Sunday marks the return of 24 for a potentially massive post-Super Bowl audience. It’s Kiefer Sutherland-free — no Counter Terrorist Unit legend Jack Bauer growling and grunting through intrigue and torture. Instead, the rechristened 24: Legacy gives us a younger hero, Straight Outta Compton’s Corey Hawkins as Eric Carter, an ex-Army Ranger, a Special Forces professional who wants to be left alone with his nurse-wife (Anna Diop), but gets pulled into saving America from a potential terrorist attack.
The opening real-time hour is pretty engaging — knottily plotted yet streamlined enough to hold the attention of football fans left burping on sofas across this great land on Sunday. Early on, the instigating item that sets off the drama is revealed: a flash drive with the names and contact info for terrorist sleeper cells.
For one subplot, we get Jimmy Smits playing a senator running for president whose wife, Homeland’s Miranda Otto, is the former head of CTU. In a few later episodes made available for critics, I would say that this political subplot hamstrings Smits, who’s stuck in glad-handing campaign mode, while Otto dashes around CTU trying to help Carter via the organization’s familiar, vast array of high-tech computer equipment.
There are also subplots about the plight of war veterans, a high school teacher involved with a student who may or may not be a budding terrorist, and the inevitable possible CTU mole. The least-promising narrative thread involves Carter’s wife. Carter drops her off with his drug-dealer brother (Ashley Thomas), who promises to protect her even as he’s planning a major drug score. This seems ludicrous. The show’s trademark split-screen visual style gets a real workout even when it’s totally unnecessary, such as a moment when the TV screen split into three simultaneous segments as two characters just stood around to watch a video. This is the very definition of “not suspenseful.”
I like the way Hawkins plays Carter, with a fierce gaze, a firm jawline, and an explosive running style. But after a few hours of 24: Legacy, I wasn’t very engaged by all the scrambling around, the twists that prove to be double-crosses that will probably turn out to be triple-crosses. By the time Carter tried to execute a robbery from a place that strains all credulity, I was starting to count how many hours the season has left, and that became its own kind of torture.
24: Legacy premieres after the Super Bowl, and airs Mondays at 8 p.m. on Fox.