I plan on writing something up about 24 at some point in the coming days, but I think a fun little list will have to do until then! Ranking the series’ seasons is perhaps easier than it would be for many other series since each day tends to stand on its own, but it’s also fairly difficult because so many of the events (optimistically speaking) overlap or (pessimistically speaking) repeat constantly. Anyway, this is a nice exercise that will hopefully summarize my thoughts on the series as a whole. 8. Day 6
Best moments: The bomb detonation in Valencia, CA
Worst moments: Just about every moment after that, but more specifically anything that involved Wayne Palmer, Milo and Nadia.
MacGuffins: Circuit board! Suitcase nukes!
Overview: Even throwing out the raised expectations of following the Emmy-winning Day 5, this whole season was an unmitigated disaster from nearly start to finish. Day 5 was lauded for being extremely loose with the lives of the important characters and in the aftereffects of that came Day 6, which brought an almost all-new cast to the table, with most of the characters serving as amalgamates of other, better characters. The attempt to bring more of Jack’s family in was a honorable one, but was executed poorly in the beginning and more mishandled once the other threads were piled on top. Fans regularly complained about the lack of Jack in the later days, but this one is the worst offender, as seemingly more time was spent in the White House with Powers Boothe doing his creepy, asshole thing. Honestly nothing memorable after the first four hours.
7. Day 8
Best moments: Jack’s bloodlust-fueled tirade after Renee’s death, most specifically his execution of Dana Walsh and siege of President Logan’s limo — despite it’s ridiculousness
Worst moments: Dana Walsh multiple identities of suck, President Taylor’s wishy-washy and spineless president
MacGuffins: Data card! Fuel rods!
Overview: The final day never really got going until turning Jack complete heel and even then, his justifications weren’t as believable as they’ve been in the past. Put it this way: we’ve seen him be more forgiving in more dire situations. Most of what made season seven pop — the lack of CTU, use of the new location, building new characters — was completely non-existent here. Day 8 wasn’t even as close as bad as Day 6, but perhaps more offensive of just how boring it was to watch. Things…happened.
6. Day 7
Best moments: Tony’s return, the well-written relationship between Jack and Renee
Worst moments: Tony’s constantly-changing motives and random disappearances from the main plot
MacGuffins: CIP device! Pathogens!
Overview: Day 7 is one of the most thrilling days at certain moments and it sees the series fully embracing its stupidity in most moments, leading to all-around entertaining, but completely frivolous season. Even Tony’s return wasn’t handled perfectly, I appreciated that they didn’t go too dark with anything, and ultimately his presence felt like a weird Bond villain/frenemy that was ready to twirl his mustache at any time. The Blackwater-riffing military contract organization was a nice, mostly current addition to the series’ mythology and again, Jack and Renee had a solidly developed relationship that was mostly betrayed in Day 8. It’s nowhere near the series’ best, but was at least fun to watch each week, something I can’t say for the seasons behind it.
5. Day 4
Best moments: President Palmer advising the slimy President Logan, Marwan’s one-man band destruction, the ending
Worst moments: Erin Driscoll and her daughter
MacGuffin: Nuclear football! Overrides!
Overview: Day 4 parallels Day 7 in many ways: They both see the series overhaul its main cast while also re-positioning Jack outside of CTU into more interesting territory. They also both feature a lot of fun, dumb action sequences that make re-watching more exciting amid all the conspiracy nonsense. Finally, they both introduce new romantic partners for Jack who seem totally opposed to the way he takes care of things. Despite the series’ insistence on the fact that Audrey and Jack were a good couple, I never much cared for them — I actually bought Jack and Renee more for whatever reason — but having an emotional anchor to keep Jack invested in more than just “this is my country” was nice.
4. Day 2
Best moments: George Mason’s death arc, Nina’s return
Worst moments: Cougar
MacGuffin: Digital recording!
Overview: In some folks’ minds, this season is the top effort of the series, and sometimes when I watch it I kind of feel that way too. However, it never really had much of an impact on me. Day 2 shapes 24 into the program it remained for its final six years and did so very well, but for whatever reason, it doesn’t excite me in the ways the other, higher-ranked seasons do.
3. Day 3
Best moments: Jack icing Nina, his forced execution of Chappelle and really the final 8-10 hours on the whole
Worst moments: President Palmer’s personal issues, Kim in general
MacGuffin: Toxic gas!
Overview: Many times, this season gets knocked around by fans of the series, but I don’t really see it. Jack breaking a heroin habit in one day is completely ridiculous, but the rest of this season’s events related to Jack and CTU are intriguing, complicated and exciting. The Palmer family drama isn’t overly exciting to watch, but it does feature a nice mix of crazy and stupid. This day takes Jack to some interesting ends, and I respect that.
2. Day 1
Best moments: The first 13 episodes, Jack’s rampage on the Drazens, Teri’s death
Worst moments: Terri’s amnesia, some of the personal stories for the Palmers
MacGuffin: None, really
Overview: It’s been said a million times, but it’s damn near impossible to top those first 13 episodes, which still hold up today and are as emotionally draining and action-packed as 24 has even been. Although the story falls off in the following handful of hours, it ramps into gear again by the last few thanks to a number of risky plot developments — most notably Terri’s death and Nina’s heel turn — and bad-ass Jack moments. Though the rest of the series doesn’t really look like it did in this first day, it still remains as one of the most revolutionary seasons of television ever.
1. Day 5
Best moments: The major deaths at the outset, the hostage situation at the airport, President Logan, the final twist
Worst moments: Honestly can’t think of much, but probably could have done without Bill and Karen’s romantic entanglements
MacGuffin: Nerve gas! Listening devices!
Overview: There was next to nothing in Day 5 that the series hadn’t done before, but for whatever reason, all those repeated elements were executed in the best way possible to create the overall most consistently awesome season. The murders of Palmer, Michelle and (what we thought) Tony made it all the more personal for Jack, which in turn, made it all the more personal for us as well. The Logan’s melodramatic arguments were the best of its kind for the series, Henderson was a fun foil and there were a number of great action set pieces. From Palmer’s death to Jack’s capture, this season never, ever lets up and a wonderful choice to get all the award recognition that it did.
As you can see, it’s fairly obvious that the series was never the same after Day 5 because nothing ever changed. The formula was getting tired going into that Emmy-winning season, but because it was executed so well, people forgot that the story was so familiar. But in the following three days, the lack of execution made the 24 formula seem tired, rote and ultimately, boring in a lot of cases. Nevertheless, it will be missed.
What are your rankings?