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Reviewed by Jason Zingale
o call the most recent season of “24” a disappointment would be to completely understate just how good the previous five seasons really were. Of course, it probably didn’t help that the popular series was coming off its best year to date (and one that finally netted an Emmy for Best Drama), but you can only blame the heightened expectations for so long, before you begin looking for the real reason behind its failure. In the case of Season Six, it didn’t take very long, and after an explosive two-night opener, the series got so caught up in its star-studded cast that it completely lost sight of the fact that it was slowly falling into soap opera territory.
Nearly two years after the events of Day 5, the sixth season finds CTU at its most vulnerable. The country has been targeted by a series of suicide bombings, and with Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) rotting away in a Chinese prison, there’s no one else to save the day. When a man named Abu Fayed (Adoni Maropis) agrees to give up the location of Hamri Al-Assad (Alexander Siddig) – the supposed terrorist behind the attacks – in exchange for Jack, with whom he has a personal grudge, the safety of the country is offered a glimmer of hope. After striking a deal with the Chinese government, newly appointed President Wayne Palmer (DB Woodside) secures Jack’s return, only to deliver the bad news. What they don’t realize, however, is that Fayed is the real mastermind of the attack, but after the sneaky terrorist eludes Jack’s capture, the former special agent teams up with Chloe O’Brian (Mary Lynn Rajskub), Bill Buchanan (James Morrison), and the rest of CTU to track him down and recover the remaining nukes.
Meanwhile, as the suicide bombings continue, many are left wondering when the president will take action – including Chief of Staff Tom Lennox (Peter MacNichols) and Vice President Noah Daniels (Powers Boothe), both of whom believe that the installation of Muslim detention centers would help resolve the situation. National Security Advisor Karen Hayes (Jayne Atkinson) strongly disagrees, but when her strong-willed opposition stands in the way of an assassination attempt on the president, she’s blackmailed into resigning. The fallout of the political conflict paves the road for even more backroom deals and treachery, and while White House representatives are left scrambling to take sides, Jack uncovers the identity of Fayed’s puppeteer: his father, Philip Bauer (James Cromwell).
Unfortunately, while it may sound good on paper, most of the plot twists that pop up throughout the course of the season are so ridiculous it’s hard to believe they made the final cut. True, “24” is a series that depends greatly on the audience suspending its disbelief, but it’s also presented in a manner that allows them to analyze every detail. After all, who knows what kind of revelation (i.e. Graem Bauer) could return to play a larger role in future seasons? We live in an information obsessed society where shows like “Lost” and “Heroes” are followed so closely by its legions of fans that the writers always need to be three steps ahead.
Fans of “24” have never been quite as rabid, and though the show doesn’t feature an overlapping storyline like the abovementioned examples, there were still plenty of questions that needed to be asked long before the final minutes of Day 6 had ticked away. Like how Jack Bauer could become a CTU agent without the government ever backgrounding his father and brother’s shady business. Or how we never learned what price Palmer had to pay for Jack’s safe return. And what of former President Logan (Gregory Itzin) and his psychotic, knife-wielding wife Martha (Jean Smart)? We know that Logan was stabbed, but did he die?
It’s amazing to think that while we may never discover the answers to any of these questions, the producers found it perfectly acceptable to spend so much time on the unbelievably dull love square between Chloe, Morris (Carlo Rota), Milo (Eric Balfour) and Nadia (Marisol Nichols). Does anyone really care that Morris is drinking again after being tortured with a drill? And does Milo’s schoolboy crush have anything, anything, to do with the current terrorist attack? Of course not, but the producers thought it made for good television and, well, now they know.
The sudden departure of fan favorite Curtis Manning (Roger Cross) certainly didn’t help either, and though the addition of Ricky Schroder as the new hard-boiled CTU agent made for an alluring partnership with Sutherland, you can’t help but hope that the writing staff has finally kicked its addiction to killing off major characters. It looks like that may be the case with Carlos Bernard returning for Day 7, and as long as it’s not revealed that he’s actually a zombie brought back to life by the radiation from yet another L.A.-based nuclear attack, we’re willing to put this disastrous season behind us and get back to the "24" we all know and love.
Special Features: The seven-disc box set features all the usual trappings you’d find in a season release of “24,” including audio commentaries, deleted/extended scenes, and a handful of production featurettes. Thanks to the show’s extremely large cast and crew, the commentary tracks feature at least one appearance from every major contributor to the show, and appear on the following episodes: disc one (6:00-7:00, 7:00-8:00), disc two (12:00-1:00, 1:00-2:00), disc three (2:00-3:00, 5:00-6:00), disc four (6:00-7:00, 7:00-8:00), and disc five (10:00-11:00, 11:00-12:00, 12:00-1:00). A collection of 22 deleted/extended scenes can also be accessed either from the respective discs housing the episodes they come from, or on disc seven, where the majority of the extras can be found.
Leading the pack of bonus material on disc seven are three production features, and while “Master Illusionist: Special Effects Make-Up” and “Opening with a Bang” expose many of the same behind-the-scenes secrets that fans are used to getting the scoop on, it’s the 18-minute “Inside the Writers’ Room” that’s ultimately the most revealing. In it, “24” writers Evan Katz, Howard Gordon and Manny Coto discuss the whole torture controversy, recall Season 6 ideas that never came to fruition (the return of Tony Almeida, Audrey “moving on,” and the paternity of Josh Bauer), and even joke about the set-up for next season (“How about if Jack does something that’s against the rules? He goes rouge. Chloe helps him, and gets in trouble because of it. She goes against her superiors. Maybe there’s a mole? Which Jack will have to coerce, to get information, with Chloe’s illegal help.”)
Rounding out the extras is an 18-part making-of series hosted by Jon Cassar (“24: Webcast Diaries”), the five-part mobisode series “Day Six: Debrief,” a short featurette on “The Technology of 24” and a deleted scene featuring “The Office” creator Ricky Gervais as a Jack Bauer-supporting White House aid. All in all, fans of the series will be pleasantly surprised by this year’s selection of special features, and though the season itself may have been a colossal disappointment, it’s evident from their participation here that the “24” cast/crew still believe in the show.