Note: the following synopsis contains spoilers. Only read this first section if you know have happens in season four.
The Fourth Season of 24 begins with a deadly terrorist strike resulting in the kidnapping of Jack Bauer’s new boss, the U.S. Secretary of Defense James Heller (William Devane). Even though Mr. Bauer was dismissed from his job at the Counter Terrorist Unit in Los Angeles at the end of Season Three, it comes as no real surprise that Robo-Jack is called back into action. We quickly l…arn that this kidnapping of Heller is just the beginning of trouble for Jack and CTU. The main villian is master-mind Habib Marwan (Arnold Vosloo) the middle eastern terrorist cell leader the US government has been trying to track down for years.
While the third season of 24 was not as good as the first two, I hoped Season Four would return the series to the greatness the show was commonly known for. While I do admit that some scenes were rather stupid (Like Jack and ONE MAN going into the secret base of Marwan’s, which is armed with at least 10-15 guards), so many scenes were done with such cunning (the idea of Air Force One being shot down as just a distraction was excellent).
When it comes to the actual characters in this season, I felt many of them were well placed acting in manners that seemed realisitic. Secretary Heller and his daughter Audrey were great additions as both were interesting, fun characters to watch and learn more about as each episode passed by. The addition of Audrey’s husband Paul Raines was also great as it added another unexpected turn to the season that not many would expect.
When I first started watching 24, I recall reading many posts saying that the show was incredibly addicting and amazing. Well that comment is very true, as Season Four of 24 continues on the series’ great path. A word of note though: If you are just starting this show, I don’t need to tell you that you definitely should watch the first three seasons and not be like my friend who saw Season Four first (and then proceeded to riddle me with endless questions).
24 is once again presented in the 16:9 widescreen aspect ratio as the series airs on Fox’s digital broadcast channel (the standard analog broadcast is cropped to 4:3), and once again the show is cinematically composed to take advantage of the wider framing. The anamorphically enhanced images on these DVDs are very sharp with exemplary fine object detail. The heightened detail may even have one drawback for the actors, in that we can now see every pockmark in Dennis Haysbert’s complexion with vivid clarity. Colors are also strong and the contrast range has a rich black level, which lends a nice sense of. Now even bright daylight scenes are often grainy, and it usually looks less like film grain than like digital compression-induced video noise. This is disappointing, and watching on a large screen I found it distracting for a while, but to be honest after an episode or two the otherwise slick and glossy production values won me over and I stopped being bothered by the grain.
Unlike some other television series DVDs, this show actually makes good use of a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix. The rear soundstage is very aggressive with many discrete surround effects such as helicopters circling from speaker to speaker. Although not officially an EX mix, the track will decode well if you activate the rear center channel. Dialogue is always perfectly clear, even when it shifts directionally across the front soundstage during the many split-screen scenes, and the music has a nice presence. This is, however, still a television production and will have some expected limitations. Bass does not extend very deep beyond what is heard in the musical score, and gunshots and explosions rarely have the kind of satisfying thump you get from a feature film soundtrack. Still, for a TV show this sounds great.
As per the previous 24 Season Sets, we are treated to a whole slew of deleted scenes and commentary tracks on certain episodes. I am going to break it up by what is held on each disc.
- Screen-Specific Audio Commentary on 7:00 A.M.-8:00 A.M.: Here Joel Surnow and Mary Lynn Rajskub speak. They mostly speak about how long it took to get ready, how the topic of the season was a little tricky to get across considering America’s unfortunate view toward Muslim-Americans, and how they love each scene (look, actors, etc).
- Screen-Specific Audio Commentary on 12:00 P.M.-1:00 P.M.: Here Joseph Hodges and John Cassar speak. Excellent commentary track here especially considering the events of the hour (one of the best hours of this season). They take about the location of the hideaway.
- Screen-Specific Audio Commentary on 2:00 P.M.-3:00 P.M.: For these three hours, we are spoken to by Stephen Kronish and Peter Lenkov. Here they speak about the enjoyment of doing some of the scenes with Jack and Audrey. Also they speak about the difficult of showing the torture of a certain character.
- Screen-Specific Audio Commentary on 3:00 P.M.-4:00 P.M.: Here Evan Katz and Shannen Doherty speak. Here they speak about what a good episode should have at the core. They speak about what the episode originally was suppose to have, but was swapped at the last moment for fear of the audience not accepting it.
