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 19 and 11. 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)

19. The Cougar


Day: 2
Hour: 6:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.
Performer: Cougar
Alive? Eternal.

As great as they were, 2010s prestige series like Breaking Bad and Homeland often struggled to deliver compelling subplots for teenaged characters. Hell, at one point, the only tension for Chris Brody on Homeland became whether he’d be able to play his video games. Howard Gordon wrote for every original season of 24 and ran the writers’ room from Day 5 onward. After 24, he developed Homeland and was perhaps scared off even trying anything of note for teens thanks to 24 fans’ response to … THE COUGAR. Before Kim Bauer (Elisha Cuthbert) encountered lonely Lonnie (Kevin Dillon) in the woods, she sought safe haven after causing a car crash to escape police custody. (A long story, but it involves Gary Matheson, whom you can read about in #38.) Tired and lost, Kim hears a noise and looks up to find … THE COUGAR. When she runs, she’s nabbed in a chain trap and draws the attention of … THE COUGAR. Nothing happens with Kim for the rest of the episode. You never again see … THE COUGAR. I mean, what could they do? Have Kim soothe it? Throw a rock at it? It’s … THE COUGAR. Indeed, the cougar became shorthand for the sloppy goofiness of Kim’s subplots in her remaining time on the show. It’s no surprise that after Day 3, Kim was confined to occasional appearances. But hey, don’t underestimate the influential powers of … THE COUGAR.

18. Coast Guard Officer

No, man. No body here. Your daughter’s alive. Go home. Chill out!

Day: 1
Hour: 11:00 p.m. to 12:00 a.m.
Performer: Kevin Chapman
Alive? Yes.

There are definitely instances in which you feel 24’s first day trying to find its footing, but its last hour remains one of the century’s best season finales. Even before the gut-punch of Teri Bauer’s death, there’s a segment where Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) believes Kim is dead, her body pulled from the water near the Port of Los Angeles where he’s just about to strike. Barely able to stand after this news, Jack recovers and launches into beast mode against Victor Drazen (Dennis Hopper) and his son Andre (Željko Ivanek) in a terrific shootout on the docks. Jack believes the Drazens have killed Kim, and when he corners Victor, he empties his magazine into him even as Victor’s body pirouettes into the water. In the aftermath, Jack needs closure by claiming Kim’s body, so he corrals a Coast Guard Officer who’s just come on shift but knows of no corpse pulled from the water. He calls the harbormaster, who confirms. A few years later, Kevin Chapman got his own impressive series-regular role as Fusco on the underrated Person of Interest, but he brings a no-nonsense Bostonian certitude to this walk-on bit as the Coast Guard Officer that inspires a mix of thankful relief and titanic rage in Jack. He also regards Jack with a “who-is-this-weirdo” sort of approach. Thanks to the Coast Guard Officer, Jack knows Nina Myers (Sarah Clarke), who relayed this news, is lying to him — that Kim is alive and Nina is the mole he’s been seeking. Unfortunately, he’ll be too late to save Teri (Leslie Hope) from Nina’s clutches.

17. Kristen Smith

Knows what she wants, knows how to get it.

Day: 8
Hour: 12:00 a.m. to 1:00 a.m.
Performer: Merle Dandridge
Alive? Yes.

White House Chief of Staff Rob Weiss (Chris Diamantopoulos) sends this Department of Justice attorney to CTU New York so she can prosecute disgraced former FBI agent Renee Walker (Annie Wersching) for the murder of Russian gangster Vladimir Laitanan. Often cast in comic roles, Diamontopoulos, most recently seen in Red Notice, makes for a legendary weasel, and Merle Dandridge is outstanding as his button-pushing functionary. Smith, you see, knows all the levers to yank with Renee, just as Renee has done with others, and Renee finds herself nigh powerless to resist them. It’s a mesmerizing official interrogation, certainly the best involving a one-hour character since Tony Todd (#29) turned up on Day 3. This one hits with more of a bang because Smith is interrogating a character we actually like instead of one we inherently mistrust (Sherry Palmer). Plus, you get the added bonus of Jack choke-slamming someone with no regard to how dangerous, or harmless, they might really be. At the time, Day 8 represented more of a dropoff than 24 fans wanted from a final season. But Dandridge delivers the goods in this deeply satisfying one-and-done.

16. Carl Gadsen

I’m in a REAL bind here, fellas!

Day: 7
Hour: 10:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.
Performer: Connor Trinneer
Alive? Yes.

