Written by Joel Surnow & Michael Loceff
Directed by Jon Cassar
Original Air Date: November 4th 2003
Three seasons into 24 and it was abundantly clear that its writers were not the type to take the easy way out. The season premiere ended with Jack Bauer resisting the urge to inject heroin after having spent the entire episode clearly itching for a fix, and just when it looks as if the character and the audience are going to have a semi-celebratory moment of him throwing away the temptation and getting back to whatever resembles normal for him, he instead keeps one last vial.
It’s a powerful moment, one without any sense of hope in a series that has never shied away from the character’s potential to fall into darker territory. Jack being an addict is just the latest grim development for the character, a reminder of how far he is willing to fall in the name of domestic security and it gives Kiefer Sutherland another complex layer by which to explore a creation that at this stage was shaping up to be his most iconic role.
He’s a fascinating actor to watch, not just for those moments of anger or the intense confrontations, but for the little details he puts into his performance. He’s someone who can convey so much with so little and in an hour in which we see his anger directed at Chase for dating Kim, it’s his inability to communicate with his daughter when she tells him this information or the way he clutches his small case where he keeps his heroin and tourniquet that are genuinely moving and heart-breaking.
After political assassination and nuclear threats that drove much of the plots in seasons one and two, season three has thrown its oar into a story involving drug lords, bags of white powder, and a biohazard threat which brings out the hazmat suits made famous by the 1995 Wolfgang Petersen film Outbreak. It’s a natural evolution for the series, but it’s also a grand-scale plot that allows the series to expand upon its foundations again without getting silly.
Season two eventually built itself up to a story arc that saw Jack and CTU trying to stop the outbreak of World War III, and now we have something that while still having a considerable level of threat to it, allows the writers to reformat the series into a story that still borders on an epic but which isn’t trying to top a threat to start a third major global conflict.
What’s most remarkable about rewatching the series in the early 2020s is just how much of the series still plays somewhat presciently and which ended up hinting at future domestic and global political developments. An African American president, viral outbreaks and potential global conflicts have all played a part in the news cycle over the twenty-first century, most of which have occurred in the space of the last two years. I’ll hold off on talking about the relevancy of this season’s plotline until later on when it becomes incredibly prophetic but shifting the story to one that is focused on criminal activity as it pertains to America’s southern borders and the dangers of smuggling bags with white powder is giving the season a different flavour compared to the first two days.
Anytime the season cuts to Las Nieves, Mexico and the scenes involving Hector Salazar (Vincent Laresca) and Claudia (Vanessa Ferlito), there is a vibe that feels like someone has taken the Netflix series Narcos and added a touch of the telenovela to it; the characters are in a dangerous world and yet find themselves consumed by dramas involving Hector’s brother or Claudia’s immediate family that remind you once again of just how much 24 is, at heart, a series all about family.