Full disclosure, I’m a long-time, die-hard 24 fan. I didn’t catch onto the show until Season 4, when a friend convinced me to catch up via DVD. That was probably the first true binge watch I ever did, and it was one of the early shows that helped me fall in love with scripted drama. I barely even slept once I got started. By Season 3, I was watching with roommates and other friends who had joined in at some point during the marathons.
Season 4 brought us a killer villain in Arnold Vosloo, and then came Season 5, which remains the pinnacle of the entire series. Gregory Itzin was nothing short of magnificent as Charles Logan, and the supporting cast was at its most impressive level. The season won the Best Drama Emmy that year, and deservedly so. IT was remarkable stuff.
The running joke from me has always been about Jack. Seriously, how many bad days can one man have? Jack Bauer has the worst luck of any singular human being in the history of the planet, and it began to take a little cognitive dissonance just to sit back and enjoy the show for what it was, rather than injecting too much logic into the proceedings. And, when you do that, particularly in the later seasons, and especially when Tony Almeida turned up in Season 7, you could still see the magic in the original idea.
Live Another Day was successful, and I enjoyed it for giving Jack Bauer and Chloe O’Brian to me for one more run. But, in 2017, 24 needed some kind of change. Last summer at the ATX Festival, Howard Gordon told Alan Sepinwall and a room full of media and fans (including me) that Kiefer Sutherland had finally come to the conclusion that he had taken the Bauer character as far as he could. He loved the show, but it was time to move on, though he would stay associated as a producer. He took the role on Designated Survivor, and 24: Legacy cast its new leading man.
Corey Hawkins took the world by storm in the NWA biopic, Straight Outta Compton, as he played Andre “Dr. Dre” Young to almost startling accuracy. He now has the difficult task of trying to replace Jack Bauer on 24. To a large degree, he’s fairly successful. Hawkins has raw talent, and he plays Eric Carter (the new Bauer) with intensity and care. It’s important to note that while Jack was arguably the greatest badass in television history, what made it work was the heart underneath the violence and the willingness to do what had to be done.
Eric Carter is a decorated former Army Ranger who undertook and led a mission in Afghanistan that led to the death of Shiek Ibrahim Bin-Khalid. He has some emotional baggage from that time period, which has strained the relationship with his wife, Nicole (Anna Diop). His brother Isaac (Ashley Thomas) is a successful drug dealer in a rough section of Los Angeles. Carter’s day starts normally, having a conversation with Nicole, but things quickly turn deadly when Eric discovers there’s trouble with his squad.
Six men in the group that took down Bin-Khalid, and when he sends out a cloaked message to them, no one responds. Then, terrorists arrive at his front door. The first shot of the series is one of the Army Rangers being beaten and tortured, and eventually disposed of as part of the larger plan. All six Rangers are in immediate danger, as are their families. Without divulging too much, it gets ugly fast, and Eric is forced to contact the former director of the Counter Terrorism Unit (CTU), Rebecca Grimes (Miranda Otto).
Grimes is married to Senator John Donovan (Jimmy Smits), who is preparing to run for President of the United States, or certainly leaning in that direction. Within the first episode, if you’ve ever seen 24 before, you’ll recognize all the components that you either loved or tolerated from the series. Everything is still here folks, from the famous split screens and digital clock displays to the in-house betrayals. People are working in secret inside CTU before the first hour is even up, as already there’s a sense that an important individual might be involved in the incidents occurring throughout Los Angeles.
Whether you’ll enjoy 24: Legacy is almost entirely related to whether you enjoyed it in the past. I’m not drawn to Carter the way I was to Bauer, but that could grow with time. There’s no REAL replacement for Chloe, though Andy Shalowitz (Dan Bucatinsky) is the attempt to create a new O’Brian. Miranda Otto is very good, just as she was in Season 5 of Homeland, and as Grimes, she may carry the most gravitas of any of the cast in the early going. As for Hawkins, he doesn’t start out particularly strong, but by the end of the second hour, he’s starting to find a groove. You won’t forget about Kiefer, but that wasn’t going to happen anyway.
Ultimately, watching 24 without Kiefer is akin to watching Breaking Bad without Cranston, The Sopranos without Gandolfini, or Scandal without Washington. Fans of those series can’t separate the show from its driving force, and you keep watching Legacy and waiting for Bauer to appear around every corner to assist Eric Carter. But it never comes. Hawkins does the best he can, and again, he generally pulls it off, but Jack’s cloud obscures 24: Legacy’s initial impact.
Also, though there are murders in the first few episodes, the large scale attacks that we’ve sometimes seen early in seasons of the past are absent. The airport, the virus, the kidnapping, David Palmer’s assassination, and other major events have helped push the dire circumstance effect in previous years. What’s happening in Legacy IS big, but it doesn’t feel as big as what’s come before.
I’ll be covering the series weekly here at Outkick, and the first four episodes have been released to critics. To avoid knowing too much in this review, I decided to write it after the first two, and have attempted to avoid much in the way of plot exposition. Once we get through these, we’ll start doing full-on spoilerific post-reviews as we have with many other shows. Here, it felt smarter to tell you what you either need or want to hear about 24: Legacy, and then catch up more specifically and in far greater detail beginning with hour three.
There’s plenty to like about the first two episodes, provided you like the 24 formula and have missed it in your entertainment. There’s no new ground being uncovered here, and like always, there are characters that will make you want to strangle them to death. This time around, there’s Isaac’s girlfriend Aisha (Tiffany Hines), who is pretty much an awful human being in every sense of the word. As usual, damn near everybody you meet is lying to somebody else. It’s 24. You know how this works by now.
Don’t expect any reinvention or even expansion of the currently existing wheel, but if you like 24, you won’t suddenly not like it this time, unless you only watched for Jack Bauer. For Fox’s sake, they’d better hope most can overlook what isn’t there and be open to what is. One thing 24: Legacy will assuredly do is bring interest back to the old seasons, both for the newcomers and those who have always been fans. I’m planning to go back through the first five years of the show at some point soon, because it wet my appetite for a third run-through.
Eric Carter doesn’t have the throat-grabbing power of Jack Bauer, but he’s developing an identity of his own, and Corey Hawkins is increasingly proving to be a decent strongman of his own. Even after over 200 episodes, 24 is still 24, and while the early results are mixed and a little uneven, there’s plenty of time to fine tune and hit the accelerator. I’m a sucker for the formula, so I’m definitely sticking with it.