Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Top Eight 24 Seasons (ft. Nick Vogt)

That's right, I'm going to list the Top Eight 24 Seasons. It's one of the greatest shows of the 2000's, though even fans like me have to admit that the seasons were hit-and-miss. Adding his thoughts to the fray for some of the seasons will be Nick Vogt, Hip-Hop God and all-around champion.

And now, the Top Eight 24 Seasons (Out of Eight). Caution: Spoilers Abound.

#8. Season 6 - This one was a step down for me. It had too many characters, too many bad guys, bad guys who stole each other's heat, a nuke that went off but didn't mean anything, Jack killing the one remaining threat to his own heat (Curtis), and so on. It did have a few momentary returns to greatness, like the brutal Jack-Fayed fight about two thirds of the way through (ever notice how seasons of this show seem to be divided into thirds storywise? It's most obvious when you look at the times of the major villain changeovers). And there are a few good episodes, namely the first couple episodes and the last couple of episodes. As for everything in-between...not so much. The show makes an effort to introduce some new characters in this season, but for the most part they just highlight how much the old guard (who are mostly dead by this point) are missed. I'm not the only one who spent this whole season wondering when Tony Almeida would return (he doesn't)... lots and lots of people did, to the point where he was brought back for the next season. That's kind of a statement on how lacking this season was story-wise. At least Assad was really cool.

Nick Vogt: Season 6 (if I remember right) has Jack bite out a dude's jugular vein in the pilot. That may be the most exciting moment of the season for me. It also has James Cromwell as Jack's father who's involved in some sort of plot with nuke-armed drone planes.

Cromwell is always good. He played two weirdo, antagonistic dads in the span of a couple years as he was George H.W Bush a year later in Oliver Stone's strange movie W (which I haven't seen but maybe it's good?).

Yeah, he did play a similar, though less-nefarious character in W. Which is a pretty good movie.

#7. Season 4 - This season wasn't all that good overall. The whole season comes off as being somewhat anti-Muslim in its story themes, which may offend some people. It got to the point where they had to have Kiefer do pro-Muslim disclaimers during episodes, due to the backlash. There are a few good aspects of this season, however. Jack and his former rival Almeida (who, after being left by Michelle, starts to slide into the pit of despair that would eventually consume him entirely) team up as real friends, perhaps for the first time in the series. Also, Habib Marwan makes a great villain. He's unique in the 24 verse in that he doesn't have a higher power... he sticks around for most of the season and answers only to himself.

#6. Season 5 - The season that did the highest ratings in the show's history. This is where they start to get good. Jack's battles with the minions of President Evil were full of suspense. This season was ambitious and well-done. The problems lie with the story being hugely convoluted (it took me until after the season was over to work out what the hell had happened) and with the way this season insisted on KILLING EVERYONE. Edgar, Samwise Gamgee, Almeida, Michelle, Secretary of Defense Heller, and David Palmer were all either killed or "killed". Basically, everyone the audience had the nerve to really care about. Aside from Gamgee, every single one of those characters had been around for a while before this. It's clear that the show was going out of its way to shock the viewer, at the cost of making it more difficult to be emotionally invested in the cast in the future. Maybe this is why Season 6's newcomers didn't connect with audiences as much; Season 5 had burned them in that regard.

#5. Season 8 - The main thing that stands out for me about this season is Renee Walker. She isn't anywhere near as cool in this season as she was in Season 7, but she's still a welcome presence and adds a lot to the show. It's also great that Jack finally has a truly interesting love interest for the first time since the first season (all due respect to Audrey, but IMO they never clicked).

As the final season of the show, Season 8 is pretty middle-of-the-road. It isn't extraordinary, and it isn't bad. The most enduring image of the season has to be Jack's late-season transformation into The Dark Knight, rebelling against the very system he had worked for up to that point and nearly becoming the villain in the process. Wow. 

Nick Vogt: Is it just me, or were there A LOT more plots going on in this season than in the previous 7? They juggled a ton of characters which kind of worked and kind of didn't.

