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 10 and 1. 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)
10. Carl Benton
Day: 6.5 (Redemption)
Performer: Robert Carlyle
On several occasions, Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) saved his former Special Forces cohort’s life before Carl bounced from the military altogether. His last straw? Torturing a man to death who turned out to be an innocent civilian. Without putting too fine a point on it, 24: Redemption lets you see this could have just as easily been Jack — and that he may have instead chosen to eat a bullet rather than shame his family if he’d have lost his job. Instead, Benton has established a school for poor children in Sangala, where Jack — once again forced off the grid and on the run from international forces — has been assisting after Day 6. Carl repays Jack’s favor by freeing Jack from torture at the hands of General Juma’s soldiers and, alongside Jack, leading a dozen schoolboys to the U.S. Embassy to escape Sangala before it’s thrown to Juma’s chaotic coup. In doing so, Carl winds up stepping on a landmine to save one of the children, and Jack is unable to disarm the armament before soldiers arrive. Carl decides to stay behind and buy the group more time to escape. It’s a gruesome sequence that Carlyle nevertheless turns into strong character development. Carl is someone who, quite literally, went down the wrong path and took a fatal step but closes it out for all the right reasons in ways that embody toughness and tenderness — absorbing bullet after bullet from terrorist Iké Dubaku (Hakeem Kae-Kazim) before activating the landmine by falling off it. Plus, Jack is able to save all the boys and honor Carl’s dying wish. While it would have been nice to have more on the main show from Robert Carlyle (Ravenous, Trainspotting), you also see why he’s a good one-and-done. Their connection makes sense in the context of Jack’s Sangalan sojourn but might feel like a hitch or hiccup as Jack runs loose in his more familiar American element. Besides, it’s clear that Carl’s death is not a throwaway to Jack; he references it when questioning someone about Dubaku’s whereabouts later in Day 7. Carlyle hasn’t always had such great luck with mainstream productions, but he certainly did here.
9. Jason & Kelly Girard
Hour: 11:00 p.m. to 12:00 a.m.
Performer(s): T.J. Thyne (Jason) & Claudette Mink (Kelly)
Jason and Kelly Girard are civilians on a camping trip in the Mojave Desert. They’re trying to have a stress-free weekend on which to start a family and then, well … 24, right? Jason and Kelly find the nuclear football — the briefcase that controls America’s nuclear arsenal — in the flaming wreckage of Air Force One, which an Air Force officer-turned-terrorist has shot down with President John Keeler aboard. Together with Jack, Jason and Kelly must keep it out of the hands of big-bad Habib Marwan (Arnold Vosloo), who is on his way and intends nothing good with it. These aren’t the last Jack-deputized civilians on the list, and they’re also not really successful in their mission because it ends with yet another of many break points for Marwan. However, Jason and Kelly are among the best of such characters or any one-hour characters — namely because so much happens with them across the episode’s 45 minutes and, in a rather stunning reversal of fortune, they both survive. (Day 4 would prove surprisingly merciful in some regards.) Jason and Kelly are also afforded sufficient screen time before the madness begins, as well as narrative details that dovetail with the slowly dissolving affection that Audrey Raines (Kim Raver) feels for Jack amid his resumption of intense violence. When Marwan corners Kelly to give up a component, she acquiesces. Jack’s response to Kelly surrendering this to Marwan frames how he speaks with Audrey about their romantic conflict in the next scene. Not everyone is like Jack Bauer. Jack must understand that. He says he does. Maybe, deep down, he does not. Jack’s attempts to circumvent his true nature often create trouble for so many around him and is thus the tragedy of the show. Not a bad tie-back for a pair of would-be parents just looking to snuggle in the sand.
8. Arthur Rabens
Hour: 12:00 p.m. to 1:00 p.m.
