Warning: Some spoilers ahead.
Season One: Day 1.
This first season hooked me in pretty fast. However, it wasn't perfect. Granted, I've only watched the first three seasons at this point, but the first season is really the only one where I've noticed one particular issue: making things overly complicated to do what should have been an otherwise easy task. For instance, near the beginning, an assassin woman gets a seat next to a photographer on an airplane to L.A. from Europe (I forget where specifically), chats him up to gain his trust, then kills him, steals his I.D. card, and jumps out of the plane with parachute after blowing up said plane. She then lands in the desert and buries the I.D. card so that someone else can come pick it up to deliver it. Seriously? Whatever happened to just jumping the guy in the street or robbing his house?
Anyway, the plot of this season centers around an assassination attempt on Senator Palmer, a Presidential Candidate, on the day of the Primary. So it's up to Special Agent Jack Bauer, head of CTU (Counter-Terrorist Unit), to save the day. But it's not that easy, as his daughter Kim and, eventually, his wife Teri--who he just got back with after a separation--are kidnapped. And the bad guys are using them against Jack to force him into carrying out the assassination himself. So Jack also has to save his family while avoiding assassinating Palmer and figure out just what his connection to all of this is.
As the show is split into multiple stories, I'll focus on each individual plotline and talk about its strengths and weaknesses. And I'll start with the major one.
The show really starts off showing you that our main character is no protagonist, as it were. No, we're dealing with an Anti-Hero here. Jack will go to any lengths to do what is necessary. At one point he threatens to shove a towel down a guy's throat and have it settle in his stomach just long enough for the acid to latch it to his stomach lining... and then pull it back up and out. That's pretty hardcore. Of course, he never does it, but just threatening to do so it crazy.
And that's Jack Bauer for you. You know he'll do whatever is necessary, but you can never really tell if he'll actually do it or not. He's a great bluff... or is he really bluffing? And how is all this stuff really affecting him? He keeps a hard outer shell that I don't think ever cracks until the final minutes of season 3 (which I'll get to soon).
Anyway, Jack corresponds with CTU, despite being away from headquarters for most of the season. He doesn't know who he can trust, as there is apparently a spy in their ranks. So while trying to stay away from the likes of the ambiguous Tony Almeida and sticks with Tony's girlfriend and Jack's former flame, Nina Myers. He also keeps confidence with one of the main computer techs, who can help him with anything technical he might need done.
Now, I'm usually pretty good and picking up on twist endings, and despite me basically figuring out any twists early on, the show has a way of making you second-guess yourself. So kudos on that. Overall, Jack's story, being the primary one, is interesting and action-packed. It has to be. It's the driving force of the show.
Kim and Teri Bauer
Their story starts as Kim sneaks out to hang out with a friend and some guys she knows. Well, it turns out the guys were hired to kidnap her. Fortunately, one of them--Rick--realizes he's in over his head and tries to persuade his crazy friend to stop doing what they're doing. But things get a bit out of control, leaving Rick in the driver's seat, so to speak. And there's a bit of a romantic angle between Kim and Rick, allowing the feelings between them to help Rick overcome his fears and try to help them out as best he can without getting caught or killed.
Meanwhile, Teri travels around with who she thinks is Kim's friend's father, but he turns out to be working for the bad guys, too. Teri ends up in the same place as Kim, and they have to work together (along with Rick) to stay safe and try to escape.
Overall, this plot gets old after a while. It's just repetitive. They get caught, they escape, they get caught again, they escape again, they get caught again... seriously. And at one point, both Kim and Teri escape together, but after a car accident, they get separated and Teri gets trauma-induced amnesia after thinking Kim is dead. I know that happens all the time, but it was still a bit ridiculous.
Oh, and is it just me, or did Teri and Nina look incredibly similar? If Teri grew out her hair a little more, they would look damn near like twins. Anyway...
Palmer's story isn't very interesting, especially in comparison to the next season. Years before, his son murdered a guy who raped his daughter (the son's sister). But it was leaked to somebody who decided that she must release it to the press. So while Palmer sees no real way to stop it from being leaked, his wife tries to cover it up, all the while yelling at her husband for potentially having their son go to jail. Of course, he didn't know about any of the bad stuff, as his wife had covered it all up after it happened. And all she cares about is keeping her husband's image positive so that he will win the election and get her into the White House. And she'll do whatever it takes to gain that power.
I really liked David Palmer as a character. And, of course, the whole plot centered around him. But almost everybody else in his plotline was annoying. Sherry, his wife, was actually more unlikable than the real villains of the show. You know how in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Delores Umbridge is more despicable than even Voldemort? It was similar here. I loathed Sherry with a passion in this season, but really had no strong feelings for the real villains. And then the Palmer children were just kind of annoying. The daughter was alright, but she wasn't really on screen very much. The son, however, irked me, too. And I'm glad after Season One, he's pretty much in one episode and only for about 3 minutes.
Palmer himself, however, is really, really likable. He's just a good guy all around. He wants to do what's right and gets conflicted if put in a position of moral ambiguity (i.e. where Jack stays through the whole show).
This season is a really good one, which is obvious considering it spawned another 7 seasons after it. There are obviously some things I disliked about the season, but they weren't things that destroyed it for me.
What really hooked me into the show, besides the suspense/tension, was its style. The way the show handled the multi-screens to show things happening in different stories at the same time. And, of course, the counter. The premise is that the show takes place in one day, and every episode is one hour of that day. Granted, when you're not watching it with commercials and 4-5 minutes will pass in about 5 seconds where commercials should be, that bit of the concept is lost. But it's still fun.
I think the best thing about this season was the tension and the twists. The secondary characters get better plots in the following seasons, but here they do what is necessary for the story. It's definitely a "season one," trying to find its place, but as I've seen mentioned elsewhere, even a below-average season of 24 is a better season than most other shows. Not that I'm saying this is a below-average season. It's not. I was just making a point on the quality of the show. And I think that about does it for the first season.