24 is a groundbreaking and important television series. Beyond the thrills, kills, twists, and tragedies is a show that reached a new level of serialized storytelling and set the bar for action and suspense on network television. Lasting for 8 full seasons and one “limited series”–204 episodes plus a TV movie–24 is one of the longest-running shows of the past 15 years. Others, like Grey’s Anatomy, NCIS, Smallville, two CSIs and two or three Law & Orders, may have run longer, but the argument can be made that none of those shows are equally as worthy of contributing to the debatably labeled and vaguely-defined “Third Golden Age of Television Drama” that began with The Sopranos in 1999 and is now fading with the end of Breaking Bad and the impending finale of Mad Men. Perhaps 24 doesn’t quite reach the dramatic heights of those shows, or others like The Wire and Deadwood, or even The Shield, Lost or Battlestar Galactica, but it was always a strong awards and ratings contender and it was just so addicting and fun to watch.
For the last year, we—Patches, Zach, Jeff and MegaMix—looked back at the entirety of 24, from its 2001 premiere to 2014’s Live Another Day. This month’s discussion focuses on our Superlatives, the Best and Worst that 24 had to offer through 206 hours of television.
It contains SPOILERS for the entire series of 24 and strong language. Parental discretion is advised. Discussion occurs in real time.
Jeff: Three, One, Two, Four, Five, Seven, Eight, Live Another Day, Six. As much as I’ve turned around on 5 and as much as I find 7 to be a delightful breath of fresh air in the late-series doldrums, I’ve simply got to dance with the one that brung me.
Zach: Take Jeff’s and swap Five and Four.
Patches: Three, Seven, Five, Four, Two, One, Eight, Live Another Day, Six. My big upset here is Season 7, which was the first season since S3 to introduce characters I truly cared about and the only season to seriously grapple with the War on Terror and the show’s own ideology.
MegaMix: Gots to go Three, Five, One, Four, Seven, Two, Eight, LAD, & Six. Wow.
Jeff: Season 3, home to (arguably) the best episode of the series, which is also, thanks to a presidential press conference moving it from Tuesday 4/13/04 to Sunday 4/18/04, the lowest rated episode in 24’s initial 8 season run.
Zach: Season 3.
Patches: Season 3. We’ve said all there is to say. Well, not really. But we’ve said all we’re going to say.
Jeff: Kief aside, I’ll go with Gregory Itzin as Charles Logan. It’s a role made for sinking your teeth into, and Itzin devours it. Cherry Jones may be the only non-Sutherland to win an Emmy for 24, but Itzin gets my vote.
Zach: Kiefer Sutherland. The show simply doesn’t exist without him.
Patches: It has to be Kiefer Sutherland as Jack Bauer, right? Master of the tortured tortured torturer? For the sake of discussion, I’ll go with Dennis Haysbert who expertly portrayed the president we wished we perpetually had. I’m not sure anyone on television emanates Haysbert’s level of integrity, strength, patience, wisdom, and moral certitude.
MegaMix: Mary Lynn Rajskub as Chloe O’Brian. Honestly, Kiefer was fantastic, but Mary Lynn came out of nowhere with this role. She’s mostly done comedic work outside of this and absolutely steals most scenes.
Jeff: It’s hard to find a main character who isn’t brought down by bad writing alone. I’ll go with the Season 6 Palmers, Sandra (Regina King) and President Wayne (DB Woodside). Both are as flat as their dialogue. Also, and this may be sacrilege, but as great as he is in certain moments, I often feel like William Devane as James Heller is reading off of cue cards.
Zach: Fuck off, Cheng.
Patches: Leslie Hope as Teri Bauer in Season 1. 24 casted well enough to avoid anyone terrible joining the main cast, but Hope’s performance struck me as bland, boring, and uninspired. The writers sure didn’t do her any favors either, but “listless” isn’t the best way to elevate a character.
MegaMix: Elisha Cuthbert as Kim Bauer. As cute as she is, everything about her screams BLEH! She sticks out like a random cougar in the middle of a season.
Jeff: Teri’s death in season 1. Had she lived (and they shot a retroactively terrible alternate ending where she did), 24 would be a very different show (until they killed her in season 2).
Zach: My favorite moment is Jack’s breakdown at the end of S3. The best moment is probably Jack capping RC Cola.
