Let's start with the good: last night's 24, like all episodes of 24, was crazy fun to watch.
As always, the folks behind 24 packed 3:00pm-4:00pm full of terrorists, technobabble, and even a few trademark Bauer One-Liners. ("So I was right.") We also got to see Jack and Audrey reunite for the first time since 2007's Day 6—when she could barely function—and the moment lived up to all expectations. Kiefer, as always, killed it. And even though this mostly felt like one of those "in-between" episodes that sets up more than it pays off, there was enough drama to keep things breezy and entertaining.
But... now that we've all gotten over the highs of of 24 actually being back on the air, it's hard to ignore the fact that this all just feels like a remix of old seasons. We're in London now, yes, and there are some truly insufferable conversations about the morals of drone strikes, but other than a few tweaks, we've seen this all before. All of the standard 24 tropes are back. Every single one. We can even break them down.
1) The Terrorist Uses Time Frames To Heighten The Suspense—Lady Terrorist, following in the steps of Victor Drazen, Stephen Saunders, and EVERY OTHER 24 VILLAIN, has given the president three hours to surrender himself, just so we know that we've got three more episodes before the next major plot twist.
2) Nobody Believes Jack But He Turns Out To Be Right Anyway—and you'd think that James Heller would be aware of this by now. (Is it just me or does William Devane always look like he's about to pop a vein?)
3) A Clueless Government Agency Gets In Everyone's Way—such a fun coincidence that the CIA looks and functions exactly like CTU, all the way down to their willingness to walk right into obvious traps.
4) A Filler Sub-Plot Makes Us All Want To Get Murdered By Drones--this time it's in the shape of a melodramatic terrorist relationship that nobody on the planet cares about. Terrorist Daughter is not nearly as interesting as the show believes she is, and Terrorist Daughter's Husband deserved far less than the 30-something minutes of screentime he got this season. Whenever they cut to that boring creepy incest house, you know it's time to go back to browsing the web for Jack/Kate fanfiction.
5) Jack Asks To Be Sent Back In The Field—"I give you my word that I will surrender myself to the authorities as soon as the threat has been neutralized." How many times has he said this now? Does anyone ever believe that this is actually going to happen?
6) The President's Aides Are Covering Things Up—because it wouldn't be 24 without a White House full of scumbags.
7) The Mole Starts Leaving Tracks—this time it's...
*POTENTIAL FUTURE SPOILERS*
...very clearly Jordan the CIA analyst, who SMILED when a drone blew up the fake terrorist house where he'd just sent a bunch of agents. Did anyone else catch that? Clearly this dude is setting everyone up. Never trust a nerd.
At some point within the next two hours, Jack will figure out that SOMETHING'S NOT RIGHT, and warn the CIA that they've been compromised and they'd better set up a perimeter before it's too late. Jordan will try to escape, but the CIA will stop him, and Kate will be forced to interrogate him even though maybe they've slept together or some bullshit like that.
Man, even the teaser for next week's episode hints at a plot we've all seen before: 8) Jack Goes Undercover By Pretending To Sell Out His Partner.
*END OF POTENTIAL FUTURE SPOILERS*
Look, it's not that this newly-revived season of 24 has been bad by any means. The action is well-paced, as always, and I could probably spend the next five decades watching Kiefer Sutherland shoot kneecaps and cry over Audrey. Jack Bauer is by far the best character on television. It's not even a question. I welcome 24's return in any form.
But I was hoping for something a little less... predictable. When 24's producers first started talking about reviving the beloved show for a 12-episode mini-series, they promised that things would be different. Unshackled by the format restrictions of 24 hours, the writers were going to use this opportunity to skip around through time, ditching the filler in favor of non-stop Bauer Power Hours.
Yet... in five episodes, all we've seen is five straight hours, with plenty of boring filler, including Lame Terrorist House Drama and Stale White House Meddling. It's just the same old 24. Given that Catelyn Stark just gave that three-hour warning, it's likely we'll see the next three hours without any skips, either. When are the writers going to start playing with the format? When are we going to see something that feels... different? New?
Oh well. At least we have Lady Bauer.