24: Day 5 Review

President Logan: "It's been a helluva day."

(This review includes massive spoilers!)

Day 5 is my favorite season of 24, probably because it was more character-driven and the interaction more personal than usual. Plus it featured the best villain in the entire series and as we all know, a hero is only as good as his villain.

I have to be honest, though. 24 almost lost me forever when the premiere began with the murders of former president David Palmer and former CTU director Michelle Dessler. Killing off two of their most popular characters certainly gave Jack a strong emotional impetus to track down whoever was behind it, but I'm not sure that 24 as a series ever really recovered from their loss. When the season originally aired, I was thrown because I couldn't believe they had done this to us. I even thought briefly that the killings had been faked for some reason.

This season's first MacGuffin was twenty canisters of military grade nerve gas. Starting with a hostage drama at the airport, the nerve gas went through several villainous hands during the season and resulted in an attack on a shopping mall and the takeover of a local gas company, as well as an attack on CTU itself. Later in the season, the focus shifted to a recording that proved that President Logan was involved in both Palmer's assassination and the acquisition of the nerve gas by Russian separatists.

The political

At first, President Charles Logan appeared to be the same incompetent, easily led president we met during Day 4; it took most of the season for his true nature to be revealed. Although often honest about his own shortcomings, Logan was prone to tantrums and obsessed with how his actions would be perceived by the public. He showed how morally bankrupt he was when he allowed the attack on the Russian president's limo, was talked into sacrificing 800 lives during the mall attack, and when he ordered a fully loaded passenger plane shot down because Jack and the recording were on it.

It took many episodes for me to suspect that vice president Hal Gardner (Ray Wise) was behind Day 5's terrorist attacks; a big clue was his joy at the prospect of instituting martial law. That was really good writing because by bringing the audience to strongly suspect Gardner (who was innocent), it was only one more believable leap to Logan himself as the ultimate bad guy. Gregory Itzin was nominated for an Emmy for his exceptional work this season as Charles Logan.

I always thought they cast Gregory Itzin because he looked like
the love child of Richard Nixon and George W. Bush
Jean Smart was also nominated for her phenomenal performance as First Lady Martha Logan. From the moment she was introduced in the premiere, plunging her head into a sink to ruin her hairdo and then trying to interrupt a presidential news conference with water running down her neck, it was clear that she had very interesting emotional problems. Throughout the season, Logan alternated between asking Martha for her support and opinion, and outright dismissing everything she said.

There's no question that 24 is a guy show, but there's a feminist streak running through Day 5. The underestimated and somewhat crazy Martha was the one who prevented the assassination of the Russian president and first lady, not to mention a possible world war, simply by insisting on getting into their limo for the ride to the airport. And in the end, she was the one who brought down her husband.


One of my favorite things about Day 5 was how Martha's relationship with Secret Service agent Aaron Pierce grew as her marriage disintegrated. It began when Aaron insisted on getting in the limo with her because he could sense that something was wrong. Later, when Aaron disappeared, Martha refused to accept everyone's attempts to calm her down and insisted on looking for him. She rose to the occasion and killed one of her husband's minions to save Aaron's life. By the end of the season, I was emotionally invested in them as a couple and wanted them to run off together and live happily ever after.

The personal

At the start of Day 5, Jack was living a quiet life under the name Frank Flynn, renting a room from single mother Diane Huxley (Connie Britton) and her annoying 15-year-old son Derek. In the first few episodes, Derek followed Jack and wound up as one of the hostages at the airport because he thought Jack was hiding something harmful from Diane, which now that I think about it, he was. To some extent, Derek represented us, the audience, as he was dragged into Jack's insane life and saw it the way an outsider would.

It seemed like Jack might have had a genuine connection with Diane Huxley, but instead, he wound up romantically reuniting with Audrey. That was okay with me because I liked Audrey a lot more this season than last, mostly because she got to be herself rather than just Heller's daughter or Paul Raines' ex-wife. (See above re: the feminist streak in Day 5.)

Meanwhile, at CTU

There is always interoffice conflict at CTU, but it reached its height during Day 5 as Lynn McGill from Division (Sean Astin, in a terrific performance) took over, and Bill, Curtis, Audrey, Chloe and Edgar found themselves forced to ally against him.


