24 Season 2 Review
24 was the television treat last year holding the most original premise seen for a long time on a television show. This premise involved telling a story throughout 24 episodes each covering one hour of a full day - a daring and daunting task for the producers to undertake and make it work. The idea was to unfold a story about one mans day in which he has to stop a political assassination while also finding his kidnapped family. At this time, Fox Television hadn’t just stumbled onto a standard show, Fox landed on pure television gold. The day of federal agent Jack Bauer became an engrossing TV drama combining action with espionage and conspiracy theories. Its real time effect proved to be a major element to the series as it changed the way the story was told - small things like travelling to a location had to be realistic in keeping with the time frame of the story.
It was this format that made the show addictive. The clock kept ticking and ticking as the day got worse for Jack, who tried as hard as he could to do everything right to save the day. A bright yellow ticking clock combined with split screens allowed viewers to know what was going on at any one time in multiple locations. This was a true piece of original craft for 24, and one that has reared its head on subsequent shows such as Spooks, which features its own take on the split screen technique. 24 managed to maintain the story of a political assassination threat throughout one day beginning at 12am. The day’s storyline threw in countless shock twists for the viewers that simply weren't seen in the usual television show making 24 compelling viewing as the continuous plot twists were revealed.
It was this creativity that helped the show gain a huge following in the U.S, not to mention here in the U.K, leading to 24 picking up critical acclaim and numerous awards. Most notably, Kiefer Sutherland's Golden Globe for his perfomance as Jack Bauer - a role that placed his career back on track. The stunning success of the show's first season resulted in having a second season commissioned. That second season involved taking a story from current news in terrorism and military war and creating a new storyline stretching another 24 hours. This naturally begs the question, after you’ve put Jack Bauer through a day which is nigh impossible to beat in terms of bad luck, is it actually possible to give Jack a worse day?
Yes it was...
Eighteen months after the events surrounding the California Presidential Primary, things have changed for the characters viewers knew from season one. Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) is still trying to come to terms with the events surrounding that first day, Kimberley Bauer (Elisa Cuthbert), Jack’s daughter, has moved on to employment as a nanny and after successful presidential elections, Senator David Palmer (Dennis Haysbert) has become the first black American president. Before any of the viewers can get used to these changes, a situation presents itself that will make everyone’s day turbulent.
As 24’s clock begins ticking at 8am, the American government are informed that a terrorist group known only as Second Wave are planning to detonate a bomb within Los Angeles during the next 24 hours. The Counter Terrorist Unit (CTU) in L.A, now directed by George Mason (Xander Berkley), is alerted of the matter. Following strict orders to locate the bomb, CTU have been given an additional order with their objective: bring in Jack Bauer, who for unknown reasons has a connection to the people behind the threat. Bauer, still in hiding, refuses and it takes a plea from President Palmer to bring Jack back into the offices where his life was dramatically changed. As Bauer agrees to help find the bomb, he demands that his daughter be found and taken out of the city away from the impending blast zone.
Elsewhere, while the day unfolds for Jack, a wedding is being planned at the Warner household. Kate Warner (Sarah Wynter) is helping her sister prepare to be wed to one of her fathers’ employees. As happy as Kate can be for her sister, she becomes suspicious of the groom-to-be, Reza (Phillip Rhys). The love of Kate’s sister’s life has, according to a hired investigator, terrorist connections to Second Wave. Faced with the investigator's frightening accusations, Kate starts to question her new brother-in-law’s motives as the happy couple prepare to walk up the aisle later in the day.
CTU and the wedding preparations continue on as planned, but Kimberly Bauer has other matters to be concerned with. She has become worried about the welfare of Megan Matheson, the girl she is looking after. Kimberly has the unfortunate first hand experience of discovering that Megan’s father is a violent wife and child abuser. This discovery forces Kim to take Megan and run away from the house with the father angrily pursuing them. This is all happening separately and without the knowledge of the terrible possible nuclear holocaust that Jack Bauer is at the same moment trying to defuse.
