Review by Michael Jacobson
Kiefer Sutherland, Elisha Cuthbert, Sarah Wynter, Xander Berkeley, Carlos
Bernard, Dennis Haysbert
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.78:1
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Features: See Review
Length: 1064 Minutes
Release Date: September 2, 2003
not how you thought it would end, is it, Jack?”
isn't over yet.”
a difference a day makes…24 little hours was all it took to renew my
faith in television.
people who know me know I'm not a TV person.
When asked about my favorite shows, I invariably mentioned classics like All
in the Family, The Twilight Zone, or The Honeymooners.
The problem was, during my most opinion nursing years, television was
bad. Very bad.
recent years, it got better, but not enough to win me back. Friends told me to watch episodes of shows like Will and
Grace, E. R., Ally McBeal and others. I
saw a few. I was impressed, but
ultimately, I thought television would never be as satisfactory a storytelling
medium as film. Reducing everything
to restricted time slots and making way for station breaks and such seemed like
no way to convey an idea to me.
along came 24.
first season brought a revolutionary new concept to the airwaves:
a real-time drama that would take place over the course of a single day;
24 hour long episodes. I found the experiment intriguing, but I didn't tune in.
Soon, everyone was talking about how great the program was, and I was
intrigued enough to submit. But how
could I? How do you walk into the middle of a daylong story that had
already half unfolded?
was when Fox had a stroke of genius that paid off. Their next revolutionary idea was to release the entire first
season to home video BEFORE letting the show go into syndication.
Many thought it was a bad business decision.
It wasn't. People who were
intrigued by the word-of-mouth now had a chance to ingest the entire first
season in increments as big as they could handle.
As a result, by the time season two rolled around, people were
primed…and glued to their sets like never before.
first season was an unqualified success in every way imaginable.
So much so, that I often wondered aloud if the creative team could
possibly duplicate their triumph in year two.
I thought the first year was terrific television, I have to say that I thought
(and think) season two is an absolute apex in the history of the medium.
There's no hyperbole here…it's difficult to put into words just
what a work of sheer and utter brilliance 24 became in its second year.
It was the same perfect blend of writing, acting, directing and
camerawork as before, just better on all counts.
It boldly expanded the scope of its story, making the stakes higher, the
playing field larger, and the characters more desperate.
therein lies my heartache. I want
SO much to tell you about this season and my exhilarating experience with it.
But to do so would undermine the ability of those who haven't seen it
to lose themselves in it as I did, and to hang on every juicy twist, every plot
point, every moment of unbearable suspense and every powerful stroke of drama.
There's so much at play here that I could easily tell you about just a
couple of aspects of the season I found brilliant, but even that would be a
I have to lay down only the groundwork and let you, dear readers, do the rest.
But be warned…if you haven't even seen the first season, then skip to
the next section, because I can't move ahead with at least a partial recap of
the year before.
the end of that year, Federal Agent Jack Bauer (Sutherland) managed to stave off
an assassination attempt against presidential candidate Senator David Palmer (Haysbert).
But he wasn't able to save his own wife when a double agent on staff at
his Counter Terrorist Unit revealed herself.
season two opens, it's a year later. David
Palmer is now president. Jack Bauer
has been away from CTU during that time. His
daughter Kim (Cuthbert) has become estranged from him because of that horrible
day that ended with her mother's death. She
now lives with a family and works for them as a nanny.
a terrorist threat kicks off a new 24 hours for Jack when the president learns
that a nuclear bomb is set to go off in Los Angeles that very day.
Because he had dealings with the group that's suspected, he's the
only hope the city has of averting a catastrophe.
Yes, friends…Jack's back.
story grows from that simple seed into an unwinding series of complications,
revelations and surprises. You'll
meet new faces, like that of Kate Warner (Wynter), and discover how her
sister's wedding unravels into international intrigue.
