As impossible as it might seem, a new season of Fox’s 24 premieres tonight. It’s been four years since the series aired its then-final hour, and since that episode the show has become considerably less talked about, if almost entirely forgotten.
That the series is now renewing itself with 24: Live Another Day presents us with an interesting situation. For lapsed fans of the series, it’s a chance to (hopefully) recapture the feeling of the show at its finest. More importantly though (and perhaps crucial to the show’s overall success), Live Another Day provides a new generation of viewers, ones who may have only heard about the series and its central hero, a chance to see what all the fuss was about. It gives them a chance to see just why Kiefer Sutherland’s Jack Bauer was THE onscreen hero of the first decade of this century.
By accident more than design, 24 became the first post-9/11 drama series—a show about major terrorist attacks on U.S. soil, the series premiere of which was delayed (and edited, as it featured a passenger aircraft exploding in midair) following the very real attacks of September 11. America needed an impulsive id to carry out the revenge fantasies so many people harbored after that day, and along came Jack Bauer.
Jack was the everyman hero of the 21st century. He was a man who wasn’t invincible (despite managing to survive far longer than almost all of his coworkers), but whose drive and determination we longed to embody. He didn’t play by the rules, he frequently let his emotions get the better of him, and he had a deep, unshakable devotion to his duty (even if it meant toppling governments, including his own).
He was a conflicted hero, who existed in what would be considered a moral gray area for most of us. While he made the “right” decision almost without hesitation, these decisions always came with a heavy toll, both emotionally and physically.
In the tradition of characters like Indiana Jones and John McClane, Bauer was not immune to battle damage, developing numerous injuries throughout his ongoing series of longest days ever (the worst-sounding of this injury catalogue has to be the “floating rib fragments” of Season 6).
For anyone who might doubt just what Bauer is capable of, or why he earned his place in the pantheon not just of television heroes, but among those of any medium, here are ten of the most intense, thrilling, and yes, just plain badass moments of Jack’s illustrious, terrorism-stompin’ career.