While the events unfold from terrorist attacks to political conspiracies during the 24-hour day, many viewers of the first series are asking just one question. "Does the second season work as well as the first?" For me, it most certainly does. The second series packs more action than its predecessor. Unlike the first series, we don’t have time to learn about the main characters. We get thrown straight into the action as of 8am. Yet for those who didn’t see the first series and are unsure of whom the characters are; the show still works. The series producers and writers have made a wise choice to take the main focus off Jack Bauer, allowing them to bring the terrorist attack and the many characters affected by it to the forefront of the show. We can become more concerned this time with other characters that during the day are exposed to radioactive materials, get caught up in office explosions, or are key members of a political conspiracy. The bar has been raised from 24’s ground breaking first season and the show still has class in order to compete with such dramas as C.S.I or The Shield.
Despite 24 becoming slicker in its execution of action, drama, and suspense, the show does has a few problems. Realism, in the case of 24 is one of those problems. Let's take for example a character dying only to be brought back to life miraculously. Incredible for the story, yes!, truly realistic, doubtful! The show occasionally asks you to suspend disbelief here and there but it is not a true problem to the show if you’re really enjoying it which I did. On the other hand, the central problem of 24 now comes in the form of a single blond bimbo. This bimbo is delightfully called Kimberley Bauer.
The annoying daughter of Jack Bauer has become accident-prone and quite frankly could be the most unlucky character over the two seasons combined. Why? Kim gets involved in unbelievable and silly adventures ranging from kidnappings to getting caught in traps. They do absolutely nothing to boost the main story. The writers have seemingly split the day into two parts. One part is Jack Bauer’s day to save L.A from a nuclear bomb and the consequences this has on the other central characters; the second part involves Kim running around for no reason. I wish they could have just thrown her into the background instead of wasting valuable time that could have been spent on more important characters. Oh well….here’s praying that during season three she’ll get a bullet in the head. I'm cruel, I know it.
However stingy or silly my complaints are, these reservations do not get in the way of the excitement produced by 24. The show is still on superb form generating enough action and drama to entertain anyone looking for an intelligent series. The show holds impressive acting from an award-winning cast delivering an always engaging storyline which allows 24 to leave viewers dying for more after the clock has stopped. 24 is getting ready to start its third season in the U.S which is good news for the fans, and for those who enjoyed watching season two on the BBC, this season on DVD will hopefully pass the time before day three begins here in the U.K sometime in early 2004.
Special Note: 24 Season 2 is available separately or as part of a limited edition box set which also holds season 1. These boxes are limited to a quantity of 30,000 so go get them now! Or you might regret missing out on a good value box set.
Video and Sound Presentation
Just like season one 24 Season Two returns to DVD in its 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen video format. The video presentation itself is, as with most Fox TV DVDs, almost perfect. However, there are moments within the episodes where there are clearly visible shots of picture grain. I personally do not believe this is a fault on the discs video compression, but instead is how the makers of 24 filmed the series. In the end, some people will find the grain intrusive, others will not, but either way the picture still shows off 24's high production values without major problems.
The sound presentation for 24 gets an upgrade from its previous 2.0 Dolby Digital performance in season one. Fox have made a bold step and decided to give the second season of 24 a 5.1 Dolby Digital track. It sounded too good to be true from the press release and after hearing the track on all the episodes, Fox have pulled off a fine audio presentation. You won't feel the actual effectiveness of the sound until you get into a big gunfight, but when you do the sound is thrown around the speakers making for a true authentic action experience. For a television show in a 5.1 surround, 24 delivers and Fox should be applauded for this as the sound is crystal clear while marking a step for future Fox TV DVD. Now all we need is 5.1 on Buffy and Angel and Fox would be the cream of the crop for television box sets.
A big improvement is made on the behalf of Fox after the first season of 24 had very little to offer in the way of bonus features.
