05/01/2014 03:45 EDT | Updated 07/01/2014 05:59 EDT

'24: Live Another Day' Review: Jack's Back, And Better Than Ever

Despite the clock winding down and Jack's days getting horrifically worse (and a premise that may seem tired, to some), '24' will still manage to suck viewers in.

The concept of "24" has always been simple enough -- Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) is trying to live a normal existence but then all of a sudden, the next 24 hours of his life become a day from hell. Despite the clock winding down and Jack's days getting horrifically worse (and a premise that may seem tired, to some), "24" still managed to suck viewers in, and that's not about to change now.

I have watched every episode of "24" (all eight seasons, the two-hour movie "Redemption," and, now, the first two hours of "24: Live Another Day"), my cell still has the CTU ringtone, and I have a Jack Bauer action figure (complete with gun and his oh-so-masculine man-purse), so needless to say I'm a little obsessed with the series. So like every other true "24" fan, I couldn't be more pumped that Jack is back, but the way the show ended the first time around, it's understandable that I, and many others, would be wary. Thankfully, there is no need to be, because "Live Another Day" does not disappoint.

Set four years after the events of the final season, the concept -- which, unsurprisingly, still works -- will be altered a touch. "Live Another Day" is only 12 episodes long, so while each episode will correspond to an hour, there will be jumps in time throughout the series. But that doesn't change the fact that it's yet another crappy day for Bauer, perhaps the crappiest one yet.

If you remember the final moments of the final hour of "24," Jack was forced to flee the U.S. because he was being pursued by American and Russian agents. CTU was in control of a drone; Jack looked towards Chloe (Mary Lynn Rajskub) via the drone, and they shared a sweet moment (he asked her to protect his daughter, Kim, and her family). Chloe promised, of course. Jack told Chloe that when she first came to CTU, he never once thought it was going to be her who would have had his back all these years, and thanked her before taking off. So it's only fitting that "Live Another Day" involves both a drone and some insight into what Jack and Chloe's bizarre relationship has become, which is much more combative this time around.

Perhaps because of its London setting or maybe because it's just been too long without Jack Bauer, I had goosebumps, and it wasn't from the first five crazy minutes. It was seeing "24" becoming digitized on to the screen, seeing the lovely words and hearing Sutherland's voice say: "The following takes place between 11:06 a.m. and 12:00 p.m." and "Events take place in real time." GOOSEBUMPS.

Like with every other season premiere, the first hour here begins true to form: it's action-packed, no-holds-barred, and full-out. It hits the ground running. Because it's being told in 12 episodes rather than 24, "Live Another Day" is bursting with fruit flavour and is as edge-of-your-seat as it gets. Jack has been on the run for four years, but if you thought he had gotten rusty while in hiding, think again. Bauer is sharper than ever and luckily for him, the people after him are just as dim-witted -- with the exception of savvy CIA agent Kate Morgan (Yvonne Strahovski). No one's really listening to her so, for now, Jack is safe. While to us he's Jack Bauer, flawed hero, to everyone else he's the bad guy, so the world Jack inhabits now is a very different one.

James Heller (William Devane) is President now; his daughter and Jack's ex-girlfriend, Audrey (Kim Raver), is now married to his Chief Of Staff, Mark Boudreau (Tate Donovan), and there is no CTU, at least not yet. Rather, it's an office of the CIA -- headed by Steve Navarro (Benjamin Bratt) -- that has their hands full with Jack. After watching so many shows (every season of "24," "Scandal," "The Following"), I'm already wondering who the mole is (I have my suspicions) but, really, there are enough bad guys around so it would be refreshing for a season of "24" to be mole-less.

But it's Jack we care about, Jack whom we've missed. His reasons for resurfacing should come out at some point and the "good guys" are going to realize they need him. All won't be forgiven and he still has to pay for past events, but Bauer has never been about the glory. He is the ultimate selfless hero, and he's at his best when he has nothing to lose. We might not be OK with it but Jack doesn't think he deserves a happy ending and, quite frankly, after everything he's been through, it would be a little weird if he wasn't running around guns blazing, instead living in the suburbs with his wife and babysitting his grandkids. So if he wants to keep playing superhero, fine by me.

It's this Jack, the one whose purpose it is to rid the world of bad guys and nobly save the day, who makes for great television -- and with "Live Another Day" reminiscent of the early, groundbreaking days of "24," it's going to be a fantastic couple of months.

"24: Live Another Day" premieres with a two-hour event on Monday, May 5 at 8 p.m. ET on Global and Fox.

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