Performer: Salvator Xuereb
This list is full of lackeys and malcontents that fritter around the edges of each day’s crisis. By design, it’s light on real take-action villains. After all, those folks tend to give Jack and company problems for a few hours. As it turned out, one of Day 3’s (and the show’s) most memorable foes wasn’t even on CTU’s minds until the final hour. Arthur Rabens is the only courier for Cordilla virus-maniac Stephen Saunders (Paul Blackthorne) that could not be apprehended or killed before initiating a sequence to release the virus. Now, you hear “courier” and think a reedy dweeb soaked in sweat, right? Well, Rabens is 24’s idea of a courier, which means a guy who can, within two acts of being introduced: evade an encroaching CTU squad on a subway train; kill two Los Angeles police officers and a civilian; steal a car and outrun pursuers; dart into a middle school (!) as a backup location to release the virus; and beat the everloving crap out of Jack’s partner, Chase Edmunds (James Badge Dale), before Jack can catch up to him with a killshot. This shifty-eyed sonofabitch might not have more than one or two lines of dialogue, but Rabens’ savagery also rattles around Jack’s head in the season’s final moments — which find him still in the grips of drug addiction and questioning his own humanity after he’s forced to sever Chase’s hand to save the day. That suddenness with which Rabens sparks to such entropic evil is part of what pushes Jack, between Day 3 and Day 4, to clean up and for crying out loud just try a different job already.
Day: 6.5 (Redemption)
Performer: Siyabulela Ramba
For all its strengths, 24: Redemption is narratively inessential. Day 7 reintroduces Jon Voight as Jonas Stark. It explains the murder of President Allison Taylor’s son. The Sangalan terrorists get the remedial treatment, too. But only once can you pair Jack with a charismatic little kid, and producers were smart to know that saddling him with a sassy youngster on the main series would threaten to sever the necessary moment-to-moment tension. Alas, folks who skipped 24: Redemption missed out on the surprisingly affecting bond Jack and Willie form under duress. It’s largely because Willie is yet another empathetic model for the man Jack could have been if he weren’t already so far down a track headed away from an enjoyable life. Willie is among the boys at the school run by Jack’s friend, Carl Benton (#10), where Jack is working. First, Willie tries to steal Jack’s knife. Then, after seeing Frank Trammel (#23) serve Jack with papers, Willie asks Jack why he’s in trouble and where he might be going. Sutherland has always been so much better at underplaying Bauer than most people remember. Here, he establishes that Jack’s frustration with Willie is not the predictable “shut up, kid” gruffness. It’s that to answer Willie’s questions would force Jack to revisit, and reflect upon, every impossible choice he has made that has found him alone, aimless, on the other end of the world. Deep down, though, and however absent his choices have made him, Jack is still a parent, and he also understands Willie’s curiosity is only enhanced by his poor station in life. Willie wants to know what else might await him besides death and despair. How would Jack know that? Those things are nearly all he understands. Willie is among the more brave schoolchildren, too, ringing the bell to warn everyone as terrorists descend. He also asks Jack if he will take him to America, which Jack initially declines but ends up doing anyway through diplomatic means that also serve Jack up to a subpoena. After their mad scramble to survive, Jack and Willie mutually comfort each other as their evacuation helicopter rises over the Sangalan city. Willie is never seen again in the bigger picture. But if you know him, you sense him in the back of Jack’s mind throughout.
