Our story of Jack Bauer's adventures to prevent terrorists from destroying the world continue in Day Two. This time, Jack is pitted against Islamist terrorists that seek to detonate a nuclear bomb in the heartland of America's West Coast, Los Angeles. In truth, however, this bomb plot is the facet of a much larger conspiracy initiated by a ring of oil industrialists that seek to frame the Middle-East for the nuclear weapon, thus causing a war that would spike their profits. Does this sequel compare with Day One? Let's find out.
Right off the bat, Day Two contends with much of the same issues its predecessor had dealt with, that being boring and uninteresting plotlines. Kim Bauer, while displaying signs of character growth and problem-solving, still seems a damsel-in-distress that bears no common sense on how to deal with situations. Thus, Day Two begins with an initial slowness, as while 24 doesn't indulge in filler episodes to make fluff for more narrative-driven pieces, some episodes are certainly better than others. Kim's subplot revolves around her escape from a homicidal businessman who's turned her new babysitting job into a veritable nightmare. This storyline bears no importance on the overarching plot, and thus you'll find the most boredom stemming from it. The other subplot revolves around Kate Warner, unknowingly the sister of an implanted terrorist operative. Witnessing Kate's character growth from a prejudiced, scared woman into capable heroine makes this subplot worth enduring, but ultimately, the primary storyline carried by Kiefer Sutherland's timeless character is what steers this show home.
24 is often known for its 'Bush-era Themes', having been a product of the geopolitical intrigues spurred from the late 1990s and early 2000s. The villains of this day are hardline Islamic extremists that believe Western society is a pillar of decadence, alongside oil industrialists that seek to utilize war to expand their financial spheres of influence. Both these elements were major antagonists in America's intervention into the Middle-East, in which a guise of a 'War on Terror' was used to justify the longest war we've even been entrenched into, that being Afghanistan. Thousands of soldiers turned corpses and numerous governments and terrorist leaders killed later, and yet our battle still continues against an ever-transforming, nebulous enemy. Terrorists often embed themselves into local villages or governments to avoid prosecution, or somethings they become proto-kingdoms that install a brutal Sharia Law over their inhabitants, as we've seen with ISIS. Whatever the case, America's Government always seems obligated to lead the charge against the murky enemy whose name always seems to change, alongside their goals. From Al-Qeada, who wanted to punish us for funding Muhajadeen fighters in Afghanistan against the late Soviet menace, to the Taliban, who claimed dominion over the Middle-East and regressed its culture and society back to traditionalist, conservative eras, to ISIS, that wanted to seemingly conquer the world and place it under a despotic, theocratic regime. 24's Day 2 presents us with an alternative timeline. 'What if our President thought things through?'
In this respect, the later subplots that are chiseled out regarding David Palmer are placed into a much more understandable and relatable context. Throughout the day, David places his hopes on a particular vocal recording that can save America from this bloody affair. After having taken down Syed Ali and his terrorist organization, it's revealed he was collaborating with several government officials in Cyprus to orchestrate the nuclear bombing of Los Angeles. Or that's what the deception would like you to believe. The vocal recordings of these Middle-Eastern leaders speaking with Syed are falsified evidence planted by the oil industrialists, seeking to bring about the war they so desperately desire. Unlike the administration that made decisions during the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars, Palmer is sorely against interventionism, especially into the Middle-East, knowing the sheer cost of lives will be overwhelming and crushing for the American public. However, believing this recording to be real and with admittedly the best of intentions, members of Palmer's own Administration overthrow him in an attempt to start the war nonetheless.
Day Two evolves from a dry slog into the action-packed adventure that we define 24 as. It creates an excellent buildup for Jack and his allies at CTU, who are all placed through a practical meat grinder of struggle. The most tragic of which, in my opinion, was former CTU Director George Mason. Introduced in Day One as a supposedly snarky, uncaring, yet somewhat charismatic bureaucrat that simply wanted to pocket money and look out for his own interests, Mason is given a countdown to death after chasing a terrorist trail to a radiation zone, where, after unwillingly inhaling plutonium, is given mere hours to live. This may have been a ham-fisted means of inducing character growth, but it was nonetheless effective. Seeing George transform from a selfish, corrupt bureaucrat into a selfless man who eventually sacrifices his life to save millions of innocents was heartbreaking. You move from hating George after constantly screwing over Jack in Day One to clawing at the tiniest of hopes that he could survive this affair and retire happily with his son. George gives his life for Jack's, knowing that Jack is a better man than he, and will serve his country better than Mason ever could. Mason dies a hero, and in my opinion, is cemented as the saddest death in 24 thus far. However, he truly does go out in a bang, slamming a plane containing the nuclear weapon into a Valley to prevent the blast or fallout from harming any civilians. Tony Almeida also steps up onto the plate. After being a side antagonist turned ally in Day One, his character further develops, and he creates a believable romance with Michelle Dessler. However, the rest of the CTU-Centric plot is average at best, containing the same beats from Day Two, that being that initially, Tony doesn't believe in Jack, before realizing Bauer is onto something. Then, a bureaucratic Division attempts to hamper CTU LA from assisting Bauer in his quest, and nearly succeeds, until finally deciding to help Bauer after realizing he was correct all along. While this formula isn't particularly bad, adding further suspension into the narrative, it's always been seen once and has grown rather predictable in nature. But seeing Tony being promoted to Director was pretty satisfying, given that he deserved the position.
Another returning character from Day One is Sherry Palmer, the conspiratorial wife of David Palmer turned into an informant for him. However, it's revealed near the climax that Sherry actually assisted Peter Kingsley, the leader of the oil industrialist cabal, in starting the operation to smuggle a nuclear bomb into the U.S. You can say that Sherry redeems herself somewhat by rescuing Bauer near the end of Day Two, but she remains as sly as ever. While plagued with a few uninteresting subplots and some character narratives that fell flat, Day Two is mostly an improvement on the formula originating from Day One. It pits Jack Bauer and David Palmer against even higher stakes, that being the prospect of a brutal war against the international Muslim community, along with carrying an overarching, if not rather obvious message about how we shouldn't always blindly trust the patriotic whistles of a government that is possibly serving the interests of the more financially inclined rather than its majority populace. Throughout the Day, we are given numerous examples of helpful Middle-Easterners, or innocent ones (such as Reza Naiyeer or Yusuf Auda, who I'll not get into detail here given their somewhat minor nature) that are caught in the middle of this conflict, being gleaned upon with the unfortunate perspectives of hatred and prejudice, and ultimately lose their lives because of it. 24 is as much crusading against the prospect of blaming an entire populace for the terroristic acts of an extremist few as it is an action-packed race against time. And for that, Day Two is an entertaining journey that (mostly) improves upon the aspects of its predecessor. I highly recommend you watch. Plus, Jack Bauer's 'DAMMIT!' catchphrase never gets old. Expect the review on Day 3 and numerous other reviews to come soon.