What many fans considered the weakest season to date, the sixth season of 24 roared out of the gate with a powerful opening. The nuclear bomb going off remains, to me, the highlight of the season. Sadly, however, things started to slowly go off the rails after that. With the inclusion of rehashed plot lines and the woefully misguided introduction of Jack Bauer’s family, the show seemed to sputter out and eventually deliver an underwhelming season. While underwhelming, yes, it’s still worth watching, believe it or not.
After twenty months in a Chinese prison, Jack Bauer, played by Keifer Sutherland, is suddenly returned to the United States. But instead of being free, Jack’s release is part of a secret deal: his life in return for the location of Hamri Al-Assad, the leader of a terrorist organization that has unleashed a wave of terror across the country. A broken man, physically and mentally, Jack agrees to the exchange. But when he learns that his new captor, Abu Fayed, is actually the man behind the attacks and that his own sacrifice is meaningless, Jack lashes out and escapes. Now he must convince the President and CTU that the man they are trying to kill may be the only man who can end the rapidly escalating violence.
So, where to begin? Well, I suppose I could just randomly list all the problems, and let my review fall into it’s standard jumbled mess, but I’ll try to retain my composure. First off, let me say that a bad season of 24 is still better than the vast majority of television shows out there. I’m not saying that because I’m a 24 fan, I’m saying that because it’s really the truth. There’s a handful of good shows on television, and a plethora of horrible ones. The sixth season of 24 started off great, nearly topping the stunning opening of the previous season. But, part way through the first quarter of the season, the repetitive threats and scenarios started to show, and things somewhat slid downhill.
The biggest problem this season faced, and was really cause for the season’s overall weak performance, was the introduction of Jack Bauer’s family. While basically unnecessary, there was potential. Though, to be honest, I never once considered Bauer’s family would ever appear, and didn’t really care to meet them. Aside from a few vague references here and there, that’s all I needed. But once his family was introduced, I opted to run with the concept, a concept which, basically, took away some of the mystique away from Bauer’s character. But once we started to learn that Jack’s family was, basically, evil, it just turned into one eye-rolling fiasco after another. While 24 is a show not really grounded in a reality, basically creating it’s own, I found even this was far outside it’s soap opera-esque barriers. It was adding melodrama to a show that didn’t need it.
Another big problem this season was the plotline involving President Palmer. And no, no it’s not David Palmer, but his much younger brother, now in the Oval Office. While the history of how his character even obtained the seat is muddled at best, the character himself, and the resulting subplots, were incredibly weak. A constant pushover who would eventually find himself the subject of a botched terrorist attack which, in itself, left him with brain trauma, by the time that storyline petered out, it became boring and literally stalled the show. Of course, like in previous seasons, once again, evil political figures tried to influence him throughout the season and, once again, threw America close to yet another war. And while that was stale, the performance of Powers Boothe toward the end of the season made his character engaging and worth watching, but was unable to save the eye-rolling power plays on hand in D.C..
And, of course, it wouldn’t be a season without CTU being both infiltrated and vulnerable. How an operation such as CTU, with their repeated breaks from government order and constant infiltration (be it an attack, a mole, etc.,), manages to stay afloat it beyond me.
The regular cast, including Keifer Sutherland, did a great job, even if some of the material they were given faltered. Even Milo, played by Eric Balfour, who only appeared previously in season one, returned and, basically, spend the whole day upset until he was thoughtlessly dispatched. We did see a host of new faced, including Ricky Schroeder, Peter MacNicols, and Marisol Nichols. Jean Smart and Gregory Itzin returned in what were storylines which eventually went nowhere, but did leave us one whopping cliffhanger involving the fate of Itzin’s disgraced former President. Schroeder’s character, a touch field agent much akin to Jack Bauer show potential, but was eventually expendable. Disappointing.
Even the show’s amazing opening act, with the detonation of a nuclear bomb, was forgotten toward the end. Any fallout from that all but vanished toward the finally, only coming up randomly as either the reminders of nuclear windfall still blanketing some parts of L.A. and motivation to bomb some other country. A lot of dramatic potential just vanaished.