6. Naji & Safa
Hour: 7:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
Performer(s): Amin Nazemzadeh (Naji) & Omid Abtahi (Safa)
I will leave loftier, specific discourse on 24’s pop-cultural framing of xenophobia in the 2000s to someone far more qualified than me. But on a rewatching binge, 24 definitely feels grayer on that score than it might have initially felt in such a charged real-world environment. Again, this is a series that delayed and edited its pilot episode after 9/11 because it concludes with a plane explosion. America’s hyper-awareness of terrorist horrors became a blessing and curse for 24, which likely would not have whipped up so much zeitgeist without it but also became the barometer by which popular fiction wrestled with it. That gray shade is especially strong in an episode that finds Jack and Audrey’s estranged husband, Paul Raines (James Frain), making a last stand against an advancing private security team out to kill them. They have encrypted information for which the mercs will kill. They also have no choice but to hole up in a sporting-goods store owned by Naji and Safa, who inherited the business from their father. The brothers already face the vitriol of neighborhood racists because of their ethnicity, even though they grew up in the same country as their tormentors. Naji and Safa have also fought stereotypes all their lives, and they know the ethnic backgrounds of this day’s terrorists will only make things tougher — especially as riots and panic mount outside their store. So they decide to stay and fight to help Jack. Their inventory proves surprisingly helpful, especially a high-beam light to throw off the mercenaries’ night-vision goggles. Much like any building in which Jack brandishes a weapon, there’s significant damage. He promises to help them rebuild the store, and the brothers ruffle each other’s hair after the skirmish with pride at the way they’ve been able to assist. Is this somewhat of a fantasy for redemption of the Arab-American experience in the United States? Sure, it’s a network TV series. Does it acknowledge the complicated environment in which 24 set out to both entertain and engage with stories about terrorism and its aftereffects? Yes. Is it deepened and complicated by actor Omid Abtahi’s reappearance as a different character in Day 7 on whom American terrorists try to pin their crimes? Absolutely. The specter of terrorism remains a tumultuous conundrum, one 24 could hardly be tasked to solve but from which it pulled occasional moments that were worth the mull.
5. Koo Yin
Hour: 2:00 a.m. to 3:00 a.m.
Performer: François Chau
Koo Yin first appears at 2:17 a.m. on Day 4. Again at 2:22 a.m. By 2:35 a.m., this Chinese consul is dead on the consulate lawn. Just 18 minutes in the 24 narrative, less if you knock out the commercial break. A few beeps of that ceaseless clock. But Koo Yin’s death comes to define, and drag down, Jack for the remainder of his life. Former President David Palmer (Dennis Haysbert) is attempting to negotiate the transfer of Lee Jong, a Chinese national linked to terrorist Marwan who sought asylum at the consulate. When Koo refuses to give up Lee and current President Charles Logan (Gregory Itzin) refuses to push further, Palmer organizes a rogue kidnapping led by Jack and CTU agents Curtis Manning (Roger Cross) and Howard Bern. Koo is shot in the melee that ensues as Jack carries Lee out of the consul and Bern’s facemask is pulled up for a brief second — setting off a doom-spiral that consumes Jack forever. Outside of Teri Bauer (Leslie Hope), Koo is easily the series’ most consequential death. It is the reason why Chinese rogues, headed by sinister Cheng Zhi (Tzi Ma), rip Jack from Audrey at the end of Day 5 to imprison and torture him. It is the impetus for Audrey’s own abuse at Cheng’s hands when she goes looking for Jack and for her eventual murder in Live Another Day. It is the scaffolding for so much of Jack’s sorrow after it happens. All of this from a character that lasted 18 minutes. François Chau, who went on to Dharma Initiative infamy on LOST as Dr. Pierre Cheng just months later, gives Koo a perfectly icy bureaucracy in his snippets of screen time. Wherever it is Jack is these days — because I’m guessing he choked, stabbed and shot his way out of that Russian prison by — Koo Yin undoubtedly still haunts him.
Hour: 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m.
Performer: Kathleen Wilhoite
Jack generally closes his eyes only when knocked unconscious or, as in Day 2, temporarily dead. Sleeping, eating and toileting were generally verboten on 24. But Jack does doze off for about 30 seconds in Hour 9 of Day 1. Hey, he wasn’t yet accustomed to all-nighters or all-dayers. Lauren is driving down a road Jack literally tumbles onto after escaping Secret Service custody, and he forces her at gunpoint to drive off with him. She’s a spitfire, blasting Jack with pepper spray. It pisses him off, but he doesn’t retaliate. As they hole up in a construction-site trailer, Jack tells Lauren he needs her so authorities will believe he’d do something so crazy like shooting her. But he won’t. He promises. Lauren’s got her own problems — namely a court date for a DUI of which she’s guilty. “Good luck with your crisis,” she quips as she tries to leave. As Jack cocks his pistol, he insists maybe she should be a little more afraid.