- Screen-Specific Audio Commentary on 4:00 P.M.-5:00 P.M.: Here Nestor Serrano and Stephen Jronish speak. Here Nestor speaks about how everyone told him that this show was going to be his big break, which he said it has been. Nestor really comes off as an interesting speaker with his comments on the subject of terrorism. One of the brighter commentary tracks.
- Screen-Specific Audio Commentary on 8:00 P.M.-9:00 P.M.: Here Tim Iacofano and Shohreh Aghdashloo speak. Here they speak about some of the troubles of shooting some of the scenes in this episode first (how it felt awkward). Some of the more powerful scenes occur in this hour (interrogation) which resulted in some great commentary (mental game, tense situations,etc).
- Screen-Specific Audio Commentary on 9:00 P.M.-10:00 P.M.: Here Bryan Spicer and Roger Cross speak. Interesting comments here on how they felt Marvan may come off as a typical terrorist, but it actually resulted in him (due to Vosloo’s acting) coming off as an intelligent terrorist who was dedicated to his goal. He didn’t think he was doing anything wrong. Pretty funny how they felt how everything always works in CTU, nothing ever fails.
- Screen-Specific Audio Commentary on 10:00 P.M.-11:00 P.M.: Here Arnold Vosloo and Bryan Spicer speak. Here they speak about it was becoming easier to shoot the scenes with a real time aspect over the years. Also pretty funny was how every ‘bad’ guy in shows always have so many expendable guys.
- Screen-Specific Audio Commentary on 12:00 A.M.-1:00 A.M.: Here Jon Cassar and Sean Callery speak. Here they speak about the difficulty of constantly playing background music (usually 36-38 minutes of constant music per episode). They mostly spoke about the different kinds of music used, instruments (no woodwinds ever).
- Screen-Specific Audio Commentary on 1:00 A.M.-2:00 A.M.: Here Paul Gadd and Kenneth Kobett speak. Here they joke of the phones the terrorists have (no dropped calls, no bad reception). Same bomb used in season 2 as used here. Some scenes are actually shown to test audiences early to see how they work (some of the bigger scenes).
- Screen-Specific Audio Commentary on 4:00 A.M.-5:00 A.M.: Here Matt Michnovetz and Duppy Demetrius speak. Here they mostly speak about how they like how everything looks, the relation to other Fox Shows (how the bunker looks like a set in O.C.). Another praising here with both praising Jack and how good he does in this show. Funny joke here with the wondering why the United States is shown next to a picture of Mars (incase an intergalactic war is started).
- Screen-Specific Audio Commentary on 6:00 A.M.-7:00 A.M.: Here Bob Cochran and Scott Powell speak. Another praising commentary with both of these guys praising President Palmer with his ability to do multiple different scenes all while keeping his cool.
- Deleted/Extended Scenes: Here we get 39 deleted scenes that can either be accessed here or in the individual episodes on the corresponding discs. You can listen to them all with optional commentary by Jon Cassar.
- Exclusive Season 5 Prequel: Here we get a prequel that bridges together season four with the current upcoming season. We learn what has happened to ‘Jack’ 12 months after the events of season four.
- Breaking Ground: Building CTU Featurette: This feature has to do with the crews’ comments on building an entire new CTU set for this season. A very in-depth look into just about everything you would want to know about building a set of this size.
- Blood on the Tracks Featurette: This feature has to do with the explosive beginning to the fourth season, particularly how the explosion was accomplished, the extra’s, etc.
- Lock and Load Featurette: This feature has to do with the event that occurs between 12:00 P.M. and 1:00 P.M. I don’t want to give away what exactly the feature covers as that would be giving away part of the story.
- Music Video: Here we get a montage type music video entitled The Longest Day.
- 24: The Game Trailer: Here we get a look at the upcoming video game based on the events between Season 2 and Season 3 of 24.
- 24: Conspiracy: Here we get 24 one minute cell-phone mobisodes that were created to promote Season 4 of 24.
Fans of the series really can’t go wrong with this one; the 24: Season Four box set is an easy recommendation. Video transfers and audio mixes are perfectly fine, and there are tons of bonus features to swim through, both in commentaries, deleted scenes, and an entire disc of other goodies. For the equivalent of about $10 a disc, 24:Season Four is highly worth the price of admission. Get ready for some more Jack Bauer Power Hour (something I made up) goodness!
Special Features List
- Exclusive Season 5 Prequel Bridging Seasons 4 & 5
- Cast/ Crew Commentary on Selected Episodes
- 39 Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary
- A Behind-the-Scenes Featurette
- “24: Conspiracy” Cell Phone Mobisodes
- Episode Specific Audio Commentaries