24: Season 3
June 24, 2005
Jon Cassar, Ian Toynton, Brad Turner, Bryan Spicer, Kevin Hooks,
Starring: Kiefer Sutherland, Elisha Cuthbert, Carlos Bernard, Reiko Aylesworth, James Badge Dale, Dennis Haysbert, Sarah Wynter, D.B. Woodside, Joaquim de Almeida, ,
24 is an ingenious concept show that is miraculously still going strong. By playing out a difficult day in the life of government agent, Jack Bauer, the show’s structure is set up so that each hour-long episode is shown almost in real-time. This results in many tense, white-knuckle moments that have been unsurpassed on TV. The first season did a great job of establishing the show’s look, structure and the characters. The second season, arguably the strongest one, began with an incredible momentum and never let up as it showed a much darker, edgier side to the show’s hero, Jack Bauer. Now, with the third season, the show has definitely hit its stride but how can it top itself again?
A dead body is dropped outside the National Health Services building in Los Angeles with a bomb that blows up their front doors. Jack Bauer (Sutherland) and his partner, Chase (Dale), are making sure that drug lord Ramon Salazar (de Almeida) is put away for good. Jack spent six months of his life undercover to bust him. It turns out that the dead body contains a deadly virus which alerts the Counter Terrorist Unit (CTU) as a possible bio-threat to the city. The President (Haysbert) faces a challenge to his office with an upcoming debate against a senator gunning for his job. The President is also still recovering from injuries he sustained on an assassination attempt on his life.
To make Jack’s day worse, he is still in the throes of a powerful drug addiction that he picked up while working undercover nailing Salazar. The folks at CTU learn that the virus can kill someone in 24 hours but gestates quietly until then. It also spreads rapidly to others. The problem: CTU doesn’t know how it is going to be dispersed by the bad guys. They soon get a call from terrorists demanding that Salazar be released from prison in six hours or they will release the virus into the general populace. So, Jack has 24 hours to find out who is behind this deadly virus and stop them before they have a chance to unleash it on the unsuspecting citizens of L.A.
24 does a great job of juggling all of these major storylines with minor subplots between various characters and linking them altogether seamlessly. For a show dominated and dictated by plot and story it always takes time to show the dynamics of the people at CTU—the petty jealousies and the personal relationships that colour their choices and reactions to what’s going on. For example, Chase is going out with Kim (Cuthbert), Jack’s daughter. The catch: they haven’t told him yet. When he does find out, it colours his judgment in regards to his partner and changes the relationship between the three of them. For all the incredible events that surround the characters, the way they interact with each other is realistic. None of the characters are perfect. They have their flaws and unlikable moments just like anybody else. For example, Jack, jonesin’ for a fix, snaps at a subordinate. He is already an intense, no-nonsense guy and his drug habit only makes him even harder to deal with.
The show’s trademark shaky, hand-held camera work is still utilized to effectively convey the intensity and urgency of the situation: a race against time. 24 has always had the urgency of an old pulp serial with nail-biting cliff hangers for each episode. That’s why packaging the entire season in a box set is such a good idea. You no longer have to wait an entire week to get your fix. You can watch all the episodes back-to-back if you want.
Disc one features an audio commentary on “3:00 pm – 4:00 pm” by writer-producer Howard Gordon and Kiefer Sutherland. The actor points out how the show works on multiple levels. It is not just a thriller but also filled with little personal dramas like parents confronting their son about drugs when he actually has something to do with the virus.
Disc two has an audio commentary on “5:00 pm – 6:00 pm” by writer Evan Katz and actor Riley Smith (Kyle Singer). Katz mentions that this was a tough episode to write and it went through seven drafts. He talks about the changes made to his script while Smith talks over only his scenes.
On disc three there is an audio commentary on “10:00 pm – 11:00 pm” by executive producer Howard Gordon and actress Sarah Clarke (Nina). They touch upon Nina’s character and how she was originally supposed to die in Season 2 but the writers couldn’t think up a decent way to do it so they brought her back to torment Jack for another season.
Disc four features an audio commentary on “1:00 am – 2:00 am” by executive producer Joel Surnow and actress Mary Lynn Rajskub (Chloe O’Brian). They crack jokes in this light, amusing track—Rajskub, with her self-deprecating humour and Surnow playfully poking fun at her.
Disc five has an audio commentary on “5:00 am – 6:00 am” by co-creator/executive producer/writer Robert Cochran, actress Reiko Aylesworth (Michelle Dessier) and actor Carlos Bernard (Tony Almeida). They talk about how this episode shows Michelle taking charge and getting out from the desk and into the field.
On disc six there is an audio commentary on “10:00 am – 11:00 am” by Bernard, actor James Badge Dale (Chase) and producer Tim Iacofano. With the presence of two actors, the emphasis on this track is obviously on performance and casting. Bernard talks about the challenges of working on location, in particular, a busy Los Angeles street.
Disc seven is dedicated exclusively to extra material. First up, is a teaser trailer for the next season. This is followed by a promo that is basically an extended trailer that runs for six minutes and provides the build-up for what will happen in season four.
“24: On the Loose” shows the hard work and meticulous planning that went into making the third season. There is even on the set footage of the prison riot that figures prominently in episodes five and six and the tedium of being an extra in these scenes.
“Boys and Their Toys” focuses on how the creators of 24 were able to convince the Defense Department to fly two F-18 fighter jets over Los Angeles especially for the show!
“Biothreat: Beyond the Series” is an extra not for the squeamish as the real science behind the virus used in the show is examined. The writers couldn’t find one that was deadly that fast so they ended up making one up.
“Multi-Angle Study” allows one to view the midnight shoot-out in episode 12 from three different angles—two separate ones and then with both combined.
Finally, there all 45 deleted scenes from the season with optional commentary from various crew members. These scenes can also be viewed on individual discs with their corresponding episode.
24 works so well as a political thriller because it stays current on the kinds of threats that are actually possible and very real. The bioterrorism threat that looms over this season scarily echoes the anthrax scare that the United States faced a few years ago. One has to wonder how long they can keep up this level of excellence and extremely difficult structure. So far, they’ve been extremely consistent, producing one of the best shows on TV.