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After watching the opening of the latest season of 24, I was thinking how much I really enjoyed it and how it seemed to be an improvement on earlier seasons. But I often find that a new season starts fresh, and then a few episodes in loses its momentum. So I thought I'd go back and try to recall my initial thoughts on the opening two episodes of each season.
The first episode of season 1 (and 24) I ever saw was actually episode 4. I didn't understand a lot of the storyline, but the episode was reasonably self-contained and enjoyable even without context. I loved the atmos - lots of dingy back alleys, and CTU was a small affair with whispering going on behind computer screens. Also, a character introduced and developed over the course of the episode was killed off by the end, which I loved!
I then caught the end of episode 1 on a repeat, and the thing that sticks in my mind was Mandy getting the bomb out of the fire extinguisher. This wasn't long after 9/11 when plane security was at its height, so I was really impressed at the baddies managing to cleverly sneak a bomb onto a plane. It was very current, clever, and captured my imagination.
Episode 2 was equally thrilling. The body count of Scott Baylor and Richard Walsh was proving no character was safe, the shootout in the office was awesome, and I was hooked. I was quite young at the time, and the grittiness of some of the stuff that happened (drugging up girls, breaking their arms with crowbars, cutting off people's fingers) meant that it was a step above some of the spy/action stuff I'd seen before.
I remember being quite confused by the opening episode of Season 2 - I didn't quite follow everything that was going on with the connection between Joe Wald and Marshall Goren and the bomb, so the shooting of him and hacksaw line was just a bit "er...whats going on?" but after season 1 I was so into 24 I would have lapped up anything they did.
I liked episode 2 a lot more. Everything made sense, we had a cool fight bit with Jack, as well as some more fighting with Kim/Gary which I enjoyed. The ending had me grinning, after finding out they were gonna bomb CTU!
Before watching the Season 3 opening, I had had what happened in it explained to me, so perhaps my judgement is off for this one. I remember wondering how they could possibly make a 3 year time gap, Kim working at CTU, and Jack on heroin work, but they pulled it off surprisingly well. The shootout/actiony bits were solid, the Kyle singer stuff dragged a little, and I really didn't like the new CTU set (it had turned into futuristic star trek style stuff in the tech room), but I was interested enough to want to know what happened next.
Episode 1 of Season 4 was a good one. The guy handcuffed to the suitcase was intriguing, Jack's situation and return to CTU was cool, the capture of Sherek and then the 7am/8am and second attack stuff made for a really tight episode. I was initially not a fan of Audrey's character, but since have come to love her (due to Kim Raver's great acting imo).
Episode 2 carried on the trend and was also really good. I liked Jack getting beaten down by Ronnie Lobell (Jack being bested by someone is something it seems the writers are scared of doing now). Again, the killing of Lobell with little fanfare was awesome, as I thought he was gonna be a major character. All the pieces worked well together here, and it was good that they had trimmed the fat and not carried over characters from season 3 who weren't relevant to the storyline.
After the first half of episode 1 I was so amazingly into Season 5. It had such great potential..."who is killing off the people who know Jack is still alive?". I really thought that it would be a personal season where Jack himself was the target maybe, something cool would happen without a big WMD threatening the life of everyone ever. I loved the killing off of Palmer, Michelle, and (i thought) Tony. The presidential stuff was cool too, with a possible conspiracy going on with Martha.
After a really cool action piece at the oil refinery, the quality started to slip...I liked Jack killing Haas after one episode (I thought he'd be more major, so cool twist), but to find out the reason for the 4 murders at the end of the first episode was a bit of a let down. Then to find out it was just about Palmer and not Jack was a further let down.
Then episode 2, which had cool stuff of Jack sneaking around the FBI and trying to solve the mystery, but the storyline started to spiral out of control. Killing the only 4 people who knew Jack was alive, in order to frame Jack? How does that work? I can see it now:
- Conspirator 1: So, we kill the only people who know he's alive, and then everyone will suspect him.
- Conspirator 2: I see, so they are the only people to know he's alive?
- Conspirator 1: That's right, yes.
- Conspirator 2: And therefore...the only people who know that these 4 are the only people to know he's alive, are these 4 people.
- Conspirator 1: I guess so.
