24: Day 2 Review

Tony: "To say this has been a long day would be a major understatement."

They really went for the gusto this time. Day 2's major plot point had a terrorist group called "Second Wave" setting off a nuke in Los Angeles, with the possibility of a couple of million casualties. The big surprise was...
that the nuke actually did go off – just not in Los Angeles.

(This review includes massive spoilers!)

The pacing of Day 2 is definitely superior to Day 1. There are effective build-ups to three climactic events: CTU getting blown up in episode three; George Mason's heroic final hour as he flew the nuke into the Mohave in episode fifteen; and the big confrontation at the L.A. Coliseum in the finale.

Much of the nuke plot was centered on the Warners, a "whitebread family from Pasadena." Kate Warner (Sarah Wynter), a good person caught up in a terrible situation, experienced the worst day of her life when she was kidnapped, tortured, and ultimately rescued by Jack Bauer. She rallied and was able to help Jack repeatedly throughout the rest of Day 2, volunteering to go undercover in a mosque to identify Syed Ali, assisting in Jack's interrogation of her sister Marie, and even weathering an attack by looting rioters. In the end, Kate was the one who helped her father (John Terry, Lost) come to terms with Marie's inexplicable radicalization and turn to evil.


Kate Warner was obviously introduced as a possible love interest for Jack. He treated her gently and with respect, and often did this breathy sexy voice thing when he was speaking to her. They had a "moment" during Day 2, but while Kate's gauntlet of terrible experiences were a little more believable than, say, Kim Bauer's, it never quite felt like Jack and Kate could be a couple.

(Question: Should a character like Jack Bauer even have a love interest? Discuss.)

Kate's sister Marie, though... wow, where do I start? This season was filmed not long after 9/11, and I think the 24 writers decided to ditch caricatures and make the completely valid point that Muslim men from Middle Eastern nations were not automatically terrorists by making a blonde American woman this story's ultimate radical. While Laura Harris did a good job acting like a brainwashed maniac, she never quite pulled it off and this part of the story didn't work for me. Maybe another actress could have done it. Who knows.


But I did like that Marie's fiance Reza turned out to be completely innocent; the poor guy was even murdered by his fiancee on his wedding day. Yusuf Auda (Donnie Keshawarz), a "Middle Eastern" agent working with CTU, died a hero at the hands of white racist rioters. And it turned out that the three "Middle Eastern countries" that were pointedly never named (like they're all interchangeable) weren't behind the nuke plot after all. It was magnate Peter Kingsley and a guy on a yacht named Max who were attempting to corner the oil market by eliminating the competition.

The political

So apparently, everyone in the Palmer administration was a bloodthirsty warmonger – except for the man himself. Dennis Haysbert continued to be wonderfully presidential as David Palmer throughout Day 2, trying his damnedest to do the right thing for the United States in the most difficult of situations.


It was so disappointing that Mike Novick (Jude Ciccolella) turned on Palmer and sided with the warmongers. Seeing the perfectly rational Palmer removed from office was infuriating. The scene where he handed over the nuclear key card made me think about Obama having to give his to Trump. There was even a shot of Palmer sitting in a chair looking very much like he posed for the Lincoln Memorial. In one particularly pointed scene when Mike was trying to talk Palmer around and called him "David," Palmer said, "I'm the president, Mike. You don't call me by my first name." Mike had the grace to look ashamed.

I liked that President Palmer and Jack talked directly on the phone several times during Day 2, and that Palmer actually gave the order to stop the attack on the three Middle Eastern nations on Jack's word. And that, even though he came around in the end, Mike paid for his disloyalty. Palmer was more gracious with his veep and cabinet than nearly anyone else would have been, although he did succumb to giving them all an enormous "I told you so."

Sherry Palmer (Penny Johnson Jerald) floated through the season manipulating everyone in order to get back into her ex-husband's inner circle, elevating the tension level since we had no way of knowing what her agenda truly is. One of my favorite scenes in Day 2 was the dead of night secret meeting with presidential aide Lynne Kresge (the always wonderful Michelle Forbes), and Sherry Palmer in a fedora.

