Season 3 of 24 had the misfortune of following Season 2, which upped the ante a huge amount, giving CTU a new threat to deal with which had to somehow feel as deadly and large-scale as a nuclear bomb being detonated in Los Angeles.
Good luck with that.
To be fair, Season 3 did pretty well to keep the threat somewhat compelling, replacing a possible nuclear strike with a biological attack with a spreading virus. On top of that, good old Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) is given a darker character arc as he is made to deal with addiction after a mission saw him become a heroin addict in order to go undercover as a drug dealer convincingly. Meanwhile, David Palmer (Dennis Haysbert) is back on President duties and, although his subplot isn't exactly quite as gripping as the one he was given one season prior, it's interesting to note how not that great of a leader he is this time around. There's definitely a will to blur the lines between hero and screw-up in this season and that's admittedly a daring direction to take some of these characters. Poor old David Palmer is overwhelmed having to deal with his brother Wayne's (D. B. Woodside) indiscretions, a former supporter-turned-blackmailer and his ever-irritating wife Sherry (Penny Johnson Jerald). Oh, and an imminent biological attack. Not sure whether that's actually worse than Sherry Palmer, though. Perhaps if David Palmer hadn't called her to make a mess even messier, thereby not learning anything from the past, he wouldn't have had to struggle through the rest of the season!
Tony Almeida (Carlos Bernard) and Michelle Dessler (Reiko Aylesworth) are back with yet another will-they-won't-they subplot except, this time, it's would-they-or-wouldn't-they risk everything for each other rather than simply having the hots for one another. Unfortunately, Kim Bauer (Elisha Cuthbert) is also back and, in this season, she is given a boyfriend which is shocking when you know what happened to the last one. She really should have been banned from having any kind of relationship after that fiasco, frankly. But no, she's with Chase (James Badge Dale) and boy does he try to be as dull and irritating as she is. Of course, even he fails at that, and he's pretty lame. Kim's entire subplot really is the worst part of this entire season (I know, shocking, right?) but at least one good thing comes out of it: Chloe O'Brien (Mary Lynn Rajskub) gets a more prominent role. Even if that role involves babysitting. Season 3, by the way, is the deadliest season yet, taking the lives of a solid bunch of main(-ish) characters and legitimately threatening to take more. Jack Bauer finally faces off against arch-enemy Nina Meyers (Sarah Clarke) and he is made to make some surprisingly harsh decisions throughout. The entire second act sees Bauer go undercover in Mexico and, even though all this kinda feels like a deviation from the main plot, it's still worthy of being there thanks to the villainous Salazar brothers, who make genuinely intimidating bad guys.
While not quite as innovative as Season 1 or as explosive as Season 2, this third season is well worth sticking around for as it's quite probably the darkest and cruellest yet. You've got loads of neat twists and turns here and the way the season tortures its characters is rather fascinating, showing an unexpectedly sadistic side to the show which would resurface a couple of seasons later in full force.