- Conspirator 2: So once we've killed these 4 people, who will suspect that he had anything to do with it?
- Conspirator 1: Oh bugger...
The way they tried to explain that was laughable - Curtis intercepted a phone call between Palmer, Michelle and Tony, on Day 4. This is the day when Palmer was interfacing with CTU all the time, the day that air force one was shot down, terrorists stole a nuke and melted down a nuclear power plant, or as he calls it "The day Jack Bauer died", and after seeing a phone call between these three people declares "it must have been something about Jack". hmm, really?
By the end of episode 2, my face was in my hands. Another same-old terrorist attack, Jack in the middle of it, yawn yawn yawn. 10 episodes' worth of potential storyline squashed into 2, back to the standard stuff, I was let down by this.
I loved the ending of Season 5 - it was a bold move by the writers, and I couldn't wait to see how they would tackle the challenge of having Jack in China in Season 6. I thought maybe he wouldn't be the focus so much, they'd bring in new interesting characters, I was looking forward to a new and different season. Little did I know...
From the off, we are introduced to a "parallel universe" America where terrorist attacks happen every tuesday and nobody is brave enough to leave the house. I was instantly put off. The opening sequence, an excuse to show off their pyrotechnics, had zero connection to the storyline. The challenge of bringing Jack back from China was painfully chickened out of, with just "oh yeah, he's back now". Wayne Palmer as president was ridiculous. Jack, the "husband and father just trying to do the right thing" of season 1, had now turned into this ridiculous character that no-one can possibly empathise with after 20 months of apparent solid torture. Morris O'Brian was just a bit irritating, too.
In episode 2, I have to address the storyline of what's going on. The US government decides to get their intelligence from a terrorist, not by bringing him in and questioning him, but by letting him set up his own little private torture base and trusting implicitly whatever he tells them. And yeah, he's given you a residential house where he says the "real" terrorist is. The only option is to blow that house to smithereens. The terrorist wouldn't lie to you. I hear it's standard practise to firebomb housing estates in order to track down terrorism suspects. That makes perfect sense.
I really enjoyed the opening of Season 7 (especially so after being put off by the mess that was 24: Redemption). It felt really fresh, and I really bought the Washington location (they did some really clever and subtle things with that). Although the Tony return was kind of hokey, if you went with it there was interesting stuff going on. Senator Mayer was a bit of straw man the writers had set up, and I hated that they had "got rid" of CTU by just renaming it FBI, but in all the first two episodes were good. I enjoyed the CIP device threat, despite it having recently been done in Die Hard, it was a bit more interesting than another WMD. The presidential conspiracy stuff was not bad either.
Opening scene of episode 1, was cool. Jack with his granddaughter was awesome too - I liked how he finally had something good to live for, was more of a relatable character and less of a superhero. Also, the assassination threat harked back to Season 1 which I liked. As the episode progressed, it was still alright, but I was noticeable unconvinced by "New York", as the CGI was really in your face and not very good, and I started recognising the same alley that had featured in seasons past. The action bits were cool, but the ending "assassin has someone on the inside" was a bit of an anticlimax.
Episode 2 got worse - introduction of the Dana Walsh storyline, more CTU office politics, etc. In terms of set design, CTU took another big lurch towards the starship enterprise in this season too. The "mole" thing was more of the same. I still had a little hope for this season by the end of episode 2 (something that was quickly got rid of by eps 3 & 4 :P).
Live Another Day
Again, the change of location made this opening feel really fresh. I liked Jack taking less of a major role in the episode, the action bits were cool, Belcheck being a good guy was a nice surprise for me after the trailers, and I thought Kate Morgan was acted really well.
Bits I didn't like - Kate Morgan's "why didn't he go to the roof?" part, her "going rogue" twice (which would have been much more effective if she'd talked her way through those situations), and generally trying to make her into Jack as much as possible. An old complaint of Jack being in control all the time and no-one ever getting the better of him - and also if he wanted to get caught, the action scene of him shooting at agents was a little redundant. I also didn't like Kiefer Sutherland's acting like the terminator in this episode.
Episode 2 kept up the awesome though, although the "mummy" line at the end was a bit cheesy. All in all, a really strong start to the season though!