Where there's a new season of 24, there's a terrorist ally working undercover as a government operative that no one ever suspected he/shel was the life of the office Christmas party. This year's 24: Legacy, a reboot-ish sequel of the Kiefer Sutherland-led series that ran from 2001 to 2010, follows nine seasons of agency snooping and CTU mole hunting. I don't expect the formula to change. So the big question after the post-Super Bowl premiere: which character isn't who he or she seems?
Here's my analysis, which I'm sending to your PDA right now, Jack:
Background: 24's legacy informs 24: Legacy
As a diehard fan of the original 24 (a.k.a. The Jack Bauer Power Hour), 24: Legacy left me a little uncomfortable. A previous, single-season revival, 2014's 24: Live Another Day, confronted years of criticism over Bauer's cruel-and-unusual interrogation methods, but couldn't entirely overcome routine, despite airing in a political era that deemed torture morally reprehensible (not to mention illegal); at one point, Jack hammered a bad guy's hand with his gun until the bones shattered.
One hour in, 24: Legacy has yet to trip into that particular, grisly pitfall -- so far, our new hero, ex-Army Ranger Eric Carter (Straight Outta Compton's Corey Hawkins), has stuck primarily to "running and gunning" -- but the rest of the show's tropes are back. Shadowy terrorism plot? Off-the-grid Counter Terrorist Unit activity? Suburban side characters in place to muck everything up around hour six? Check. A less welcome return: stock Islamic terrorists.
As we learn in a well-constructed shootout that sends Eric fleeing his home, soldiers from an ISIS-like organization is hunting down the Army Rangers who killed their leader, Sheik Bin-Khalid. But airing shortly after Real Life America rolled out an immigration ban targeting Muslims, 24: Legacy producers' decision to connect Islam to villainy will yet again subject fans of the franchise to a Rorschach test of their political beliefs.
Fortunately, in the world of 24, there's a lot of villainy to go around, and it's often lurking right under our hero's nose. Almost always, a twist unfolds to out some antagonist hiding in plain sight, and the new series seems to be reading the same series bible. So who's really ordering the hits on Eric and his fellow former Army Rangers? And who's really scavenging Washington D.C. for Bin-Khalid's strong box, which we now know contains activation codes for sleeper cells scattered across the United States?
If history is a guide, the first place to look for a mole is in CTU. It's almost a guarantee that one of the analysts we've met is cut from the same duplicitous mold as Sarah Clarke's Nina Myers, Aisha Tyler's Marianne Taylor, or Katee Sackhoff's Dana Walsh -- so-called good guys working from the inside to take down the country. But who is it this time? The first hour introduces the main possibilities.
Rebecca Ingram (Miranda Otto)
Bio: Ingram was the head of CTU during the assault that killed Bin-Khalid. She's also the wife of presidential candidate Senator John Donovan, who is more than happy to put her accomplishments on parade.
Why Rebecca is a mole: In the first hour, Rebecca returns to CTU to hand off the baton to her number two, Keith Mullins, only to resume her coordinator position when Eric goes on the run. In true 24 fashion, this involves breaking protocol and tasering her former underling to conduct a surreptitious geo-track of Ben Grimes, the ex-Ranger who stole Bin-Khalid's strong box. Shady business.
Why Rebecca is not a mole: Rebecca's shady business technically saves the day. 24 taught us that breaking the rules was all in a day's work for true heroes like Jack Bauer. Rebecca's reckless behavior screams rogue more than chaos-maker. And every good man-on-the-ground has an ally at home base; right now, Rebecca's shaping up to be Eric's Chloe O'Brien.
Verdict: My brain says mole while my heart says do-gooder. I'm a damaged man who thinks she's playing a long-game to embroil Eric in a terrorist plot and pit him against her Senator husband.
Keith Mullins (Teddy Sears)
Bio: Keith is the new director of CTU and just wants to connect with you on LinkedIn.
Why Keith is a mole: When Rebecca learns that someone fed Bin-Khalid's men the aliases of her rangers, she immediately suspects Keith as a mole. He's connected, he's twerp-ish, and he's one of the few other people on the planet who knew their identities.
Why Keith is not a mole: About ten minutes after we meet Keith, Rebecca ties her successor up in locust pose and stuffs his ass in a supply closet. Too easy.
