24 season analysis: part 3

In continuing with my viewing and subsequent analysis of the seasons of 24, I have moved on to Season 4 in which Habib Mirwan institutes plans to kill secretary of defense James Heller, meltdown 104 nuclear reactors, take out Air Force One, obtain the nuclear football and set off a nuclear warhead on U.S. soil.

The season starts out rather unspectacularly with Jack Bauer being now a department of defense agent, mostly a guard for Secretary Heller. He comes into CTU for a meeting with new director Erin Driscoll when Heller can’t make it. Obviously, Jack then gets thrust into action and can’t say no, nor does he want to. Aside from Jack’s rescue mission into the bunker where Audrey Raines and Heller are being held by the terrorists, the first eight episodes are very weak. The Araz family story blows, Erin Driscoll as CTU director is even worse and the characters that you came to love thru Season 3 — Tony, Michelle, President Palmer — are nowhere to be found for the most part.

There are a couple of things it does have going for it early: no lame side story involving Kim Bauer as we discover that her and Chase are living together and no longer working for CTU and the makings of a promising plot.

As the season enters the backstretch (post episode 12), things improve dramatically. First, the Araz family story is pretty much finished off and the story moves on to Habib Mirwan who will soon become one of, if not THE best villains in 24 history. His commanding presence, planning, intelligence, hatred for Americans and just plain attitude make him a villain you fear but also — at least in my opinion — come to respect. More than any of the other villains the show has seen, I find myself at times rooting for Mirwan to succeed because what he says about America is exactly true and the government should be punished [Now, obviously I’m saying this in pure TV, fictional, mindset. I would never support a terrorist attack against this country in reality. But sometimes, like in a good movie, I find myself rooting for the bad guy *shrugs*]. In addition, Erin Driscoll leaves CTU (her schizophrenic daughter commits suicide to 24 viewers’ appreciation) and Tony Almeida, who started the day as an unemployed recovering alcoholic, steps in to replace her on a provisional basis. Also, Curtis Manning’s character starts his ascent to becoming one of the best in 24 history, we get a break from Chloe O’Brien (who returns much more badass (see episode 19)), Edgar stops being annoying and actually becomes kinda likeable and Michelle Dessler returns to head up CTU.

In the final eight episodes the drama is at its peak and as high a level as any of the previous seasons. We are introduced to the character of Bill Buchanan (another of 24’s best), David Palmer returns and there’s multiple great scenes and thrilling plot twists. Jack’s decision to pull the doctor off of Paul Raines and onto the Chinese Lee dude causing Paul to die while Audrey is stricken with horror and then Jack administering CPR for about 5 minutes postmortem before being shoved away by Curtis and coming to full realization of what he just did — is classic. One of my favorites — which probably gets a lot less fan fare — is also the episode where the married couple out camping in the Mojave desert finds the nuclear football and acts as well as you can expect a couple of naive civilians to act but with so much more courage. Absolutely love it.

I have finished disc five and so have the final four episodes to view but certainly it is time to rank the seasons thru 4.

Best Overall Season:

  1. 4
  2. 3
  3. 2
  4. 1

I hate to have it come out to being every new season better than the one before but that’s just the way it is. This is coming from a person who truly thought that season 2 was a smidge ahead of one for the best of 24 not four months ago. It’s just now after a careful re-viewing, some of the mistakes and flaws of the early seasons come to light. I just think overall, season 4 has the most drama and combination of best characters and acting performances. What makes some of the others weak (main reasons) are lame side stories for Kim Bauer (see season 1 & 2), weak writing as far as character and plot development (in comparison to the later seasons) and less overall drama. Having said all of this, I just want to make it clear how close the ranking is. I have season 3 just a notch below 4, and I mean literally right there with it. It really just comes down to Mirwan being greater than Steven Saunders as a terrorist threat.

Best final disc (final 4 episodes):

  1. 4
  2. 1
  3. 3
  4. 2

Best first half of season:

  1. 3
  2. 2
  3. 1
  4. 4

Best second half of season:

  1. 4
  2. 3
  3. 1
  4. 2

As always, I want to hear your input and feedback. I will be watching season 5 this coming week and should have part 4 of my analysis up by next week so stay tuned.

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