24- 1×21: 8:00pm-9:00pm

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Written by Joel Surnow & Michael Loceff
Directed by Stephen Hopkins
Original Air Date: 23rd April, 2002

For all intents and purposes this is very much a holding pattern type of episode, and as we’ve seen before, 24 isn’t afraid to stall for a bit of time before spreading trouble. Unlike some of the more weaker episodes of the second half of its first season, there is a palpable sense of suspense and foreboding enveloping proceedings.

After having spent a large chunk of the better half of the season trying to find his wife and daughter who had been kidnapped, there is a darkly delicious irony that Jack now is being held hostage by the main antagonists of the series.

Having discovered not only an underground prison in the previous hour, but also that Victor Drazen has been alive this whole time, Jack finds himself at the mercy of the family who want vengeance upon him.

Of course, one must ask themselves why they don’t just kill Jack since they spent the first half of the day trying to set him up as a means of revenge. This being a thriller that needs its leading character because…well…he’s the leading character, we are falling into the realm of villains who say they want to kill our hero but who use the “we need a bargaining chip” (or “cheep” as Hopper pronounces it here) excuse to not actually kill the guy they’ve been wanting revenge on all season.

Instead, they opt to give him a good kicking in a scene that proves incredibly dark and traumatic for everyone who has become rather taken with Sutherland’s performance as Jack throughout the entire season and who spends the bulk of the episode cowering on the ground being kicked, beaten and generally manhandled by Andre and his dad.

Brilliantly, Surnow and Loceff’s script doesn’t shy away from the fact that Jack is very much responsible for all of this. Sure, the Drazen clan aren’t exactly squeaky clean; Victor is a warlord of the Saddam Hussein/ Slobodan Milosevic variety, even claiming use of a double to fool Jack’s team in a manner that Hussein did frequently (and which led to one of Arrested Development’s funniest late-in-the-run jokes).

While Hopper is very much on a direct-to-video overlord villain mode, there is still considerable stakes here and a foreboding sense of unease over proceedings that will be brilliantly carried over into these last batch of episodes.

Despite the walls that the series ran into after it got to episode fifteen or so, the pleasing sense that 24 has rediscovered its mojo is still evident, not least in having an unbeatable sense of odds coming into the equation.

Sure enough, we’re in for a Jack/Alexis trade in the next episode, but Kim has gone and got herself kidnapped again. Without a doubt it’s a ridiculous eye rolling notion, but it plays into the unsafe environment that is the series’ stock-in-trade, and while we will have SO MANY MORE moments of stupidity featuring Kim next season, at the very least it’s hard not to be screaming in suspense at the television as her next kidnapping takes us right into the final clock of the episode.

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