It just never seems to stop for federal agent Jack Bauer. First, he managed to save candidate David Palmer (Dennis Haysbert) from assassination. It wasn't over. Soon after, Jack was called to prevent the detonation of a nuclear bomb in Los Angeles. Unfortunately for Jack, another bad day is on the horizon. This season takes place three years after the ending of the second season, where the President was suffering from a mysterious ailment that he got from a handshake. A van deposits a body outside an LA health office that had been suffering from a deadly virus. Tony (Carlos Bernard) picks up information that this is the hint of a blackmail threat that involves drug dealer Ramon Salazar, whom Jack has just brought down. If Salazar isn't released, then his brother will release a the virus into Los Angeles.
As the episode begins, we learn more: Jack became hooked on heroin to try and get undercover to bust Salazar; Palmer has recovered and is back on the campaign trail and Palmer has a new partner, Chase (James Badge Dale). Kim (Elisha Cuthbert), Jack's daughter, has also returned and is now working at CTU, despite throughts from other co-workers that she got the job due to her father. She also has a connection to Chase that she has yet to share with Jack. Elsewhere, a young man named Kyle has come in contact with a large bag of powder - while he has plans for it, he doesn't know he's being viewed from afar. To provide more tidbits about the season would be ruining the surprises.
The third season of "24" continues the elements of the show that has made it popular. Successfully boasting a real-time format, the show links crisis-to-crisis in a way that often makes the nearly hour-long program rip forward with remarkable tension and urgency, not to mention some solid twists and surprises. Season three isn't quite as strong as the first and second seasons of the show, but Sutherland still remains a very strong anchor. There are also other solid performances here, including Bernard and his character's relationship with co-worker Michelle (Reiko Aylesworth). Haysbert is once again offers a marvelous performance as Palmer. Cuthbert is allowed to get into less ridiculous situations this time around and, as a result, her character is stronger and more compelling. Joaquin De Almeida also makes for a convincingly menacing villain.
"24"'s third season isn't its best, but the show still remains a nail-biter. The first half contains some unnecessary sub-plots and takes a little while to get going, but once it starts, the season largely goes into high gear.
VIDEO: The third season of "24" is presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen by Fox. The picture quality is simply fantastic, as I thought image quality was certainly better than what I viewed during the show's basic television broadcast. Sharpness and detail remained very pleasant, as the picture remained bright and crisp, with good fine detail and consistent definition.
The picture did show some minor shimmering at times and some mild-to-moderate grain, but I didn't see any instances of edge enhancement. Some traces of pixelation were noticed, but these weren't too distracting. The show's largely subdued color palette seemed accurately rendered, with no smearing or other faults. Black level seemed solid, while flesh tones appeared accurate.
SOUND: "24" is presented by Fox in Dolby Digital 5.1. The show's soundtrack is mainly dialogue-driven and somewhat front-heavy, but surrounds do kick in for some action sequences and to provide some reinforcement for the show's well-done score. Audio quality was excellent, with crisp and clear dialogue, well-recorded effects and a dynamic, full-sounding score.
EXTRAS: The first commentary is for 3:00-4:00pm, and contains comments from actor Keifer Sutherland and writer Howard Gordon. Another commentary is available for 5:00pm-6:00pm by Evan Katz and Riley Smith. 10:00-11:00pm offers commentary by writer Howard Gordon and actress Sarah Clarke. 1:00am-2:00am offers a commentary from creator Joel Surnow and actress Mary-Lynn Rajskub. 5:00am-6:00am offers audio commentary from co-creator Robert Cochran, actress Reiko Aylesworth and actor Carlos Bernard. 10:00am-11:00am offers audio commentary from actors Carlos Bernard and James Badge Dale, along with producer Tim Iacofano. The commentaries provide an insightful look at the making of the series, chatting about working with the actors, writing the plots and trying to keep them within the structure, technical issues, production problems and other issues. While some have some patches of silence at times, these are largely solid commentaries worth a listen.
There are 45 deleted scenes scattered about the episodes, including some on 3-4pm, 7-8pm, 12-1am, 1-2am, 4-5am, 7-8am, 8-9am and 10-11am. Viewers have the option to watch these scenes within the episodes by turning on the option, then clicking on an icon when it appears. After the scene is complete, viewers are taken back to the episode. On the seventh disc of the set, the deleted scenes are offered with commentary by Jon Cassar (16 scenes), Howard Gordon (22 scenes) and Michael Loceff (6 scenes).
Also on the seventh disc are a handful of other featurettes, including the featurette, "24: On The Loose". This moderately lengthy piece follows the crew around during the shooting the helicopter chase sequence and (mostly) the prison break/riot sequence. Often presented in the split-screen format that the series occasionally uses, the fly-on-the-wall feel of it certainly does allow the viewer to get a better feel of what is required of the production.
"Boys and Their Toys" takes a look at some of the big issues with the weapons in the production - mainly, what it took to get military cooperation for the F-18s in one scene in Los Angeles. A helicopter explosion wasn't up to the crew's satisfaction, so it was literally pieced back together again. Another featurette takes a look at bioterrorism. There's also a multi-angle look at the "Midnight Shootout" sequence, as well as two promos for the fourth season of the series. Finally, there is an "inside look" at the upcoming Fox film "Mr. and Mrs. Smith".
Final Thoughts: "24"'s third season is off a little bit from the prior two, but once it really gets into motion, it's incredibly tense, powerful and suspenseful. Once again, the cast is terrific, offering exceptional performances. Fox's DVD edition offers very good audio/video quality and a legion of supplements. Recommended for fans, but those new to the series should consider looking at season 1 and 2 first.