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Jack Bauer returns with a purpose in '24: Live Another Day'

Steve Navarro (Benjamin Bratt, L) and Erik Ritter (Gbenga Akinnagbe, R) track a suspect
Steve Navarro (Benjamin Bratt, L) and Erik Ritter (Gbenga Akinnagbe, R) track a suspect
Christopher Raphael/FOX

24: Live Another Day

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Air date: May 5, 2014

The CIA finally catches up with Jack Bauer in 24: Live Another Day.
The CIA finally catches up with Jack Bauer in 24: Live Another Day.
Daniel Smith/FOX

Episodes:

11:06 a.m - 12:00 p.m.
12:00 p.m. - 1:00 p.m.

Official website: www.Fox.com/24-Live-Another-Day/

Four years can be a long time. That's how long it's been -- four "real-time" years -- since Jack Bauer disappeared, both from the grid as a fugitive on the show, and as a character on television screens all over the world. Thankfully he's back and the layoff seems to have breathed some life into not just the character, but a show that was running on fumes over the last couple seasons of its eight-season run.

Set to cover 24 hours in 12 episodes, "24: Live Another Day" begins with a slow simmer. Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) is in London investigating a terrorist plot to assassinate President James Heller (William Devane) when he is apprehended by the CIA. But the CIA and White House are too busy with the possibility they may have caught the elusive fugitive Bauer, they don't notice when a rogue drone takes out a military command post.

Yep. Something big is about to happen and it already looks like Jack is one step ahead of everyone. The first episode starts slow, allowing the audience time to get a who's who on this new day. But the slow build up has a big reward. The final act of the first episode is as good as it gets and the excitement carries over into hour number two, when the plot begins to unfold a little bit, offering a few of what is sure to be a ton of surprises and plot twists.

There are loads of new characters and each of them gets a proper set up. Benjamin Bratt joins the cast as a CIA head and "Chuck" alum Yvonne Strahovski, disappointingly using an American accent, shows up as a CIA agent who sees a method to Bauer's madness, even if there is already suspicious eyes cast on her. Tate Donovan plays President Heller's Chief of Staff, who also just happens to be married to Heller's daugher, Audrey (Kim Raver).

But the real draw is Jack Bauer and he doesn't disappoint. If Kiefer Sutherland had any problems getting back into character after being away for four years, he shows no signs of it. Bauer barely says a word for the first 30 minutes of the first episode, but by the time he barks his first order it will already be obvious that Jack is back. Of course, Jack just isn't Jack without his trusty sidekick Chloe O'Brien (Mary Lynn Rajskub), who has had her share of problems since Jack disappeared.

The time off already feels like it's done wonders not only for Sutherland but for director Jon Cassar as well. "24: Live Another Day" does what "24" does best. It uses suspense to build tension and then launches into action. The supporting cast is fantastic. And for the first time since maybe season five, the show feels like it has a real purpose and some genuine energy that could last longer than the explosive premiere.

"24: Live Another Day" is the long over due but welcome return of an old friend. How long this visit can remain fun is left to be seen, but if the first two hours are any indication, it would appear the time away and the tweaks to the real-time formula have paid off.