Eric Carter is the Best Thing to Happen to ’24: Legacy — Since Jack Bauer

Eric Carter is the Best Thing to Happen to 24: Legacy — Since Jack Bauer

Sunday (Feb. 5) marks the triumphant return of FOX’s legacy series “24” — with the highly anticipated reboot, “24: Legacy.” It’s a moment that comes with hefty expectations.

When talking about the groundbreaking series, it’s impossible to maintain a discussion for long without mentioning Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland). Bauer was the anti-hero television audiences needed — Sutherland found career retribution in his move to television 16 years ago.  He was the all-encompassing hero — riveting, tortured, dangerous, patriotic.

During that post-9/11 era of terrorism-infused paranoia, Bauer became the one character we could turn to every Monday night for solace. He was a man who knew no scheme too grand, no challenge too outlandish to keep him from defeating evil — with the greater goal of keeping America safe.

But here’s the sad truth: Jack Bauer overstayed his welcome.

After 9 seasons, FOX is diving back into the real-time world of counter-terrorism, and this time they have a new agenda. Accompanying this fresh new plan is a fresh new face: Eric Carter (Corey Hawkins).

While Bauer’s beginning was firmly connected to CTU — where his leadership was thwarted time and again — Carter is immediately presented as an outsider: He may be a soldier with ties to the government agency, but his current life goals are focused on living a normal life.

Of course, the premiere episode, titled “12:00 Noon – 1:00 P.M.,” soon pushes Carter into a realm “24” fans know quite well — and this is where our newfound hero takes flight.

While it’s safe to say the “24” brand got bogged down with Bauer-isms and Jack’s signature unhinged behavior — the term “torture porn” came to prominence as America moved past his particular brand of extremism — Carter’s modus operandi is still new, exciting, and very unpredictable.

That detail is key to the fact that “24: Legacy” — in all its canon-faithful glory — has put one heavy foot forward to step out of Jack Bauer’s shadow. We’re sure Carter will put his own stamp on the series soon enough. Heck, we’ve already gotten a huge glimpse of some really tough family drama. And if anything really moved previous seasons along, it was the family drama.

Let’s remember, it was the loss of Jack’s wife Terri that initially pushed him over the edge. While still very early in the “24: Legacy” story, something tells us that, to really instill that “24” magic into the new episodes, Nicole (Anna Diop) will either need to leave Eric — or she will be taken from him.

That’s the journey we’re excited to take, though. Discovering the lengths Carter will walk — for the sake of America’s safety, as well as his own sanity — is a part of what makes this “24.”

Sure, we can go into detail regarding the very familiar dysfunction that still exists within CTU — or the sheer notion that the Middle Eastern terror threat well will apparently never dry up — but there’s always been a throughline in every episode of “24.” It is akin to “Homeland” and other such political-adjacent dramas, doing its part to provide a fictional reflection of America’s current political, and cultural, landscape.

Drama is as drama does on “24,” though, and we see a few eye-roll-inducing storylines forming — but it’s apparent the hero mantle was put in the right hands with Hawkins. He’s not Kiefer Sutherland, it’s true — but for “24: Legacy,” that fact is way more a gift than a curse.

“24: Legacy” will continue its two-night premiere at its regular day and time: Monday, Feb. 6, at 8 p.m. ET/PT on FOX.

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