The Return of 24: Ranking the Days, Turmoils, and Triumphs of Jack Bauer

I generally like to keep to sports and sports entertainment on his blog, but the fact is this: I am a huge fan of the old Fox Series 24. It chronicles the perpetual fight of CTU (Counter Terrorist Unit) Los Angeles against the forces of evil. Now, admittedly, the show can get a little ridiculous in its plotlines and the world of terror it seems to exist in. It as if 9/11 wasn’t an isolated incident, but the type of incident that seemingly occurs every day for the erstwhile crew of CTU. 24 has always had a diversity of antagonists, but one main protagonist: Jack Bauer, played by Kiefer Sutherland. Over a period of eight lurid days, Jack has endured, and dished out, every manner of torture and punishment under the sun. He has killed many, has been legally dead (and resuscitated) and has generally been through more shit than a 75 year old plumber. Jack Bauer, and the series itself, are very much in the vain of old school Chuck Norris, Steven Segal and Charles Bronson movies, but made to fit within the timeline of more current events. Some people cried foul on 24 for taking advantage of the very real anti-terror sentiments of this post 9/11 era…yet do not realize that the first season of 24 was recorded prior to that heinous attack. The fact is, a generation of American’s identified with the show, and, more specifically, Jack Bauer, who is perpetually reliving the worst day of his life over and over and OVER again simply because he is just so damned devoted to his country.

This list is an attempt by a longtime 24 fan to rank the seasons, or Days in this case, fairly. I am ranking them in relation to each of their relative merits. For instance, Day 1 may be a landmark season for many, but after viewing ALL of the Days, it is not as good as some would think. This is a list, the lowest form of internet writing, I admit to that. But as a 24 fanatic, I had to do it. And, trust me, I have done my due diligence. I started watching the show, live, beginning with the Day 2 Season Finale, and dutifully watched Days 3 through 7. For reasons that will be explained shortly, I ceased watching midway through Day 7. I am in the process of watching Day 8 currently. Day 8 and 24: Redemption, will not be included in this ranking. I saw 24: Redemption when it aired live, but am hard pressed to remember all the details, as I only saw it once. Season 8 I am just watching, and need time to digest it all. Every other season I have seen multiple times, thanks to the good folks at the Audience Network (DirecTV bitches). They have been replaying each Day, in four hour blocks, with very limited commercial interruption, since January, and that channel has just debuted Day 6. The down end of DirecTV is that a bad rainstorm will wipe out your satellite feed, so a friend of mine was nice enough to give me a stream of the seasons, and, suffice to say, I have been on a mission watching them ever since. Enough already, lets get to the fucking list!

7. Day 7. Easily the worst Day 24 has ever produced. It details the issues President Allison Taylor and the FBI are having with the rogue element of the nation of Sangala. Anyone who has ever viewed 24 knows that this season was just…wrong. Everything was off. First, CTU, the whole organization the series bases itself upon, has been decommissioned by an ambitious Senator who despises the idea of torture. Even if it means saving innocent lives. Add into it the worst President the series has ever seen and a horribly convoluted plot that makes Tony Almeida the main bad guy, and you have this stinker of a season. I have nothing positive to sat for Day 7…it was that bad. Hopefully, I have not turned you off for the rest of this list, as the show really was quite good before this shit sandwich.

6. Day 6. Season 6 was actually quite good, as was the series before Day 7’s shit sandwich. Jack is released from captivity in China by newly elected President Wayne Palmer, simply to be used as sacrifice to a newly empowered Arab Terrorist named Abu Fayed. In the course of the season, which involves Fayed (a very good bad guy, might I add) detonating a series of nuclear devices armed in briefcases (Suitcase Nukes from here on in), Jack finds out that his estranged brother and father (portrayed by James Cromwell) were the people truly driving the plot, along with his Chinese Captor and antagonist Cheng Xi. The problem I had with this season was Wayne Palmer being President, but deft writing pushed Wayne from a character who was perpetually waffling on issues into an adept, shrewd, well written character who unfortunately succumbed to injuries sustained during a White House press conference. It was a fun season, and truly the last season 24 was really a viable show. Personally, I was turned off once recently reinstated Jack Bauer had to kill long time show institution Curtis Manning when I first watched the Day, but time has allowed this Day to age like a fine wine. Seek it out, it is worth it.

5. Day 1. Yes, the initial season of the show ranks this low. But no mistake, it is still a damn fine season. It is just that it was eclipsed by the run of awesomeness 24 was about to embark on. In this season, there was no President to deal with, only aspiring candidate Senator David Palmer, who is basically the vehicle the whole season passes through. Jack Bauer is the head of CTU at the time, before he was humped into submission by various bureaucratic butt heads. It more or less deals with CTU LA handling a threat on the life of Senator Palmer, while Jack has to deal with his daughter running away from home, straight into the hands of nefarious terrorists who want to use her as positioning against the United States Government. Dennis Hopper, playing evil Ruskie Victor Drazen, is the main antagonist throughout most of the season. Tony Almeida and Nina Myers are Jack’s main support at CTU on Day 1. However, it is Nina Myers treacherous betrayal of Jack, Tony, CTU, the Government, and the infrastructure of the United States that really puts the last few episodes into overdrive. Anyone who has watched 24 and does not understand why Nina Myers was so despised by many through the first three seasons needs to watch Day 1.

4. Day 4. Day four presented 24 with its most vile villain: Habib Marwan. Most seasons of 24 follow a logical progression of villains, but Day four had one, and this dude was hard wired. He masterminded the plot to kidnap Secretary of Defense James Heller and his daughter, Audrey Raines. He shot down Air Force One. He apprehended the Nuclear Football. Marwan was probably the best villian 24 ever produced, as he was involved in every attack from minute one to Day 24. Hard to beat that.

3. Day 2: Most 24 fans list Day 2 as the best, and this writer would be hardpressed not to agree. Season Two contains my two favorite 24 Episodes: The one where Jack is declared clinically dead, and the finale at the LA Coliseum. Both are must watch episodes, and the finale is the hook, line, and sinker that entrapped me into the show. Sherry Palmer is ridiculously fucking devious. Peter Kingsley is a very cool bad guy. In short, Day 2 is must watch television.

2. Day 3. Most fans are not big fans of Season 3, but hear me out. Season three, day 3, was the first season I watched live every week. I watched it again on the Audience Network, and it still holds up. Stephen Saunders is still one of the best villains the series has created. The tension between Tony and Michelle, married by this point, is palpable. The Salazars are mere midpoints to the plot of the series, but damned good ones. Jack is addicted to smack. Chase, Jack’s doppleganger, is legt irrevocably maimed by the end of the Day. GET ALL THIS.

1. Day 5. The Queen Mother of the series. Until recently, I was all about naming season 2 or 3 as the tops, the best 24 had to offer. But the fact is Season 5 is the best, and for one reason: President Charles Logan. He, to use a wrestling parlance, is the ultimate heel. In pro wrestling, heel means bad guy. Charles Logan was the worst of the worst that 24 has ever seen. He had babyface (good guy in rasslin parlance) David Palmer killed. He backed the nefarious acts of Christopher Henderson. He threatened his own wife with with a Psych institution. He had his chief Secret Service Head Aaron Pierce tortures. My word, man. Charles Logan is the greatest bad guy 24 has ever seen, and Season 5 of the show remains its pinnacle.

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