For once, Kiefer is having a great day. I mean, he's not dead, to start with, so it's already better than expected. But on top of that, he's happily bonding with his new granddaughter in New York, and he's looking forward to moving back to L.A. to be with Spawn and the Spawntones. But of course we already know this is all doomed from the get-go, even before one of Kiefer's old snitches shows up at his door warning of a planned assassination attempt. The target: a Middle Eastern president in town to sign a treaty with President Taylor at the U.N. And now it's up to Kiefer to shepherd the informant into CTU custody. This is of course problematic for several reasons, chief among them being that the assassins want Kiefer's informant dead, and have already gotten a good start on getting that done. So of course Kiefer finds himself in a firefight within the first hour, one the bad guys don't survive. But when the bad guys' boss brings in the big guns, neither does the informant.
And that's just the A-plot. As usual, there's a whole lot going on. CTU New York is up and running, under the supervision of Brian Hastings (Mykelti "Bubba" Williamson). His staff includes field ops boss Cole Ortiz (Freddie Prinze, Jr.), Cole's fiancée and floor boss Dana Walsh (Katee Sackhoff, playing an eerily efficient glamazon), hygiene-challenged tech nerd Arlo, and some new chick who doesn't know how anything works yet, name of Chloe O'Brian.
Plus there's the currently single President Taylor and her new Chief of Staff Rob, working with Ethan, who's been promoted to Secretary of State. They're busily negotiating with the aforementioned Middle Eastern leader, President Hassan (Anil Kapoor), who seems to be making this a family business. He's got a hot-headed, long-haired brother who tries to keep him away from an American reporter (Jennifer Westfeldt); a wife who hates him for reasons we don't yet know, and a devoted daughter. So when the dying words of Kiefer's informant are that the assassin is someone on the inside, we're left wondering who it might be. At least until the final scene suggests it might just be that reporter. So far, so good.
Dude, this title sequence is starting to look like a period piece, y'all. But here's a switch: "The following takes place between 4:00 PM and 5:00 PM." Man, these character are going to be tired by this time tomorrow. And then Kiefer adds, with just a trace of a smile in that extra-warm velvet, "Events occur in real time." Yes, we missed you, too, sweetie.
The very next thing we see is an aerial shot of Manhattan, looking downtown from somewhere over Central Park. The foreground is dominated by the Chrysler Building, the MetLife Building, the Empire State Building, and the name that kicks off the opening credits, "Kiefer Sutherland." In other words, whatever you think you know about New York City, this is Kiefer's town now. Fugheddaboudit.
Just to really drive home the New York-ness of all of this, a yellow cab pulls up to the curb and a Latino guy in a red hooded sweatshirt steps out. He pauses to raise his hood before looking around furtively, but that doesn't prevent a goateed man in a vacant lot across the street from observing, "It's him." He's apparently on earpiece to a rooftop sniper, who has the new arrival in his scope. But a passing delivery van cuts off the shot while the target ducks inside the building. "Stand by. We'll get him on the way out," the lookout assures the sniper. If they do, this is going to be a very short season.
Inside, the man in the red hoodie climbs the stairs, past strung-out hookers and a freebaser with long blond hair, before letting himself into a dark, grungy apartment and calling for someone named Manny. The only sound is the shower running in the bathroom, and the guy is shocked when he draws the curtain aside to find his roommate dead in the tub with a bloody hole in his forehead. It's either from a bullet or the water pressure in there is a lot more powerful than the surroundings would seem to indicate. He pulls out a gun of his own, then his cell phone. The woman he calls says the guy he wants to talk to is dead -- freshly shot in the head as well, although this one seems to have just gone down in a bodega somewhere. "What the hell is happening?" she asks, and he hangs up before he can wonder why she's spotting a pattern as well. He vacates the apartment, gun at the ready.