This wouldn't be a 24 review if I didn't talk about torture

What I like the least about 24 as a series is the use of torture. Day 2 began with a torture scene in Seoul that we at first think is being carried out by some enemy, but it turned out to be the U.S. government. We got corresponding scenes as President Palmer had Roger Stanton (Harris Yulin) tortured by Secret Service agent Steven Culp while Jack Bauer tortured Syed Ali. Yes, I get it, nuke in Los Angeles, but bleah.

Later, in episode 2.19 ("2:00 a.m.-3:00 a.m.," and can I take this opportunity to complain about how much I hate typing the completely indistinguishable-from-one-another 24 episode titles?) Jack was captured by Kingsley's henchmen, stripped naked, viciously cut and burned, and ultimately tazed to death (and of course, revived). Although it was oddly paired with, of all things, Tony and Michelle kissing for the first time in a hallway at CTU. (More about that in the CTU section below.)

We got the clear message that torture worked in the Seoul scene, and later with Palmer. But of course, torture didn't work on Jack, who died without giving them what they wanted. So torture only works if the good guys do it, right? Yeah.

The personal

By the end of Day 2, it became obvious that Kim Bauer should be kept under permanent house arrest for the rest of her life where she would never again endanger herself or others.

So let's see. Estranged from her father after her mother's traumatic death, Kim got a job as a live-in nanny for a couple named Matheson with a little girl named Megan. Discovering that Gary Matheson (Billy Burke) was abusing his wife and daughter, Kim took the injured Megan and ran off. There were cops and hospitals, another climactic car crash, and Kim was menaced by a freaking cougar. She met Lonnie the cute survivalist, whom you just knew would lock her up in his bomb shelter, and then she wound up as a hostage at a liquor store robbery. On top of it all, she spent several episodes grieving because she believed that Jack died when the bomb exploded.

While what happened to Kim here was more interesting than Day 1, it still felt like pointless filler. At least her taste in men improved. Her boyfriend Miguel was mostly pretty cool throughout, and he got a little shocker of a scene when he broke up with Kim on the phone so she wouldn't know that he lost his leg in the car accident.

Meanwhile, at CTU

In Day 1, the reveal of mole after mole was arguably the most suspenseful part of the story. No mole in Day 2, but they certainly had enough to do when CTU was bombed in episode three, resulting in the deaths of, what was it, thirty agents? Despite the explosion, the plucky agents at CTU spent the first half of the season tracking the nuke, and the second half trying to prevent World War Three by retrieving the "Cyprus audio," a recording that proved who was actually behind the nuke.


Tony Almeida and Michelle Dessler (Carlos Bernard and Reiko Aylesworth) carried the CTU part of the story practically by themselves, and they were utterly adorable together. Michelle and her gorgeous corkscrew dangling curls took George Mason's "seize the day" advice and told Tony how she felt about him, and it turned out to be mutual. You wouldn't think a romantic subplot would work on a show like 24, but this one certainly did.

Tony and Michelle supported Jack's herculean efforts to prevent a war to the point of carrying out an actual mutiny against district head Ryan Chappelle. When Tony was about to be caught, he told Michelle to lie about her involvement and he would cover for her, but she refused to let him take the heat alone. It had to be love. Or integrity. Actually, both.

As wonderful as Bernard and Aylesworth were, Xander Berkeley was Day 2's Most Valuable Player. How did they manage to make a genuine hero out of a jackass?


George Mason was deserting his post and taking his cowardly way out of town to save his own life when he got slapped by a little instant karma, inhaled a lethal dose of radiation, and learned he had only days to live. He returned to CTU, resumed command and made a lot of tough decisions, and did it calmly while telling no one that he was dying. His only personal indulgence was to have his estranged son John brought to CTU so that he could give him his savings, hug him goodbye, and apologize for being a bad father.

I thought George's courageous decision to stow away on the Cessna and take over for Jack was quite possibly a return to the idealism of his youth, but no – George revealed that he originally became an agent because it had a better salary. In the end, the only real explanation was that even jerks can love their country and care about others. George could have let Jack sacrifice his life and take the plane down while living out his last days or hours in a comfy bed with a morphine drip or something, but he didn't. George went out in a literal blaze of glory, saving uncounted innocent lives, not to mention Jack. This episode is the best of the second season, and arguably the best episode of the entire series.

