Plot: Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) has been detained by the CIA, but not before Kate Morgan (Yvonne Strahovski) grabs the flight key to have Chloe (Mary Lynn Rajskub) decode it. After Chloe successfully decodes the key, President Heller (William Devane) is made aware that Bauer and the young pilot, Tanner (John Boyega) are both innocent. However, a bigger threat arises as Margot al-Harazi (Michelle Fairley) leaks a video demanding the surrender of Heller for his crimes — in particular the drone strike that killed her husband and innocent bystanders.
Last week we said if 24: Live Another Day didn’t keep the pedal to the metal for a 100mph white knuckle pace, the show would really suffer.
This week, that theory was proven somewhat wrong. Monday’s latest chapter, “3:00pm-4:00pm” showed what could happen when the focus of the series is put on its strongest supporting characters and not on constant run-and-gun action.
The show finally put the a more consistent spotlight on Michelle Fairley’s Margot al-Harazi. The character continues to evolve into a brilliant villain. A zealot, a true believer and ultimately, a master manipulator, Margot is the type of villain that suits a limited-run series like this perfectly. The character will never be one that can combat Jack Bauer with fists, but her mind, her games of human chess and her ability to make anyone do her bidding (including her own daughter whom she brutalized last week), make her as deadly as any villain Bauer has squared off with. Fairley’s performance is spot on — always measured and calculated, never straying into action series theatrics. Fairley, in this writer’s opinion, is a better actress for this part than the series’ original choice, Judy Davis. Davis is a world-class actor, but her history for portraying manic, on the verge of a nervous breakdown characters just doesn’t seem to jive with what’s been written for the Margot character.
One scene that had awful written all over it, but actually came off as genuine and heartfelt was Jack’s reunion with Audrey Boudreau (Kim Raver). This had schmaltz written all over it, but this brief scene was made by the fact Sutherland’s Bauer broke down his gruff exterior and shed a few tears. If the scene had played with Sutherland being all stoic and Raver sobbing, it would’ve been terrible. Kudos to the directing and editing in the scene because everything was kept short and simple — remember there’s an impending drone attack, nobody’s got time for prolonged waterworks.
The episode is not without its warts though. The whole Margot/son-in-law storyline seemed a bit unnecessary. It is a minor plot point used in order to get over Margot as a villain, but logically it was a bit wonky. The son-in-law is needed to pilot the drones but we never know why. Margot’s son is a computer whiz and actually learns how to use the drones by merely observing the son-in-law for a few minutes. Well, if that’s the case couldn’t he have learned elsewhere? And the son-in-law knew his mother-in-law was a terrorist and he knew the mission at hand, why all of a sudden the cold feet? The missteps in logic here won’t matter in the long run of the series, but it is a definite headscratcher.
Then there’s the mercurial case of President Heller. This series has not been able to establish a tone for him. He’s suffering from Azlheimer’s then he’s sharp as a tack; he’s a man of action, then he’s lackadaisical. Seriously, watch his performance once al-Hazari makes her intentions known. The character acts and reacts like everything’s no big deal. Maybe they want him to seem cool under pressure, but you can’t have the leader of the free world be so “whatevs” about a possible strike against London. His interaction with the Prime Minister came off so nonchalant that it was nearly illogical. There’s a lot that can be done with this character, but the writers don’t seem to know which way to take him.
While “3:00pm-4:00pm” may be a step back for 24: Live Another Day in terms of action and intensity, it was able to overcome a lot of earlier series stumbling blocks and let performances fill the void left by no action sequences. The pacing and intensity of the night was very well done and it set the table nicely for the “classic 24” storyline — Jack Bauer goes out and kicks terrorist ass.