The worlds of television and film aren’t quick to let something go once it’s worked, and 24: Legacy is more a product of monetary inertia than creative theory. When 24 first hit, some 16 years ago, it created an entertainment moment that had audiences hooked, but now we’re mostly just working gimmick for gimmick’s sake.
The construction is very familiar, with Corey Hawkins taking over for Kiefer Sutherland. Eric Carter (Hawkins) is ex-military, and part of a group that killed a notorious terrorist leader. His past is now coming back to haunt him, and more important than simply killing said leader, one of Carter’s group took something from the compound, and it turns out to be something that the terrorists who are still around really want back.
Hawkins is solid in a role that demands a lot of charisma, but he can’t carry the show over the almost accidental plot development. You know we’re going to be following a chase, and it’s a show that is going to try everything it can not to slow down (else why the clock), but this quickly becomes a show that throws things at you nearly at random, just because it hasn’t thrown anything for 90 seconds and the buzzer went off. When all else fails, we take another look at the various side characters from an odd angle so that the show can trigger your doubts about everyone.
Worst of all, our new incarnation has people making choices only because they have to make them in order to keep the show alive. In the first three episodes there are perhaps a dozen points at which we might have solved the problem, chief among them the first time Carter figures out what the problem is.
Though it still manages a decent effort at escapist fare, most of what made the original show worthwhile is missing, lost to a different world that wants to tune into things like Scorpions and How to Get Away with Murder. That is to say, shows that are built on a backbone of clunky melodrama that put things out as “smart,” or even just “sensible,” but “in a way you’ll be able to understand.” It’s put together as though a bit too in love with old Chandler quote about having a guy come in with a gun, and it’s aiming too hard at a young demographic (and doesn’t think especially highly of that demographic).
When the show actually focuses on Carter, it maneuvers through its own pitfalls well, but it slows down too much and wants to build a bigger picture with sub-plots that run dangerously close to parody. A sleeper cell plot that takes place in a High School is a five-minute rewrite away from being an SNL skit.
Part of the problem with the original was that in order to keep the adrenaline pumping, and keep Bauer from getting out of the mess he’s in, audiences frequently found themselves attempting to dodge an, “Oh, come on,” reaction. Sutherland could get you through it, and events were lively enough that the repeated, anti-Deus ex Machina wasn’t completely alienating. 24: Legacy doubles down on the problem, even while struggling mightily to build the best parts of the theory into the overall effort.
Even some of the best actors working the sidelines feel out of place, which doesn’t solidify a need to keep watching. Miranda Otto plays Rebecca Ingram, Carter’s old CTU handler who has one foot out the door. She’s the only person Carter trusts, and she is brilliant when the show opens. She is forced to help Carter on the sly, because the “above board” approach may alert the mole/s that betrayed Carter in the first place. This becomes some of the best work in the early part of the show (which isn’t something that should be the case), but it progresses ultimately toward stagy, rote moves the show needs, which pulls the rug out of what tension we’ve managed to that point. Besides which, much of the tension is flat out faked. The clock may tick, but it doesn’t mean anything, and you don’t care, so why bother with it?
Unfortunately, despite Hawkins’ best efforts, it seems the show is trying to incorporate too many theories at once, and it doesn’t work out. I would say that a different lead might become the magnet that would drag us through without complaint, but I don’t think it’s true. There’s too much about that the show that is trying to be mediocre and succeeding.