Accepting the task of sacrificing his life for the sake of the country. Being tortured by terrorists. Biting out people’s necks. Torturing family members. Rescuing family members. Defying the president’s orders. Coaching a mentally handicapped guy with assisting the capture of a terrorist. Disarming nuclear weapons. Calmly getting important information out of a traumatized woman. Taking out a room full of armed bad guys and killing their leader without getting killed. All in a day's work for Jack Bauer.
Season 6 of 24 starts up twenty months after Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) was captured by the Chinese at the end of Season 5. The country is once again, under attack by terrorists. Buses are blowing up, people are panicking, and there doesn’t appear to be any end in sight. We learn within the first hour that President Wayne Palmer (D.B. Woodside) has made a deal with the Chinese to have Jack released and that they plan to hand Jack over to Abu Fayed, a terrorist who has agreed to tell CTU where Hamri Al-Assad (Alexander Siddig), the man everyone thinks is behind all of the recent attacks, is hiding. So right off the bat, things are blowing up and Jack’s life is in danger. As this is the sixth season, for those of us who have seen the previous seasons, this is pretty familiar territory.
Once again, the events that took place between the last season and the current one have changed Jack. This is sort of necessary, not only to keep the show interesting but to keep the hero interesting. Jack has spent over a year being tortured by the Chinese. When we see him step off the plane, he’s got long hair, a full beard, and looks more exhausted and beaten than we’ve ever seen him. He’s also covered in scars, the biggest being a giant burn scar on his hand. Learning that through all of the torture he experienced, he never gave up any information to the Chinese only solidifies our belief that Jack Bauer is a true American hero.
As in previous years, season 6 of 24 focuses on a number of different perspectives. While Jack is off fighting terrorism in the field, tracking down the bad-guys and preventing future attacks, the folks over at CTU are trying to keep tabs on Jack, stay in contact with the White House and often (most importantly), monitor a ridiculous amount of satellite feed to try and track down the terrorists. Meanwhile, at the White House, mutiny is afoot, as some of President Palmer’s own people don’t stand behind his choices and want to take matters into their own hands. Among them is Tom Lennox (Peter MacNicol), Palmer’s Chief of Staff. Lennox spends a good portion of the season butting heads with Karen Hayes (Jayne Atkinson), Palmers National Security Advisor. The drama in the White House, which includes Vice President Daniels (Powers Boothe) taking over when Palmer is incapacitated, only serves to add fuel to the fire that is Day 6 in 24-land.
The season is filled with some amazing action sequences, including Jack’s attempt to stop a bomb from going off on a subway train, his stand-off with Assad and his men, and the rescue mission he and Bill Buchanan embark on rogue-style to save Jack’s nephew from being kidnapped by Papa Bauer and to stop the Chinese from taking off with a circuit board that would give them access to Russia’s defense system. These moments are spread out perfectly throughout the season to keep the momentum going and make each arc worth watching.
Of all of the series I own on DVD, 24 is one of the few shows that I think gets significantly better on the rewatch. There are multiple layers to the show and many of them are often overlooked when you first watch the season as it airs on TV. With Season 6, we get so wrapped up in the intensity of the overall plot and the life-or-death situations that Jack Bauer is involved in that it’s understandable that we might gloss over some of the other story arcs.
For example, the relationship between Chloe (Mary Lynn Rajskub) and her ex-husband Morris (Carlo Rota) is certainly relevant to the season, especially when Morris is kidnapped and forced to aid the terrorists in arming nuclear bombs. When you’re watching the season for the first time, chances are you’re going to focus more on the craziness of what’s happened to Morris (like having his shoulder drilled or watching a woman die) and less on the interaction he has with his ex-wife. When rewatching the season and already knowing how things are going to turn out with the terrorism story arc, it makes it much easier to slow down and really absorb what’s going on between Chloe and Morris.
Other examples of great relationships this season include Karen and her husband CTU head, Bill Buchanan (James Morrison) or Karen and Tom. Then there’s Nadia (Marisol Nichols), who takes over for Bill when he’s fired and has to work with Mike Doyle (Ricky Schroder), a CTU field agent with a dirty past. There’s some tension between these two that starts out rocky but later turns into something a lot more friendly than we might have expected. This doesn’t go unnoticed by Milo (Eric Balfour), who has a major crush on Nadia and an equally major distaste for Doyle. And I could go on for pages about Jack and the messed up relationships he has with his family: His crooked father, Philip Bauer (James Cromwell), his slippery brother, Graem (Paul McCrane), his sister-in-law, Marilyn (Rena Sofer) and nephew Josh (Evan Ellingson). Not to mention Jack and his on-again-off-again flame, Audrey (Kim Raver). The more I write this, the more I’m starting to think that 24 might just be a primetime soap opera disguised as an action-suspense series filled with explosions, men with guns, evil terrorists and one badass hero primed to save the day, season after season.
