By Stephen Compall
Jan 10, 2011 04:11 PM EST

24: Season Eight - The Complete Final Season Blu-ray Review

24: Season Eight - The Complete Final Season Blu-ray Review
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After the astounding revival in storytelling that was 24's seventh season, the onus was on this, the eighth and final season, to avoid slipping back into the dark days of season six.  It was no small thing to ask: season seven replaced most of the cast, engaged formerly dead classic series character Tony Almeida in a triple-cross, and destroyed the "Bluetooth conspiracy" underlying all of the antagonists' terrorist plots since season five, making for the most compelling 24 since season two before the bomb, but finalizing so many plot threads that there seemed nowhere for season eight to follow up.

Eight succeeds, making for the third-best 24 season of its run, by building stories largely upon the strongest cast additions from the last season.  First, brilliantly developed in season seven, Renee Walker (Annie Wersching) returns to make an alarming, if not unexpected contrast to Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland, The Lost Boys, The Sentinel).  While Bauer has been ironically healed by the events of seven, Walker was severely damaged, and Bauer's attempts to help her recover motivate most of his actions throughout the season, including all of the as-usual badass terrorist killing.  It's the biggest character shift for Bauer since killing Nina in season three, as he's mostly been motivated by patriotism — and extreme dislike of terrorists, even in presidential form — since then.  The only detraction in this vein I can make is that as more and more horrible things keep happening to Walker, her face turns into a "life sucks for Renee Walker" frown-o-meter, and the ensuing hilarity is not really in keeping with the earnestly dark feel and intent of her scenes.

Second, President Allison Taylor (Cherry Jones, The Perfect Storm, Amelia) returns as the most intriguing president since early season two's version of David Palmer.  She leads us through a topical, yet exciting treatment of current U.S. relations with Russia and Iran, though the latter remains an unnamed Middle Eastern country in accordance with 24 tradition.  A dramatic execution of realpolitik gives us an appealing conclusion to the series, as well as providing new insights into Bauer and Taylor.

I'm happy to note that Kim Bauer (Elisha Cuthbert, The Girl Next Door) can once again appear for multiple episodes without driving viewers crazy, yet still takes care not to overstay her welcome.  Chloe O'Brien (Mary Lynn Rajskub, Punch-Drunk Love, Little Miss Sunshine) is as charmingly abrasive as ever, no longer spending most of the season in holding.  Unfortunately, one returning villain from seasons past is as cartoonishly evil as ever; on balance, perhaps, the afforded opportunity for Bauer to execute one of his most ridiculously cool counterterrorist attacks ever makes it worth the eye-rolling.

CTU is back after a much-needed vacation last season, and all of our favorite 24 cliches are back with it.  I think they made a list and made sure to hit all of them until reaching the final story arc of the season.  I'm not afraid to spoil Dana Walsh's (Katee Sackhoff, Battlestar Galactica) part in that revival, that of the "CTU drama completely unrelated to terrorism" trope, and while she redeems herself later, most of her scenes felt like wasting so much time, in the way that season four did.  Cole Ortiz (Freddie Prinze Jr., I Know What You Did Last Summer, Scooby-Doo) comports himself well in the role of CTU's lead non-Bauer action man.

The video for Season Eight is encoded with the latest AVC Video Codec.  At times, the picture is crisp and clean; however there are other times, especially during dimly lit scenes, where the picture is very grainy. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is superb though.  24 uses the rear speakers more than the usual television show, and it really shows on this release as 24 packs a punch in your living room that some action movies would only dream of.
One great special feature of this set is the Chloe's Arrest (Disc 4) -- four- minute epilogue filmed just for this release.  Other special features are included on each disc of the set:
  • Disc 1:
    • The Ultimate CTU;
    • Scene Makers;
    • Deleted Scenes.
  • Disc 2:
    • 24 At Comic-Con;
    • Deleted Scenes;
    • Scene Makers.
  • Disc 3:
    • Being There;
    • Scene Makers;
    • Deleted Scenes.
  • Disc 4:
    • Scene Makers;
    • Deleted Scenes;
This is damn near an A-quality season.  But the Dana silliness, Renee's distracting frown-o-meter, and being just plain not as interesting as seven requires me to be honest and mark it lower than the unerringly high-quality season seven would demand.

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