The Fourth Season
Note: This review for 24: Season Four comes several months after the initial DVD release. The reason is that I have not gotten a chance to watch season four until now (I have a huge backlog of DVDs to watch, who doesn't?) and I am reviewing a personal copy. Having just finished it, and with the DVD release of season five, hopefully, coming out at the end of the year, I thought I would share my opinions about season four, which are for the most part very positive.
For those who are not familiar with the series, 24 is a somewhat unique drama about a fictional government agency called the Counter Terrorism Unit (CTU). Mostly set in the CTU Los Angles branch office, the CTU agents and computer savvy technicians sift through various leads and evidence to uncover and thwart potential and actual terrorist activity. CTU is a huge operation that interacts with other federal agencies like FBI, NSA, DIA, as well as local, county and state law enforcement on a daily basis. The series uses a unique format you will not find in most television programming. A single season consists of twenty-four episodes, with each episode counting for a single hour in the show's universe. An entire season will span only a twenty-four hour period. During which, a lot of things can happen.
Headlining the cast is Kiefer Sutherland, who was recently awarded an Emmy for "Outstanding Lead Actor In A Drama Series" for his performance in season five as Jack Bauer (he also had a nomination for season four, but lost to James Spader, Boston Legal). What the series does best is putting together an intrinsic, gripping, and engaging storyline with lots of twists and turns, high tech gadgets, intense gunfights and action sequences, devious good and bad characters, and an exposure to a dramatic, yet fictional world about the war on terrorism. For more details about the series please refer to DVD Talk's reviews of 24 season sets.
In my review of 24: Season Three, I had a minor gripe about the series being slightly redundant and due to this reason, season three started off shaky. The fact of the matter is the redundant nature in Jack Bauer going through one day with nonstop action is what makes the series so compelling. I probably should have complained about how annoying Kim Bauer is or something along those lines. Regardless, season four sees no flaws in the redundant department. (Yes there is some redundancy, but what works, works). The issues with season four are more or less with its characters and some poor attempts with drama. We will get into this later.
Season four begins with Jack Bauer in a completely different position. In season three Bauer had to use heroin while undercover and he developed an addiction. Because of his addiction, the new CTU director Erin Driscoll (Alberta Watson) released him from his job. Eventually Jack finds himself as the special assistant to the Secretary of Defense James Heller (William Devane), who, by the way, is fantastic in his role. Life is completely different for Jack, working behind a desk in the nation's capital. He also ventures into a love affair with Heller's daughter Audrey Raines (Kim Raver), who is married, but separated from her husband Paul (James Frain). Audrey is a senior policy analyst at the Department of Defense and can be found by her father's side more often than not.
On this particular day, a chain of terrorist attacks occur, starting with a bomb on a train that seems to have no purpose. Later in Los Angeles, Jack goes to CTU to confirm some budget related items while the secretary and his daughter make an impromptu visit to Heller's son Richard. At Richard's place, the secret service envoy is attacked and Heller and Audrey are kidnapped by terrorists with the intent to execute him on a live webcast over the internet. When the kidnapping occurs, Jack jumps back into his old position on a "provisional" basis, despite director Driscoll's concerns about him. As the story progresses, old and new faces alike join Jack to stop the terrorists from reaching their ultimate goal. I won't go into anymore details about the plotline, but let's just say there is a lot of stuff to follow.
Some of the new characters include Edgar Stiles (Louis Lombardi), a talented computer technician who has to deal with his own personal problems while trying to provide continued support to the CTU field agents, Sarah Gavin (Lana Parrilla), a computer technician with an attitude, Curtis Manning (Roger R. Cross), CTU Los Angeles' second in command, Bill Buchanan (James Morrison), the CTU regional director with a personal tie to Michelle Desseler, and Charles Logan (Gregory Itzin), the President of the United States who has a devious political mind. Some of the old faces include Chloe O'Brian (Mary Lynn Rajskub), David Palmer (Dennis Haybert), Tony Almeida (Carlos Bernard), and Michelle Desseler (Reiko Aylesworth).