After Itzin and Smart, Sean Astin was probably this season's guest star MVP. Even though he looked like a teddy bear (I'm trying to avoid a hobbit reference here), Lynn McGill's constant need for validation and respect expressed itself in dictatorial micromanaging. But he was far from a one-note character; Lynn saved the day twice. Because he insisted on reviewing everything, he picked up on Jack's expired "flank two position" duress code, saving numerous lives during the airport siege. And later, when the unthinkable happened and CTU was attacked with nerve gas, it was Lynn's sacrifice that saved even more lives. (More below in "Notable episodes.")

Love the expression on Chloe's face
Day 5 was the season where Chloe backed up Jack not only at CTU, but from Wayne Palmer's parking garage and Bill Buchanan's dining room. I particularly loved how, during the latter scenes, Chloe gave Bill orders that pointedly ended with the word "Sir," because who wouldn't love to give their boss orders? After Bill allowed himself to be arrested in order to provide cover for her, Chloe set up shop at a local bar, where an obnoxious drunk hit on her at the worst possible moment. So she tazed him. Of course she did.

Big bads and casting goodness

Day 5 also featured a terrific performance by Peter Weller as Christopher Henderson, a former CTU field ops director who was once Jack's mentor. Henderson's perfidy and complicated motives that actually revolved around patriotism powered a lot of the season's action, including the attempted murders of Jack himself, Wayne Palmer and Audrey Raines. The scene where Henderson cut one of Audrey's arteries in order to stop Jack was a standout. As she walked to Jack with blood pouring down her arm, I really thought it was going to be the end of her.

Audrey was wearing a white coat, too. That somehow made it more shocking
Day 5 also featured Julian Sands, who did a great deal of villainous heavy lifting throughout the season as the terrorist leader Bierko. (I loved that Jack ended up killing Bierko using only his legs. I don't know – sometimes I can be callous and strange.)




Several other villains came and went, including Mark Sheppard as a Russian separatist who initially acquired the nerve gas (seen above talking to another bad guy played by Patrick Bauchau); Geraint Wyn Davies as Nathanson, a mysterious Bond-like giver of orders; Timothy Omundson in a brief role as one of the terrorists; Jeff Kober as the man who actually pulled the trigger on Palmer; and Paul McCrane, an unnamed character that appeared in the later episodes as the representative of a mysterious cabal that was giving Logan orders. When things started falling apart for Logan, Paul McCrane's character actually ordered Logan to commit suicide. Who orders a president to commit suicide?

(I'm leaving out Paul McCrane's character name because it's a spoiler. See my review of Day 6, coming soon.)

There were lots of notable good guys this season, too. D.B. Woodside returned as Wayne Palmer, who actually backed up Jack in an action sense for a couple of episodes; William Devane returned briefly as Secretary of Defense Heller; and Jayne Atkinson debuted as Karen Hayes of Homeland Security, who arrived to take over and shut down CTU after the nerve gas attack at the behest of Vice President Gardner. Hayes started out as the enemy but switched to the side of the good guys when she realized what was really going on. I enjoyed her subtle flirtation with Bill Buchanan.

I also really enjoyed the episode with Henry Ian Cusick as an undercover German intelligence agent who was sleeping with his target, played by Stana Katic. I remember when this season initially aired being impressed with both of these actors. Of course, later they both hit it big with shows of their own.

Finally, this season included my favorite crossover from La Femme Nikita, Carlo Rota as Chloe's ex-husband, Morris O'Brian. Rota played continuing character Mick Schtoppel in fifteen episodes of La Femme Nikita.

Notable episodes


"7:00 a.m.-8:00 a.m." (episode 5.1): The season literally started off with a bang that truly upset a lot of fans: the assassination of former president David Palmer, followed by an explosion that killed Michelle Dessler and critically injured Tony Almeida. A terrible thing to do to the fans of this show, although I loved how Chloe walked up to her car, looked at it, instantly put the pieces together, ran and called Jack for help. Also loved that Jack stole a helicopter and flew to Chloe's rescue, too.

"6:00 p.m.-7:00 p.m." (episode 5.12): As the sun went down, a terrorist planted a canister of nerve gas in CTU's ventilation system, and unbelievably, it went off, killing dozens of CTU agents. Trapped in the sealed situation room, most of the cast watched helplessly as Edgar Stiles came into the main room too late, and died in front of them.