I know it sounds like I did nothing but complain here, but, like I said, there were definitely some great moments this season. There were some impressive action sequences and some genuinely tense moments. Sutherland continued to excel as Jack Bauer, bringing new nuances to what would be a bland action hero role in anyone else’s hands. There were some definite highlights, including some rather brutal fight scenes and some rather tense scenes where some of the regulars were put into some tense situations. In one instance, where Morris, played by Carlo Rota, is tortured, I can remember the huge backlash and controversy surrounding the rather graphic depiction of torture. The show continues to push the boundaries and, for the most part, it does succeed. But the show did instill early on the “anyone can die at anytime” feeling, and that still remains today, which adds tension to the series, and keeps us tuning in. And while season five had a lot of weak points, it did keep us on the edge of our seats. And the show continues to do that well, by giving us a great lead character in Jack Bauer and throwing him into a host of different situations. And while the situations this year may have been a little stale, it still resulted in a season which, by most accounts, is better than the majority of programs currently on the air. I know that may seem like a cop-out, like I’m making excuses to defend a lackluster season, but I believe it to be true.
Thankfully, Fox has given us a stellar DVD release for the newest season of 24, following the successful formula of previous 24 releases. However, one extra which is noticeably absent is the pre-season mini-episode, which is something that started appearing on the last few season releases of 24. Instead of a 10 – 15 minute episode taking place between the currently releases season and the next one to air, we get a 20 second teaser, containing no new footage of Season Seven. It’s understandable, too, given the delay of the show’s original shooting schedule and, now, the writer’s strike. And, despite what the disc says, the show is not premiering in January 2008, but has been postponed until, probably, 2009.
Also, there’s a great Easter Egg on the main menu of the seventh disc. Containing a short clip from Sutherland’s appearance in last season’s 24-themed episode of The Simpsons, it’s really hilarious and should make any 24 fan happy for its inclusion. If only the whole episode was included . . .
What else does this set have to offer? Well, we have a nice assortment of deleted and extended scenes, though these scenes don’t really add anything to what we saw during the season. We then have commentaries for half the episodes on the set. Again, most of them are good, some of them are really technical, but, overall, worth a listen to for the 24 enthusiast. We get a bunch of featurettes covering various aspects of the show, including the make-up work used to create the special effects or the technology the show employ. We also get a peek into the writer’s room, as well. After that we get the mobisodes, which were released to cell phones earlier this year, and the Webcast featurettes, providing more background information on the series. Rounding this off is quick look at Ricky Gervais (The Office) and his quick cameo in the series.
The collection, overall, has a solid presentation. Audio and video for this release remain the same as previous season collections, solid and loud. Definitely worth playing with the volume up when you opt to sit down to rewatch the season. However, I want to point out that this is the second box set collection of 24 to use slimcases with a cardboard sleeve instead of the cardboard digipack. No complaints from me on this, but I was surprised to see the packaging use the original 24 digital logo instead of the metallic one. It’s a bit jarring when placed beside the other box sets, but it still shouldn’t detract anyone from purchasing the collection. With a solid presentation and a great collection of extras, it’s a great set any 24 enthusiast would enjoy.
Overall, I would still Recommend the 24: Season Six release, without question. While the cracks in the formula may be showing abit, it’s still a strong show with a strong cast. After coming off such an impressive season with Season Five, the writers had a lot to live up to for Season Six and, while the season started off with a bang, it quickly faltered. With any luck, the next season will regain the show’s glory. But as for this set right here, it has a solid collection of extras for the fans and the show itself it still pretty good. Not the best, and a bit lackluster, but still good nonetheless. I just wish it could rise to the promise offered in the first quarter of the season. It was a hell of an opening, but, sadly, it just fell from there. It’s definitely worth adding to your 24 collection, without a doubt.
24: Season Six is now available on DVD.