I was really excited about Katee Sackhoff being on this season since, when season 8 aired, I had just finished watching Battlestar Galactica where Sackhoff plays Starbuck, one of the show's greatest characters. Her character was strange on 24. Sometimes badass and resourceful, sometimes meek and awkward. When Jack is forced to kill her near the end of the season (or maybe even on the finale) it was a really epic moment, though.

Another "epic moment" at the end of the season I'll have to mention is when Jack puts on the damn Jason Vorhees mask and Batman body armor and fucks up the ex-president's motorcade. That's crazy and is perhaps Jack's biggest "superhero" moment of the series. Jack Bauer, over the show's 8 seasons, definitely has become established as a superheroic character, and I think it was fitting to end the show with him being driven to crazy levels of action like this.

The writers really handled the series' end well I think. Jack gets the justice/vengence he needed for Renee's death, and he also saves the day. He does all this while outside the law, and he accepts that and decides to run. To live as a fugitive. He can't rejoin the society he has fought so hard to protect which is, in a way, a poetic end for the show. While there is a ton of violence/action leading up to the conclusion of the season and the series, the very end is calm which is also commendable. It is not a big, epic moment. It is an understated end and I think 24's writers handled it very well. They easily could have done the opposite and it would have been awful and campy and the wrong way to end a great television series.

#4. Season 1 - The first season is really good, and there isn't much to complain about. Only problem is that the scope isn't particularly ambitious. It needs a strong villain, but there isn't one until the last two episodes or so. That would be Victor Drazen (Dennis Hopper), who was brilliant and criminally underused. It's a good season, and something to build off of. It also introduces the concept of Operation Nightfall, the 1999 special op that ties Jack, David Palmer, Victor Drazen, and Stephen Saunders (S3) together. It's also the source of both S1 and S3's antagonists, the message being that meddling in foreign countries often has blowback. All in all, this season is firmly middle-of-the-road for me, not great, not remotely bad either. The main strength it has is that all of the concepts it introduces were brand new at the time and hadn't had a chance to feel played-out yet, which would be more and more of an issue as the show progressed.

#3. Season 3 - This one is just great. Jack has a hip new partner (young Chase Edmunds, who is secretly dating his daughter), and the series has many of its finest moments here. A large part of this season takes place in Mexico, and those episodes are shot completely differently, in a weird grainy style. It's some interesting variety. The threat here isn't a bomb as usual, it's a virus that could wipe out half the population if it gets out. This season has some pulse-pounding moments, and by that I mean most of the season. The one thing keeping it from being higher on this list is the really annoying subplot involving David Palmer's scheming wife.

Finally, Stephen Saunders is one of the best villains the show has ever had. A former friend and partner of Jack, he has a similar repertoire of skills and is quite formidable. Basically an evil mirror version of Jack, complete with a hot daughter. One moment that stuck with me was Saunders telling Jack and his posse that eventually, Jack would end up turning to the dark side just like him. At the time, I thought he'd be right about Jack, but it turned out he was right about someone else in the room.

#2. Season 7 - They really pulled out everything for this season. Namely, they listened to the fans and brought Almeida back. They changed the location from L.A. to Washington D.C., which made for some awesome backdrops (like Jack and Almeida discussing matters on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial at sunset). I wasn't a fan of the new president, but I was a fan of having the villains be power-mongering executives for a privately owned, Blackwater-esque army. Some of the villains, anyway. Not to take away from General Juma. Usually the sub-villains on this show are just losers that Jack deals with until the real Big Bad shows up, and I expected the same from Juma. Then he turned out to be one of the scariest bad guys in the show's history. And he's just the mid-boss. Also, we finally found out who the higher power was behind all the previous higher powers, a guy who faced justice after the cameras stopped rolling. And Almeida turned from hero to villain and back a few times. The story never stopped being interesting in this one. Renee is even more badass here than in S8. Ah yes, and for fans of Highlander: The Series, this season has Peter Wingfield for the first few episodes.