Verdict: Not the mole. Sears appears in the 24: Legacy credits as a series regular, giving some credence to Rebecca's intuition -- he'll be around and could play out the mole role. But this read more like a red herring served up on a silver platter to remind us of CTU's history of infestation.
Andy Shalowitz (Dan Bucatinsky)
Bio: We're only an hour in, but Andy is the biggest computer analyst imbecile since Boris Grishenko in GoldenEye. Seriously, after delivering a resolute speech on her counterterrorist operations over the years, Andy compliments her by saying she was so strong that he "almost had to bitchslap her." Stand down, soldier -- you're doing it wrong.
Why Andy is a mole: His agro behavior is ripe for radicalization. We haven't seen him do much but that doesn't mean he's not feeding terrorists information off-screen.
Why Andy is not a mole: Andy feels more like a "I thought hiding this essential information from you would protect someone I secretly love!" or "I accidentally ordered a paramilitary raid of a civilian-filled shopping mall under the orders of a double agent!" screw-up more than a turncoat.
Verdict: Half-mole. CTU breeds assholes who've spent too many dimly lit hours clicking back and forth between Big Brother traffic cams and 4chan. Chloe was one of them, her ex-husband/CTU underling Morris was one, and Andy is the exaggerated version that 2017 demands. Like Boris, he'll likely look out for his own ass in the end. Expect ill-advised decisions.
Mariana Stiles (Coral Peña)
Bio: Mariana is the cousin of Edgar Stiles, who died choking on Sentox nerve gas in the main room of CTU. His untimely death didn't sway her away from signing up for the most dangerous analyst job since the Death Star IT crew
Why Mariana is a mole: In 24: Legacy's first episode, Mariana is a know-it-all who's more than happy to let he coworkers she's dope. If she harbors any resentment against CTU over Edgar's death, it's possible enlisted just to break the system from the inside.
Why Mariana is not a mole: At least one intelligent CTU agent will carry Eric through his 24-hour journey. With Rebecca's ties to Washington, and Andy's Andy-ness looming, Mariana could be the keystone of the operation.
Verdict: So not the mole that she could totally be the mole. The turn would be a diabolical move on the writers' part, inverting Edgar's reputation as the nicest guy in the room.
And plausible non-CTU turncoats...
Nilaa Mizrani (Sheila Vand)
Bio: Nilaa is the Senator's number two and she's no-bullshit; In the first episode, the campaign manager asserts herself in parlance with Rebecca and grills Senator Donovan after his wife bails at the last minute from a press event.
Why Nilaa is a mole: Positioned inside the upper-tiers of government, Nilaa could be orchestrating the sleeper cells from the inside and using Donovan as a shield.
Why Nilaa is not a mole: ...or she could be Eric's insider ally if (OK, just kidding -- when) the enemy's crosshairs target Washington.
Verdict: Possibly a mole, but let's hope not. I'm giving 24: Legacy the benefit of the doubt that Vand, who wowed in 2014's A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night and is of Iranian descent, was cast to remind audiences that not every person of color is automatically one of Bin-Khalid's recruits. This is meta-analysis, but one I have to buy as the show's already preying on the fears of this possibility.
Senator John Donovan (Jimmy Smits)
Bio: Your typical, congenial Washington career man whose darkness bleeds through when anyone puts his presidential bid in jeopardy.
Why Senator Donovan is a mole: "Oh come on, the President could never be a bad guy!" I'm going to sidestep the obvious joke here and point to Season 5's big bad: Charles Logan, the Nixonian chump who colluded with terrorists to assassinate President David Palmer then used the military to cover up his grand conspiracy. Senator Donovan already has that shady look in his eyes
Why Senator Donovan is not a mole: But maybe he's just gaslighting his wife into becoming the arm candy he needs to take over the White House? Thanks to casting news, we know that later this season, Donovan's parents, described as crafty business magnates, will enter the picture. If Donovan didn't order the deaths of Rebecca's soldiers, he's poised to be an obstruction in catching the real culprits. Greed and ambition have a way with 24 politicians.
Verdict: Mole, but not for the bad guys. So maybe just an asshole? Assmole?
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