Big bads and casting goodness

Along with Carlos Bernard, Reiko Aylesworth and Xander Berkeley, the casting fairy continued to bless 24 with an embarrassment of character actor riches. Sara Gilbert made an impression as Paula Schaeffer, this season's magical computer expert, who died tragically after CTU was bombed. I particularly liked the touching moment where the dying George Mason told the dying Paula that she had saved a lot of lives.

Michael Cudlitz and Daniel Dae Kim played law enforcement types in several episodes, Dean Norris stopped by briefly as a general, Gregg Henry and Brent Sexton were both underused in smaller roles, and Alan Dale was both villainous and believably contrite as the duped vice president Prescott.

Lots of actors from La Femme Nikita also guest starred this season: Douglas O'Keeffe as Eddie, Peter Outerbridge as Jack's torturer, Tobin Bell as Peter Kingsley, and even Eugene Robert Glazer, one of LFN's stars, had brief scenes in two episodes.

Sarah Clarke returned, reprising her role as evil femme fatale Nina Myers. Nina bargained with Jack for her freedom by offering him the location of the nuke, knowing full well that he was outright jonesing to kill her. She even asked President Palmer on the phone for a pardon for killing Jack – in advance, and in front of Jack. It was smart of the writers to bring Nina back in order to resolve the emotional fallout of Day 1's unexpected last minute murder of Teri Bauer, and it worked especially well as a perfect outlet for Jack's fury and grief over Teri. Will Nina be back? You know she will.

Finally, I have to mention Glenn Morshower as secret service agent Aaron Pierce. Although his screen time was minimal, it was also critical, since Aaron believed in Palmer and defied orders, saving the day by getting Palmer a sat phone. No spoilers, but Aaron Pierce had a bigger role in later seasons and I really liked his character and how quietly and calmly Morshower played him.


Notable episodes

"10:00 a.m.-11:00 a.m." (episode 2.3) CTU was designated a secondary target and actually got blown up. Jack was undercover with the bombers and unable to prevent it because the Stanton faction kept critical information from President Palmer.

"10:00 p.m.-11:00 p.m." (episode 2.15) Jack flew the Cessna carrying the nuke to a specified location in the Mohave, unaware that a dying George Mason had stowed away in the plane. As mentioned above, I think this was the best episode of the series. Yes, it was pretty obvious where the plot would probably go when George was poisoned, but it was still very cool. It also made sense that Jack was unwilling to leave George until the last moment, since George was hanging on by a thread and could have passed out at any moment. Before George's reveal, Jack and Kim said goodbye on the phone, and it was one of Elisha Cuthbert's best performances, too. There was something visceral about this episode. It successfully tapped into our biggest fears about terrorist attacks and nuclear weapons.

"2:00 a.m.-3:00 a.m." (episode 2.19) As Palmer underwent a 25th Amendment kangaroo court trial and was stripped from office, Jack was literally stripped naked and tortured to death; he died of electric shock at the end of the episode.

"3:00 a.m.-4:00 a.m." (episode 2.20) I thought this one was an intentional tribute to the 1990 movie Flatliners starring Kiefer Sutherland, as Jack was repeatedly defibrillated back to life.

"5:00 a.m.-6:00 a.m." (episode 2.22) Not a great episode, but there was a scene that made me laugh for five minutes, even though it wasn't technically supposed to be funny. When Kim was alone in the house with murderer Gary Matheson and on the phone with Jack, he told her, "Kim, shoot him. Now." After she did it, Jack asked if Matheson was dead and when he wasn't, Jack told Kim, "I want you to shoot him again now." There was something very Jack Bauer about this scene. Yes, it made sense, it was the only way he could be certain his daughter would live, but still – don't call the cops, don't leave the house, just kill the guy, Kim.


