Jack Bauer's back and it's a darn good thing he is because, this time, a nuclear bomb is about to hit L.A. and kill thousands. The stakes are much, much higher and, despite David Palmer being president, it's not looking good for CTU or the US in general.
The season opens on a morose note as we find Kiefer Sutherland's Bauer depressed after the untimely death of his wife and retired from CTU. Also, his relationship with his (annoying) daughter Kim (Elisha Cuthbert) is damaged and she, once again, gets her own subplot where she runs around being all kinds of stupid and distracting hard-working people from what's actually important. Once again, she's the season's worst asset but luckily, her main "contribution" more or less ends about halfway through. After ruining several innocent people's lives, by the way. Poor old Billy Burke is dragged in as her own personal antagonist and isn't very convincing as a dude who just happens to be a cold-blooded killer for no apparent reason. We also get a few new characters including Kate Warner (a frankly not very good Sarah Wynter) and her family, some members of which are getting ready for a wedding. The latter is interrupted by Tony Almeida (Carlos Bernard) when CTU finds a link between the Warners and the terrorist plot being investigated by the agency. Returning characters include George Mason (a terrific Xander Berkeley), who is given a lot more to do and a really effective character arc this time, David Palmer (Dennis Haysbert) who is finally president and is, therefore, in charge of juggling about a million things and his wife Sherry (Penny Johnson) who is about as hatable as you'd expect. This is also the season where the whole Tony/Michelle Dessler (Reiko Aylesworth) relationship begins.
Although the season raises the stakes a little too high too quickly, which makes it next to impossible for any subsequent season to match, it's its willingness to go all out that makes it one of the best and one of the most exciting seasons of the show. The whole nuclear bomb plot is nail-biting and builds-up to a thrilling, even emotional, conclusion. This is intercut with David Palmer's political struggles as he finds himself surrounded by people looking to betray him or people who just don't trust his judgement. You'd think that more politics would bring the show down and ruin the pace of the whole season but it really doesn't: that stuff ends up being key to making all the more action-based stuff relevant and matter. Some cool twists throughout the season include (SPOILERS) the bombing of CTU, Palmer losing to his Vice President in a forced vote and Mason being exposed to deadly radiation. Season 2 takes what made Season 1 so watchable and enhances it fully. Despite the novelty of the whole 24 hours thing having worn off, the season is still good and entertaining enough that it keeps you watching, proving that there's much more to the show than its conceptual gimmick. This is when you start to really get to know some of these characters and warm up to them.
Overall, this is one of my personal favourite seasons: it's bigger, the whole of America is at stake, and it's even more engaging than its predecessor as it keeps throwing you things you wouldn't expect. Some characters are still a little bit too annoying for their own good but give it another season and it'll all pretty much work itself out.
Really intense and fun.