After a sassy exchange about bolt cutters, they wait for Nina Myers (Sarah Clarke) to send a CTU sedan — after which Jack will let Lauren go. Here, Kathleen Wilhoite matches Sutherland’s wavelength for strategically casual conversation. Jack knows not who he can trust. But waitresses engage in casual conversation all the time, so she’s someone with whom he can rest his racing mind, right? Meanwhile, Lauren has certainly poured java for folks just slightly less jittery than Jack. What’s a little chit-chat if it calms him down? Lauren talks of her failed marriage and her run of bad luck. Jack mentions his past service and that he’s never been so scared.
Then … poof. Dreamland for Jack and a potential escape for Lauren. But the slightest shift springs Jack awake. Soon enough, the Secret Service swarm outside, so Jack needs Lauren to sneak out and bring up the sedan. “I need to know one thing,” she says. “Are your wife and daughter really in trouble?” Jack asserts that they are, and Lauren walks out. Like any rational person, she considers the trouble she might face; after all, she has a record and is toast if she’s considered an accessory in whatever wild tale Jack has spun. In the end, Lauren flags down the agents, points toward the trailer and forces Jack to flee yet again. Speaking of slumber: Lauren is among few women on 24 with whom Jack hasn’t slept — or will sleep — to whom he reveals anything so personal. In later days, showrunners eschewed slow moments with random strangers; of all the crossfire-caught civilians, Lauren certainly has the deepest back-story and among the most screen-time of all characters on this list. Thanks to Wilhoite’s performance and shrewd writing, Jack’s lone instance of dozing on 24 is anything but a snooze.
3. John Mason
Hour: 2:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.
Performer: Eric Christian Olsen
Given its defibrillating effect on network TV’s awards viability, 24 became an immediate Emmy darling. Its inaugural season racked up 10 nominations. Quite surprisingly, its pilot episode bested a murderer’s row of competition in Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series — all-timer pilots for The Shield and Alias, Mark Greene’s death on ER and the third-season finale of The West Wing. (In case you wondered: No Sopranos in contention for that Emmy cycle.) Days 2, 3 and 4 were relegated to technical awards, although Sutherland and the series were always nominated. Boasting 12 nominations, Day 5 was the series’ coronation — including statuettes for Sutherland and the series. After that, only Cherry Jones’s Day 7 win for Outstanding Supporting Actress broke out, although every season of the original run won at least one Emmy.
Frankly, Xander Berkeley should’ve been in the mix for his work on Day 2 as George Mason, the squirrelly CTU director who famously clashed with Jack from the series jump. When George first gets wind of a nuke on its way to Los Angeles, he vanishes from CTU with the intent to get out of town. (Nothing like confidence in your team, George.) Forced to follow up on a nearby lead, George is exposed to a fatal dose of radiation that will kill him in as long as a week or as little as a day. A more cruel series would have reveled in this karmic ass-bite. Instead, 24 gives George an unexpected redemption arc that stays grounded thanks to Berkeley’s morbid, caustic humor. When nothing can stop a nuclear explosion except a piloted suicide-mission dive in the desert, Jack volunteers (prompting the phone call to Kim Bauer back at #83). But it’s revealed that George has stowed away, so he takes over for Jack (who parachutes to safety) and nobly sacrifices himself.
Several hours earlier, George has his estranged son, John, arrested — a classic George dick move, but it’s George’s only way to get John to CTU to discuss a bank account set aside for his use. They clearly haven’t spoken in years. Berkeley and Eric Christian Olsen bring so many shorthand gestures to amplify their rage and resentment without much dialogue, and eventually John comes to understand why his unavailable dad has suddenly become very available. 24 sometimes struggled with emotional moments outside of those afforded to Jack and those in his orbit. But the climax of this scene packs a wallop thanks to Olsen and Berkeley’s work; there’s a break where Olsen says “Goddamn it” just before a hug that, in just a couple seconds, lets you see, “Yeah, this is a guy George Mason would have screwed up and they’re both doing all they can.” It would be an obvious Emmy clip for Berkeley, too, had he made it to the nomination field. Although 24’s first season wiggled through a wider door in the absence of The Sopranos, Tony and company were back on Satriale’s block by Day 2 and hogging all but one spot in the Supporting Actor category alongside The West Wing. Emmy glory eventually came to 24. But with John and George Mason, maybe it should’ve started a little earlier.
2. Lucy Stiles
Hour: 3:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Performer: Nancy Linehan Charles
Edgar Stiles. Man. It still hurts. OK. Let’s try again. Introduced in Day 4, Edgar Stiles was an intelligence analyst at CTU. See? That past tense. Damnit. Toughen up. Let’s get through this.
With Chloe O’Brian (Mary Lynn Rajskub) established as a regular, the writers saw fit to establish her own foil. What a great foil Edgar turned out to be — a harried sycophant to CTU policy and structure who always answered the phone using his full name, as if he thought people might be surprised to hear his voice. That a man with such a pronounced lisp made his way through the world with a last name that began and ended with “S,” well, that’s just a perfect touch for Edgar. After so very many clashes with Chloe (usually over best practices), she and Edgar became begrudging friends. And so it was, at least for me, the saddest thing ever on 24 when Edgar succumbed to a nerve gas attack on Day 5 — gasping for air while Chloe, safely sealed away in another room, watched powerless to help him. I am not the type to feel sorrow about many fictional characters, but Edgar’s exit was the part of the rewatch I dreaded most. It’s still awful to watch.
A close second is Edgar’s realization that no one will evacuate his wheelchair-bound mother, Lucy, from the path of nuclear fallout from the San Gabriel Island power plant despite his exhaustive efforts to get someone, anyone to help. For all of 24’s bombast, this is a stunning moment that converges its emphasis on everyday helplessness, sometimes-misplaced patriotic duty, and the inequity of where so much of the show’s wanton carnage would land. Knowing his mother has little time left, Edgar calls her up. Lucy holds back tears, encouraging Edgar to let her do what she wants to do: If the alternative is a slow and terrible death, she wants to end her life on her own terms. Besides, she tells Edgar, he’s got thousands of people to save with his skills. America needs Edgar. Lucy tells him he’s been a wonderful son, a gift. She even says he’s got a lot of years left before he sees her again, and even though no one yet knows this … he simply doesn’t. It’s heartbreaking, and Lombardi — who excelled at nuanced comic timing on the show in all the right moments — lets you see how this irreversibly shatters Edgar, slowly cracking as Lucy hangs up the phone.
1. Teddy Hanlin
Hour: 5:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.
Performer: Kirk Baltz
There are many metrics by which to gauge one-hour characters on 24. Utility, or evil, in a heated moment. Deep emotion and engagement with the series’ underlying themes. Influence on future events. Are they a cougar? Most characters on this list are great because they make sense within an hour-long constraint. But what about the one-hour characters so damn good you hoped maybe, just maybe, they’d turn up a few seasons later? If they could bring back Eric Balfour’s Milo Pressman after five years, why not Kirk Baltz’s CTU sniper Teddy Hanlin? (Baltz is credited in the following hour, but I’ve watched the aftermath scene several times and never saw him. The Wikia says he appears briefly and out of focus in the background, so … come on, a one-hour character it is.)
Indeed, Teddy was on a shortlist of characters whom longtime director Jon Cassar said could come back one day in a 2007 TV Guide interview. Alas, Teddy never showed up to harangue Jack in Africa, Washington, D.C., New York or London despite canonically still being around. So all we’re left with are woulda-coulda-shouldas spurred on by his verbal and ballistic sniping.
Jack testified against any number of rogue CTU agents during his tenure. One was Seth Campbell, whom Jack put away for lining his pocket with ill-gotten gains. With a husband in prison and four kids to support, Seth’s wife hanged herself. So Jack’s not exactly best buds with Seth’s old partner. That happens to be Teddy Hanlin, and he happens to be running backup for Jack during a crucial Day 1 covert operation.