Patches: Jack’s execution of Ryan Chappelle isn’t just the best moment of 24; it defines 24.
MegaMix: I agree with Patches here. Chappelle’s execution is everything 24 can be and ever was.
Jeff: Finding out that Graem is Jack’s brother.
Zach: Season 1 of 2.4. I *HAVE* to pick a point? … Cheng returning. Not about Cheng? Everything Morris.
Patches: There were probably far worse and far dumber moments, but none made me as angry as Curtis Manning’s shock-mongering, out-of-character demise. I devoted 400 words to why here if you want to read it. If you need me, I’ll be in my happy place discussing Chikara and videos of adorable kittens with Yvonne Strahovski.
MegaMix: I think it might be mostly because of how fresh it is, but bringing Cheng back in LAD was just so fucking cheap and worthless.
Best Supporting Performance
Jeff: Xander Berkeley as George Mason (yes, I know he was main cast in S2). The guy was the original “suit” who gets in Jack’s way, and was a huge dick. But Berkeley is such a good actor, adding depth and weight to his character until, by the time he bowed out in the desert, he was “our huge dick.” Shout out to Paul Schulze as Ryan Chappelle, who surprisingly was an anchor for the show’s best hour.
Zach: I’m sure this will be viewed as way out there, but for me there’s no question — The real Almeida, Ramon Salazar (Joaquim de Almeida). Since I’m gonna talk about him down in best villain, a second shout out to consummate badass Michelle Dressler (Reiko Aylesworth).
Patches: I could pour through every season’s Wikipedia page or fall down the 24 wiki to answer this question. Or, I could pick Tony Todd because A) He “supported” the show by playing two separate characters, first Detective Norris in Season 3 and then General Juma in Season 7, B) Juma was rad as fuck, and 3) Tony Todd. Watch DS9’s “The Visitor” and tell me Tony Todd doesn’t deserve this. Did it just get really dusty in here? Where is all this pollen coming from?
MegaMix: Glenn Morshower as Aaron Pierce. FUCK. YES.
Worst Supporting Performance
Jeff: It’s Mike Doyle, no question, but I need a place to mention Kirk Baltz as Teddy Hanlin in S1. He’s the CTU sniper who has a beef with Jack and totally blows Jack’s meetup. The story is contrived and Baltz’ acting is beyond terrible.
Zach: The one and only Baby-Faced Blind Mystic Agent Mike Doyle, as “acted” by Ricky Schroeder. They didn’t give you much to go on but that didn’t stop you.
Patches: I think this needs to go to Jon Voight as Season 7’s Jonas Hodges. There were many worse characters, but few of them were given as much to work with. Hodges, on the other hand, was an interesting character made into a cartoon by the AAAACTING! of Voight.
MegaMix: I’ll go with Dennis Hopper as Victor Drazen in season 1. Although it may not have been the worst, his accent and lack of ultimate badassery make him a strong candidate.
Jeff: It is and will forever be Tony Almeida.
Zach: Jack Bauer.
Patches: When Curtis Manning died so uselessly, a little part of me died with him. Never again would I trust 24 with my heart. Until Kate Morgan, at least…
MegaMix: It’s probably a tie between Tony and Chloe, but ultimately I choose Ms. O’Brian.
Least Favorite Character
Jeff: Every single surprise family member (you too Danny Dessler, Maya Driscoll, Jenny McGill and the mysterious Stuart Pressman). Too broad? Dana Walsh.
Zach: Fuck off, Cheng. Runner up: Audrey. Third: Dana Walsh.
Patches: I’m going to go with Audrey Heller/Raines/Boudreau. There were worse characters and more boring characters, somehow. That said, none of them were main cast members for FOUR GODDAMNED YEARS.
MegaMix: Wayne FUCKING Palmer. That guy was constantly frustrating and often incompetent.
Favorite One-Off/Small Role Character
Jeff: Lou Diamond Phillips as de Salvo in season 1. Poor guy was just trying to do his job. Plus, I love me a Young Guns reunion. Also, props to my boy Alexander Siddig as Hamri al-Assad.
Zach: I’ll hedge my bets by choosing “character played by John Meier,” who is listed as having played 15 different characters in the run of the show, and appeared in every one of the first 8 seasons at least once. He was the first person ever killed by Jack Bauer.
