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24: Legacy - 12:00pm - 1:00pm - Review: "A solid, at times unremarkable, start"

When 24 debuted on FOX in November 2001, it was revolutionary. The real-time format for a show rather than just an isolated episode was a new and crazy concept, the fully serialised storytelling had been rare, and the intensity of it all was heart-pounding. Just over 15 years later and television has seen an abundance of similar shows. So in order for 24: Legacy to succeed, especially with so much choice right now, it needs to be more than just engaging for the same reasons the franchise was back then.

“12:00pm - 1:00pm” doesn’t really do that, certainly not to the extent that would be hoped for. Though there are problems with it, at no point is it ever flat-out bad, which is something to be happy with, at least. But while aspects of the hour are strong, on the whole, it is a very ‘okay’ watch.

Eric Carter (Corey Hawkins), the man who fills Jack Bauer’s boots as the show’s lead, is a very different character to that of Kiefer Sutherland’s. Where Jack was a brusque, stern badass who’d do whatever it takes as cool as you like, Eric is more permanently on edge thanks to his experiences as an Army Ranger - that’s before he’s made aware of the threat to his life and that of his wife, where he expresses a collectiveness that most would not. It’s not a bad thing; using someone inherently similar to helm Legacy would fail to make a necessary distinction between the two, and would seem too much like the producers wanted Jack/Sutherland but had to have someone else. That would be a disservice to the new show and a disservice to Corey Hawkins.

And while Hawkins isn’t as strong a lead as Sutherland, he doesn’t have any particular issues and walks into the role with ease. Distinguishing between the two performances is to compare, among many aspects, the presence each possess: part of what made Sutherland’s turn work so well is how much of the screen it felt like he was using up, but Carter isn’t the type of character - nor, arguably, is Hawkins the type of actor - that will fit analysis like that. It’s less a critique than it is a compliment, with this new iteration and this new lead very quickly establishing its independence from 24.

Rooting Eric’s story in both his desire to protect his wife and his country and him facing demons from his past - on both sides, so it seems - is a smart move. Legacy throws Eric right in at the deep end and orders him to swim or drown, and his ability to swim is impressive. Nicole (Anna Diop) is, appropriately, his first priority, and it says a lot about his determination to protect her yet his understanding of how severe the Bin-Khalid threat is that he asks his drug-dealing brother (and her ex-boyfriend) to look after her.

Also a smart move? Making clear from the get-go that there’s someone inside the government who cannot be trusted. 24 had a knack for utilising moles and betrayals, and a knack for making many somewhat insignificant and/or mundane. Emulating the structure of the first season and presenting this leak as existing is much more likely to create the pulsating storytelling fans are used to and gives the creative team more freedom to justify doing this in the first place by making the reveal and subsequent fallout matter. New CTU director Keith Mullins (Teddy Sears) is the obvious pick right now, mostly because we know his name and face and we aren’t especially likely to ever meet the CIA or NSA directors, but it’d be surprising if he ended up being the traitor (*).

(*) Nina Myers was hinted to be dirty at the end of the first season’s second episode, but they quickly dug themselves out of that hole and gave viewers a reason to trust her. It’s still early, so it’s possible we’ll get a similar thing here.

Ben Grimes (Charlie Hofheimer), Eric’s former Ranger colleague, falls under this category already, threatening to sell the strongbox - containing the details and activation codes for several Bin-Khalid sleeper cells in the U.S. - back to the terrorists if the government doesn’t pay up. Pitting the two against each other makes for an interesting dynamic, though Ben’s attempt at blackmail is a frustratingly predictable way to prolong this story; Eric now has to spend at least another hour trying to recover the cells’ information instead of just fighting to find and stop them in time.

