In stark contrast to Day 5, Day 6 gets a lot of hate from both fans and critics alike. Many would tell you it’s the worst season of 24. While I won’t claim that it’s a strong season, I’m not sure it’s the series’ lowest point. Because of recent events, namely the proposed ban on Muslim immigration, Day 6 may be the most relevant to our world today.
A key part of Day 6 is the paranoia around Muslims in the U.S., following a series of suicide bombings across the country. The government is rounding up Muslim Americans and putting them in detention camps, similar to WWII Japanese internment camps. While the show has presented sympathetic characters like Yusuf Auda and talked down such discrimination in the past, 24 has no doubt made some less empathic viewers suspicious of Islam. I’m willing to bet a lot of brown-skinned actors can only find jobs portraying terrorists in things like 24 (which is why I’d like to see a prominent Muslim hero in 24: Legacy and for fiction in general to shift the focus away from Middle Eastern terrorists).
After having been tortured in China for nearly two years, Jack (Kiefer Sutherland) is back to help CTU and President Wayne Palmer (D.B. Woodside) stop the terrorist attacks. Things get crazy really quickly though. Day 6 tries to mimic the deaths that made Day 5 so memorable but it doesn’t have many good options. None of the remaining characters, other than Chloe (Mary Lynn Rajskub), are that developed, and the show needs at least one other popular character besides Jack. Offing characters like Milo (Eric Balfour) and Curtis (Roger Cross) doesn’t have the same effect. Milo disappeared after Day 1 only to reappear in Day 6. The most meaningful deaths are those caused by the nuclear explosion in Valencia, as it’s the series’ most successful onscreen terrorist attack. But even that’s underwritten compared to the civil unrest that followed Day 2’s Mojave Desert detonation.
A lot of fans’ biggest gripe with Day 6 is the introduction of Jack’s family. Making the evil businessman from Day 5 Jack’s brother is a bold choice. The show draws a parallel between Graem (Paul McCrane) and Jack doing whatever for their country. And certainly Jack suffocating Graem with a plastic bag and giving him a neural inflammatory are highly disturbing. But I’m not sure it’s worth it to reveal that Phillip Bauer (James Cromwell), their father, is the big bad of the season. He’s not a particularly captivating villain. He’s really just in the season to reintroduce the Cheng Zhi (Tzi Ma) and the Chinese.
If there’s any saving grace, other than the surprisingly complex character Tom Lennox (Peter MacNicol), it’s Jack’s emotional journey. The season dumps his jumpiness and his reluctance to torture pretty quickly (leading to some Day 4-ish situations), and sure, no normal man should be able to function after what he’s been through. But it brings him back to where he was at the end of Day 3, minus the heroin addiction. Last time he was in this situation, he started a new life with Audrey (Kim Raver). But he’s at a crossroads. And so Day 6 ends with Jack facing an uncertain future.
Jack’s Onscreen Kills: 52
Jack goes absolutely nuts this season, killing the most people he ever has in a single day.
There are two instances that stand out. The first is the famous jugular bite at the conclusion of the first episode. Kiefer Sutherland was in The Lost Boys, so once a vampire, always a vampire, I guess.
The second is actually a group of kills. Abu Fayed (Adoni Maropis) gives Jack a lot of trouble in Day 6 and Jack’s put down of Fayed and his crew is appropriately brutal. It ends with Jack fighting him one-on-one before hanging with a metal chain. 24 really pushed the envelope for broadcast TV during its run.
Silent Clock(s): “Day 6: 5:00am-6:00am” at 5:59:57am, accompanied by the sound of waves
It’s been a while since we’ve had a Silent Clock at the end of a season. Not since Day 2, to be exact. After Jack’s confrontation with Heller (William Devane), we get a touching goodbye to Jack and Audrey’s star-crossed romance. She’s too damaged from her own time with the Chinese and Jack has to let her go.
The world revolving around Jack in 24 is pretty ridiculous, but you can always transplant his duty vs. family dilemma to a more realistic scenario, perhaps what military families have to go through. In Jack’s case, saving the day is part of who is, regardless of whether he’s actually with CTU. The people close to him will always pay the price.
Sean Callery’s score makes these final scenes without a doubt the best moments of the season, as we hear Jack and Audrey’s love theme for the final time (presumably).
Kim Bauer Moment(s): Morris’ (Carlo Rota) drinking problem; Noah Daniels (Powers Boothe) sleeping with a Russian patsy; Jack has to kill Curtis
This season starts out really strong with a scary look at a country under siege that draws you in. And Jack’s intent to sacrifice himself makes it perhaps the most compelling premiere. But it’s mostly downhill after Jack kills Curtis, which is for shock value like the nuke going off. The show recycles better done plot lines, like a nuclear threat, the invocation of the 25th Amendment, an attempt on the President’s life, and an attack on CTU. Plus, poor Audrey essentially replaces Kim as leverage against Jack.
The show tries to give Morris some depth after facing torture at the hands of the terrorists, but it backfires. Noah Daniels is meanwhile an extremely unbelievable VP, considering he disagrees with Palmer on virtually everything when it comes to foreign policy. And just to make things worse, the aide he’s sleeping with is unwittingly sleeping with a Russian spy as well. Perfect.
I could also add Chloe collapsing at CTU but I actually like the reveal that she’s carrying Morris’ child. Oh, Morris, better treatment and you could have been a new staple.
“Damn It” Count: 14, with an average DPE of 0.58
The count and DPE continue to drop, though Jack still manages to have one episode where he says it four times. He doesn’t talk that much the first episode, which is notable. He literally didn’t talk to anyone in China.