The lead villain Harbib Marwan is played by Arnold Vosloo (The Mummy) and Vosloo makes an excellent bad guy providing his character a cool and almost charming demeanor. For strong supporting villains, the Araz family is also very strong in their roles. The Araz family moved to the United States and became naturalized citizens with intent of preparing for this one day. At the head of the family is Navi (Nestor Serrano), a father who believes his cause is more important than anything else. Dina (Shohreh Aghdashloo) is the striking woman married to Navi. She is strong, cunning, and devilish. The cause is important to her and she will kill anyone without hesitation who gets in the way. The exception is her son Behrooz (Jonathan Ahdout), who after witnessing his Caucasian girlfriend being murdered, decides killing thousands of people is not worth it.
Overall what works for season four of 24 is the nonstop action and the overly gripping storyline. How everything unfolds with lots of twists and turns make the season an exciting adventure you will not want to miss. However, while I praise season four, not everything is perfect. There are some elements that I think the season would have been a lot stronger without (or at least toned down). In an attempt to add relationship drama to storylines, there are two love triangles.
While these are great for soapy melodramas, they just did not seem to fit in right with the ambiance of 24. First of all, Jack loves Audrey, Audrey loves Jack, but she also loves her husband Paul, who loves her. There is an entire subplot that deals with this relationship. While it does add some drama to the events, sometimes it felt overplayed and hokey. The other bit of drama comes from Tony, Michelle, and Bill. The two guys both like Michelle and she likes them. It is a wishy-washy subplot that ends with butterflies and rainbows.
Some other points I did not care for dealt with the characters and their personal issues. For instance, Erin Driscoll's daughter has severe medical problems and she is forced to decide what was more important, caring for her daughter or running CTU during the crisis. What I did not like about it was how Watson portrayed her character. She made a great director, very cold and distance, but when she tried to show compassion with her daughter, it felt all wrong.
Overall, season four of 24 presents a strong set of twenty-four episodes with a sadistic plot against the United States of America with only Jack Bauer and the valiant employees at CTU to save the day. If you have not had a chance to pick up this season set, I highly suggest you do. Within the first minute or two, you will be sucked in and forced to watch the entire season set nonstop! And thankfully when you are done watching the season episodes, there are a ton of special features to keep you in Jack's exciting world.
There are subtitles included in English and Spanish, as well as support for closed captioning.
The season set also features episode commentaries for half of the season's episodes. They include "7AM to 8AM" with Joel Surnow and Mary Lynn Rajskub, "12AM to 1PM" with Joseph Hodges and Jon Cassar, "2PM to 3PM" with Stephen Kronish and Peter Lenkov, "3PM to 4PM" with Evan Katz and Shannen Doherty, "4PM to 5PM" with Nestor Serrano and Stephen Kronish, "8PM to 9PM" with Tim Iacofano and Shohreh Aghdashloo, "9PM to 10PM" with Roger Cross and Bryan Spicer, "10PM to 11PM" with Bryan Spicer and Arnold Vosloo, "12AM to 1AM" with Jon Cassar and Sean Callery, "1AM to 2AM" with Paul Gadd and Kenneth Kobett, "4AM to 5AM" with Matt Michnovetz and Duppy Demetrius, and "6AM to 7AM" with Bob Cochran and Scott Powell.
Located on the special features disc are a collection of featurettes. The first item is "Season 5", which includes "Season 5 Prequel", which takes place twelve months after the end of season 4 and it is an exclusive teaser about Jack in Chicago between season 4 and season 5, and "Fox Movie Channel Presents: Making a Scene", which details the making of the "Season 5 Prequel".
"Breaking Ground Building: The New CTU" is a behind the scenes featurette about the production of the CTU set for season four.
"Blood On The Tracks" is another behind the scenes featurette that focuses on the production and related events that dealt with putting together the opening scene for season four, the terrorist attack on the train.
"Lock And Load" is the third and final behind the scenes featurette, which is about the scene in episode "12PM to 1PM" when Jack rescues Heller and Audrey.
"Extended and Deleted Scenes" is a collection of thirty-nine deleted scenes and alternative takes, which can be viewed with optional audio commentary.
"24: Conspiracy" is a collection of twenty-four mobile phone episodes put together as a promotion for season four. The storyline is about the CTU branch in Washington DC. Each episode is one minute long. The episodes can be watched individually or in one lump with the play all feature.
"The Longest Day Music Video" is a music video of the same name.
"Inside Look" is an extended preview about The Sentinel.
"24: The Game Trailer" is a trailer for the Sony PlayStation 2 video game.