There are some people who think the best way to experience a season of 24 is to wait for the DVD release. Folks frustrated by the seven-day wait between episodes when 24 airs on Fox prefer to consume a bunch of them at a time — to settle in for, say, a good four hours of watching Kiefer Sutherland’s dexterous agent Jack Bauer bark, grunt, and pummel his way through any number of layered traps, conspiracies, and urgent cell-phone calls from CTU goddess Chloe O’Brian (Mary Lynn Rajskub).
This method of enjoying 24 is especially useful for the just-released season 5, which finds Jack trying to stave off nerve-gas attacks and a treasonous conspiracy involving (briefly) former president Palmer (The Unit‘s Dennis Haysbert) and (more lengthily and crucially) the current president Logan (Gregory Itzin). The snaking plot twists are so constant and subtle that it actually helps to watch a number of episodes in a row. Speaking of plot twists: Do I need to respect the sensibilities of DVD watchers and not give out plot details that have already aired? Okay, okay — let’s just say that the gradual shift in behavior of the oleaginous Logan (Itzin is the slipperiest actor, which I mean as a compliment) is matched only by Jean Smart’s controlled-chaos emotionalism as his First Lady. A number of beloved characters die, and among the plentiful guest stars (including Julian Sands and Sean Astin), Peter Weller stands out for sheer sustained menace as Jack’s former mentor, the grim Christopher Henderson.
The DVD package’s extras include numerous commentaries by many of the stars including Itzin (who tends to ramble amiably), Rajskub (who’s canny about calibrating her character’s sourness), and Sutherland, who refers to the CTU stage set as a ”soulless pit” in which plenty of cast members, he implies, feel stranded for days of filming. But it’s the producers, writers, and directors of the show who offer the most illuminating info and tips. Director Jon Cassar, for instance, notes that if you watch the first and last episodes of season 5 back-to-back, they become ”perfect bookend[s],” and that you’ll see many parallels and echoes in plot and visual motifs. Other extras include a deleted scene in which Chloe fends off the advances of a taxi driver (!) with a good swift kick to his nether region, and a short preview of the upcoming season — it’s a tantalizing look at what Jack’s been going through since he was shanghaied by the Chinese at the end of this season. Grant me one spoiler: Kiefer’s beard makes him look like his old man, Donald, in Pride & Prejudice.