A soon-to-be father of twins and supervisor at the Port of Alexandria, Carl facilitates what he believes to be the smuggling of Korean electronics in exchange for fertility-treatment money. Turns out it’s actually the deadly Prion Variant smuggled over from Sangala, which Jonas Hodges (Jon Voight) intends to use toward his own evil ends. Jack and Tony Almeida (Carlos Bernard) corner Carl at the port and secure his loyalty before Hodges’ main henchmen arrive. They grill Carl, too, making him visibly nervous over the amount of firepower on hand as well as being asked to lie against his own better nature. Naturally, the Hodges henchmen intend to kill Carl once they have what they need. Characters like Carl are dime-a-dozen in 24, right? Well, this is the only one for whom Jack essentially decides to trade his own life in exchange. That’s because his decision to save Carl directly leads to Jack’s exposure to the Prion Variant (and evil Dr. Levinson at #59’s efforts to extract it from Jack’s body). Plus, all of this happens after Jack’s big blow-up with Renee about what to feel and when to feel it. So in that sense, there aren’t dime-a-dozen characters like Carl — who helps reveal something larger about the way Jack processes his penitent nature after the events of this day and 24: Redemption.

15. L.A.P.D. Officer Jessie Hampton

Rushing to help out.

Day: 1
Hour: 3:00 a.m. to 4:00 a.m.
Performer: Yolonda Ross
Alive? No.

Discounting mass casualty events, the average body count on a day of 24 was 121. Five deaths an hour, one every 12 minutes. The frantic Day 4 saw nearly 200 individual deaths, and that doesn’t even count the Air Force One crash. Throw in the nuclear detonation on Day 6, well, that’s over 12,500 people right there. In a walk, Day 1 has the fewest individual deaths, at 62. Jessie Hampton is not the first character to die on 24. She’s just the first one that’s not a target, an agent taking a risk or anyone to do with what’s happening besides rotten luck. Jack is investigating an address from the encrypted keycard Scott Baylor (#57) provided before his death. When someone fires on him, Officer Hampton is nearby and calls for backup. So begins a tentative alliance with Jack that finds the duo pursuing the as-yet-unidentified stranger (John Hawkes) through multiple buildings. Jack is the one who screws up here, letting his phone beep to give away his and Hampton’s position. If this sequence feels a bit like an action-game cutscene, well … I played the 24 PlayStation 2 game as part of all this, too, and can confirm. However, Jack isn’t there to make friends, and the situation doesn’t engender chit-chat. Jack does pick up on Hampton’s helpful bilingualism, though, as a Spanish signal for her to get away when she’s taken hostage. It almost works but Hampton takes a bullet to the neck from their suspect and dies on the scene. Not yet inured to the incidental demise of people who choose to help him, Jack is clearly distraught by Hampton’s passing. “What was her name?” he asks one of her fellow officers. Good or bad, neither Jack nor the audience would remember most people who died near his side. You get the feeling he remembers Jessie Hampton for a good long while.

14. Robert Ellis

Smell the sweat.

Day: 1
Hour: 2:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.
Performer: Wade Williams
Alive? No.

To watch Day 1 of 24 now is to recognize where it could have been easily cleaved at hour 13 had the ratings been disastrous. (Whither the days where TV series were structured as such, most now so rigidly serialized that they have no contingency plan for closure should they get the axe.) Beyond hour 13, the writers had 11 more hours to go and 24 was a smash-hit. It could have gone in any number of directions, perhaps even sending Jack to … New Orleans? That’s where we meet Robert Ellis, the floating NSA agent / black-ops broker through whom Senator David Palmer (Dennis Haysbert), after being blocked on official channels for a covert operation, arranged Operation Nightfall. This was an attack on Serbia’s vicious Drazen family before it could get too powerful. Many Drazens died that day, except patriarch Victor — who has now orchestrated the assassination plot against Palmer and the vengeance plot against Jack. Ellis is a sweaty, swarthy fellow with wiry coils of hair introduced playing dice at a Big Easy bar in the middle of the day, although the stickiness of his clothing suggests he’s been there a loooong time. No one knew about Nightfall’s personnel besides David, Jack and Ellis, so the three try to determine who might be the mole. Again, at this point in the day, anything could happen. Maybe Jack flies to meet Ellis. Maybe Ellis has an adventure all on his own in the Central time zone. He’s pounding coffee while perusing files, which will do nothing to help the sweating, and keeping an eye on the door and his gun in case of strangers. Near the hour’s end, Ellis saunters into the bathroom, amusingly checks his hair (as if that will fix him up) … and is garroted so violently his assassin lifts him off his feet. No more Ellis. But Wade Williams does a fine job helping this character cut through the considerable heft of Jack and David meeting for the first time — fortifying their friendship — and would be rewarded by Fox with his own regular role as corrections officer Brad Bellick on Prison Break in 2005. 

13. Vincent O’Brien

Could’ve been Jack Bauer’s son-in-law.

Day: 1
Hour: 12:00 a.m. to 1:00 a.m.
Performer: Gary Murphy
Alive? Yes.