Patches: No one really jumps to mind here, so instead, I’ll devote this space to thanking Danny from Season 3’s Chandler Plaza Hotel arc. He was such a bitch about the quarantine that he had to get shot to death. In doing so, he elevated Michelle Dessler from “great character for a woman on 24” to “great character.”
MegaMix: Not sure it’s small enough, but I’m picking Belcheck from LAD. I don’t remember cheering for a smaller character in any other season.
Jeff: Scissor-to-neck in S05E05. It’s bad enough as it is, but jamming it home seals the win.
Zach: Never in my entire life have I been so disgustingly pleased with a murder as I was when Sherry Palmer finally effing gets hers.
Patches: I almost went with Jack’s axe-to-chest kill on “Red Square Spotter” in the Season 8 premiere. Then I remembered the Season 2 finale when Jack ran up a wall to snap the neck of one of Peter Kingsley’s thugs. Best. Parkour. Ever. Honorable mention to the aforementioned axe kill, “Flare gun to chest” of Episode 9 in Season 2, and Jack’s Season 5 showdown with Christopher Henderson on the USS O.K. Corral.
MegaMix: Although it might be splitting hairs, I immediately thought of the Chappelle execution. THE defining moment of the series.
Jeff: Nina Myers. She was really only a clear villain for about half-a-dozen episodes, but her betrayal after almost 24 hours as an ally emphasized the depth of her villainy and made her death all the more satisfying.
Zach: Ramon Salazar. The way they play Jack and him side-by-side for so much of the first half of S3 emphasized, to me, how very thin the line was between him and Jack. I really felt like they were equals, and Joaquim de Almeida just played the bejeezus out of him. If only he could have had an entire season!
Patches: Charles Logan. A perfect combination of the caricatures of Richard Nixon and George W. Bush with a heaping helping of cowardice to go along with. Plus, Gregory Itzin just knocked him out of the park.
MegaMix: The sniper that took out my girl Renee Walker. DAMN YOU!!!
Jeff: Papa Bauer. For as much weight as it could have had, after 5 seasons of watching Jack kick ass and lose friends, there was no realistic way to meet the expectations that this father-son showdown instilled in me.
Zach: Fuck off, Cheng. Runner up: Dana Walsh
Patches: Alan Wilson. He doesn’t get to do anything badass in all of Season 7, so the writers placed him at the head of Season 5’s conspiracy in a desperate attempt to give him credibility. I’m not opposed to a string-pulling mastermind, but much like Bond, they don’t work on 24 if they don’t get their hands dirty.
MegaMix: The sniper that didn’t/couldn’t take out Audrey Raines-Boudreau. DAMN YOU!!!
Jeff: The Araz family. As annoying as the ballad of Debbie and Behrooz is at times, mom and pop were stone cold. A cooperating Behrooz’s uncertain fate has always been kind of chilling to me too. Shout out to Michael Amador, who seemed to be the second half of season 3’s cool, confident big bad, until the real cool, confident big bad blew his ass up.
Zach: I’ll go with Mandy, in part because she was so mysteriously dangerous at the beginning (why not leave her that way?!) and in part because I don’t think I know anyone else.
Patches: My favorite is probably David Emerson from Season 7. He got help from the writers, who weirdly decided to give a shit about their characters for the first time since S3, but Emerson displayed surprising competence, loyalty to those, such as Lake and Palmer, who gave it to him, and compassion for those who had been screwed over by the US government. Or, he’s just a successful mercenary who happens to be a hell of a manipulator. Either way, he’s one of the few minor bads we got a chance to sit down with.
MegaMix: Again, not sure this counts, but for whatever reason Mike Novick came to mind. LAWD was that guy a consistent douche-canoe.
Jeff: Chain Fight!
Zach: Chain Fight!
Patches: Jack killing Fayed had heart, but scissors to the neck had scissors to the neck. Jack’s rumble with another assassin, Quinn, in Season 7 deserves special mention for its solid choreography and use of construction equipment.
MegaMix: Other than the Jack/Fayed moment, nothing else really jumps to mind other than any time Jack had to fight/punch/hurt/choke out any of his “friends” because he needed to do what he needed to do.
Jeff: Jack, Tony and Bill going in to get Dubaku and the CIP device in S7.
Zach: Somehow, I have to go with the raid in LAD
Patches: I’ll go with General Juma’s raid on the White House and its ensuing liberation. It wasn’t exactly the most believable, but the setting added some extra gravitas and Bill’s sacrifice gave it the emotional weight that few others could provide.