"7:00 a.m.-8:00 a.m." (episode 2.24) The season finale featured Jack Bauer and Sherry Palmer as partners in preventing a war and saving David Palmer's administration. (Did it mean that Sherry was a decent human being deep down, or did she simply realize it was her only way out of a bad situation?) It was tremendous fun that practically everyone left in the cast was listening in as Sherry got Peter Kingsley to admit to engineering the nuke plot, which was followed by an exciting gun battle at the L.A. Coliseum in broad daylight.

Jack, who had been practically superhuman after being shocked to death, started having chest pains and promptly collapsed after he saved the world. And sadly, as President Palmer was giving a news conference, assassin Mia Kirshner from Day 1, who was working for Max the yacht guy, managed to shake Palmer's hand and poison him. I remember being really pissed off by the lack of a feel good ending, since we had to spend the months until season three wondering if Palmer survived this assassination attempt.

Bits and pieces:

— I'm going to make the obvious comment that everyone always makes about how easily Jack Bauer gets around Los Angeles. I lived and worked in Los Angeles for twelve years, and the traffic is consistently insane.

— What was Syed Ali's guy planning to do to Kate Warner with an x-acto knife, and why did he start with her earlobe? Weird.

— Coincidentally, Billy Burke, who played Gary Matheson, also played a character named Miles Matheson in the TV series Revolution. Probably no relation.

— At one point, there was a search for Ryan Chappelle in CTU's two holding rooms. What about Marie Warner, who was also in a holding room? I don't tend to nitpick, but that one jumped out at me.

— In episode two, Jack's height was again listed as 5'11". Kiefer Sutherland is 5'8".

— Tony Almeida sprained his ankle halfway through the season and used crutches afterward somewhat inconsistently. This happened because Carlos Bernard sprained his ankle midway through the season. And this, people, is why having an office sitting alone at the top of a flight of stairs is impractical.

— I noticed while looking around the internet for articles on season two (and not finding very many) that Kim's encounter with the cougar was considered to be the critical low point of Day 2, and possibly the entire series. It was also when my friend Josie Kafka stopped watching the show entirely.

— Every time someone says "within the hour" or "in the last hour," I have to smile.

— My favorite outfit in Day 2 was President Palmer's classy black pinstripe suit with a black and white striped tie.

— As mentioned in my review of Day 1, I considered noting the number of people Jack killed during each season, but lost track. The 24 Wikia has it, though. Jack killed 30 people in "Day 2." That's a lot of people.

— Day 2 ran from 8 a.m. and 8 a.m. and took place eighteen months after Day 1. While it aired in the 2002/2003 television season, it was later established that Day 2 took place in September or October, 2005. When the story began, Jack was "inactive," wearing flannel and sporting a good sized beard.

— The "silent clock" occurred twice in Day 2: when George Mason left CTU for the last time at the end of episode 14, even though he didn't die until the next episode; and the final moment of the season finale after Palmer collapsed.

A few quotes

Jack: "I'm gonna need a hacksaw."
Unbelievably, Jack killed a bad guy in a CTU holding room and cut off his head as a gift for a bad guy in order to reestablish an old cover identity. Yes, nuke in Los Angeles, but just a bit extreme.

George: (re: the nuke) "This is the thing that killed me, Jack. I'd kind of like to be here when they lay it to rest."

Tony: (to Chappelle, in the final episode) "Either fire me or get out of my chair."

To conclude

Despite the cougar, Day 2 is one of the best seasons of 24. Four out of four ticking digital clocks,

Billie
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Billie Doux loves good television and spends way too much time writing about it.

6 comments:

Mark Greig said...

This is definitely the season where my 24 problem developed into a full blown addiction. I would got crazy if I didn't get my weekly fix. Looking back, though, this isn't one of my favourite seasons, mainly because of how overly complicated and silly it became once the bomb goes off. Plus, everything with Kim was just painful to sit through long before we even got to the cougar. It goes without saying that the show really hit its stride once they stopped trying to crowbar her into every season.

Jack's ability to get around LA without ever being stuck in traffic never really bothered me when the series originally aired. But I've been to LA twice since then and now think it would've been a lot more realistic if they'd had him get around by dragon instead.

