By Chaz Lipp
 

Last week’s double-episode premiere of 24: Live Another Day ushered Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) back onto TV screens with a blast of satisfying, if slightly retro, action. Now, with the third hour of the 12-episode run, things slow down a bit to deepen character motivations and make it clearer what Jack is up against. We learned some surprising and tragic backstory from Chloe (Mary Lynn Rajskub), saw more instinctive decisions suggesting (for now, at least) that operative Kate Morgan (Yvonne Srahovski) is the smartest person in the London branch of the CIA, and saw hard evidence that Audrey’s (Kim Raver) husband Mark Boudreau (Tate Donovan) is willing to abuse his authority as White House Chief of Staff (if it means stopping Jack). Oh, and terrorist mastermind Margot Al-Harazi (Michelle Fairley) has spy cams installed to peep on her daughter Simone (Emily Berrington) and son-in-law engaged in intimate activity.

That’s not nearly all that was packed into the eventful episode. There are plenty of point-by-point recaps out there, so I won’t list every detail. If you’ve been hesitant to return to 24, do yourself a favor and head over to the official Fox site and get caught up – they’ve got the full episodes available to watch. Episode three’s writers, Sang Kyu Kim and Patrick Somerville, had a lot of exposition to work in and, for my money, they pulled it off spectacularly.

Given the constraints imposed by the 24 “real time” format, there’s bound to be a few awkward moments that may feel like downtime placed in the middle of an action thriller. But for the most part, everything is handled smoothly. The revelation by Chloe (spoiler alert) that her husband and son were killed (according to her, she was the real target) finally establishes why Chloe went off the deep end and joined Open Cell. Meanwhile, she later learns that her loyalties to the organization are misplaced when Open Cell leader Adrian Cross (Michael Wincott) double-crosses Jack.

Especially interesting is that Margot’s motivations for radicalizing and becoming a terrorist aren’t far removed from Chloe’s own move into radicalism. Margot’s husband (more spoilers) was killed in a drone attack authorized by none other than President Heller (William Devane). Hence her revenge-driven plot to take down Heller, utilizing the help of her creepy-eyed daughter. The unusual mother-daughter dynamic provides one of the more unsettling aspects of Live Another Day so far, extremely well-played by Fairley and Berrington (‘mother stitching up daughter’s self-inflicted leg wound’ is second only to the aforementioned ‘mother spying on daughter’s bedroom activities’ in terms of queasiness).

As for Heller, his dementia is proving debilitating indeed. He goes headlong, against Boudreau’s and even British Prime Minister Davies’ (Stephen Fry) advice, into an address before Parliament. They’re understandably still outraged by the deadly U.S. drone strike that happened only a couple hours before. Audrey is clearly being used by her husband to manipulate the president (and, incidentally, she doesn’t sound all that convincing when Heller asks about the state of her union with Boudreau).

With nine episodes to go, Live Another Day already feels like classic 24. The shortened season means there isn’t much room for quieter moments, but this episode proves it is possible to include some introspection without compromising the action.

24: Live Another Day airs on Fox, Mondays at 9/8c.

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