Jack Bauer is having another one of his "very bad days" in the second season of the groundbreaking real-time thriller 24. Once again the hours are ticking by with more guaranteed cliffhangers than a convention of mountain climbers. Holed up in a Los Angeles condo and estranged from his daughter, Jack is no longer on the government payroll; unfortunately for him, this small fact doesn't seem to matter to President David Palmer and the NSA, who call him back in to the CTU and give him 24 hours to infiltrate a terrorist organization that is planning to detonate a dirty bomb in the city of angels. All Jack wants is to get his daughter out of the city, unfortunately Kim's new employer, the abusive father of the child she is nannying, has other ideas.
Fans of the original won't be disappointed, as there are more than enough shock moments in the first few hours to hint at the climactic build-up to come, while newcomers can quickly get involved in the lives of Jack and his family. There are some new characters to bolster the veteran cast and, interestingly (although not surprisingly), Jack's character has taken an altogether darker, more psychopathic turn. The danger the characters find themselves in also has a much more global, not to mention topical, impetus, grounded as it is in the war against terrorism. Although the territory is more familiar this time around, this second season is just as much a high-tension, taut, adrenalin-fuelled ride as the first, and one that will have you glued to your TV for the next 24 hours. --Kristen Bowditch