|24: Season Four (2005)
Starring: Kiefer Sutherland, Dennis Haysbert, Carlos Bernard, Reiko Aylesworth, William Devane, Alberta Watson, Kim Raver, Roger Cross, Mary Lynn Rajskub
After losing quite a bit of momentum thanks to a rather inconsistent junior year, “24” returned to full form with perhaps the most suspenseful season of the series’ short history. Featuring an almost entirely new ensemble cast and the best plotline since the show’s debut in 2002, the fourth season of Fox’s hit thriller started off with a bang (literally) and never slowed down. Kiefer Sutherland returns in the lead role as former CTU agent Jack Bauer, and a few familiar faces (like Dennis Haysbert, Carlos Bernard and Reiko Aylesworth) eventually work their way into the story, but the bulk of season four revolves around a completely new group of pivotal CTU agents, government officials and dogged terrorists. And with Jack’s daughter, Kim, gone this season, that also means the exclusion of one of everyone’s all-time favorite characters, the cougar.
Season four picks up 18 months after the events of the last terrorist attack, with Jack now working alongside Secretary of Defense James Heller (William Devane), not to mention banging his daughter Audrey (Kim Raver) on the side. When the Secretary and Audrey are kidnapped on the same day a terrorist attack results in the loss of top secret computer software, CTU director Erin Driscoll (Alberta Watson) is forced to call Jack back into action; this is with the knowledge, of course, that Driscoll was the same person who gave Jack the boot at the end of season three. And with CTU tech analyst Chloe O’Brien (Mary Lynn Rajskub) as the only other series regular to return, the other players helping Jack take down the baddies include Edgar Stiles (Louis Lombard), an intelligent, but annoying tech analyst; Curtis Martin (Roger Cross), a brute CTU field agent not too far out of touch with Jack’s own unique tactical methods; and Sarah Gavin (Lana Parilla), a kiss-ass CTU agent looking out for only herself.
With President Palmer (Haysbert) now out of office, a very able Keeler (Geoff Pierson) takes over the duties, but not without consequences, as a series of impending terrorist attacks point toward an obvious attack against the U.S. government. At the center of the attack is the Araz family, a seemingly normal Middle Eastern household that is actually a terrorist cell led by the man behind the planned attacks, Habib Marwan (Arnold “The Mummy” Vosloo). When a plot to gain control of the country’s nuclear power plants and steal a nuclear missile threatens our safety, Jack drops in to save the day… again.
The seven-disc DVD box set for the fourth season of the series isn’t all that much different from past releases. Foremost is the show’s cinematic presentation, featuring a 1.78:1 widescreen digital transfer and a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track, but the special features in the set are also worth a fair amount of attention. As before, all 24 episodes of the series have been evenly divided amongst the first six discs of the set, while the seventh disc holds a majority of the special features. This doesn’t mean that there isn’t a little something to look forward to on discs 1-6, though, with the following cast/crew audio commentaries to check out in your spare time: disc one (7:00-8:00), disc two (12:00-1:00, 1:00-2:00, 2:00-3:00), disc three (3:00-4:00, 4:00-5:00), disc four (8:00-9:00, 9:00-10:00), disc five (12:00-1:00, 1:00-2:00), and disc six (4:00-5:00, 6:00-7:00). And while there is definitely a bigger selection of commentaries this time around (about twice as much), the lack of an appearance by the show’s bigger stars (Kiefer included), is a bit upsetting.
The seventh disc of the set houses the special features, but sadly, while it looks like there’s a lot of content featured, most of it isn’t even worth a look. First up is a series of 39 deleted/extended scenes with optional director commentary, and like on past seasons, they’re just not engaging enough to warrant wasting your time on. Also featured on the disc are three production featurettes on the construction of the new CTU (“Breaking Ground”), the filming of the train crash sequence (“Blood on the Tracks”), and the filming of the Marine-infiltration sequence (“Lock and Load”), but these two just aren’t very exciting. What’s essentially missing from the special features section is some genuine behind-the-scenes material featuring the film’s stars, not the extras and special effects team.
And with the rest of disc seven including a music video, a trailer for “24: The Game,” and “24: Conspiracy,” a collection of 24 one-minute mobile phone episodes that revolves around the D.C. branch of CTU during the events of season four, all hope is nearly lost. That is, if a specially made season five prequel wasn’t included, and though it feels more like a flashy car commercial for Toyota then a part of the show, it’s by far the best thing on the set. Only about ten minutes in length, the short dives into Jack’s life twelve months later where he’s currently hiding away in Chicago only to discover from Chloe that somebody may have discovered the truth behind his “death.” There’s also a short making-of featurette on the shooting of the prequel, but that’s just as dull as the rest of the special features.
Still, when you go out to buy a season for “24” on DVD, chances are it’s because you’re a fan of the show, and not of the weakly constructed bonus material. It’s also hard to deny the fact that Fox’s drama is still one of the hottest shows on television, or that the fourth season of the series is one of the best yet, but with what looks to be an even more thrilling fifth season on the way, now’s the perfect time to free up the weekend and experience a day in the life of Jack Bauer. And in case you’re wondering, it’ll take less than a day to watch a full season, but it’s not recommended.