You'll follow familiar faces, too, like Kim, who remains television's
loveliest young damsel in distress when a crisis erupts with her employing
family. And Jack's CTU comrades
are back, including Tony Almeda (Bernard) and boss George Mason (Berkeley), who
becomes one of the day's most engrossing side stories.
cast is first rate, taking terrific material and elevating it by investing their
characters with heart. I was
pleased to see Michelle Forbes come on as Palmer's press secretary
Lynne…she's been a favorite of mine since her stint as Ensign Rho on Star
Trek: The Next Generation. Sarah
Wynter is a great find as well. There
are even a couple of returning faces you might not be expecting, but ones who
will play a pivotal role in the unfolding drama.
most striking aspect of this season is the frequent and unflinching forays into
the darker side of humanity. We're
not just talking about terrorists setting off a bomb…we're talking about
characters being driven by desperation into unthinkable acts. Even the good guys show darker sides when up against the
wall. It's sometimes horrifying,
often unsettling, and yet, completely true and impossible to look away from.
real time action mostly works, although I don't think the creators were as
unflinching with it as they were the year before. Occasionally, there's a sequence that doesn't flow, like
one where Jack and his staff are outside a building after an operation, then
commercial break, then they're up in an airplane. Nobody gets to a plane and airborne in just 4-5 minutes.
But these are few and far between; for the most part, the concept of real
time, though pliable, is still dramatically effective.
not much else I can say except that year two of 24 is a season of almost
unimaginable brilliance. Everything
works to perfection, with people we care about and a story that leaves us
constantly hungry for more. My day
with this series was a day well spent, and for the first time in my life, I
believe television to be as capable as movies of being a complete, thorough, and
satisfying entertainment experience to engage your mind, touch your heart, and
rattle your nerves.
just one more thing…where is Kiefer Sutherland's Emmy for Best Actor??
guessing that because the first season was such a hit on DVD, Fox endeavored to
do everything even better the second time around. The anamorphic transfers are all striking in color and
detail, maintaining integrity even in most low light situations (and of course,
there is 12 hours of darkness at play). Only
one or two brief scenes seemed to show a bit of extra grain and softness, but
considering the amount of material in this set, those are minor complaints.
The fact that Fox gives this show anamorphic widescreen transfers for
disc is proof of their commitment to quality with the program.
A 5.1 audio track makes a good thing even better, especially when mixed
as fully and boldly as these episodes are.
I was pleasantly surprised when I popped the first disc in and realized
that Fox had put forth the extra effort in this department.
Everything from busy scenes at CTU to action sequences in the field are
made livelier by the rear stage…don't feel bad if you look over your
shoulder from time to time thinking that's YOUR phone; I did it once or twice.
The dynamic range is strong, and the subwoofer adds an extra dimension of
foreboding with the music and sound effects.
Crossovers are smooth and clean, dialogue is clear and consistent…this
is a tremendous offering.
also went the extra mile in the features department. Each disc has extras, and there's a bonus seventh disc of
nothing but features. There are 44
deleted scenes in all; you can watch them as you go with the episode discs, or
watch them altogether on disc seven with optional commentary by the creators.
Each disc also has one episode commentary, and over the course of the
show, most everyone gets their turn. The
best of the bunch is actually the first one, as actors Carlos Bernard, Sarah
Wynter and Michelle Forbes seem to have the most fun making the track and with
one another…it's an entertaining listen.
I don't want to tell you who participates in a couple of the
commentaries because it might give away a surprise or two, but I will say that
Kiefer Sutherland, Dennis Haysbert and Xander Berkeley are also on board, as
well as some of the show's writers and directors.
They all recorded their commentary while making season three, so they
frequently refer to the set building and activity going on around them.
addition to all deleted scenes, there are three featurettes, one on production,
one on post-production, and one on the behind the scenes of making one of the
season's most explosive action sequences.
There is also a multi angle presentation of a key interrogation scene.
Just don't tune in to the extras before you watch the series…in fact,
don't even read the booklet that comes with it until afterward, just to be
safe. Then enjoy the features
package to your heart's content.