First aired just a couple of months after 9/11, 24 has always been a child of the Dubya era.
And though it might have in some ways presaged the age of Obama – not least by gifting America a black president six years before it got a real one – its threat-around-everycorner, ends-justify-the-means philosophy couldn’t help feeling out of step with the more conciliatory tone of Bush’s Democratic successor.
It is hardly surprising, then, that the decision was made earlier this year to make 24’s eighth season its last. Fans doubtless have their pinkies crossed that the much-mooted film version will now become an actuality.
If it doesn’t, though, they can at least take solace in the fact that Kiefer Sutherland and friends have pulled out the stops to make sure Jack Bauer goes out with a bang.
CTU’s most long-suffering employee has been on the move since season six, leaving Los Angeles for Africa for featurelength special Redemption before heading to Washington for season seven.
The trend continues in eight, granddad Jack’s plans for a cosy retirement being inevitably put on hold by a plot to sabotage a United Nations peace deal in Manhattan. Egged on by a female president (Cherry Jones), Bauer is soon on the trail of Russian Mafiosi, Islamic fundamentalists and nuclear fuel rods.
When the bad guys strike close to home, though, what began as a patriotic duty swiftly becomes a bloodthirsty quest for personal revenge.
With Slumdog Millionaire’s Anil Kapoor as the Ahmadinejad-like leader of the Mid-East state vital to the treaty, Jurgen Prochnow as a nasty Russkie and Katee Battlestar Galactica Sackhoff as a CTU analyst with more than one secret, season eight has one of 24’s best casts in years.
As always, however, it’s Kiefer who commands the attention, particularly in a climactic character arc that sees him transform into a perma-torturing one-man army.
The latter makes this six-disc boxset a tougher watch than some may be expecting. If you need some respite, though, you will find it in the 21 mini-featurettes covering the stunts, sets and shootouts, a short doc on how 24 went to NY without leaving LA and numerous offcuts presented both in isolation and as part of specially extended episodes.
All in all, a worthwhile purchase. That said, could its makers not have found time to record the occasional commentary? Or had time finally run out?
The thriller bows out with a taut season that finds fresh edges to Sutherland’s dogged hero. The extras are solid, if not spectacular.