"7:00 p.m.-8:00 p.m." (episode 5.13) In a continuation of the exceptional episode 12, everyone still alive at CTU was trapped in four safe zones – the situation room, infirmary, director's office, and a holding room. Jack, knowing he would certainly die, tried to get to the critical workstation where the gas could be vented before the seals failed but couldn't reach it, so he had to ask Lynn McGill in the holding room to do it. What an exceptional death scene, made even more poignant since Lynn knew that the attack on CTU had only succeeded because he hadn't reported that his sister had stolen his key card in an earlier episode.

With her characteristic poor timing, Kim Bauer returned for episodes 12 and 13, correctly observing that when she was with her father, bad stuff tended to happen. And in the infirmary, Tony Almeida died after trying to kill Henderson with a hypo, which Henderson managed to turn on him.

"9:00 pm.-10:00 p.m." (episode 5.15): Jack had to interrogate Audrey so that no one else would do it. Aaron Pierce saved Wayne Palmer's life. Bierko set off the nerve gas at the Wilshire Gas Co. and Jack stopped its distribution by setting off an explosion.

"5:00 a.m.-6:00 a.m." (episode 5.23): Jack and Henderson were forced to team up to take down the terrorists in the submarine, ultimately resulting in Henderson's death. Martha, Aaron, Mike and Jack decided to bring down the president.

"6:00 a.m.-7:00 a.m." (episode 5.24): I remember how I was on the edge of my seat when I saw this finale the first time. The idea of Jack kidnapping the president and trying to make him talk would have seemed fantastical if we hadn't been led so skillfully to this point. Jack's failure followed by Martha's success was pretty much perfect drama, as was Logan being arrested as he was giving a speech in front of David Palmer's flag-draped coffin.


Again, though, I hated the cliffhanger, with Jack taken by the Chinese in the last few minutes of the season. Jack's last words to his captors were, "I know how this works." Which was what Christopher Henderson said right before Jack killed him.

Bits and pieces

— Despite its success, I thought this season was when 24 started to repeat itself: the ultimate terrorist motivation was control of oil; CTU directors keep ordering Jack's arrest; the nerve gas attack was like the Cordilla virus at the hotel; one of the bad guys was unexpectedly killed by his romantic interest; and so on. This tends to happen in a long-running series, though.

— The Vice President's "curfew," a.k.a. martial law that wasn't called martial law, helped alleviate the L.A. traffic issue. I particularly liked how it allowed the emergency landing of the hijacked airplane on an L.A. freeway, something that could never have happened under normal circumstances. Good writing there.

— The submarine scenes were actually filmed on the USS Topeka in San Diego, with some real life crew members as extras.

— I didn't even notice, but Senator John McCain had a non-speaking, uncredited cameo as a staffer in episode 7.

— Close-ups revealed that Gregory Itzin has multiple piercings in his ear, something that would be very unlike President Logan.

— At one point there was a reference to "Jane Espenson from Accounting." That was because David Fury was one of the co-executive producers of 24 that season. David Fury and Jane Espenson were both writers on Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Jack killed 39 people in Day 5.

— Day 5 took place 18 months after Day 4, in September or October 2011. It was the third year of the Keeler/Logan administration. Or I suppose it ended up as the Keeler/Logan/Gardner administration.

— Edgar's sad death in episode 12 gave us this season's only "silent clock." Chloe's devastated reaction to Edgar's death made it even sadder, since her character rarely showed emotion other than exasperation.


— After I finish each of these season reviews, I wonder: did I say enough good things about Kiefer Sutherland? Probably not. But he's the glue that holds this series together, and I thought he was particularly good in Day 5, especially in the way he expressed his grief for David Palmer, and how he simply asked his Chinese captors to just go ahead and kill him.

Quotes:

Jack (to Derek) "Let's get something straight, kid. The only reason you're still conscious is because I don't want to carry you."

Kim: (to Jack) "You know, there's something wrong with people like you."

Bill Buchanan (to Miles Papazian): "You have no idea what you're dealing with, you little ass kisser."

Aaron: (to President Logan) "There is nothing that you have said or done that is acceptable to me in the least. You're a traitor to this country and a disgrace to your office, and it's my duty to see that you're brought to justice for what you've done. Is there anything else, Charles?"

This might be my favorite speech in the entire series. According to the 24 wiki, Glenn Morshower ad-libbed that last line, which is awesome.

Chloe: "Listen, Jack, I don't mean to put added pressure on you, but if you don't have a confession by then, we'll all be arrested for treason."

My favorite season. 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.

3 comments:

Jonny said...