In Senator John Donovan (Jimmy Smits), Legacy provides a similar narrative to that of David Palmer. This may not be the day of the California Presidential Primary, but Donovan is still knee-deep in a campaign for President. Smits doesn’t get a whole lot to do here, but he’s always enjoyable, if unremarkable. His side of proceedings is far more focused on his wife, Rebecca Ingram (Miranda Otto), the former head of CTU who authorised and ran the raid on Ibrahim Bin-Khalid. Ingram stepped down to support her husband’s campaign, but there’s a sense that she deeply misses the job and is much more at home fighting to stop terrorists than attending rallies and parties. Pushing her back into this world creates the potential for plentiful development; as the stakes get higher, she may be forced to make some difficult decisions that affect both Donovan’s campaign and their marriage. Miranda Otto is entirely fine here, and though it would be nice if she had been given the opportunity to be as fantastic as her performance in Homeland’s fifth season, it’s still early.

One story direction in particular that absolutely doesn’t work takes place at Pershing High School, where Drew (Zayne Emory) suspects a fellow student, Amira (Kathryn Prescott), of being involved with “terrorist stuff” (*). Even his description of his concerns is infuriatingly poor, and the premiere does little to try and mitigate that: not only is Amira actually part of a sleeper cell but so is David (no last name was given, as far as I can ascertain), the teacher to whom Drew shared his information. The whole thing is lazy and dumb. Though Amira’s brother, whom they mentioned, may be more important to the story down the line, the effectiveness of a subplot involving a student and teacher scheming to commit a terrorist act is negligible. Committing to showing their side of the world is admirable in isolation, but the execution is so poor that it negates any potential appreciation.

(*) His justification? “She’s been texting this guy.” In fairness, the content of those texts explains his worries, but the episode ignores how he knows it.

It’s safe to say that 24: Legacy, in its first episode, doesn’t rival 24 at its peak, or indeed at its first hurdle 15 years ago. But as starts go, this is pretty solid, and while there are aspects in need of serious and immediate revision and improvement, there’s enough here to warrant investing more time.

From the CTU Archives (connections to 24’s original run that aren’t referenced):
CTU tech Mariana (Coral Peña) is the cousin of Edgar Stiles.
Ingram attacking Mullins before dragging him to an interrogation room is a straight combination of Jack on Mason in the pilot and Tony and Michelle on Chappelle towards the end of season two.
Just after the pipe fell, Eric’s left with one hostile to take out amidst a large cloud of dust. It’s very similar to Jack taking out one of Haas’ men in the season five premiere.

It is very strange to have two different voices (Hawkins and Otto) read the “The following takes place…” and the “Events occur” title cards; even stranger to have both appear on the same screen. (Both cards are read by Hawkins in hour two, and appear on separate screens.)
There are some odd filming choices in this episode, a random zoom on Drew’s face in his first scene standing out as particularly unusual. Equally, director Stephen Hopkins often opts for the shakiest of shaky camera shots, and there’s very little reason apparent to do so.
My memory of 24 is pretty strong, but I don’t ever remember the cast and crew credits starting as late in an episode as they do here. (It’s around two minutes in when Corey Hawkins’ name pops up.)
Granted, Amira and David are lovers and working together, but I reject the idea that she’d be allowed to have her phone on the desk during class.
And thus begins 24’s tradition of impossibly hasty travel: Ingram got from Capitol Hill to the Washington Monument, where CTU now houses its headquarters, in five minutes. Google Maps tells me this journey takes a minimum of ten minutes.
Eric’s driving is incredibly reckless.
The stunt with the massive pipe was fun, even if a little ridiculous.
FOX have currently sent out the first four episodes to critics, so expect reviews for at least the next three to be available for your reading pleasure on the final clock. (This one came a little later due to not knowing exactly when it would finish. Thanks, Super Bowl!)
Remember, Legacy moves into its regular timeslot commencing Monday 6th February (tomorrow/tonight, depending on when you’re reading this) at 8pm.

What did everyone think of 24: Legacy’s debut? Hit the comments below with your thoughts!