Dammit Chloe, Jack’s back! This May sees the return of Kiefer Sutherland as everyone’s favourite counterterrorist agent, in the London set 24: Live Another Day.
If you’ve never seen 24, the basic premise of the show is simple. Every season comprises 24 episodes, each of which takes place in real time, so one season takes up a full day and night. Unlike most of us, Jack Bauer’s average day consists of multiple terrorist attacks, car chases, gun battles, a bit of torture, a few friends dying, a few more betraying him and a body count that would put Bruce Willis to shame, so things rarely have a chance to get dull.
The original series, which ran from 2001 until 2010 was famous for constantly shocking its audience. Abruptly killing off their favourite characters, massive plot twists, and lots and lots of torture were all regular features of the show as Bauer and his CTU (Counter Terrorist Unit) colleagues kept America safe by any means necessary.
Now, as the series returns, here’s our list of the ten most shocking moments in the show so far. For a series which averaged 37 of these moments per episode (rough estimate), it was a bit of a challenge whittling it down to a top 10, so apologies in advance if your favourite over the top torture scene didn’t make the list. Needless to say, absolutely massive spoilers follow for anyone who’s not seen the series...
10. The Ex-President (Day 5)
For the first four seasons, David Palmer was, along with Bauer, one of the lynchpins of the series, and the closest the show had to a moral centre. So, even though his demise was one of the few deaths in the show announced in advance (the whole plot of Day 5 revolves around his murder), watching the much loved former President gunned down in the opening minutes of the season was as dramatic an opener as it’s possible to get. The show would never be quite the same again.
9. LA Gets Nuked (Day 6)
Days 2 and 4 both saw Jack successfully thwart nuclear attacks on LA, so when a nuclear threat emerged again in Day 6, you’d be forgiven for thinking that this one was destined to fail as well. And then a CTU raid on a terrorist bomb factory goes wrong, a terrorist sets a small nuclear bomb off, and an LA suburb is vaporised. It raised the stakes for the season considerably, and reminded us that 24 was the show where anything could happen.
8. Attack on CTU (Day 5)
With CTU being in charge keeping the U.S. safe from terrorist attacks, you’d think they’d do a better job of protecting themselves. Over the years, they’ve been blown up, invaded, EMP’d, but never attacked more memorably than this. A bunch of Russian separatists, led by Julian Sands are thwarted from smuggling deadly nerve gas out of the country, so decide to use it to attack CTU instead. The resulting attack decimates CTU’s staff. With most of the surviving cast, including Jack, cut off from the controls to the ventilation system, it’s up to Sean Astin’s slimy bureaucrat to sacrifice himself for the sake of his colleagues. Even Sam Gamgee’s not safe in this show.
7. Tony’s Betrayal (Day 7)
Tony Almeida was one of 24’s most popular characters. Formerly Jack’s best friend, he was booted out of CTU after disobeying orders in order to save his wife’s life. Following her death, he was supposedly killed off in Day 5, only to crop up again, alive, well and working with terrorists a couple of seasons later. Except he wasn’t, he was one of the good guys again, working undercover. Or was he? Throughout the season we’re teased as to which side the formerly heroic Tony is now on. Then, a few episodes from the end, he unexpectedly turned on one of the season’s other main characters, FBI agent Larry Moss, suffocating him, and showing us the Tony fans loved was truly dead.
6. The Ultimate Bad Guy (Day 5)
24’s always employed a videogame approach to bad guys – every time Jack defeats one, he works his way up the conspiracy, and a bigger, more powerful one appears. This peaked in Day 5 when, halfway through the season we found out that the preceding presidential assassinations, airport massacres and nerve gas attacks were being orchestrated by none other than the current President, Charles Logan. It was later revealed that there was a shady organisation behind the President, but the initial reveal that the most powerful man in the world was the bad guy remains one of the series’ greatest shocks.
5. Chinese Takeaway (Day 5)
Day 5 is probably 24’s greatest triumph, hence it dominating this list. It’s a brilliant season filled with a series of increasingly clever plot twists, which continue right up to the closing scenes. Day 4 had ended with Jack faking his death in order to evade the Chinese government after he led an illegal raid on their embassy. After solving the murder of one President, bringing down another, and thwarting Russian terrorists, you’d think he’d be entitled to the rest of the day off wouldn’t you? But no, in the closing minutes, Jack is lured away from his colleagues, abducted, and last seen bruised and bloodied on a Chinese bound cargo ship.
4. The Unexpected Terrorist (Day 2)
Early in Day 2 we’re introduced to the Warners, a nice, all-American family, one of whom may just be a terrorist. Suspicion initially falls on successful businessman Bob Warner or his daughter’s Muslim fiancée Reza. In one of the series’ most jaw-dropping twists, Reza’s butter wouldn’t melt in her mouth fiancée Marie pulls out a gun, kills a CTU agent, then informs the astonished Reza that he’s “very sweet” before shooting him dead.
3. Nina Shows Her True Colours (Day 1)
CTU’s had more moles than a Wind in the Willows convention, but Nina was the greatest of them all. Throughout the first season she was Jack’s closest ally, not to mention former lover, so when the penultimate episode ended with the revelation that she’d been working for Dennis Hopper’s Serbian war criminal all along, it turned the show on its head. She then followed that up next episode by telling Jack that his daughter Kim was dead (she wasn’t) and murdering his wife. Nina returned for two more seasons before Jack finally got his revenge.
2. Shooting Chappelle (Day 3)
Jack’s killed nearly 300 people over the course of the show, but none as memorably as slimy CTU boss Ryan Chappelle. When Chappelle comes close to tracking down the season’s big bad, former British intelligence agent turned bio-terrorist Stephen Saunders, he casually phones up the President and demand Chappelle be killed. Faced with the threat of a devastating biological attack if they don’t comply, President Palmer orders Jack to kill his boss. After a frantic, but futile attempt to find Saunders, Jack duly obliges, reluctantly taking Chappelle to a train yard and shooting him in the head. The fact that Chappelle refuses to accept his fate and tries to weasel out of it in the hours before his execution makes the resulting death even more unbearable.
1. Goodbye Teri (Day 1)
Proving Game of Thrones doesn’t have a monopoly on shocking deaths, the sheer amount of 24’s lead characters killed off over the years is staggering, but none more so than this. After spending most of Day 1 desperately trying to save his wife and daughter from terrorists (as well as little distractions such as having to prevent an assassination and thwarting an escape attempt by a war criminal) in the final moments of the season, Jack frantically searches CTU for his wife Teri, only to discover that she’s been shot dead by Nina minutes earlier. It’s a truly heart-breaking end to the season, and from then on, no character was safe.
That’s our list. Have we missed your favourite? Let us know in the comments below!
24: LIVE ANOTHER DAY begins May 7th on Sky Atlantic.