24: Season 3 – Premiere (2003) TV Review

Jack Bauer is having the longest day of his life — again. This time around the brother of an incarcerated Mexican drug lord has threatened to unleash a deadly virus on the populace of Los Angeles unless the United States releases his big brother. Making things more complicated is the fact that Jack (Kiefer Sutherland) was the one who brought the drug lord to justice, the result of a year’s worth of undercover work that has left, it would seem, Jack not completely unaffected. And lest we forget, it seems U.S. President David Palmer (Dennis Haysbert) hasn’t completely recovered from his encounter with a certain female assassin, a scene that closed out “24’s” Season Two in style.

It’s 3 years after the events of Season 2, and all the regulars are back for another long day, including lead Kiefer Sutherland, whose counter-terrorist agent is now joined at L.A.’s CTU by daughter Kim (Elisha Cuthbert), now a systems analyst. Jack also has a new partner in eager buck Chase Edmunds (James Badge Dale), who is secretly seeing bottled blonde Kim. And although they were mostly at each other’s throats last year, CTU co-workers Tony Almeida (Carlos Bernard) and Michelle Dessler (Reiko Aylesworth) are now husband and wife. And oh yeah, the President is on the re-election trail.

The Season 3 premiere shows up purportedly without commercial interruption — that is, if you don’t count the 15-minute Ford truck commercial that bookends the episode. (Ford is the show’s main sponsor, if you haven’t figured it out.) The episode itself, once it begins, runs for a straight 45 minutes, and is, as expected, jam-packed with subplots quietly churning away in the background waiting to explode in their own future episodes. The main plot is the sadistic drug lord’s plans — his people will unleash the virus on L.A. if their boss isn’t released in 6 hours. With 24 episodes to fill up, does anyone think our “A” plot is only one plot, and not the plot? I think it goes without saying, especially in light of the terrorism-cum-conspiracy storyline of Season 2.

Returning as our lead is Sutherland as the veteran Jack, looking a lot more frail than we’re used to seeing him. In the three years since Season 2, Jack and Kate Warner’s relationship has fizzled, and Jack is harboring a dark secret. By episode’s end, we learn that Jack’s big secret is that he’s a drug addict, and has been for some time. The source of the addiction is clearly Jack’s yearlong undercover stint trying to bust the drug lord, who claims a kinship to the man who sent him up the river. A sort of “I’m going to kill you one day you bastard” kinship, that is. The drug lord is played by Joaquim de Almedia, who also played a Mexican drug lord in Robert Rodriguez’s “Desperado” and was recently seen in the cancelled NBC Mexican drug cartel series “Kingpin”, playing a Columbian drug lord. Get typecast much, Joaquim?

Other subplots involve the usual round of bickering and ego trips by CTU personnel, including a grating (and gay?) analyst who expresses dislike for Kim Bauer because of her status as Tori Spelling (i.e. nepotism by way of Jack). Although Kim does prove that she has what it takes to work here, including some serious skills with a computer keyboard. And for those who moaned at Kim’s portrayal of a perpetual victim in Season 2, Kim’s new position with CTU should offer the writers other reasons for keeping her in the storyline other than getting her into yet another damsel-in-distress situation, which was often the case last year.

There’s also signs of a power struggle between the demanding Jack and CTU boss Tony Almeida, who is looking for career advancement with the CIA, a move that may or may not put a chink in his marriage to Michelle. It’s learned that Michelle was hoping to transfer over to the CIA along with Tony, but things didn’t pan out. Tony is told that by the end of the day (the end of the season, that is), Tony must make the decision rather to accept the CIA job or remain with Michelle at CTU. With a killer virus running around, I’m not sure if the writer thinks we’ll care about this little problem of theirs.

On the Presidential side, Palmer is having an affair with his doctor, a white woman, much to the dismay of his press aide, who may or may not be his brother. (Palmer mentioned something about their mother?) At the end of the episode, clips of the second episode features a clash between Palmer and the aide over the doctor. Clashes, it seems, will be the rule of thumb between Palmer and his aide, as the aide is on the arrogant side, and likes to push people around, including the President of the Free World. How long before Palmer tells him to shove it?

It may be obvious that this isn’t much of a review. The fact is, it’s somewhat hard to review a show like “24” by just one episode, because frankly, unlike a lot of shows out there “24” plays by its own rules. And as such, evaluating the episode on a per-episode basis is foolhardy at best, and completely impossible at worst. And so, the above rundown will have to suffice.

Now, go buy a Ford or something.

CAST: Kiefer Sutherland …. Jack Bauer
Vanessa Ferlito …. Claudia
Sarah Wynter …. Kate Warner
Carlos Bernard …. Tony Almeida
Elisha Cuthbert …. Kim Bauer
Dennis Haysbert …. President David Palmer
James Badge Dale …. Chase Edmunds
Reiko Aylesworth …. Michelle Dessler

Buy 24: Season 3 on DVD