Season Two: Day 2.
Season 2 picks up 18 months after Season 1. The main plot this time deals with a nuclear threat on L.A. Jack must deal with the consequences of the last season, stop the bomb, and help President Palmer figure out who is behind it all. But the season really seems, much like Season 3, to be split in half. The first and second halves are quite different in feel to each other. But which half is better? It's really the characters that make one half better than the other.
So let's check out the character stories this time through.
After the death of his wife at the end of last season, killed by the one person he thought he could trust, Jack leaves CTU and basically becomes a bum. Kim hardly talks to him. But after the government tortures information out of a man that somebody was going to drop a nuke on L.A., newly appointed President Palmer requests Jack Bauer to head the mission.
This season isn't as personal as the first (or even the third), but it's still pretty intense. Jack's not connected to the baddies this time out, and he only has two real personal issues: protecting his daughter by getting her out of the city, and having to work with Nina--who killed his wife--to help stop the bomb. But besides the Nina angle, it's really not until Jack teams up with Kate Warner (who I'll get to next) that his story becomes really interesting.
The Warner Family
The Warners are new to the show this season. Their story begins as younger sister Marie is getting ready to marry a man named Reza who works for her father, Bob. Older sister Kate is trying to get everything in order, but she doesn't exactly trust Reza. Eventually, Bob and Reza are taken into custody, both accusing the other of being involved with the terrorist plot, having done business with the man supposedly behind the threat. Kate, on the other hand, eventually teams up with Jack to help him locate the bad guys. And the budding romance that begins between them starts to help Jack slowly get over the death of his wife.
The Warner plot really only holds up for the first half of the season and then disappears until near the end. The interactions between Jack and Kate are fun. There's one episode in particular that I thought was excellent, wherein Kate infiltrates a Mosque in order to locate CTU's prime suspect. I won't spoil everything here, just in case, but only Kate really continues as an important character in the second half of the season. But overall, the Warner plot is interesting and added a nice change of pace to the story.
The CTU building itself has its own plot. At one point, in order to stop CTU from helping, the bad guys plant a bomb and nearly destroy the place. So for most of the first half of the season, they're working through rubble and trying to get things back up and running. Meanwhile, George Mason--who took over for Jack during his rogue spell last season and just stayed in charge after Jack left--gets exposed to a high dose of radiation. So for the whole of the first half of this season, George is slowly dying, and he tries to keep it a secret from most people, only letting a few people (like Jack and Tony) in on the secret. And speaking of Tony, he's essentially the second in command now (though eventually taking over for George), and this season is when he begins his relationship with Michelle, another CTU employee.
George Mason has one of the most interesting stories this season, despite you knowing exactly how it's going to end (and I don't mean dying of poisoning). I think anybody with a brain could figure out what he would decide to do. And it's once his story ends that the season shifts. Tony's story is interesting, too, especially now that you know he's a good guy (after all of last season having you never know until the end). Also, the second half of the season, I believe, is when we finally see Ryan Chappelle, the big boss man at Division (the people who control CTU). And he's a total ass... but I'll get more into Ryan in Season 3.
After successfully becoming President of the United States, David Palmer is immediately hit with all sorts of crazy issues. First, there's the whole nuclear bomb threat. Then there's the fact that, apparently, there are people in his party that want to overthrow him. In fact, there might be a lot more of a connection between that and the nuclear threat than originally thought. Sherry Palmer also makes a return, having been forced into divorce from her husband after the last season. She's a little less unlikable this time out, but she's still awfully unlikable. Anyway, the second half of the season primarily focuses on Jack and Palmer. There's a voice clip that connects the bombing to a foreign country. Jack tells Palmer that he thinks the tape has been forged, and, of course, Palmer believes him. But the rest of the government does not. They do everything they can to remove Palmer from office, while Jack tries as quickly as possible to find proof of the tape's unauthentic nature.
This is probably Palmer's most interesting storyline (thus far, anyway). There's really not all that much to say about it. Jack is tied directly into Palmer's storyline, as Jack has to race against time to get information that will help both Jack's part of the story and Palmer's part of the story. The character of Mike Novak returns, as well, and he's always been a pretty likable character, though I'm not sure I cared for him in the second half of this season. And speaking of things I didn't care for...
Here's the weak link of this season. It was the only plot that wasn't directly related to anything of importance. Kim starts off as a nanny for a young girl of some rich family. But after she realizes that the father of the family is a psychotic asshole, the mother tells her to take the girl and leave and get to safety. And then, after her father finally lets her know of the bomb threat, she calls up her kung fu boyfriend to help out. All sorts of stuff happens to Kim during all of this. She has to kidnap the girl twice, gets arrested for murder, gets into a wreck, gets lost in the woods and chased by a mountain lion, and then shacks up with a crazy man for one episode that we never see again. You can really tell that the writers were like "Well, we have to keep her in the story somehow... but we don't want to tie her directly into the main plot again. Let's keep it fresh. How about... mountain lions!"
It's a pretty good season with a couple rough spots here and there. I asked a question earlier: Which is the better half? If you couldn't figure it out from my comments, I think the first half of the season is the better half. It gives us most of the good Warner stuff, the suspense of finding the nuke, the bombing of CTU, and George Mason's story. The second half is good, but not up to the par of the first half. The Warners all but disappear, George Mason is gone, CTU miraculously goes from rubble to completely operational, Tony miraculously goes from crutches to hardly a limp, and we switch from finding a nuclear bomb to finding proof that an audio tape is forged. Most of the good of the second half comes from Palmer's storyline, as you're just rooting for him to overcome his cabinet and persevere. Not to mention the season ends on a major cliffhanger dealing with him. So, yeah, the first half is better than the second, but it's all around a pretty good season. But it's nothing compared to Season 3.