It was a tough call which season I wanted to give the #1 spot to on this list, and S7 narrowly missed making the cut. My only issue with this season is that a lot of its more potent scenarios had already been done by the #1 season on this list. If they had ended the show with this season, it probably would have hit the #1 spot. The final episode - which is either the best or second-best episode in the series according to me - would have been the perfect way to end it. Jack's daughter finally speaks to him again, the bad guys are brought to justice, and I thought it was a great moment to have an Imam help Jack forgive himself at the end. That kind of tied it all together.

Nick Vogt: This is, believe it or not, my favorite season. I don't really think it's the best, but it's my favorite. I think that's because of nostalgia? Season 7 introduces Renee Walker as "The female Jack Bauer" and I remember a great moment in the pilot where she puts this huge guy in an armlock for pointing a gun at her.

I also remember another badass moment of Renee's from later in the season when Jack is pretending to work for "the bad guys" and he is forced to fake executing Renee. He shoots her in the side of the face and then buries her alive. And she comes back from that swinging. Renee is pretty awesome. Well, in this season anyway. I think she gets considerably dumber in Season 8.

I guess my "nostalgia" for this season is that I was watching it every week while in my second year at the College Of Santa Fe, my last year there because they closed the school down at the end of that year. I actually had cable in my dorm there so I was watching 24 every week on TV. No Hulu or any internet TV (which is how I watch TV now). I actually watched it on Fox. I would watch serious TV on Monday nights that semester. I'd watch House and 24. I'd actually plan out my schoolwork so I could watch TV all night. It was pretty great.

Jack gets infected by a bioweapon on this season, and I liked that to a point. I didn't like how Jack's convulsions only came at certain, obviously plot-necessary, times. But, the idea of Jack (this big, impervious dude) getting infected is good and is humbling for his character. Jack is extremely macho and while macho people can get beat up in fights, it means something else entirely to infect a big, macho, tank icon with a disease. When he gets diseased it kind of changes Jack's identity. Kind of. They could've done more with the sickness, but I still liked it.

I also liked (and was scared by) Jon Voight as the major villain of this season. Not because I think Jon Voight is a good actor. He's a creepy, weirdo, ultra-conservative bigot (and Angelina Jolie's father!) of a guy that fit the role of a crazed Blackwater leader pretty well. When he throws that guy off the balcony after beating him unconscious with a vase, that's pretty scary.

#1. Season 2 - This is one of the best seasons I've ever seen of anything, and manages to be truly scary at times. The 10 PM episode is one of the, if not the best episode in the show's entire run, most likely beating out S7's finale for that honor. S2 has some timely story elements in regards to when it aired (2002/2003). The first half of the season is Jack trying to stop a a terrorist attack. While he fails to stop it, he at least manages to save everyone who would have been killed. ...almost everyone. This huge attack leads to a possibility of a war being launched on an unrelated group of countries. The second half is Jack trying to stop that war from occurring. The real-world relevance isn't why I give this season first place. If anything, the connections hurt it a bit. Lots of people watch shows like this to escape. Though one real-world connection I'll give props to is David Palmer's speech in the last episode about how he was nearly swindled into taking the country to war, and how sacrificing lives like that should only happen if all else fails. Regardless, this season was brilliant. It just felt extremely important, and it was in my view the pinnacle of the show's run.


  1. My vote for the best is 5, despite the killing off of half the cast.

  2. I saw 1, 2, and 3 on DVD with my family and 6 as it was airing. We all loved 1, 2 and 3 thought each built on the last and couldn't stop watching. I loved the focus on time and the divide between people who advance action and make good sure of their time, like Jack, and people who don't, like the CTU directors who obstruct his efforts. I thought 6 was lame: too much juvenile drama and too many things I'd seen before, and they could have done way way more with the nuke than they did. They used Kim's adventures to show how the "man on the street" reacts to disasters and fear in Season 2, and 6 really needed something like that considering they actually blew a nuke. After all that, I figured I'd seen most of what they could do with the concept, especially because I already knew the big surprise of 5, so I cashed out.