Billie Doux said...

Mark, I now have a mental image of Kiefer Sutherland soaring over L.A. traffic on a firebreather.

Mark Greig said...

If this was tumblr someone would've photoshopped his head onto Daenerys Targaryen by now.

Juan Alberto Roche Rodríguez said...

Ha! The vampire Angel did exactly that in the comics that continued the story of the series, and named the dragon Cordy. Dragons and L.A. just fits.

Jonny said...

So glad you're reviewing these, Billie. And hey, we're getting into Season 3-5, for my money the best of the 24 years.

I'm a big Xander Berkeley fan and George Mason was one of my favorite 24 characters, so I'll always have a soft spot for this season. Kim, however, was at her most annoying. Everything with her was so utterly severed from the main action that it felt inconsequential. It was like a crazy hallmark movie kept interrupting The Bourne Identity. I remember thinking that Gary Matheson must have super powers with the way he steamrolled over all opposition.

Also, I thought the villains weren't up to much. They didn't establish Peter Kingsley very well, which I guess is why they cast someone as instantly terrifying as Tobin Bell. They explained/killed Max in the 24 video game, which, bleh. Don't introduce plots in the show that are going to be resolved in additional media that I have to pay for.

WZILLA13 said...

As I mentioned in the comments for Season 1, Day 2 of 24 is my favorite (but not by much). From beginning to end, it takes everything that worked so well in Day 1 and amplifies it, solidifying what 24 is all about. Season 1 proved the formula worked, so the sophomore season just took the template and let loose. Here are my random thoughts:

- Jack was intense the first time around, but Teri's death was the perfect catalyst for his transformation into a man who was truly willing to do whatever it takes to get the job done. Some people whine that his methods got too extreme, but they perfectly suit both the character's world and the real world in the aftermath of 9/11.

- That said, the flare to the chest is probably my favorite Jack Bauer kill.

- Even with so much going on, they found the perfect way to weave Nina back into the story without missing a beat.

- I actually don't mind Kim's journey at all, even the cougar (which was recently one-upped by a bear on The Blacklist). Some of the situations she finds herself in are a bit ridiculous, but they're connected just enough to the main plotline that to me they don't feel extraneous. I actually think Kate's side mission with Yusef is sillier than anything Kim faces, but it's still important to the main narrative.

- I also love how Gary Matheson reappears at the end of the season, serving as a perfect reminder that all of these events take place over the course of a single day (something that was easily forgotten back when you had to wait a week for the next episode).

- Another Lost alum that appears this season is John Gries who plays Joe Wald (he was Roger Linus on Lost, also Martin on Supernatural).

- It's always bugged me that they never followed up on Lynn Kresge's fate after her fall in the stairwell.

- George Mason's death is, in my opinion, the most heroic in TV history. True story: when I watched this episode as it originally aired I totally did not see it coming that he would stow away and take over for Jack (not that I thought Jack would actually die or anything). His final scenes/words with Jack (and his son) are just fantastic, especially coming from a borderline scumbag character.

- Every season of 24 has a big midseason transition in terms of plot, and this was no exception: the switch from the nuke to the Cypress audio was pretty seamless.

- I wish David Palmer was a real person, and a real President.

- Conversely, I despise Sherry Palmer - which means Penny Johnson-Gerald was really good at what she does (especially after playing such a nice character on DS9).

- The Reza/Marie twist was perfectly executed; I though Laura Harris was really creepy after her true nature was revealed.

- Kate Warner was my favorite 'companion' for Jack (until Renee came along in Season 7); I was bummed when she got written out in one scene in Season 3.

- Tony and Michelle are two of the best supporting characters in the whole series, and their presence throughout this season is what puts it slightly ahead of Day 5 for me.

- The season-ending cliffhanger was awesome, but the wait for Season 3 was agonizing back in the day. I wonder how it would fly today, when people don't seem to have the patience to wait for anything.

- The 24 video game was actually pretty great, and a clever way to bridge Seasons 2 and 3.

I could write so much more about this amazing season of television, but I'll stop there and start assembling my notes for Day 3 (which is also pretty awesome).