Jack Bauer in fourth `24': Fierce, maybe less lovable

Critics' picks: New DVDs

December 04, 2005

24: SEASON FOUR / / Fox Home Video / / $69.98

If there is a more compelling hero on American TV than Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland), I have yet to meet him. Part of the credit for Bauer's appeal goes to Sutherland, a feature film star who elevates the entire medium by bringing his talents to weekly TV.

But the producers and writers of 24 also have created a deeply informed discourse on heroism in the post-9/11 era through Bauer. Just as the Iliad and Odyssey gauged the dimensions of heroism in ancient Greece, so does 24 attempt to give the measure of the man or woman it will take to rescue us from the anxiety that followed the attacks on the World Trade Center. And the fourth season, which ended last May, ratcheted the hero talk even higher.

The season opened with Bauer fired from the agency to which he gave most of his life and now working as security for the Secretary of Defense, James Heller (William Devane). He's also involved in a romantic relationship with Heller's daughter, Audrey Raines (Kim Raver).

When Heller and his daughter are kidnapped by terrorists, Bauer goes on the attack, and he is fiercer than ever. Over the years, Bauer has lost everyone close to him for one reason or another. As season four wore on and Raines got to see him operate at close range, even she moved away -- Bauer's intensity, anger and willingness to kill were too much for her.

Those are, however, the very warrior-like qualities that it might take to defeat an enemy like al-Qaida. When Raines confides her feelings of revulsion for Bauer's tactics to her father, he replies: "The country needs people like Jack to protect us."

Special features

This DVD is loaded with them, and serious fans will probably love them all for the added history they offer. Even "Breaking Ground: Building the New CTU," a straightforward feature story about building a new set for CTU headquarters last year, offered insights that enhance viewing pleasure. Joseph Hodges, set designer, explained the use of frosted strips on office windows inside the building: "It forced us to shoot [film] around them, which added to an overall feel of hiding behind things and looking through cracks." The frosting, which formed actual bar codes, also added to the high-tech sense of CTU. And, just for fun, one of the frosted sequences on the office of CTU's director is bar code for Joseph Hodges.

ALSO ANTICIPATED

THE WEST WING: THE COMPLETE FIFTH SEASON / / Warner Home Video / / $59.98

This will, of course, be known as the season without creator Aaron Sorkin - and the drop in richness of narrative could cause a nosebleed. Nevertheless, the characters he created remain, and it is still a pleasure to spend time with them in their highly moral and dazzling workplace.

DAVID ZURAWIK

David.Zurawik@baltsun.com

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