MegaMix: Can I say the entire killing spree/rampage Jack goes on after Renee’s murder? Because, DUH!
Jeff: I don’t know if it counts as either, but the virus vial at the Chandler Plaza Hotel blowing up in Gael’s face was pretty great. That said, the twist that got the biggest reaction from me was definitely the assassination attempt on Palmer in the season 2 finale.
Zach: S1E24. S2E24 was ruined for me by not really rolling with it.
Patches: I’ll roll with the reveal of President Logan as the evil mastermind of Season 5. It was out of character enough that you didn’t expect it, but enough seeds were planted that it makes sense in retrospect. The bad news is that it was the logical extreme for a show like 24, so anything that came afterwards would have to be illogical to top it. Hello, Seasons 6-9! Special shout out to the near WWIII-provoking sinking of the mysteriously unescorted Chinese aircraft carrier in LAD.
MegaMix: For me, it’s President Palmer’s assassination at the beginning of S5. HOLY FUCK did that shock the shit out of me.
Jeff: Graem is Jack’s brother…and Jack’s dad is involved.
Zach: Fuck off, Cheng (S8). Runner up: Fuck off, Cheng (S6).
Patches: President Heller’s miraculous Wembley missile survival in Live Another Day. And just in case that one just seems like the worst due to recency bias, I’ll roll with Teri’s amnesia. Man…
MegaMix: Jack being dead. Ever. Like, ever. In any situation. Unless we see him die on screen. And even then. Fuckin…
Jeff: Dana Walsh is the correct answer, and controversy wants me to say the Palmer storylines in season 3, but I’m going to go with the middle school romances of season 6. We never asked for a love pentagram with Morris, Chloe, Milo, Nadia and Mike Doyle, but we sure got one.
Zach: Fuck off, Cheng. Runner up: Every single thing that happened in the White House in S6, with emphasis on Weeeeeen’s heart crap.
Patches: Kim Bauer’s Safari Planet is the most memorable, but others were much worse. Dana Walsh’s B-Plot in Season 8 is the worst stuff that 24 has ever done.
MegaMix: I think the Dana Walsh plotline was REALLY bad, but I’ll say the CTU baby. Ugh! SO frustrating.
Best Silent Clock
Jeff: The one marking the death of Ryan Chappelle.
Zach: I never believed Jack wouldn’t save Ryan, even after the shot. The silent clock was what broke that.
Patches: Teri Bauer, Season 1. It really pounded home the idea that there’s no happy endings on 24.
MegaMix: Bill Buchanan’s was REALLY powerful and felt deserved, which is important to me.
Worst Silent Clock
Jeff: The silent clock at the end of Redemption, because we’ve got to throw one in here somewhere, right guys?
Zach: Obviously it’s Deadger Stiles
Patches: Either Season 2’s assassination attempt silent clock or Season 7’s buried alive silent clock. One of these two is where the writers got the idea that they could use the silent clock to mess with the audience. They could not give Tony one and hope to bring him back later or have Heller stupidly survive a missile strike and say, “What? There was no silent clock. You should have guessed he’d survive!”
MegaMix: George Mason leaving CTU gets a silent clock? Fuck. That. Noise. Give it to him when he dies at least.
Jeff: It’s got to be Nina, but I’ll give Walt Cummings some love too. He sent Hank (AKA scissor-neck) after Jack, and when Jack finds out and vows revenge, the split screen at the end of the episode is awesome.
Zach: Nina Myers.
Patches: Nina Myers and it’s not close. She was badass, a near equal to Jack in most ways, and the trope hadn’t been played out yet.
MegaMix: It’s really hard to argue with Nina, but the couple of times that Tony was maybe a bad guy were really well done as well.
Jeff: Navarro narrowly beats Sean Hillinger and Erika (a tragic duo who are the “Bonehead and Clud” of 24 moles) in the “that guy’s probably this season’s mole” contest.
Zach: Does Dana Walsh count? If so, she is easily the worst.
Patches: I’ll nominate Season 7’s slew of random moles that helped move along the plot. Special hatred, though, goes to Edward Vossler and Brian Gedge. Two moles in the Secret Service are totally believable because they just hire anybody.
MegaMix: Steve Navarro in LAD was both predictable and stupid. WINNER!