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24: Season 3 Review

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Jack Bauer's third bad day arrives on DVD

★★★★

Jack Bauer's third bad day arrives on DVD minus the Zeitgeist grip of previous seasons but with a Tupperware freshness that over-exposure on terrestrial telly had denied it in the past.

It begins at 1pm, three years on from the nuclear threat, with President Palmer seeking re-election, Kim installed at CTU, Jack nursing a new partner and a heroin habit and LA facing a bio-terror threat. From there, its juggernaut pace mows down concerns like logic, subtlety and toilet breaks.

With each passing season, 24’s USP — the real-time clock — becomes more of a cross to bear and considering the only character we really care about is Jack, it might have been wiser to dispense with Kim rather than manufacture some unlikely promotion. Likewise, Palmer has to survive three separate blackmail attempts before a fourth integrates him with the main storyline.

The show also remains essentially one-note, precision-engineered to keep banging out those dramatic tension chords rather than play any counterpoints. This means that during downtime between real scares, soap-opera-style conflicts need to be invented, especially at CTU.

Thankfully, the plot juggernaut just keeps on truckin’, even jackknifing occasionally to keep you on your toes. Genuine surprise is key to 24’s appeal and although plot strands are regularly abandoned, the promise of another man-behind-the-man bad guy is never far away. Just as important is the genuine sense of peril made possible because day three takes its toll, racking up a bodycount lesser shows would flinch from.

It’s unclear how long the producers can keep pulling the same trick, but for now there’s enough magic in the formula to make all the gumption-swallowing worthwhile

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