at with as much detail as possible.
While it’s a shame this featurette isn’t longer with more contributions from the cast, we can at least be thankful this is not your typical sugar coated extra and instead a truthful representation of the filming of a 24 episode.
Multi-Angle Study: Midnight Shootout
Similar to last seasons’ multi-angle special feature, this short six minute piece shows how the multi-screen aspect of 24 works. Dealing with the major midnight shootout that occurs during 12am to 1am, it shows a brief collection of shots that allow the viewer using the DVD remote to skip from one angle to another and, if need be, another angle showing both shots together. It’s a nice but short look at the editing process and on the plus side allows fans to try and make their own little scene of 24 out of the footage.
24: Season 3 is one of the show’s more thrilling seasons and one that leaves the previous effort behind as it removes almost everything that made season two more surreal than real. A grimmer and darker storyline for this season looking at bio-terrorism is executed well despite having to wait for the action to kick into gear and the result makes the cast and crew produce some of their finest episodes since season one. The DVD box set is, once again, excellent value offering some very insightful and enjoyable featurettes; though one would wish they could be a little longer. The cast and crew are more than happy to praise each other and air their own experiences well in the commentaries. Though for fans of 24, they will be happy with the fact that this is a wonderfully crafted season taking them back to days of the acclaimed first season. There may be a long wait before the fourth season begins but the third season box set should keep all fans satisfied until the clock begins one more time. 24, one of the best shows on television that continues to keeps its edge firmly intact. Highly Recommended.
Last updated: 19/04/2018 12:26:59