I'm in complete agreement, Billie. Day 5 was my favorite too. It was so tightly-plotted (even if we did get the standard annoying 24 teenager in stupid Derek), so wonderfully put-together, and the twists were genuinely shocking. It also had the best villains the series has ever had. Itzin was so wonderful as Logan. He managed to make this vaguely comedic, incompetent figure into a believable mastermind. There was an odd consistency to the character, where even as a schemer, he was still beset by worries and fears.

Jean Smart was such a stand-out too, one of my all-time favorite characters. I loved that she took down Logan, albeit with Jack's help. You're right; everyone underestimated her. Logan turned into a full-scale abuser in his final scene, threatening to medicate her into compliance like so many men have done to so many women. It was tremendously cathartic to see him arrested at the funeral of the man he had murdered.

And Peter Weller was brilliant too. Henderson was cruel and clever and the perfect foil to Jack. God, I loved so much about this season. I didn't even mind that David Palmer died since it kicked off such a great season of television.

Also, wasn't Ray Wise a great piece of casting as a red herring? He's so evil in everything else, of course we'd consider him the likely villain. Also, kind of a Robocop reunion: Weller, Wise and McCrane wee all in this season. And in later seasons we'll get the underrated Kurtwood Smith.

Billie Doux said...

Robocop reunion! Of course! I was wondering why I kept thinking of Robocop while watching this season. :)

You're right -- the twists were all so surprisingly and so incredibly good. It was an entire season of "I can't believe they did that."

WZILLA13 said...

Looking back on Day 5 is always interesting for me; back in 2006 I watched it with someone who I was madly in love with, so revisiting the season means revisiting that relationship in a way (it's funny how a TV show can do that). Nevertheless, it remains one of the series' finest (24) hours, and here's why:

- Killing off David Palmer in the opening minutes was perhaps the boldest move this show - or any other - pulled off. I remember feeling a bit of dread right before the shot was fired, and I was in complete state of shock, anger, denial, etc. in the minutes that followed. Part of me still wishes it had been some sort of hoax (they considered bringing him back at the end of Day 6), but it would've cheapened the moment. It was fitting that Palmer in a way had a hand in bringing down Logan by the end of the day.

- While I came to terms with Pres. Palmer's demise, the loss of Michelle (and later Tony) still feels like, dare I say, overkill. I get that they were targeting the few who knew of Jack's continued existence, but the deaths of so many core characters is what keeps this season from surpassing Day 2 for me.

- I think in my thoughts on Day 2 I claimed that Kate Warner was the only Jack love interest I liked pre-Renee, but I forgot about Diane; maybe it's just because I adore Connie Britton - and despise Audrey - but I was sad to see her go so soon (at least she lived).

- Mark Sheppard seems to pop up on every show I enjoy, so it was only a matter of time before he showed up on 24. Jeff Kober too.

- I've always felt bad for the mechanic who was forced to drill into the nerve gas canisters and then killed anyway.

- Some really intense set pieces in this season, from the airport to the mall and CTU; like the virus in Season 3, the notion of an invisible death gas is pretty scary.

- Speaking of, I had really warmed up to Edgar and they killed him off; my wife actually cried when he dropped dead. Lynn McGill's end was pretty sad as well. Tony's "death" was just frustrating, particularly that it didn't warrant the silent clock (which may have been a clue that he would be brought back someday, but I doubt it).

- Great to see Kim return, even if it was at the worst possible time.

- Speaking of resurrections, I was certain that Heller was a goner when his car went off the cliff.

- Am I a monster for loving the scene where Jack shoots Henderson's wife in the leg?

- The fact that they got Peter Weller - who had all but retired from acting to teach Roman history - to play Henderson speaks to the might of 24 in 2006. That and the wheelbarrow full of Emmys.

- Julian Sands is no slouch either.

- I wasn't as enamored with Martha Logan as many people seem to be, but I liked that she was instrumental in bringing down her husband. Charles was a truly slimy, despicable villain, which made his downfall (in front of Palmer's body) all the more satisfying.

- Nobody is more deserving of all the praise for Day 5 than Kiefer Sutherland; he absolutely killed it (and a ton of bad guys) this season.

- I felt the same sense of dread I did in the first few minutes of the day in the last few, when Jack went to take a "phone call from Kim" and ended up on a slow boat to China. Dammit!


And now we prepare to jump off a cliff into Day 6; I guess it's possible I couldn't view Season 6 with an open mind because that relationship I spoke of ended before it premiered.... No, it's just the worst season of 24.