Sure, we all miss Edgar, Tony, Michelle and everyone else who was killed in previous seasons but when you take a closer look at the sixth season, and get past the loss of the couple of characters who didn’t make it out of Day 6 alive, you will see that many new relationships have developed and new characters (Mike Doyle, for example) have been brought in to shake things up and step in to serve as a sort of replacement for the characters we had grown to love and trust in previous seasons. This is the nature of a show like 24. If main characters didn’t die once in a while, we would eventually stop feeling worried for their well-being.
I’m being completely honest when I say that I wasn’t overly impressed with season 6 when I watched it as it aired earlier this year. I thought they closed up the arc with Assad a little too soon and I definitely remember being irritated by the Audrey-is-crazy subplot. After rewatching the season as a whole, marathon-style, my opinion of this season has greatly improved. So much happens in the season that, when added to the suspense and intensity fueled by the terrorist threat story arc, it becomes impossible to truly assess the season as a whole having only seen it once all the way through. One might suggest that this is a flaw, and that a season of a TV series should be able to be weighed and balanced after viewing it only once, but as I’m a fan of watching and rewatching TV shows multiple times and really exploring the depths of the writing, I consider this aspect of 24 (especially as I applies to season 6) to be one of its best attributes.
The seven-disc DVD set includes all twenty-four episodes from the sixth season and a virtual flood of special features. Episode commentaries are plentiful and there is even an option in many episodes to branch in one or two deleted scenes to see how they fit into the actual episode. The on-screen menu on each disc looks like an animated graphic that you might see on the any given CTU computer. You have the option to “Play All” which is extremely convenient when marathoning through the season. But if you want to listen to the commentary or view the deleted scenes, you’ll have to go into the episode description and set that up individually.
Each episode includes the “Previously on 24” summary, which is a great way to see the relevant plot points that took place prior to the episode you’re about to watch. My only complaint there is that when you’re watching one episode after another and you don’t really need to sit through that summary, you can't jump past it without missing the first minute or two of the episode. Your only option is to either sit through the summary or fast forward through it. Perhaps in future sets they can set the scene selection marker right after that summary so that jumping past it is an option.
There are twelve commentaries on this DVD set. It’s fascinating to listen to the background information about the episode from the perspectives of the people involved in making them. Among the people who participated in the various commentaries, are actors Kiefer Sutherland, Eric Balfour, Gregory Itzin, Jean Smart, Jayne Atkinson and Powers Boothe as well as Executive Producers Howard Gordon, Manny Coto and David Fury.
The seventh disc includes the rest of the special features. The first feature on there is probably the most pointless and disappointing. It’s listed as “24 Season 7 Preview” but what it turns out to be is a very brief segment of clips of things blowing up and Jack running around with a gun. I would have expected them to at least include the trailer that was released a little while back. There’s virtually nothing in the included preview that really gives anything away about the new season.
I am also disappointed to find that the season 6 prequel isn't included on this DVD set. The prequel, which was included in the season 5 set, shows a brief glimpse into the time Jack spent being held captive and tortured by the Chinese. It would’ve been nice to be able to re-watch that sequence of events again to help remind us of what he went through prior to being released at the beginning of this season.
Complaints aside, the DVD set is actually well stocked with special features. In addition to the commentaries and deleted scenes, you’ll also find featurettes on the special effects, the writing process, and general making-of clips including the Webcast Diaries.
As season 5’s set included the S6 prequel, this set includes the Mobisodes of Jack’s debriefing after the Season 6 day ended. Apparently there’s some issue with whether or not he really kept his mouth shut while being held captive by the Chinese and he’s brought in for some serious questioning.
The set also includes a DVD-ROM with a featurette titled “The Technology of 24,” which can be found on the seventh disc. In order to access the featurette, you have to install a special DVD player. I can’t stand when they do this with DVDs. Now I have to go in and uninstall the “HotLlama Player” from my computer.
Fortunately, you don’t need the special player to access the easter egg on the seventh disc. If you play the disc in your regular DVD player (I used Windows Media Player), once you get to the main menu with the full list of special features, scroll over the area just above the word “Season” (in “Season 7 Preview”) and a red “24” will appear. Clicking that will bring you to the brief cameo that Jack Bauer and Chloe had on The Simpsons. That feature, added to the hilarious (albeit dry) cameo clip of Ricky Gervais in a scene from this season of 24 provides some much needed humor to the otherwise fairly serious set of special features for this season.