Jack Bauer's Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

Kiefer Sutherland

The reluctant G-man swings back into action. Fox hide caption

itoggle caption Fox

The Details

TV: Season premiere of 24

What It Is: Jack Bauer is back to fight terrorism another day.

When It Airs: This week, two-hour installments at 8 p.m. Sunday and Monday, then hourlong episodes at 9 p.m. Mondays on Fox.

Another day, another existential threat to the city of Los Angeles. And only Jack Bauer has the power to stop the terrorists and save America. Even two or three years ago, some viewers of 24 were wondering how many more "worst days" the show's haunted hero could suffer through before ending his own miserable, split-screen life. And how long it would be before the series lost its creative drive.

So here we are, at the dawn of Day Six. Bauer is back from 20 months in the torture chambers of China and ready to aid the hapless president yet again. Sure, we knew the producers would find a way to bring him back into the fold. But who could have imagined that the two-night, four-hour premiere would deliver some of the finest episodes of the entire series?

The producers do what they've always done best: test the limits. After five seasons of chasing evil-doers, the characters confront the domestic consequences of a prolonged war against elusive terrorists. Enemy combatants fester in detention centers, foreign nationals rot inside a Guantanamo-like facility, Middle Eastern-looking citizens face constant harassment, and federal agents pursue Muslim organizations without warrants.

To show how much things have changed, there's a new twist in this already tangled series. Bauer teams up with a reformed terrorist, brought to life with steely eyed intensity by Alexander Siddig.

The new season might come as a surprise for viewers of the last two years, when producers seemed to justify Bauer's brutal anti-terrorism tactics because of the magnitude of the threat (and the conservative Heritage Foundation was among the show's admirers). Now the closet fans at the ACLU can proclaim their love, too.

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