The Politics of Kicking Ass, or, 24 Lives Another Day

Jack is back for Bauer Hour.



When 24 was canceled just prior to the end of its eighth season it had been a few years past its prime. The thrill and intrigue of the series’ first five seasons slowly gave way to tired and all too familiar tropes. A long term series’ regular was going to die. An intelligence analyst was going to end up being a mole. A hugely abrasive dick was going to turn out to be an alright dude. And politics would happen. Lots and lots of politics.

But even the soap opera of 24’s final three seasons can’t wash away the glory of its golden years.

24 is a show about counter terrorism that went into production just before, and began airing just after, 9/11. That timing alone makes it a piece of popular culture worth examining. In the years after its first season 24 evolved in reaction to the changing political culture and foreign policy of the War on Terror, with Jack Bauer becoming something of a reluctant middle man between political machinations and public opinion.

Oh and he also kicked a lot of ass.

Classic Jack face

Classic Jack face

Just so much ass.

Remember that time he tortured a guy with a lamp?

So. Much. Ass.

Jack Bauer doesn’t have time to kick ass and take names, because by the time he’s done kicking one ass he’s already kicking another ass.

But sometimes kicking ass is not enough, and when 24 got canceled I couldn’t say I was all that heartbroken over the decision. Likewise, when 24: Live Another Day, a sort of pseudo-ninth season mini-series, was announced I couldn’t say I was all that pumped.

24 was very much a product of a time and a place, and while I would point to it as a quintessential piece of post-9/11 American pop culture, the cultural and political climate of the United States has obviously changed since the mid-00s. Has 24 adapted with it?

Kind of.

The premiere of 24: Live Another Day, the first two hours of the truncated 12-hour season, swaps out radical Islam and the Patriot Act for drones and Wiki-leaks, but outside of a change in buzzwords and setting (now Jack is in London) little else has changed.

There’s a London CIA office full of new characters and anyone whose kept up with 24 over the years has met them all before in one iteration or another. There’s a new president with a new staff, but as of yet the political side of Live Another Day has proven to be little more than an antagonizing load screen between Jack Bauer sequences.



Then there’s Chloe, whose depiction here feels entirely out of touch. She’s a hacktivist now, a stab at relevancy that comes off as just plain silly by blatantly turning her into Lisbeth Salander.

But through all of that there’s still Jack Bauer, an impossible badass in the best way. Bauer is no longer a man here. He’s an icon. A superhero who, like Batman or Spider-Man, has become something constant, unstoppable and more than human. Though the characters and settings around him change, Bauer will always put on a scowl like Batman wears a cowl, and sling DAMNITs like Spider-Man slings web.

24 may be something of a legacy act, but amongst all of Live Another Day’s misguided new songs Jack Bauer is very much the deepest, truest cut from our youth that will always warrant an impassioned fist pump.

I wasn’t hooked by the first two hours of Live Another Day, but in fairness it was usually the first four hours of a season of 24 that served as the exciting springboard for the craziness to come. So with any luck in two more episodes I’ll be at the edge of my seat.

But even if the rest of Live Another Day never elevates itself above the premiere’s shortcomings, if nothing else Jack is most definitely back.


1. Would 24 have been as successful as it was had it not debuted in the specific time in American history it did?

2. Have you ever played the 24 DVD Board Game? If so, why and how?

3. Is Live Another Day the worst title you’ve ever heard, or is it a close second behind Dark of the Moon?


4 thoughts on “The Politics of Kicking Ass, or, 24 Lives Another Day

    • Mulling over whether to say “there are no discussion questions because you don’t know Jack,” or just posting discussion questions and playing it off like they’ve been there the whole time.

      Decision TBA…

  1. Nice try, asshat. I’ll play your little game.

    1. As an outsider (not a watcher of the show but acknowledging the huge impact it had), I would say no it would not have been as successful. If it wasn’t for 9/11 I could see this being just an above average action series. After 9/11 we wrapped a flag around everything, for better or worse.

    That time period took complete ownership over everything. The way we looked at patriotism/travel/terrorism/domestic spying/torture/foreigners completely changed with the series of events that took place immediately after 9/11. What a strange time we grew up in.


    3. It is a distant third. Dark of the Moon is number one, Die Another Day is number two. At least Live Another Day makes a little bit of sense.

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