24: Season Five review, 24: Season 5 DVD review

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Buy your copy from Amazon.com 24: Season Five (2006) starstarstarstarstar Starring: Kiefer Sutherland, Gregory Itzin, Jean Smart, Carlos Bernard, William Devane, Kim Raver, Roger Cross, Mary Lynn Rajskub, Louis Lombardi, Sean Astin, James Morrison, D.B. Woodside, Julian Sands, Jude Cicollela
Director: Various
Category: Drama
Buy from Amazon.com

It’s risky business as usual for Kiefer Sutherland and Co. in the Emmy-winning fifth season of “24,” and this time around, no one is safe. After reintroducing mainstay characters like President Palmer (Dennis Haysbert), Michelle (Reiko Aylesworth) and Tony Almeida (Carlos Bernard) back into the mix during last year’s near-perfect season, the newest installment wiped the slates clean by killing two of them in the first episode, and another later down the line. And though it was sad to see such monumental characters go after years of dedicated service, it only helped to make the latest terrorist attack feel all that more realistic. Gone are the days of television where one’s status as a recurring character ensured your safety. Nowadays, it doesn’t matter who you are (even if you're the best TV president there ever was), because if it’s your time to go, well then, you better start looking for other work.

Nearly two years after faking his own death to avoid being captured by the Chinese government, Jack Bauer (Sutherland) returns to Los Angeles when he discovers that the only four people who know he is still alive are being targeted. Of course, this is just a ploy to get Jack back into the country so that he may be framed for the recent assassination of President Palmer. And while Jack struggles to prove his innocence, the signing of an anti-terrorism treaty between Russia and the U.S. is interrupted when a terrorist group takes control of an airport and broadcasts the execution of hostages until President Logan (Gregory Itzin) agrees to cancel his engagement. Meanwhile, as Logan’s wife, Martha (Jean Smart), discloses privileged information that Palmer’s knowledge of a possible mole within the presidency may have led to his assassination, Jack is reinstated at CTU to help in the prevention of an impending attack.

Though Tony and Michelle are no longer working for CTU, the rest of the group is still there: Bill Buchanan (James Morrison) continues his role as head honcho, Chloe O’Brian (Mary Lynn Rajskub) gets significantly less annoying as Jack's go-to tech girl, Edgar Stiles (Louis Lombardi) gets significantly more annoying as "that other tech guy," Curtis Martin (Roger Cross) carries on Jack's love for torture, and Audrey Raines (Kim Raver) stays on staff as the official DOD representative. Then again, what would a season of “24” be without its usual carousel of power moves? Sure enough, there’s plenty to choose from this time around, including the addition of Sean Astin as a by-the-books CTU agent who takes over for Buchanan, and a wide array of would-be villains ranging from the Warlock (Julian Sands) to Robocop (Peter Weller). No, seriously.

Believe it or not, it works. So much so, in fact, that you’d be hard-pressed to find a fan of the show who doesn’t agree that the fifth season is the best thus far. And those looking to catch up on all the action can do so with the seven-disc DVD box set, which features all 24 episodes in their originally broadcast 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen and 5.1 Dolby Digital soundtrack. And just like prior releases, the episodes have been divided across the first six discs of the set, with the seventh containing most of the bonus material. The only extras not to appear on the final disc are the audio commentaries, which feature actors like Kiefer Sutherland, Gregory Itzin and Jean Smart, as well as various cast/crew on the following episodes: disc one (7:00-8:00 [2], 10:00-11:00), disc two (12:00-1:00, 2:00-3:00), disc three (3:00-4:00. 4:00-5:00, 5:00-6:00), disc four (9:00-10:00), disc five (12:00-1:00) and disc six (3:00-4:00, 6:00-7:00). It’s nice to see that Kiefer’s finally found time to sit in on these recordings, but unfortunately, it’s only for one.

The rest of the special features are a mixed bag. The “Season 6 Prequel” sounds promising, but it’s nothing more than an expensive car commercial, while the 23 deleted scenes fail to offer much in the way of extra story. Also included are four production featurettes (including one on composer Sean Callery and another on the set construction of Logan’s retreat), but only two are actually worth watching. “Unsung Heroes,” a 40-minute featurette on the various positions within the camera department is interesting for those looking to work behind-the-scenes, while “Supporting Players” offers twenty minutes worth of interviews with the supporting cast. After all, without people like Morrison and Rajskub for Kiefer to bark orders at onscreen, “24” wouldn’t tick.

Rounding out the extras is a seven-minute montage that recounts the moments leading up to the 100th episode, and co-creator Jon Cassar offers a first-look at the “24: Behind the Scenes” photo book. Not a bad collection when compared to previous releases, but it’s also not going to be the deciding factor in buying this DVD set. If you’re a fan of the show, this is a no-brainer, and you don’t need me to tell you so. For anyone else looking to jump in on the “24” bandwagon, this couldn’t be a better time to experience the most thrilling drama on network television.

~Jason Zingale