Although Fox's 24: Live Another Day has been billed as an all-new, 12-episode event series, the latest iteration of the Jack Bauer saga will feel very familiar to fans of the ticking-clock action series.
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But there is one key difference: After waging a one-man war against members of the Russian government and disappearing off the grid, Jack (Kiefer Sutherland) is now a wanted man. "Jack's in exile in a way he hasn't been before," executive producer Evan Katz tells TVGuide.com. "He's really considered by the government to be a terrorist. It's been a complete turnaround."
But you can't keep a good (bad?) man down. When Jack learns of a plan to assassinate U.S. President James Heller (William Devane) in London, Jack resurfaces for the first time in four years. "Jack is an individual who has a set of core principles, and he follows them pretty much no matter what," executive producer Manny Coto says. "Jack cannot stop fighting for his country and cannot stop fighting for what he believes in."
However, could Jack just be looking for an opportunity to clear his name? Is this a mission about redemption more than anything else? Not necessarily. "[Killing the U.S. president] on foreign soil could be tantamount to a world war," Sutherland says. "He believes the threat that he's uncovered is so egregious that it could start a world conflict, and that is his initial desire to become involved." Adds executive producer Howard Gordon: "Jack is almost in a post-redemption place. He doesn't need the badge, he doesn't need the medals. He doesn't need to be celebrated as a hero. More so than ever, Jack knows who he is. He owes no one any apologies, and if he can stop something bad from happening, he's just going to do it."
Kiefer Sutherland talks Jack Bauer's return in 24: Live Another Day
But even Jack Bauer can't do it alone. He'll once again seek help from his ex-CTU systems analyst Chloe O'Brian (Mary Lynn Rajskub), who now works for a WikiLeaks-like anti-government hacking ring known as Red Sect. Although Jack hasn't changed much in the past four years, the same can't be said for Chloe.
"Unlike Jack, Chloe really has turned against her country," Coto says. "Although she believes she is fighting for good and she has taken on a route that's not entirely dissimilar to Jack, she has become even more embittered than Jack. She was the one responsible for allowing Jack to escape as a fugitive, so there were repercussions to that, and it has changed her."
Needless to say, Chloe might not be so willing to go along with Jack's new mission. "She's also suffered a personal tragedy," Rajskub says. "She's in a lot of pain and [is] angry, and that's reflected in her look. When she realizes what [Jack] wants from her, she's very angry. They don't see eye-to-eye. She's questioning him more than she has, and for the first time, she has words with him."
Further complicating matters, Jack's return does not go unnoticed by the CIA, particularly head of operations Steve Navarro (Benjamin Bratt) and Kate Morgan (Yvonne Strahovski), a smart, impulsive field agent. Unfortunately for Kate, she's on her way out after her husband was convicted of selling state secrets to foreign governments. As such, catching Jack Bauer may be her last hope.
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"She has to be as driven as Jack. She has to be as good as Jack if she's ever going to really catch him," Coto says of the character. "But at the same time, we wanted someone who also had her own story to tell and was damaged in a similar, deep way. Although she is not guilty, she has been tarred with that brush and has fallen under suspicion, and nobody wants to work with her. When the possibility of retrieving Jack comes into play, it becomes a way for her to redeem herself. [But] I don't think it's a secret to say that it will become clear to her down the road, that Jack is not the villain she imagines him to be."
Also wrestling with her feelings about Jack Bauer is Audrey (Kim Raver), Jack's former lover and the daughter of President Heller. Although Audrey is now married to Heller's chief of staff Mark Boudreau (Tate Donovan) — who nursed Audrey back to health after she was kidnapped by Chinese officials in Season 6 — she is instantly torn when Jack re-enters the picture.
"She can't bring herself to believe that Jack is what everybody says he is, as far as being a villain," Coto says. Adds Raver: "Boudreau is the one who patched her up. She feels like she owes him, but I think she knows who she should be with. She's always understood who Jack is at the core and always accepted him for that. I think she's always been in his corner."
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But is Jack in any position to win back Audrey's love? "Jack Bauer is harder and I think angrier than he's ever been," Sutherland says. "He's had to hide in Eastern Europe for four years, he's been estranged from his daughter and his grandchildren, he has not been able to go back to the country that he feels he served. That kind of isolation has made him really hard." Adds Gordon: "There is a price to pay for that kind of loneliness. Jack's learned empirically that people he gets close to don't end up in good places."
Although the sociopolitical climate has changed in the years since 24 left the air, the show manages to remain relevant. (For starters, the assassination plot appears to hinge on the use of drones.) So will this be "another day" for Jack Bauer rather than the show's final chapter?
"We designed this as a single event to tell the story of what happened to Jack Bauer after he went into exile," Coto says. "We're not sitting around pitching next season or holding out hope. But because we love the show and we love the characters in it we can't help from time to time throw out ideas for where, if the chance arose, where we would take this. Creatively, we could take this much further and would be excited to do so, but we also designed this to end where it ends. And if that's the case, we think it will be a fitting end to the saga."
24: Live Another Day's two-hour premiere airs Monday at 8/7c on Fox. For more info on the show, check out the first episode of TVGuide.com's Watch This Tonight below: