Right now, two decades have passed since the action-drama 24 premiered on Fox. My wife and dog have binged the entire show with me, and people that I work with may be involved in what’s below. I’m Midwest Film Journal editor / co-founder Nick Rogers, and today, I continue the longest thing I’ve ever written. Across 205 episodes, there were numerous fantastic characters on 24. But what about those who got in and got out in an hour or less — whose time was short but somehow memorable? Thus, Midwest Film Journal presents Gone in 60 Minutes: 24’s Best One-Hour Characters. The following list takes place between 29 and 20. Rankings occur in real reverse chronology. (Many thanks to Mollie Siu-Chong for baller banner photo design, as well as the administrators and users of Fandom’s 24 Wikia for meticulous information and copious images)

29. Detective Michael Norris

Day: 3
Hour: 3:00 a.m. to 4:00 a.m.
Performer: Tony Todd
Alive? Yes.

Tony Todd, G.O.A.T.

28. Kevin Kelly

Day: 3
Hour: 12:00 a.m. to 1:00 a.m.
Performer: Jack Kehler
Alive? Unknown.

I’d love it if you came over and gave me notes.

Although well below Law & Order levels, 24 ran such a long clock that some actors inevitably turned up as two different characters. (There’s another such performer forthcoming in the top 10.) But why wouldn’t you bring back god-tier big boss Tony Todd, the Candyman himself, if he wanted to return? Before playing Day 7’s vicious Sangalan General Juma, Todd portrayed a detective investigating Day 3’s death of multimillionaire Alan Milliken — one of President David Palmer’s largest financial supporters and a cuckold thanks to Wayne Palmer (D.B. Woodside) having an affair with Alan’s wife, Julia. (Say it with me now: Wayne. What a waste.) Seeing as Wayne is now David’s Chief of Staff, Alan extorts David (Dennis Haysbert) in exchange for sitting on this scandal. With a rampaging virus to control, David sends his devious ex-wife, Sherry (Penny Johnson Jerald), to handle Alan, which she does … by letting him die without his medication. Chomping down on this morsel with that unmistakable voice of his, Todd commands the interrogation of Sherry and Julia (who stood idle as Alan expired) to a point where you’re certain he’s going to haul them both off in handcuffs. But against his better judgment, David intervenes to support Sherry’s flimsy alibi and Norris departs.

Sherry is only moved to such a ghoulish last resort because she can’t get the cooperation she expects from Kelly a few hours earlier. He’s the father of a woman whom Alan struck and killed with his car years before, and who took a bounty of blood money to stay quiet about the incident. Kehler, whom you might recognize as the Dude’s landlord and performance-art aficionado in The Big Lebowski, is a consummate pro and lets you see the deep sadness in this guy’s bones across a few fleeting scenes. Kelly’s fate is technically unknown, but the presumption is that Alan’s goons capture and kill him. (Maybe they’re burying his body while Sherry and Julia are letting Alan die.) Look, for as cheaply thin and soapy as the Palmer family plots got by Day 3, they at least afforded some one-and-done turns from classic “That Guy” character actors.

27. John Brunner

Ugh. Toots. I ain’t feelin’ so great.

Day: 7
Hour: 2:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.
Performer: Tom Irwin
Alive? No.

The character for whom Derek Rosner (#47) was a dry run. Brunner is the plant manager at the Boyd Chemical Plant near Kidron, Ohio, a real town fictionalized to be larger than it is for 24 purposes. Sangalan terrorist Iké Dubaku (Hakeem Kae-Kazim) and his men have targeted the plant with their device that can breach classified infrastructure firewalls — intending to release the deadly insecticide manufactured there into the air and kill everyone in town. It’s odd to see Tom Irwin so jowly and grumpy for those who know him from the short-lived TV sensation My So-Called Life, growling at FBI analyst Janis Gold (Janeane Garofalo) and calling her “honey” while not taking her very seriously. But it’s these little notes of middle-aged and middle-manager authenticity that make John’s prolonged sacrifice to save the day more fully dramatized and affecting to watch. In the grand scheme of 24, Day 7 is among its more narratively disposable seasons. But for the side characters with whom it takes time, it creates effective traumas. So it goes with how Brunner’s demise affects Janis, who, even though he was kind of an asshole to her, takes it very hard.

26. Jacob Rossler

Day: 5
Hour: 1:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m.
Performer: Patrick Bauchau
Alive? No.


25. Inessa Kovalevsky

Day: 5
Hour: 1:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m.
Performer: Angela Sarafyan
Alive? Yes.

Can’t really blame her.

If you ever doubted the cultural penetration of 24, this is also the hour when John McCain turns up as an unnamed CTU flunkie handing a dossier to Audrey Raines (Kim Raver).

It’s a blink-and-miss moment in a split-screen, beeping-clock return from the commercials, which feels even less integral when you consider the story of Jacob Rossler and Inessa Kovalevsky, which dominates this hour. Rossler is a software programmer called in by the Dawn Brigade to assist them with reprogramming canisters of Sentox nerve gas so they can be weaponized. It’s not enough that Rossler aids a cabal of homicidal terrorists. He has also kidnapped Inessa, a Russian teenager who became Rossler’s plaything after she was sold into sexual slavery at age 15. As part of his plea deal to rat out his contacts, Rossler insists Inessa be allowed to stay with him. Sensing she’s yet again a pawn for powerful people beyond her control, Inessa shoots and kills Rossler — forcing Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) to impersonate him in the next episode. Oddly, actor Patrick Bauchau is not even credited here; perhaps the actor didn’t want such odiousness perpetually attached to him. Whatever the reason, Bauchau embraces the role’s full-scuzz potential and makes Rossler feel like a flunkie whose evil lasts for far more than an hour. However, it’s Angela Sarafyan’s turn as Inessa that resonates longer. What happens to Inessa represents yet another moment of comeuppance for Jack. It’s not so much that she’s another woman he cannot help or save. It’s that during his moment of exile, after faking his death in Day 4, Jack still enjoys immense privilege. For other forgotten people of the world, life rarely affords the same courtesy.

24. Unnamed Russian Agent

You better believe Jack, buddy.

Day: 9 (Live Another Day)
Hour: 10:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m.
Performer: Kevin McNally
Alive? Yes.

Every so often, rumors rise about a 24 resurrection. Please forget 24: Legacy. In that short-lived reboot that lacked Jack, Carlos Bernard briefly showed up again as Tony Almeida. Continuity was the goal. The reality was a reminder of how far short Legacy fell of even the weakest previous seasons. That foolishness is not on this list because culturally, it doesn’t even really exist, like the ninth season of Scrubs or the fifth Die Hard movie. Speaking of Die Hard: At one point, Die Hard 24/7 was a film that would have teamed up Jack Bauer and John McClane. Even now, there’s scuttlebutt that Sutherland is eager to sling the Jack sack over his shoulder again in some capacity. But until any of that happens, all we have left are the lamentations in the last moments of Live Another Day. Russia still demands that Jack answer for his slaughtering spree of dirty diplomats like Stovich (#64) back on Day 8. They couldn’t dangle better bait than his best friend, Chloe O’Brian (Mary Lynn Rajskub), whom Russian agents have kidnapped and offered up in exchange for his surrender. Jack and Chloe’s friendship is forever fraught by things left unsaid, chiefly whether Jack even regards Chloe as a friend. In a haunting two-shot that’s one of the show’s most stunning compositions, Jack acknowledges his affection for Chloe and squeezes her hand as he marches toward his carceral fate. OK, so where does a one-hour character come into this? The Unnamed Russian Agent is almost a one-minute character. He negotiates the prisoner exchange and is the last person to whom we hear Jack issue a threat: If Russians come after either Chloe or Jack’s family, he tells this man his “entire world will come apart.” Whether we ever get to see it, we’re certain it’s a threat on which Jack will make good should the need arise.

23. Frank Trammel

Frank Trammel, government hipster.

Day: 6.5 (Redemption)
Performer: Gil Bellows
Alive? Yes.

After the end of a 2007-08 Writers Guild of America strike that delayed Day 7 to 2009, 24’s showrunners conjured 24: Redemption, a TV-movie bone thrown to fans in 2008. It takes place across two hours and serves as a prologue to Day 7. Alongside an old Special Forces chum, Jack is a handyman at a school for war orphans in the fictitious African nation of Sangala. He has been served a subpoena to appear before the United States Senate regarding his copious violations of human rights. Subpoena?! Jack?! Psssh. But when Sangalan General Juma’s coup-minded militia (aided stateside by Jon Voight’s Jonas Hodges) attacks the school, Jack must consider what he’ll need to give up to save the kids. A better Tears of the Sun story than Tears of the Sun, this is a solid if unspectacular entry in the 24 canon. Of the most prominent characters to survive, Trammel is the one who most surprisingly does not show up during Day 7. But it’s not as if the show’s last two regular seasons wanted for bureaucratic weasels like this Chief Political Officer of the U.S. Embassy to Sangala, who serves Jack’s subpoena. Bellows is known for oddball embellishments to very bit parts; his long, oily hair and hipster glasses fit that bill here. But Bellows is also often as authoritative as he is weird, and the hard bargain Trammel drives in his horse trade with Jack — in which he’ll evacuate the kids only if Jack also surrenders himself — is a memorable one.

22. Tomas Sherek

Good ol’ switcheroo.

Day: 4
Hour: 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m.
Performer: Faran Tahir
Alive? Yes.

Some critics of 24 slammed its insistence on inventing new threats and suddenly introducing new villains at various points in each season. Look at it this way: The full series equates to 103 feature-length action films. The same mastermind would never wreak havoc across 12 of those consecutively, so change-ups and switcheroos were essential. But 24 would often wait more than an hour to let you know so-and-so isn’t actually behind all these sinister things. Such was the breakneck pace of Day 4, pound for pound still the series highpoint of persistent action (where the subsequent Day 5 thrived on suspense and surprise). Given that he bombs a train and coordinates the kidnapping of U.S. Secretary of Defense James Heller (William Devane), Sherek (played by Faran Tahir, whom you may recognize from Iron Man) boasts all the bona fides of a 24 big bad. That’s certainly what the new regime at CTU thinks, too, although Jack (now Heller’s adviser) suspects something fishy about all of this. Why would such a prominent terrorist stick his neck out for CTU to so easily find him? Stymied by rigid new CTU protocols, Jack runs his own interrogation … which consists of him first vaporizing Sherek’s kneecaps to learn why he’s really in the country. Spoiler alert: It’s a smokescreen for all the bad business his buddy Habib Marwan (Arnold Vosloo) is planning for the day. Acknowledging that you or me bumping our kneecaps would get us to talk if doing so would just end the pain, it’s also amusing to see the supposedly fearsome Sherek fold so quickly.

21. Coral Snake Soldier

Day: 2
Hour: 4:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Performer: Gregory J. Barnett
Alive? No.

Try dying with some flare.

20. Eric

Day: 5
Hour: 4:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Performer: Erik Rondell
Alive? No.

Things are about to get heated.

Across all installments of 24, Jack Bauer was responsible for 309 kills, or roughly 1 ½ corpses per episode. Some of those we’ve covered. More are to come. A few were unwanted or unintentional. But Jack so often sent people into the next world with furious purpose, and after 24’s credentials as a hit were established, nearly every season served up at least one unforgettable dispatch. While Day 2 is the one in which Jack famously needs a hacksaw (for Marshall Goren at #38), that is a bit of posthumous mutilation. Day 2 also has arguably the series’ first oh-shit instance of spectacular in-the-moment merking. Pinned down in a crashed plane fuselage by the covert Coral Snake special-ops team, Jack must rely on a flare gun from a supply kit. Naturally, he sends one flare right through a Coral Snake baddie’s chest. YouTube would seem to have everything … except this particularly cheer-worthy moment, so enjoy the image above.

At least YouTube has the demise of Eric, albeit in longer deleted-scene form. Let us sing the praises of Secret Service Agent Aaron Pierce (Glenn Morshower), who became one of 24’s most surprisingly recurrent and consistently reliable supporting characters. Early on, Aaron Pierce protected President David Palmer and later assisted in the takedown of President Charles Logan (Gregory Itzin) before making time with former First Lady Martha Logan (Jean Smart) after her husband stepped down. If anyone on 24 approached Jack’s badassery, it was Aaron Pierce, and Morshower’s unassuming aw-shucks, who-me approach to the character only amplified his awesomeness. A terrorist attacking the visiting Russian president’s motorcade (which also includes Martha and Aaron Pierce), Eric dies at the hands of Aaron Pierce. Yes, Aaron Pierce’s full name must always be written out because Aaron Pierce is a glorious name and a glorious man. How else should one appropriately honor someone able to blow up a terrorist from the floor of a limousine?