|24: Season Three (2004)
Starring: Kiefer Sutherland, Elisha Cuthbert, Sarah Clarke, Dennis Haysbert, Carlos Bernard, Reiko Aylesworth, James Badge Dale, D.B. Woodside, Penny Johnson
The clock is ticking again for the characters of “24” in an equally suspenseful third season that capitalizes on the events of season two and places its entire cast in danger of being, ah-hem, terminated. While the third season of the series is probably my least favorite, mostly because the story takes longer than usual to lift off, it doesn’t hold back from letting loose the standard supply of thrills that fans of the show are now familiar with. Featuring a few new faces and a headline-worthy plot about a killer virus, “24: Season Three” will help you to remember why you loved the show in the first place.
Taking place three years after Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) last thwarted terrorist plans of starting a nuclear war between the U.S. and the Middle East, the third season finds the one-man SWAT team returning from a six-month undercover stint that resulted in the take down of drug lord Ramon Salazar (Joaquim de Almeida). When the FBI get an anonymous phone call threatening to release a deadly virus that would decimate the entire country unless Salazar is released, the men and women of CTU find themselves set for yet another long day at the office. Tony Almeida (Carlos Bernard), now in charge at CTU, is working alongside his wife Michelle (Reiko Aylesworth) and new employee Kim Bauer (Elisha Cuthbert) to track down the virus before their time is up, while Jack ditches his new partner Chase (James Badge Dale) - who is also dating Kim - in order to break Salazar out of prison and search for the root of the attacks.
All isn’t well at the White House either, where President David Palmer (Dennis Haysbert) is currently on the campaign trail for re-election when news of the possible outbreak is discovered. His brother Wayne (D.B. Woodside) has taken over as his personal assistant now that Sherry has been given the boot; but that doesn’t mean that fans won’t see a few of our favorite femme fatales make a comeback sometime later in the season. The President is forced to put his campaign on hold while he deals with terrorist attacks, media attacks on his personal life and a blood-money-love-triangle that is tied to his brother's tainted past.
The seven-disc DVD release for the third season of the show continues to offer fans a lot of the same features that made the prior box sets such a success. One of the main reasons why the show is such a critical hit is because it presents the audience with a unique cinematic experience that you won't find in any other show, and these qualities are transferred over brilliantly on to the DVD set. Boasting an anamorphic 1.78:1 widescreen transfer video format and a 5.1 Dolby Digital audio soundtrack, the crisp picture and explosive sound make each hour feel like a trip the movies. The series is presented (as always) in a thick, cardboard keep box and has taken cue from season two by spreading all 24 originally broadcasted episodes over the first six discs of the set, along with dedicating an entire seventh disc to its list of special features. Also included on discs 1-6 are individual audio commentaries recorded by members of both the cast and crew that can be accessed on “3-4pm” (disc 1), “5-6pm” (2), “10-11pm” (3), “1-2 am” (4), “5-6am (5) and “10-11am” (6). Most of the commentaries are usually very informative in regards to the show’s production, especially with men like Kiefer Sutherland and Carlos Bernard on board who make sure to discuss as much as possible for the viewer’s benefit.
The final addition to the box set is the seventh disc, and if you’ve managed to make it through the entire series in only a few sittings, the special features that await you are nothing but a well-deserved dessert. First up on the disc is a season four promo that compiles a short video of clips from the first two hours of the new season. Following the promo is a teaser for the newest season that includes additional scenes shot for additional background information to the events at hand. Next on the must watch list is a large database of 45 deleted/extended scenes with optional commentary from the series’ directors. Most of the scenes have probably been cut for time, as they shed little light on new conversations and events, but it’s still nice to know that they were once apart of the original plan.
The rest of the seventh disc includes three featurettes discussing different aspects of the series’ production and another one of the infamous multi-angle studies. Using episode twelve’s “Midnight Shootout” sequence as the specimen (so to say), the viewer is given the option to watch the construction of the scene through two alternate camera angles - which can be seen individually or together in a top and bottom formation. This feature is great for those interested in learning about the different methods of shooting a scene with one or more cameras, but for those only interested in watching the show, this will be nothing more than a giant waste of time.
For other special features pertaining to the production of the show, viewers can check out the three production featurettes that appear on disc seven, and while they aren't nearly as interesting as season two's gallery of extras, they certainly do their job as an insightful supplement. "24: On the Loose" offers an extensive behind-the-scenes look at the filming of the prison riot that takes place at the beginning of the series by spanning every possible element from stunts, extras and crews. "Bio Threat: Beyond the Series" is another great extra that dives into the broad research required to create a unique virus for the show, including specific quarantine designations and manifesting symptoms, but this feature is not recommended for either the faint of heart or those who find that they become a little queasy when visiting a friend at the hospital. Tying together the disc of bonus material is the featurette “Boys and Their Toys,” a fantastic special that focuses on the production of one of the show’s many jet sequences.
Season three definitely doesn't lose any of the dramatic thunder that has been building up in the "24" universe for the past two years and the introduction of a plotline that closely shadows past terrorist threats in the news grabbed the attention of fans and new viewers in a brave show of strong moral character by the series' writer and producers. If you're looking to catch up on one of television's greatest shows or you just want to blow an entire weekend in front of the TV, "24: Season Three" is the perfect catalyst for a genuine DVD addiction.