The lookout across the street spots a figure in a familiar red-hooded sweatshirt exiting, and calls it up to the sniper. As if that sweatshirt isn't already a matador's flag in the dingy, blue-gray light that is TV-ese for New York. The shooter is about to squeeze the trigger when the alert lookout calls it off -- it's the freebaser, and he has a new sweatshirt. But where's its original owner?
Why, he's breaking into a gray, late-model Pontiac sedan and hotwiring it, as any of us would do in this situation. He comes screaming out of the alley, making sure to attract the lookout's attention as he does so, because where's the fun in a clean getaway? The lookout takes to his heels, telling the sniper where their target is. The sniper's able to put a couple of rounds through the windshield, one of which goes through the driver's left shoulder. He skids around a lot, exchanges some gunfire with the lookout as he screeches past, and gets away with little more than some additional cosmetic damage to the car. The shooters have to give up the chase. But before they do, the lookout calls 911 to report a stolen car. And he got the license plates and everything. He's not the lookout for nothing.
So I suppose this is a good time to tell you that as with last season, one of my best Christmas presents came from the Fox Network in the form of an advance screener of these first four episodes. Which means I get to recap each episode before seeing the next one rather than waiting for the premiere and churning them out so fast they blur together in my sleep-deprived head. And on my birthday, no less. So this recap and the next three come to you totally unspoiled. No promises about number seven, though.
Oh, good, here's an adorable little towheaded girl of about three or four. Hard to see how this could possibly go wrong. Everything's nominal for now, though; she's parked on the black leather sofa of a chic furnished apartment, watching cartoons. She uses the nose of the stuffed polar bear she's holding to nuzzle the cheek of a dozing Kiefer. "Jack?" she says, and laughs as he jerks awake like the grizzled old killer he is, because she'll never know how close she came to losing her entire face just then. Complete with its Kiefer-esque chipmunk cheeks. As if to confirm that this is in fact Kim's daughter Teri, the fabled Spawn of Spawn, Kiefer reminds her to call him Grampa. "You don't look like a grampa," she points out. "Couldn't agree with you more," he grins. Already this is going far too well. She says this cartoon is boring, so he picks up the remote to find her another. On his way, he pauses at Fox News (because his cable operator clusters all the cartoon channels together like mine does) and hears some talking heads discussing a bold new peace initiative. I assume it grabs his attention because bold new peace initiatives are usually ideal times for him to leave the country. But it's not long before the little girl protests, "Grampa, this isn't a cartoon!" Doesn't miss a trick, that one, and it took her less than a minute. Clearly she got her brains from her father. Kiefer finds her a cartoon she likes better, and after a couple of seconds of bonding, during which we can look forward to this little girl one day sneaking out of the house after midnight for furtive dates with terrorist minions, Kiefer's phone rings. It's famous original Spawn, apologizing for her and her husband's lateness in picking up Spawn of Spawn, blaming U.N. traffic, and asking how their visit to the zoo was. Kiefer says it was rather bear-intensive. "She certainly knows what she wants," Kiefer says. "She reminds me of you." Spawn bounces the sentiment back to him and promises to be there soon. After she hangs up, her husband notices she seems thoughtful, and asks what's up, because a thoughtful Spawn is a dangerous Spawn. It seems Spawn broached the subject of Kiefer moving back to L.A. when they first arrived in New York, but he hasn't mentioned it since (even though his "treatment" for the horrible disease that was supposed to have killed him last season ended two weeks ago) and she's afraid to bring it up again. So Steven offers to do it for her. This certainly sounds like a potentially healthy new stage in the father-daughter relationship.
It's 4:06:16, and speaking of the United Nations building, here we are. A reporter from Exposition News is doing a stand-up about an upcoming joint press conference to be held by Presidents Taylor and Hassan within the hour. Hassan is expected to bail on his country's nuclear weapons program, and the reporter claims Hassan is calling the new treaty an historic move for the Middle East. Presumably he lacks the analytical powers to understand what this means in a more immediate geopolitical sense, even though you and I do: by this time tomorrow, the streets will be clotted with blood.