And so here we are: yet again facing down the barrel of something nobody really needed, let alone asked for, this time in the form of a beloved TV series’ reboot. Action television, when you think about it, has come a pretty far way in the last five years. Still, this new Renoir's appearance raises the question of whether or not there's actually any real desire for a new 24 series. At this point, it seems like we just get one every time there's a new Republican Administration in town, but I don't think that anybody working on this show could have predicted the way November turned out.
So this January, tune in after the Super Bowl for the premiere of the brand new season of 24. It's pretty much the most white person dad thing you could possibly imagine, which is why I think it's so fucking amazing that a young black man has been cast in the title role. I have to admit, it took me a few months to stop doing a double-take every time I looked up at a billboard with that familiar 24 logo and saw a young black guy next standing next to it. To take what was once the epitome of white male power fantasy in America and recast the lead role with a young black actor is a truly bold move, which is why it's kind of a bummer to see things unfold as clumsily as they do.
The updated premise and lead actor for this new season of 24 actually give way for a lot of interesting thematic exploration, some of which is actually fainted at by the writers, but none of which is going to be tackled in a way that actually lands, it looks like.
As is typical with 24, every single major character that we introduced to (and there are about 20 of them) gets some sort of major, convoluted plot all to their own. It's exhausting from the get-go, and things aren't really made much better by the fact that we quickly learn that one of our storylines is going to revolve around a girl in high school. Writing for teens has never been the strong suit of a show like this, and as we're going to find out this season of 24 is no exception to that rule. As it turns out, this particular teen is knee-deep in a terrorist plot, and she's decided to involve her trembling high school biology teacher in the proceedings. Why terrorists continue to entrust important parts their plans to teens on shows like this is beyond me, and the idea that this nebbish science teacher is totally bowled over by a smooth, confident, sexy 17-year-old doesn't really float. (Their kiss is also just a touch too much.) By the end of the second episode, this plot is further complicated by a murder: Turns out that one of the other high school kids is onto this young lady, so all must be covered up, and our in-over-his-head teacher is promptly smashing someone's head on the floor of his classroom. And so it goes.
Our main storyline concerns Corey Hawkins as Eric Carter, an Iraq vet who is just trying to fit into a normal life. In a flurry of exposition we learn that he's got some PTSD, and that his girlfriend is reluctant you have a baby with him as a result. We don't really get too much of their domestic life, though, because almost immediately the A-plot is kicked off and we learned that the followers of a terrorist leader are hunting down the members of the team who killed him. Carter was a part of that team and is being hunted because he's suspected of having a strongbox (part of the Army Rangers’ plunder, if you will) that contains activation codes for sleeper cells all across the country. Those are just a bare bones of the A-plot, of course. To get into all the other details would require an extra thousand words: every single character has something to do, and every single character's story is buried under five immediately-presented layers of intrigue. What could be exciting is pat in its execution, and instead comes across as exhausting.
What's more is that there's room for some actual interesting thematic conversation here. Early in the show we meet Eric's brother Isaac, who is a type of gangster Kingpin that controls an entire housing project, and only seems to exist on primetime television. Isaac feels that he—and his people at large—have been abandoned by the government, and as such has a fraught relationship with the brother that he sees as having gone to work for the enemy. There's potential for some deep cultural conversation to happen, but these ideas only get the barest bones of lip service. Instead, Eric's girlfriend is dropped off so that Eric can go and fight terrorists on his own. During the proceedings, of course, we learn that Eric's girlfriend used to be Isaac's...and that none of this sits well with Isaac's current and perpetually-angry girlfriend. And so it goes.
None of this dramatic lightness would be a huge problem if the show were excelling in terms of its action, but it's not really doing that either. We're not seeing any new ground being pushed in this regard. Everything feels very basic cable. Everyone does the same kung fu, which really doesn't work when there are now shows like Arrow and Agents of SHIELD (Banshee is obviously in a class all is own). Purely on a conceptual level, 24: Legacy has a lot of potential. A lot of it feels squandered after the first two episodes, but there's definitely a lot of room for improvement in a 24-episode season. We'll see if Eric and Company are given the chance to live up to what came before.
Oh, and also...
• Check out the great camera blurry whip-pan camera move that obscures the fact that a guy tied to a chair could never rock back and knock over a full-sized adult male the way Eric does in the first episode.
• How did Ben find another cell phone at the end of the episode?
• Also how does every character in this show have the same exact model of mobile phone (Samsung Galaxy S7)?