Season Three: Day 3.
Season 3 picks up 3 years after Season 2. After the cliffhanger, the main thing on your mind is "is David Palmer still alive?" And, thankfully, he is. He survived the biological virus that nearly took him out, leaving a large scar on his hand and wrist. But that only foreshadowed the coming events. The main plot this time out deals with a biological weapon threat against the United States. The season is really a basic rehash of the first season, but mixing in elements of the second. And like the previous season, this one is like two different halves, one better than the other. So which half is better?
Let's look at the character stories.
Jack is back, working at CTU. But there's more to it than that. He'd been working undercover for over a year with a Mexican family, the Salazars. And in order to keep his cover, he had to become addicted to heroin. After a body shows up at a lab infected with a super-virus, Jack takes it upon himself to try to find and stop the virus from being released on the States. At first, it appears that the Salazars are involved, but there's really more to the story, more than Jack, Tony, and a man named Gael are letting on.
Jack has a really interesting story this time around, making it more personal again. He spent a year of his life with the Salazars and even came to the point of drug addiction. It also turns out, come the second half of the season, that Jack has more involved with the plot than it first let on (as does President Palmer), and it all pretty much ties back to part of the plot in Season One. But believe it or not, the best moments of the season always involve Jack's part of the story (though it is good). Oh, and Nina Myers returns again... but she's not the main villain by a long shot.
The Salazar Family
With the Warners out of the picture (after only a goodbye phone call from Jack to Kate in the first episode), the Salazar comes in as the new family that will only be relevant for the first half of the season. The Salazars are drug cartels, with one of the brothers being in jail. Jack has to break him out and get him down to Mexico, which is where you learn a major twist in the story that I won't reveal in too much detail. Let's just say that Jack works with the Salazars to try and get his hands on the virus.
The Salazars are, for lack of a better term, stupid. Or lame, rather. I never cared for their storyline, and the brothers flip-flopped how they felt about Jack so much I couldn't remember which one was which (shows how developed their personalities were). Thankfully you don't have to deal with any of them after the halfway point, despite the entire beginning of the show being almost completely about them.
There are quite a few different storylines going on in the CTU building this season. First, there is the introduction of a couple new characters: Chloe, Adam, and Chase. Let's go in order. Chloe is horrendously annoying. She speaks her mind in all the wrong ways. It's like she's the nerd who thinks she's cool and tries to stand up to everybody who messes with her, but just continually makes an ass of herself. And despite being smart and helpful, nobody can stand her... and the more people can't stand her, the more Chloe feels the need to prove herself, which just makes everything worse. Her story in this season is basically just as a plot device, used only when things go bad electronically. But there's also a subplot about a baby that nearly goes nowhere, and the baby just disappears from the show about halfway in, despite supposedly being still there (unless I missed something).
Adam is, for all intents and purposes, Chloe's partner. Played by the ever-present Zachary Quinto (of Heroes and Star Trek fame), Adam is one of the few likable characters this season (I'll get into that later). His character starts off a bit rough, but he grows on you pretty fast. And his story is basically the same as Chloe, minus the baby. He's just there for plot purposes. He does get a bit of minor development near the very end of the season, but nothing monumental.
Then there's Chase. But I can't talk about Chase without talking about Kim Bauer. Kim is now working at CTU as one of the tech squad (in other words, she works with Chloe and Adam), given the job by her father to that she can stay safe and out of trouble--a smart move considering the previous two seasons. Anyway, Chase is Jack's partner, as well as Kim's 3-month boyfriend. There's another twist involving him, but I won't go there here. Chase is impulsive and will go to any means to prove himself. In fact, he often nearly screws things up many times, like when he follows Jack to Mexico to rescue him not knowing Jack had everything under control. And outside of this impulsiveness, he's mildly likable.
Let's not forget Tony and Michelle. Unlike every other relationship in this show, this one actually lasted more than one season. Now married, Tony and Michelle face quite a few hardships throughout the season. From Tony getting shot to Michelle getting caught up in the virus epidemic (the whole string of episodes in the hotel were some of the best parts of the season). Tony's basic story is that, while he's supposed to be running CTU now, things keep happening to put his ability to run the place into question. Michelle, being the second-in-command, doesn't have too much to do throughout the season until the second half, when her moment(s) really come into play.
And then there's Ryan Chappelle. Ryan plays a bigger role in this season than he did in the last, and he's still a total ass. In fact, he's probably a bigger ass in this season than he was in the previous. However, there's an episode late in the season dealing with Ryan that nearly made me cry, despite my dislike of the character. I really think that shows how good this show is, capable of making you go from hating a character to really feeling for them in the span of one or two episodes.
Palmer's story, like a few other things this season, is a complete rehash of Season One. Palmer is up for re-election, so he's in campaign mode. There's scandal involving a psychiatrist (this time his current girlfriend), as well as Sherry being Sherry and a scandal involving a murder cover-up that can't get out to the media, all stemming from something a male relative did (this time his brother instead of his son).
I have to be honest here, Sherry is actually likable for the bulk of her appearance in this season. It isn't until after the murder cover-up stuff starts that she goes back to her old ways. But I thought prior to that, the use of her character was refreshing. David Palmer also gets slightly darker and more serious. He still tries to uphold the right thing, but he has to make some incredibly tough choices this season, putting him in that morally ambiguous area that he rarely ventures into.
But then there's Palmer's brother who he hired as his personal consultant, figuring he could trust him well enough. And the dude is a prick. I couldn't stand him and just wanted him to get fired. But no, David trusted him and needed him, so he had to stay on.
The end of his story is satisfying enough, however, leaving Palmer in a positive light. He's able to stay an ultimate good figure on the show... at least at this point.
As I said before, this is a season in two halves. I said that the first half of Season Two was the better half. For Season Three, I have to say that the second half is the better of the two. We get away from the Salazars and start dealing with the real villain(s) of the season. Things begin to get more suspenseful, including the hotel episodes, as well as the requests that Palmer is forced to go along with if he wants the country to stay safe, not to mention the episode focusing on Chappelle. But the second half isn't without its faults, either. There are a lot of inconsistencies. The baby disappears. Jack's drug addiction just stops. Things that happen to Tony are never mentioned again (I think he collapses at one point, and at another point his wound re-opens... neither issue is ever brought back up). And I'm sure there are numerous other things I picked up on, but that I can't remember at the moment. But the season ends with one of the very rare instances of Jack showing a crack in his hard shell. The stress and emotion of the day catches up with him, and he just breaks down, and that was very nice to see there at the end. Unfortunately, I'm a little ways into Season 4 and... ugh... just... ugh.