So many things feel different about the 24 pilot. The title appears with a gunshot after the usual cacophonous crescendo. The episode starts at midnight Pacific time and immediately shifts to 4 p.m. Kuala Lumpur time. It tries to showcase hip-and-with-it soundtracking through Tricky and Sugarcult (as the latter’s “Bouncing Off the Walls” has the lyric “24 hours on an empty brain”). Jack has food … in his hand before he sets it down to talk to Teri. He’s also in full-blown dad mode when we meet him, staying up late with Kim and tentatively navigating his return home after some as-yet-unknown indiscretion. Before Jack is summoned to CTU for the David Palmer assassination plot, Kim sneaks out the window when she’s supposed to be sleeping. Jack immediately knows the person to call. Although spelled differently and no relation to Chloe, Vincent O’Brien is instant teen trouble, introduced shirtless during an intense candlelit sesh of PlayStation, smokes and beer. When Vincent twists to answer his phone, we see his IRISH tattoo. Kim used to date Vincent, but Jack doesn’t know they’ve broken up, and here’s a neighborhood kid who has the audacity to just … laugh at Jack’s confusion. It’s hilarious, although Vincent quickly gives Jack his word that he doesn’t know where Kim is. (“That’s a real comfort, Vincent, knowing that I’ve got your word,” Jack says.) It’s a blast to imagine this weaselly punk flashing winks at Jack as he nuzzles with Kim, knowing Jack is powerless to stop him. Maybe it would have been a good idea to make Vincent Chloe’s brother and have him come back later.

12. Conrad Haas

Git ‘im, Jack.

Day: 5
Hour: 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m.
Performer: Jeff Kober
Alive? No.

Much like Tommy Flanagan (#55), Jeff Kober has a face that largely forced him into evil roles (well, except on New Girl, where faces of all types have so much delightful fun). In the 1980s, Kober harassed Anthony Michael Hall in Out of Bounds and in the 1990s, he went hard at fellow 24 guest star Lou Diamond Phillips as a supernaturally strong killer in The First Power. Conrad Haas is this list’s last Initiator, or character who somehow sets Jack into a motion of mayhem. Get-in, get-out scumbaggery is nothing new on 24. But then again, no one else murders beloved President David Palmer within the first few minutes of a season. (Haas takes Palmer’s life on the order of villainous President Charles Logan, played by Gregory Itzin.) This is serious. David was Jack’s friend, so it’s with immediate interest that you want to see Jack track, smack and whack Haas for his crimes. That he does so before the hour is up is a bit of a surprise, given all the heavy lifting required in a season opener to extract Jack from his new existence as Frank Flynn. Then again, Haas is also coming for Jack and Chloe O’Brian (Mary Lynn Rajskub), too, so Haas brings the fight to them. (As Haas’s men also murder Michelle Dessler, played by Reiko Aylesworth, Day 5 initiates one of the most merciless bits of cast-regular house-cleaning ever.) Haas doesn’t have much to offer Jack in the way of physical menace or dying-breath intel before he shuffles off, but … I mean … the guy shot David Palmer in the throat. Why would Jack let him speak or breathe any longer than necessary?

11. Miriam Henderson

The muffins are almost ready!

Day: 5
Hour: 5:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.
Performer: JoBeth Williams
Alive? Yes.

Dennis Hopper as a vengeful terrorist mastermind. Sean Astin as an insecure CTU manager. James Cromwell as Jack’s evil dad. Kurtwood Smith as a sassy U.S. senator. Stephen Fry as the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. 24 attracted a host of acclaimed actors in guest-star spots throughout its run, often securing their services for several episodes. So when the highly recognizable JoBeth Williams turned up on Day 5 — as the wife of an evil executive played by Peter Weller — it was natural to wonder: Might she and Weller might wild out with malicious glee? Miriam is married to Christopher Henderson (Weller), an executive at Department of Defense contractor Omicron International, Jack’s former CTU boss and mentor … and the guy that tries to blow Jack up in the last hour before leaving his office for the day. Entire rivers of bad blood run between Jack and Christopher, namely because Jack’s testimony against Christopher during a CTU investigation torpedoed Christopher’s aspirations. So Miriam remembers Jack when he shows up unexpectedly at their home, having survived the explosion in which Christopher had trapped him. Again: Is her guarded friendliness an elaborate ruse to drop Jack’s guard? When Christopher comes home to find Jack darkening his living room, he keeps it cool for as long as possible. But then Jack starts interrogating Miriam, well … let’s say extensively to ascertain an upper hand against him. How? Jack shoots her. It skyrockets the moment from “Oh, phooey, I burned the darn muffins” to “Oh, shit, Jack is not dicking around.” Now, it’s hardly a mortal wound — through her leg, certainly painful, very treatable. Probably ruined the furniture and / or the floor, though. But we believe Jack will do more if Christopher doesn’t start cooperating. Miriam is also mortified to see that Christopher has a large case of cash and forged documents inside it, and her initial protestations against Jack’s violence curdle into the realization that she’s been living with a very, very bad man. As fun as it would’ve been for Williams to turn heel, this slowly hardening horror that she’s married to a monster underscores Weller’s great work on the show and Williams’ own dramatic range.