Jack must impersonate a murdered terrorist in a payoff meeting at an outdoor shopping plaza. He knows only that the contact has a red hat. But maybe Red Hat Man will know Jack is an impostor. The slightest miscue could botch the whole thing, but this is S.O.P. for Jack … until George Mason lets him know Teddy will be his overwatch. You’d think Jack got kicked in the giblets by his response: “Damnit, George! How could you let this happen?” Mason mentions that Division assigned him — that damn Division again — and as soon as Jack and Nina reach the top of the escalator, there’s Teddy with rage virtually oozing from his thick, greased-up hair.
“Hey, Jack!,” Teddy shouts in a flat, smug drawl. “Haven’t seen ya since ya put my partner away!” All business, Jack asks if Teddy is set up. “Yeah,” Teddy cracks back. “We’re not up here shoppin’ for Dockers.” Teddy is especially chuffed that Jack’s own rogue actions hours earlier did not warrant persecution: “I guess some people have connections and don’t get spanked when they break the law.” Ever calm, Jack goes back to specifics. But then Teddy gets nasty: “I always get a little bit nervous about target confusion and I’d hate to see one of the good guys go down by mistake.” Jack tells Teddy he doesn’t want a problem on this, after which Teddy walks away in silence to establish his position.
There is an element of jock-in-the-school-play mode to Teddy, which might seem like a knock on Baltz. But it’s incredibly effective as a sort of automated anger that feels like Teddy’s lone motivating force. You know he’s been waiting to unleash on Jack for however long. But are words his only ammunition? He keeps picking at Jack while keeping Jack’s head in his sights. Is this guy going to vaporize Jack and blame it on some kind grassy-knoll phantom? Seems possible even before Teddy harangues him about the suicide, of which Jack has no knowledge.
Nina asks Teddy to cool it; “Ah, Jack can walk and chew gum at the same time, can’t ya, Jack?” Besides, Teddy “just thought it would be nice to, y’know, catch up while we’re hangin’.” So very many people needle Jack on 24, but few as mercilessly and unpredictably as Teddy. Trying to finally shut him up, Jack offers to share his side of the story later.“I’d really like to hear your side of the story,” Teddy says. “Why don’t we go to a Starbucks, get ourselves a couple of cappuccinos and we can have a little chin wag?”
A chin wag? Watch yourself, Mr. Hanlin, for such uncouth utterings are apt to spur fisticuffs!
As Jack and the contact talk, the contact wonders where Alexis’s accent went and flees in fright. Ah, but Teddy can take him. Jack yells that the contact is not a threat as he gives chase. “I’m just gonna slow him down for you. Relax, Jack,” Teddy says. “I’ll just wing him.” Of course, Teddy wings him … right off a high walkway where he falls to his doom, prompting Jack’s perfunctory profane outburst.
You might think CTU would drum Teddy out for his insubordination. But Findings at CTU, a 2003 tie-in novel, reveals that Division irritants Alberta Green and Ryan Chappelle expressly assigned Teddy because they were mad about Jack’s CTU reinstatement, too. And then they promoted Teddy! Thus, it’s canon that Hanlin is still in CTU and a crime that we never saw him again. Imagine Teddy asking Jack if he knows how it feels once Teri has died. Giving Kim a hard time about how Daddy has to keep an eye on her. Rubbing Audrey’s nose in Jack’s disappearance. Coming to blows with Bill Buchanan (James Morrison). Being a general butthead to everyone because he has protection up top.
On one hand, would Teddy Hanlin be a dime-store Tony Almeida (Carlos Bernard)? Maybe. But Tony liked Jack and vice versa, which makes Tony’s eventual betrayals sting so deeply. Sending Jack out with someone he straight-up doesn’t respect thanks to bureaucratic BS? Well, maybe such things could have saved Day 6 or strengthened Days 7 and 8. Remember that rumored revival back at #24? Maybe, just maybe, they’re saving Baltz — also an acting coach for the likes of New Girl’s Max Greenfield — for some deep-cut reintroduction there. A fan can dream, one hour at a time.