24 Retrospective: Day 9 (Live Another Day)

Fox just couldn’t stop. Much like The X-Files and soon Prison Break, 24 returned after years off the air. In this case, a 12-episode miniseries called 24: Live Another Day. Sounds like a knockoff of the Bond movie Die Another Day. While 24 had run its course and definitely didn’t need a continuation, I welcomed it with opened arms. The producers and Kiefer Sutherland teased a movie for years, but this was the best alternative. I personally don’t think 24 would have translated well to the feature film format. It would’ve felt weird if it weren’t in real time, plus 24: Redemption worked within two hours because it was a smaller story.

My biggest fear was that Day 9 would be mediocre or just straight up bad like the later seasons. Day 8 was definitely not the best. Fortunately, while I didn’t find it as entertaining as the first five seasons, I saw Live Another Day as a major improvement. I still do.

So what does Live Another Day do better than other seasons? Well, for starters, it has a good villain, Margot Al-Harazi, portrayed very believably by Michelle Fairley of Game of Thrones fame. Margot has ties to the Middle East, yes, but she herself isn’t from there. Using drones as a threat is also different and timely. It’s not another nuclear threat, thank goodness. Drones add a little moral ambiguity into the mix, since drone warfare is a touchy subject. And President James Heller (William Devane) is spearheading the drone program, wouldn’t you know? I got to say, his reintroduction to 24 is a stroke of genius.

Day 9 also adds a good hero (technically heroine). Kate Morgan (Yvonne Strahovski) fills the female Jack Bauer role that Renee occupied from last season without all the craziness. That alone makes her more likeable. She and Jack make an effective team, though she and the CIA have to pursue him across London for a bit. That’s where it is. It’s all shot on location, which I greatly appreciate. Besides a creative use of Wembley Stadium, the moment where Heller has to deal with the cantankerous Parliament stands out. Stephen Fry does a nice job as the Prime Minister too.

Live Another Day does rely on visual effects more than the old show, which had the best practical effects on broadcast TV, but nothing, save one or two shots, looks terrible. A few of the drone effects look quite real. I still believe that less is more when it comes to effects, but I don’t run Fox, so it’s not up to me.

There are plot twists (because if there weren’t, it wouldn’t be 24), but following the plot isn’t hard. In another stroke of genius, Day 9 brings back Jack’s nemesis, Cheng Zhi (Tzi Ma), who’s seeking revenge on China for abandoning him. 24 has a tradition of killing off its villains and Cheng Zhi happened to be one of the few still alive. Living his life in a cell didn’t suit him. His inclusion made me ponder how politics changed during the time between 24’s original run and the miniseries. The U.S. killed Osama bin Laden and increased its focus on drone warfare during its absence, for instance. The softening of its portrayal of China in Day 9 makes sense, though the show still reminds viewers of the dispute over the South China Sea. In contrast, Russia, shown more positively in Day 5, is as bad or worse than it was in Day 8.

After Russia gets a hold of Chloe (Mary Lynn Rajskub), Jack has to decide whether or not he should give himself up as a trade. Chloe has had it rough since Day 8. She ended that day the head of CTU New York, but the police arrested her for helping Jack escape afterwards. She later joined a hacktivist group, only to learn that the head was working with Cheng. He also lied when he said Morris and their son Prescott’s death in a car crash was not an accident. As an aside, I was surprised and sad that Morris and Prescott really died, but I applaud the show for avoiding the cliché of having Cheng holding them hostage.

Jack ultimately gives himself up, as Chloe is best friend. And so 24: Live Another Day comes to a close.

I was cool with how 24 originally ended, but I appreciate the miniseries ending Jack’s story on more of a high note (in the critical sense).

Jack’s Onscreen Kills: 39

Jack throwing Margot out the window is unintentionally hilarious and pretty unnecessary, but I can forgive it. Jack goes absolutely nuts after Audrey’s (Kim Raver) death and kills 21 terrorists, the most people he ever has killed in a single episode. Cheng Zhi puts up a fight, but he’s Jack’s last kill, appropriately. The katana being conveniently there might seem random, but it gives Cheng Zhi a memorable death.

Jack’s Day 9 kill count matches Day 5’s. But if you add unconfirmed kills, it actually exceeds it by up to seven kills.

Silent Clock(s): “Day 9: 10:00pm-11:00am” at 10:32:27pm, accompanied by crying and music; “Day 9: 10:00pm-11:00am” at 10:59:57am, accompanied by music

This is the first and only episode to feature two Silent Clocks.

I mentioned Audrey above. Because Heller is back, so is Audrey. She’s married to the snake in the grass Chief of Staff, Mark Boudreau (Tate Donovan). Audrey has never been one of the show’s strong female characters like Chloe or Michelle, more often being a damsel in distress. However, she represents Jack’s chance at normalcy. The moment they reunite and the moment Jack learns of her death is Emmy worthy work by Kiefer. The great irony is that Heller told Jack that everything he touched died, but Audrey dies because she’s the President’s daughter. And to make it more tragic, Heller will have to constantly relive her death due his Alzheimer’s, until he eventually he won’t remember her at all. It’s both a curse and a blessing.

The second Silent Clock adds an air of mystery to Jack Bauer’s fate. He was in China before, but he had intel they wanted. Jack has been away for years now, so his value is questionable. The Russians could execute him for his crimes. 24: Legacy‘s producers and Kiefer have both said he won’t appear in the new show, and Kiefer has a full-time job with Designated Survivor. They could always mention him, but this might truly be the last we see of Jack Bauer. Jack will likely never see his family again, unfortunately.

Kim Bauer Moment(s): None

Live Another Day still recycles old tropes like moles and adds subplots, but none of it is unbearable filler. This is because the season is only 12 episodes and because of the time jump in the finale, which works rather seamlessly. Heller’s battle with Alzheimer’s proves to be a great storyline. Even after all the attacks on the President, Heller’s desire to sacrifice himself excites. But I’m glad he didn’t die, as that might have been cliché. I wonder if Fox told that the writers they still couldn’t kill off a sitting President.

“Damn It” Count: 10, with an average DPE of 1.6

We’ve reached critical damn it! Look at that DPE! Granted, it’s only 12 hours, but if there were another dozen, Jack might have tied Day 4 and Day 7.

Aaron Sarnecky is The Pop Break’s Television Editor and covers Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., among other things. He is a TV/Film grad of Rowan University and the fraternal twin of staff writer Josh Sarnecky. He probably remembers that show you forgot existed.

2 COMMENTS

  1. I reviewed Live Another Day for the site in 2014. It was a solid show, but I felt like it was good every other episode. Sometimes they’d meander a bit too much, and frankly 12 episodes was a bit too long. At the end of the day, still an enjoyable limited series.

    • Yeah, it’s not the most exciting season. It definitely dragged in the middle. It was a return to form though compared to how bad the previous three seasons were. The drop of quality for season 6 was astounding considering they were coming off winning several Emmys.

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