Audio Commentaries by Cast and Crew
Fox have produced commentary tracks for six of the twenty four episodes. It nicely comes out as a commentary for one episode on each disc with the participants varying from Kiefer Sutherland to director Jon Cassar. While mostly interesting as we learn the methods of how the actors, actresses, producers, and directors work on such a difficult show as 24, there are moments where the commentary tracks sometimes feel flat. Either you hear people talking or you'll hear them just watch the episode in pure silence. The first commentary track (11am-12pm) by Carlos Bernard, Sarah Wynter and Michelle Forbes is perhaps the most enjoyable commentary as the three cast members have fun throwing jokes around about their fellow actors. Meanwhile, for those hoping Kiefer Sutherland would be talking for every minute of his commentary track, prepare to be disappointed. Kiefer does talk, but he seems fairly reluctant to do so and instead allows producer Howord Gordon to dominate the proceedings. Overall, these tracks are a welcome extra but not quite as great as the fans would be expecting.
24: EXPOSED – 2 part documentary
This documentary is the best extra on the disc. It is up close behind the scenes as Director Jon Cassar and the cast of 24 get through the final two climatic episodes of the second season. Viewers are thrown around the filming process from script meetings, to wardrobe, casting, and the actual filming of the episodes. The two parts, totalling 96 minutes, are an enjoyable watch. You get to laugh at the April fool’s prank played by Cassar and the producers as they discuss an alternate ending to the staff that really just sounds too far fetched. More behind the scenes footage comes in the form of Kiefer Sutherland having his training done for Jack Bauer’s final fight in 7am-8am. Kiefer Sutherland practices over and over again with his partner – only to get an injury during the filming. Add interviews with most of the cast and crew interwoven between footage of hard work being done and it creates a brilliant documentary. There is plenty here that should give fans of 24 a good knowledge of how the show is filmed and what is even better is this isn’t a cheap promo behind the scenes. This is in-depth and puts other behind the scene features to shame.
On the button - The destruction of CTU
This small, brief, 13 minute featurette offers viewers the chance to see the work done in order to reduce the Counter Terrorism Unit's headquarters from stone to rubble. The special effects team and the stunt co-ordinators speak briefly on how a major scene for a television show was planned quickly and executed without delays to the show's shooting order. This is a nice little feature and it is certainly for anyone who likes the technical side of 24, though for me this is something I would likely watch just the one time.
Multi-angle scene study - The interrogation
This feature shows how the scenes of 24 are shot from episode to episode. The scene featured here is Jacks roughhousing interrogation delivered upon Nina Myers from 1pm-2pm. The feature enables viewers to take a look at both cameras A and B used in filming at the same time. Unless you want to cut your take of the scene, viewers are allowed to view Camera A and B separately by using the angle button on the DVD remote. It's a very cool feature that shows the technical side of filming a dramatic scene such as this one and it is another feature that once again allows people to see how 24 is gradually put together.
45 Deleted / Alternate Scenes
The deleted scenes for 24's second season can be viewed in a number or ways. There is the nifty option of placing these scenes back into the episodes they came from to indicate where their presence would be. A second option allows you to watch them on their own in the relevant episodes sub-menu or finally, you can choose to watch all of them in one go on the special features disc with a commentary by Jon Cassar. The great thing about these scenes is they have been completed so are in a finished state upon viewing that matches the quality of any episode. It's always interesting to see what scenes were removed in my opinion and the fans of 24 should find lots to digest here. Bear in mind though, there is a disadvantage to this feature. Alternate scenes are placed after you've watched the original broadcast scene which means you have to watch the scene all over again. If you can bear this then there is no problem. However for some, they may not approve of how Fox have incorporated this feature.
Jack's second day on DVD is a bigger success than his first. The second season itself should please anyone who loved the first season leaving room for a possible third. Fox have delivered what could be seen as perhaps the best television DVD box set this year alone with an outstanding presentation of the episodes in 5.1 surround. Add to this the great value of the set at around £40 with the excellent extras and you can truly say that Fox have done justice to such a tense show.