24 Retrospective: Ranking All of Jack Bauer’s Seasons & Specials

Did you think you saw the last of me? Nope, like 24, I’m back. Aside from reviewing 24: Legacy, the point of this retrospective, I have another job to do.

Favoring one season over another is often arbitrary. Many times there isn’t any real distinction between entire seasons, unless each has new a supervillain or something. You could call Jack Bauer a superhero, though I think that’s somewhat insulting. He’s a legend. And even more than those shows, each season of 24 is unique. They take place on individual days with different threats. I could be lazy and say they’re actually all the same, and sure, they all share common plot elements. Jack’s superiors have to pursue him every season. But some seasons are just better than others.

I had a good idea of what my rankings were before I started this, but I’ve been changing my mind for a while now. I’ve been dreading this list to a certain degree. I guess I should just get it over with and then clarify my rankings.

1. Day 5

2. Day 1

3. Day 2

4. Day 3

5. Day 9 AKA 24: Live Another Day

6. Day 4

7. 24: Redemption

8. Day 6

9. Day 7

10. Day 8

This list is based on how well-written and how exciting each season (and the TV movie) is. If I’m talking about which I enjoyed the most, Day 5 is still at the top, but Day 2 and Day 3 are above Day 1, and it’s a toss up between Day 4 and Day 9. I acknowledge that I skipped over Kim’s drug bust in my Day 1 piece. It’s kind of tied to the amnesia subplot, though much more forgivable. And Day 1 still contains fewer Kim Bauer Moments than Day 2.

I suppose Day 3 has fewer than Day 2, definitely a lot less literal ones. But most of Day 3’s soapy moments focus on President Palmer and they’re a huge downgrade from his Day 2 storyline. And it ends his time as President on a bad note. Day 9, while benefiting from an absence of filler, has the disadvantage of being last. It’s not as exciting, since we’ve seen the tricks before.

The ordering of the bottom three on the list was really difficult for me. They’re all incredibly weak, compared to the others. Their exact placement is not so important. It’s clear that the show was the best during its first five seasons, and if you stopped after Day 5 I don’t blame you.

Before I leave, let’s look at some final statistics and whatnot.

Jack’s Total Onscreen Kills: 309

The new guy has a long way to go catch up. Note that Day 1 and Day 9 are the only seasons where Jack doesn’t break someone’s neck. He does so even in Redemption.

Total “Damn It” Count: 145

This includes five instances of Jack saying, “Damn it, Tony.” That’s the most for any character. Characters other than Jack use his catchphrase a lot too, but as you can see above, Jack says as if it were breathing.

Fun Facts (shoutout to Wiki 24 again):

  • Xander Berkeley and Sarah Clarke, who played George Mason and Nina Meyers, got married after meeting during the first season. To get a genuine reaction when whispering something into her ear for a scene, Kiefer supposedly surprised Sarah and said, “Sarah, I love you. Why did you marry Xander?”
  • Someone shoots Curtis Manning in every season he appears in.
  • Actors on 24, such as Carlos Bernard and Reiko Aylesworth, were pretty good at convincing the writers to reconsider killing them. The writers also extended roles, as was the case with Arnold Vosloo and Sean Astin. Vosloo, in particular, impressed the producers as Habib Marwan.
  • The Day 1 and Day 2 premieres both feature a character asking Jack if he’s out of his mind after he shoots someone. In Day 2, George Mason is the one asking. Jack shoots him with a tranquilizer in the Day 1 premiere.

In conclusion, I realize 24 isn’t the perfect show. There’s an absurdity to it. And its track record when addressing politics is mixed (though you should generally take a message from art/entertainment with a grain of salt). But I’ll always love 24. I’ll always love the real time format, the splitscreens, the Silent Clocks, etc. It’s still the best thriller to come out of broadcast TV.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my 24 Retrospective, whether you’ve watched the show or not. I’ll return for 24: Legacy. Here’s hoping the game and premiere are entertaining.


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.