24: Live Another Day (2014) season 1, episode 3
"Day 9: 1:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m."
WRITERS: SANG KYU KIM and PATRICK SOMERVILLE
DIRECTOR: ADAM KANE
AIR DATE: May 12 2014
After starting off with a bang in the first two episodes, the limited summer series starring Kiefer Sutherland takes us in new directions in this episode, and one moment in particular is heartbreaking. The President (William Devane) finds himself facing the wrath of British Parliamentarians over the drone friendly fire incident, an incident that has been manipulated by someone behind the scenes. He's out of his depth, and the condition that is being closely guarded by those around him is hindering his ability to respond. Devane plays again that level of uncertainty in the character- he's trying to respond in as reasonable a way as he can to an unfolding situation, but can't grasp that he's facing a profoundly hostile audience in the form of angry British Parliamentarians. Chief of Staff Boudreau (Tate Donovan) has already pushed him on the issue, trying to hide his boss's condition, while also covering up his knowledge that somewhere in London, Jack Bauer is out there. We don't yet know his motivations- is he trying to protect his wife? Does he view Bauer as a threat to his marriage, given Jack's history with Audrey? In previous seasons, the series tended to bring in an authority figure who would start off as a hardass, only to gradually be more sympathetic. Is Boudreau that character, or will he just turn out to be a manipulative and underhanded political operator? Time will tell.
The villain behind the scenes is someone we get to know more about this time out. Michelle Fairley (Game of Thrones) is Margo Al-Harazi, an English widow to a jihadist who has taken on the cause herself. She may be indeed the Big Bad- in the past, 24 has introduced one villain, and then later on taken things in another direction with another villain later on in each season. She's a particularly nasty piece of work, and Fairley gives the performance that kind of angle. She's even willing to make use of her daughter to further her revenge. If she is indeed the primary villain, she has already established herself as a formidable adversary, and yet a human one. Or there could be someone yet to be revealed as the true Big Bad.
Jack, meanwhile, is busy this time out. Sutherland continues to balance the character as world weary and tenacious. He's frustrated and backed into a corner by the circumstances of what has previously set him on the run, and still after all that he's putting himself on the line for the right cause. His resourcefulness goes to typical extremes in an attempt to get into the American embassy- he's willing to start a panic among protestors by shooting people. Let it not be said that Jack doesn't do things lightly.
It's a quiet moment, however, that is the most wrenching moment of the episode. Mary Lynn Rajskub has been playing Chloe O'Brian for much of the run of 24, and her return here has her away from the authority status that was the Counter Terrorism Unit. Her acidic personality is still in place after all these years, but there was something else there, something unspoken. The audience had that unanswered question- what happened to her husband and son? The writers gave us the answer, and it's a showstopper. Chloe tells Jack that they were both killed in a hit and run, and it's a wrenching, devastating moment. Rajskub's performance in that moment is heartbreaking, and we can feel the pain. Over the years there have been painful, wrenching deaths in this franchise, characters taken before their time. Chloe's pain makes this pair of deaths, perhaps, the most profound of those losses. The audience have invested a lot in the character over the years, and for her to have suffered that gravely is a stunner.
Three episodes down, nine to go. The writers continue to throw us curveballs. The episodes continue to move at breakneck speed, seemingly over too soon. How bad will this very bad day still get? Time will tell.