A Look Back at 24: Ranking the Seasons

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8. Season 6 (aired 2007) Like I said before, I enjoy EVERY season of 24, so calling it the “worst” is like having to pick my least favorite Place to Be Nation staff member (Scientists have proven this impossible), but someone has to bring up the rear, and it may as well be this one.

Maybe it suffers from coming after Season 5 (we’ll get to that),  or maybe it was a case where a lot of the twists seemed to fall flat, but whatever it is, this season sometimes felt like a chore to get through. Not even Powers Boothe as an evil Vice President could save it!  So what made it bad? A few things, starting with President Wayne Palmer. If David Palmer was everything a TV president needed to be, Wayne Palmer was everything else. An annoying, unlikable character that sucked the interest out of the room anytime he was on screen. He is like the Danny Devito to Arnold from the movie Twins: the leftover crap.

Another thing I really disliked about this season was the death of Curtis Manning. 24 pulled no punches and MANY regular, beloved characters died in the line of duty. But Curtis was different: From his debut in Season 4, he came off as someone close to being as great as Jack Bauer. I remember at the time thinking that 24 COULD go on without Jack and they could continue with Curtis Manning as the lead. So what happened to him? Oh, Jack shoots him because Curtis refuses to drop his weapon when aimed at Assad, a former terrorist who killed Manning’s team members in Desert Storm. Such an odd way to write Manning out of the show, and it left a bad taste in my mouth. I felt like puking more than Jack did!

More than anything though, I think this season suffered not from any particular episode, but from a HUGE missed opportunity. Season 5 ended with Jack being captured by the Chinese and taken to their prison, and I think everyone wanted Season 6 to be Jack’s escape/rescue from the Chinese. Seems like such a no-brainer, and we didn’t get it. Bummer.

7. Season 8 (aired 2010)The final season(until now) definitely had it’s moments: When Renee is killed (note to females-Don’t fall in love with Jack Bauer unless you covet the sweet release of death) and Jack goes full-on psycho in revenge, it’s classic Bauer, but it still suffers from a classic case of “We’ve seen it all before.” By this point, there was not much that 24 could do that was NEW, and it suffered as a result.

But there’s one thing that just kills this season, or should I say one person: Dana Walsh. See if you can follow this: Dana Walsh is a CTU agent, but really she’s a spy for the Russian government.  However that’s not it.  Actually her name is Jenny Scott and she’s a backwoods redneck who spent time in jail and was being stalked and harassed by her ex-boyfriend Kevin, who went to jail for crimes they committed together. Got all that? Does it make ZERO sense that a convicted criminal from Arkansas would get a high ranking job in CTU AND be a Russian spy? Less than zero you say? Agreed. Also, Freddy Prinze Jr. was on this season. Moving on!

6. Season 7 (aired 2009)The fact that the final two seasons rank so low on this list may give some cause for concern about the return of the show. It certainly may suffer from just rehashing the same old 24 twists and turns, but I have hope. I fully believe this season ranks low NOT because it’s more recent, but because a lot of shows suffered during this time-it was delayed for a year because of the famed Writers Guild of America Strike in 2008.

So what makes this one so low on the list? In theory, it could have been really interesting. CTU is disbanded due to President Alison Taylor’s hatred of torture and Jack is on trial for “crimes” committed during his time in CTU. This could have been very interesting, having a season set entirely in Washington with Bauer trying to stop a threat, but his biggest obstacle being his own government.

In some ways, Season 7 did a lot right. The return of Tony Almeida (no return for his Cubs mug though) was great, President Taylor did a good job and the debut of Renee Walker AKA Girl Jack Bauer all were solid parts to this season, but ultimately it suffered from two things: “First Gentlemen” Henry Taylor’s quest to uncover the mystery behind his sons death and the simple lack of “HOLY CRAP” moments that 24 became known for. Some seasons overdid it, Season 7 underdid it.

5. Day 2 (aired 2002-2003)Listen, this season was pretty darn good. In fact, I LOVE all five of the remaining seasons on the list. I mean, Jack DECAPITATES a guy in the FIRST HOUR…IN A CTU OFFICE! Holy crap, right?

