Twenty-Four presents the audience with a world far more dangerous than even our world. In a planet where everything and everyone seems poised to kill you at any given turn, this is quite an accomplishment to boast, but it's true. Each Day of Twenty-Four introduces terrorist attacks; political scandals; and the suffering which is entailed all throughout that'd usually shatter a country and cause nothing more than nascent chaos. In Twenty-Four, America is constantly under siege by a barrage of terrorists from all nationalities and origins. Your standard Islamist Middle-Eastern insurgents, Slavic supervillains with an unending access to resources and manpower to accomplish their dastardly goals, Latin American druglords, America's own politicians and businessmen; and this isn't even beginning to touch upon the immensely unstable international geopolitical climate which has likely been exacerbated by all this madness. Twenty-Four is a hellworld, in which the people of Earth are subject to the unending horrible decisions of their leaders, the retribution exacted upon them by ruthless terrorists, and only a few brave souls willing to stem the tide of evil and chaos, among them being the heroic fighter Jack Bauer.
Day Four is no different. In fact, I'd dare to say Day Four is the most intense; high-stakes; and dark season of the show thus far. Starting out with a mysterious train bombing and thieving of a suitcase, we're taken on a spiraling journey as Bauer is learning to find love again with the Secretary of Defense's daughter, Audrey Raines. Without spoiling too much, the Day takes us through Jack being thrown through a meat grinder of emotions, ending up with him forced to reassume identities and flee the very country which he's sacrificed an incomprehensible amount for. Everything about Day Four is orchestrated perfectly and with the right injection of suspense at every turn, with the show-writers displaying how much they've learned over the initial trilogy of Seasons to truly make this edition of Twenty-Four a remarkable one, with any flaws present overriden by the sheer intensity and enveloping nature of what's transpiring on screen. With the summary out of the way, let's dissect this season.
Every Season of Twenty-Four's major carrier and catalyst is always Jack Bauer. While there are certainly other characters of note and admiration, ranging from the brilliant (and true first African-American President) David Palmer to pragmatic Mike Novick to Tony Almeida, who's gone from an irritating thorn in Jack's side during Day One to an invaluable ally and friend that carries Bauer through his toughest moments. But of course, it always will boil down to Kiefer Sutherland's performance as the ultimate secret agent badass Superhero who's endured more suffering in a few days than most could comprehend in an lifetime. Without a doubt; this Season contains some of Sutherland's best acting yet. Bauer's hope for a better life away from the chaos and madness of his CTU occupation is slowly stripped and dismantled over the Day's course, as he is forced to engage in action after action that alienates him from Audrey, and his sanity and faith in life dwindle continuously because of it. When we believe things cannot feasibly become any worse for our protagonist, he's then framed for a crime he technically didn't commit and forced into hiding. In short; Jack really goes through the meat grinder on this Season, and it's simply unrelenting.
But aside from Bauer, other characters make their presences known or become introduced throughout the Season. For example; CTU receives a new Director relatively late into the Season who becomes a mainstay of the cast, that being Bill Buchanan. Initially eschewed as a bureaucratic nob meant to take up the place of Ryan Chappelle and Erin Driscoll as hampering in Bauer's quest to stop the terrorists and save the day, Bill distinguishes himself as a brave and tact commander that prefers to go by-the-book rather than the outlaw path that Bauer often takes to reach his goals. There's also Michelle Dessler, Tony Almeida's love interest and a starry character all of her own that returns this Season and takes up an active role in quelling the terrorist threat. After several episodes of conflict that brew between Tony and Michelle given past grievances after Day Three and Audrey inadvertantly creating a temporary wedge between them; they learn to let go of their past enmities and reinvigorate their relationship; but resolve to leave CTU given the tumultuous and destructive events which destroy those that work there, emotionally, mentally, and physically. Quite honestly, it's among the more wiser choices any character in the show has made, considering Counter-Terrorist Unit is a hodgepodge of horrific; tragic atrocities waiting to happen for every registered employee. Speaking of Tony, he's back and makes us remember why he's Bauer's Number Two. After last Season where the blame fell on him for allowing Stephen Saunders to escape custody and wreak havoc, Tony reforms himself over the Season from a sad drunk to the wondrous and heroic agent we all know and love. Good on him.
Also introduced in this Season is one of the more lovable characters, CTU employee Edgar Stiles. A lovable teddy bear of a character, Edgar has a strong friendship with Chloe, though the latter would be hard-pressed to admit it, and perhaps something more beyond just platonic admiration of her immense techie skills. Edgar's presence is something of a warm welcome, and he provides rare injections of humor that surprisingly sew in well with the show's dark and often hellish tone. I'm quite glad they introduced Edgar this Season, given he's a better pair up with Chloe from the aloof Adam that was introduced and subsequently ditched last Season. The character chemistry between these two makes them an enjoyable treat to watch and one of the few welcome breaks from Bauer's crusade to stop the bad guys.
Speaking of bad guys; Day Four contains my favorite antagonists of this action-packed thrill ride yet; those being Islamist Habib Marwan, and later Chinese security commander and intelligence officer Cheng Zhi. Starting with Marwan, I don't think I've seen a more successful villain in the Twenty-Four universe, and his sheer ruthlessness and determination to see America become a broken; shattered country was quite honestly terrifying to watch. Fun fact actually, the director of Day Four had a scene where Marwan bid farewell to his family, but intentionally left it out so the viewer felt no sympathy for him. Quite honestly, his bid succeeded immensely. But while Marwan's schemes and ambitions seem far-fetched, from shooting down Air Force One to melting down several nuclear reactors in a bid to turn the United States into a radioactive wasteland, what's so fear-inducing about him is that his mindset and personality belongs to that of innumerable terrorists around the world. Men and women without a shred of mercy towards our society and way of life and their willingness to commit atrocities equivalent to those of twentieth-century dictators and worse solely to destroy us. Beings of machine-like efficiency powered purely by hatred. Given how many of his plots actually pan out successfully, you could make a bid that within the pantheon of 24 baddies, he is among the most accomplished in both personally harming Jack Bauer (though indirectly) and destroying the fabric of America at large.
Then we have Cheng Zhi, the ruthless Chinese consulate official we are introduced to late in the season. He feels more akin to Jack's Chinese counterpart more than anything, a secret intelligence agent and asset that is utterly loyal to his country and operates with a mercilessness rarely seen, even by others occupied in the field. Zhi's presence in Season Five is short, but long enough for viewers to estimate that he will pursue and destroy Bauer; along with any accomplice that aided him, with extreme prejudice. To see him in future Seasons will be a definite delight.
Well, there is plenty more I can say, but that'd simply ruin the surprise of Day Four, which I don't intend on doing. Give it a watch right now, and you'll know why I hold this Season of Twenty-Four in such high regard. Until next time!