With the end of 24: Legacy (for now, at least), we thought it would be the proper time to slot the show into the ranking of the eight full seasons and two half-seasons of the show. Where does it fit? Well, it would have taken a Herculean effort for the show to land at the bottom of the list, and while it definitely could have soared higher than it eventually did, its ceiling was probably limited by the overall strength of the top half of the list.
As for where the other seasons rank, it’s a largely subjective exercise, though most of the lists I’ve seen are generally consistent with mine. Where I rank Days 3 and 4 are where I typically differ from most people, but hey, that’s what free will is for.
10. Day 6
This was the season when 24 began to turn into a parody of itself. A suitcase nuke went off in the fourth hour, and everyone forgot about it a couple hours later! A beloved character is killed… by the hero? To save the life of a supposed terrorist? Who is eventually killed trying to save the life of the president? Three new members of the Bauer family are revealed, and all show that Jack’s powers of badass are the exception, not the rule! For the second time in three seasons, a sitting president is mortally wounded (spare me the uncertainty over Keeler — he didn’t survive long after the missile attack and plane crash), and doesn’t actually die during the day in question!
There’s also the awful, tacked on Audrey/Cheng subplot at the end of the season, the ridiculous casting of Ricky Schroeder as Mike Doyle, and the silly re-emergence (and later, murder) of Milo Pressman after spending Days 2 through 5 at a nice farm upstate. There were so many promising roads this season could have gone down (for example, the plotline with Walid in the prison that was dropped a quarter of the way into the season), and they ended up consistently choosing the worst option.
9. 24: Legacy
Maybe in time, this season will look better as the start of Eric Carter era. But for now, on a standalone basis, it falls short. I wrote a full review of the series last week following the finale, and I don’t want to echo my thoughts too much from that review. But I’ll give this season credit for having a focused storyline instead of shifting the main target every few episodes like we’ve seen in some other seasons (like season six, for example).
It’s very tough to judge an inaugural season of a show without anything to compare it to, and as mentioned, this ranking could begin to slide up if the show succeeds in developing a bond between viewers and the new characters introduced in Legacy.
Just don’t bring Tony back in an auxiliary role again, okay?
8. Day 3
Chase Edmunds being a badass was the highlight of this season. I thought the undercover operation involving Jack, Gael, and the Salazars seemed a bit sloppily put together, but Jack breaking Ramon out of jail was pretty great. Shoehorning Nina into the operation, just so Jack could get his revenge, wasn’t very well done, in my opinion.
Past that, there were issues with the introduction of Chloe (as a *babysitter* for Chase’s baby at CTU? C’mon), Kim getting forced down our throats once again as a CTU analyst, Kyle Singer’s bullshit arc as a mule at the beginning of the season, and the Palmer/Milliken drama that ended up with Palmer’s presidency ending in blackmail. None of these threads were remotely interesting to me, but the only one that really sucked away too much screen time was Palmer’s most recent issues.
Also, the stakes in this season just *seemed* lower. Saunders is going to release the Cordilla virus in several large cities…through couriers? Really? Not missiles, or nukes, but…couriers? Obviously, the virus could do plenty of damage, as we saw in the Chandler Plaza hotel, but Saunders showed himself to be much smarter than relying solely on couriers to spread the virus, right? Apparently not.
And one more note — the way he went out was *awful.* Getting shot by Gael’s widow at CTU?! That’s just awful, but then again, CTU was never the most secure of places.
7. Day 7
There wasn’t much that stood out from this season, aside from Bill Buchanan going out like a *boss* (though honestly, the character shouldn’t have died) and the introduction of Renee Walker. I thought the “angry African rebels” led by Dubaku could have been a season-long storyline, but nope, that devolved once again into a master plan led by a black ops cabal. Gee, that sounds familiar.
Also, the second re-introduction of Tony was…not good. He was supposed to be dead, but he’s not because there was no silent clock, and hey, here’s an incredible backstory about why he’s alive and what he’s doing what he’s doing! By the way, he’s a bad guy. Actually, he’s a good guy. Just kidding, he’s bad again, but he’s doing it for Michelle, so it’s okay.
Talk about exhausting. Also, the FBI support staff members working with Jack and Renee (Moss and Janis, specifically) were completely forgettable.
6. Day 8
Jack’s absolute rampage at the end of this season is what boosted it up a spot or two. We haven’t seen Jack that pissed off since… shit, the end of season 1 with the Drazens, I think. I also liked the character of Omar Hassan, and thought the conspiracy that eventually killed him was very well put together.
That being said, the stuff with Logan absolutely sucked, but it was a nice callback to Day 5 and his relationship with the Suvarovs. And even though she was president for two seasons, I could not get into anything involving Alison Taylor. I didn’t care about her kids. I didn’t care about her husband. I didn’t care about her Cabinet. I didn’t care about the messes she got herself into, and sloppily tried to get herself out of.
I’m giving this season a slight edge over Day 7 because of the support staff. CTU New York was actually pretty entertaining, with Cole proving himself to be a decent enough partner for Jack, Chloe being her usual snarky, helpful self, Hastings being a director with a somewhat acceptable competence level, and Dana Walsh… well, being the mole that CTU is famous for. But at least Dana got taken out by a very angry Jack instead of her employers!