Season 2 took the first season and amped it up, giving us twists, turns and deaths like never before. President Palmer poisoned in the final minutes? Yes! CTU attacked(before it happened like three times a season)? YES! A poisoned George Mason sacrificing himself and saving Jack’s life? To quote Daniel Bryan, “YES! YES! YES! YES! YES!”

So if the season’s got all that, why rank it so low? Anyone who has seen this season knows the answer. Kim Bauer and a cougar. And no, I don’t mean a hot old woman, I mean the ACTUAL cougar. In a show about terrorism, spying, nuclear threats and torture, an ACTUAL subplot was a woman being hunted by a cougar while trying to escape from the abusive father of a child she babysat for. No! No! No! No! No!

4. Day 3 (aired 2003-2004) – Hey, remember that girl who was a nanny that got hunted by a cougar in California? Yeah, she seems like someone who should be on the front lines of our national security, right? That’s what the writers thoughts with Season 3, as Kim Bauer was now apparently working with CTU for some unknown reason.

Still, the show was relatively fresh and was really good at making enemies from both the terrorist aspect as well as the bureaucratic red tape, which is why Ryan Chappelle’s death was so captivating. On one hand, he was awful and portrayed as an antagonist to Jack Bauer from the moment he debuted on the show….yet he wasn’t a TRUE villain. He still fought to keep America safe and it showed when he willingly gave his life for the greater good. I was sure that I’d cheer when he finally died, and this stinking show got me to feel bad for him. Well played, 24 writers. Well played.

But hey, if Jack murdering Chappelle didn’t satisfy your blood lust, he also FINALLY gets revenge for his wife, killing Nina Meyers this season too! Just one question remains: Was he on heroin at the time?

3. Day 1 (aired 2001-2002)The one that started it all still holds up, if you can look past some of the stuff that has become outdated over time. The biggest offender here is the frequent use of floppy discs and land lines. I actually didn’t watch this at the time that it aired, and caught up on DVD after hearing so much praise for the show from friends. To say I was hooked is an understatement, I watched the entire season in less than 2 days. A lot has been said about the great ending (death of Jack’s wife) that made this show can’t miss, but I remember being hooked by a great BEGINNING fake out. We were led to believe the terrorist on the plane was the guy all along, and sure enough it was Mandy the skank. From that point on, I knew this show was something I had to pay attention to. Also, Kim is at her LEAST offensive here.

2. Day 4 (aired 2005)I probably ranked this one higher than most would, but here’s my reason why. After getting into the show via DVD, this was the first season I watched as it aired. Needless to say, having to wait a week in between episodes was almost as much torture as one of Jack’s poor victims. I truly understood what Jack went through in heroin withdrawals, as I would often curl on a couch shaking and sweating, waiting for a sweet taste of 24 goodness. Even if I had watched from the start though, I believe this one would be ranked no lower than 4th. The season where 24 really had their formula down to a science.

In a lot of ways, this season was a “reboot”.  New characters, new President, Jack was taken out of CTU and best of all, Kim’s gone as a regular cast member. It also gave us Audrey, Jack’s biggest love interest throughout the series.

The strongest part of this season in my mind? The villains. Habib Marwan was a one-man wrecking crew, and was a great foe for Jack and a threat to take down, but ultimately he was just the appetizer for the main course. President Logan. After the death of President Keeler, Logan was sworn in and took over during Day 4. He was bumbling, ineffective and weak. Little did we know what he would become.

1.Day 5 (aired 2005)24 at it’s best gave us something that, if you just describe it, probably sounds very cheesy, but it worked. The President was the villain!

Truthfully, there was nothing Season 5 offered that other seasons didn’t, but in this season, it all clicked. From the shocking death of President Palmer, to Michelle’s and Tony’s (or so we thought), there was no shortage of death. Even Edgar got the silent clock treatment! And if Season 1 set the template for shocking endings with the murder of Jack’s wife, Season 5 perfected it with the Chinese capturing Jack. A truly great season from start to finish!

If you’re looking to give 24 a try, start with Season 1 or Season 5. The first season, or the best season. But if you’ve got the time, watch it all. It will be well worth it, and by the time Season 9 rolls around next year, you’ll be well accustomed to the twists and turns of the life of Jack Bauer.

Tick…tick…tick…tick…tickticktickticktick….