“How are you going to get Jack out?” asks his Serbian colleague at the start of Live Another Day Episode 4. “I’m going to talk him out,” replies Chloe. “That building is full of US marines,” the henchman handily points out. She looks at him bluntly. “I didn’t say it was going to be easy.”
That’s what this hour of Bauer’s latest long day boils down to: people talking to each other. Chloe talks to Jack after he shoots his way into the building where drone pilot Tanner (John Boyega) is being held prisoner. CIA agent Kate talks to her boss about letting her go in to get Jack. Meanwhile, Simone talks to her husband, Nabil, about his doubts in their terrorist plans to hijack the drones.
Everything, naturally, takes 60 minutes to complete. “How long until we can pilot the drones?” snaps Michelle Fairley turning the Evil Brit dial up to 11. “Within an hour,” comes the reply. How long to get the marines in place before the breach the room Jack’s holed up in? The same. Likewise for hacker Adrian Cross’ software programme, which Jack is using to decrypt Tanner’s flight key and send the data over to Chloe.
It’s a smartly written episode for the show, which every now and then realises that big explosions and absurd set pieces aren’t necessary. US President Heller proves that by delivering a moving speech to the UK Parliament following a rogue drone attack on their troops – an address that is full of cliches and takes place in a room that is clearly not the House of Commons, but still wins everyone over anyway. After Episode 2 established moles on both sides of the fence, Episode 3 teases out the tensions in each situation. Heller has to admit to Audrey that he lied about Jack’s return, while Simone finds herself trapped between loyalty to her defecting spouse and her domineering mother.
As the minutes tick down, every exchange leads to a hostage situation. As Kiefer Sutherland calmly reassures his prisoners that he doesn’t want to harm them, before switching back into Shouty Jack Mode, the villains go in the opposite direction to prove just how determined they are.
The parallels provide a surprisingly subtle structure for a series that once blew up Air Force One; with fewer hours on the clock, rather than trying to squeeze events in, the writers seem free to avoid padding, keeping the pace up but the stupidity down. The plot is silly, but it’s resolved in the most effective of ways: by talking. As the finger-clenching finale reminds us, though, they never said it was going to be easy.
Not a Sky customer? You can watch 24: Live Another Day online in the UK on NOW TV with an Entertainment Pass for £6.99 a month. For more information or to sign up, hit the button below.