5. Day 2
This season started off quite strong, and started falling apart when George Mason took control of the plane and crashed it in the desert. The terrorist threat was seemingly over then, and after that, the season turned into a diplomatic battle about proving whether or not the Cyprus recording was forged (it was, unsurprisingly).
The Warner family drama that seemed like a non-starter at the beginning of the season actually ended up playing into the plot pretty well with the revelation that through Bob’s company, it was Marie (and not Reza, you awful profiler, you) that was collaborating with the terrorists. SWERVE!
As for Palmer, this was the first of god knows how many times the 25th Amendment was invoked, and I wish they never went down that road, if only because of how much they began to fall back on it in later seasons. The “his own people are working against him!” plot also ended up getting overused down the line, but was done best here — even if it resulted in Lynne Kresge getting pushed down the stairs into a bottomless pit, never to return or be mentioned again. The cliffhanger involving Palmer also rubbed me the wrong way, since it only set up a video game storyline and was only a premonition of what would be happening in Day 3 (bio-terrorism).
Let’s not talk about Kim’s storyline and her encounter with the mountain lion. Please?
4. Day 1
It’s tough to place Day 1 in the 24 hierarchy because it’s the season that started everything, didn’t have its footing yet, *and* the second half of the season was tacked on after the show got picked up for a full run. But I think here is about right – it had an iconic moment (Jack in the car with Kevin Carroll and the towel), several twists (namely, Nina being the mole after Jamey was initially implicated), and a good, action-packed story.
That being said, there are rough points. The first half of the season with Keith Palmer’s “problem” and the resulting fallout seems to be small potatoes after the assassination attempts on his father. And in the grand scheme of things, this is a pretty tame plan overall – kill a senator, ruin a primary election!
This is the season that got everything started, so I can’t, in good conscience, put it too low. But compared to some of the future seasons, some of the storylines fall flat.
3. 24: Live Another Day
Maybe this is a little aggressive, but I’m sure the producers of Legacy expected it to end up like Live Another Day. This 12-episode season was incredible, with callbacks to previous seasons, a new supporting cast that synched up very well with the returning cast members, and favored characters returning in appropriate roles. And I think the shorter length actually worked out well in the case of Live Another Day — there wasn’t much dead time in this season, unlike pretty much every other season of 24. Imagine another 12 episodes getting tacked on in the middle of this season, ruining the snappy flow of the events and dragging the tension out to the point where we lost sight of the stakes. It would be pretty bad, huh?
I also thought the end of this season was a gut punch that we’ve really never seen before in 24. Jack’s going to a Russian prison camp. Chloe’s alive, but her husband, son, and Adrian Cross (whatever his relationship was to her, they were close) are all dead. Audrey’s dead. Heller has Alzheimers. Mark Boudreau’s wife is dead and he’s been arrested for treason, as has Steve Navarro.
Kate and Erik were awesome characters and frankly, they should have been the focus of Legacy. I think a better follow-up would have been the two of them going into Russia trying to rescue Jack, which wouldn’t have required much of a time investment from Kiefer Sutherland if he didn’t want to return. Live Another Day introduced a handful of interesting characters, and it’s a damn shame they all appear to be one-off characters after Legacy.
2. Day 5
This may come as a shock, since Day 5 is almost universally thought of as the best season of 24. But I do think the body count in this season destroyed the ability of future seasons to be successful, especially since so many of the surviving characters were dragged back in future seasons in auxiliary roles. Here’s Logan as a Russian liaison! Here’s Tony Almeida, who actually didn’t die! Here’s an unseen mastermind that ends up being Jack’s brother!
Despite all that, this season was *incredible.* The massive conspiracy headed by Logan was brilliant, though the overall aim of the conspiracy was…well, flawed. The overall chaff in the season was kept to a minimum, with nearly all of the focus kept on the conspiracy and the events surrounding it.
There really isn’t much else to say — the season was a masterstroke.
1. Day 4
While I wanted to go with Day 5 (like nearly everyone else that ranks the seasons of 24 has), Day 4 is at the top of my rankings because of how well it flows. The whole time, we know who the big bad is — that asshole Habib Marwan. Yes, Marwan’s ultimate goal varies and is a bit Rube Goldberg-esque (kidnap Heller and Audrey to steal the Dobson override to shoot down Air Force One to steal the nuclear football to nuke Los Angeles?), but it somehow works because Jack and CTU are chasing the same guy the whole time.
Even the worse subplots have long-term benefit — the Araz family drama results in Marwan getting slowed. Driscoll’s situation with her daughter leads to the re-introduction of Michelle and the debut of Bill Buchanan (which lays the seeds for Day 5). The murder at the Chinese consulate would directly effect Day 5, Day 6, and Live Another Day.
Besides, Day 4 features one of my favorite scenes in the entire series — Tony returning to save the day at Felsted Security.
Bad. Ass. It’s a shame Tony’s role in Legacy was so forgettable.