On Feb. 5, after the Super Bowl, it will be time to say goodbye to Jack Bauer, and hello to Eric Carter. 24: Legacy is the latest incarnation of the iconic 24 franchise, but the new series is set in a world different from the one Jack inhabited. Where Jack was a vigilante hero who tortured his captives and could MacGyver his way out of every terrorist attack, Carter is a former soldier whose first priorities are his family and his squadron. As you settle in to watch Carter's journey begin, the question of how realistic is 24: Legacy will be at the forefront of your mind, and the answer is complicated.
The show landed the coveted post-Super Bowl spot because Fox believes in the power of the 24 franchise, but what no one could predict is the precarious political climate in which the series would debut. Premiering just weeks after President Donald Trump issued an executive order temporarily banning immigrants from seven predominately Muslim countries, for some viewers, 24: Legacy could play into the ridiculous idea that all Muslims are terrorist extremists just waiting to make attacks on U.S. soil. That is why it is important for viewers to separate the facts from the action adventure fiction that drives the story.
First of all, Bin-Khalid — the terrorist leader who was killed by Carter's squadron — is not based on a real terrorist, even though there are shades of Osama bin Laden and ISIS in his followers' methods. In the opening moments of the premiere, terrorists are seen raiding the home of a member of Carter's squadron and killing his entire family, despite the soldier being in witness protection. While cyber terrorism is one of the most challenging terrorist acts facing the United States today, it seems unlikely a terrorist group would haphazardly target an individual in their home in broad daylight, even if they knew their location.
The show's second big leap is in suggesting terrorists have infiltrated political offices in the United States, like the fictional CTU. Again, it is highly unlikely anyone who had been converted to an organization like ISIS would be a part of the U.S. government. In reality, the bigger threat is actually politicians mislabeling citizens as terrorists based on their religion and nationality.
Terrorist attacks tend to be focused on taking out as many people as possible at once, whereas the terrorists in the world of 24: Legacy are focusing primarily on individuals at this point. Cyber attacks and violent attacks almost always happen on a much larger scale, and government infiltration is pure fantasy. At least in these areas, the show is drawing inspiration from suspense stories, not reality.
Where 24: Legacy finds realism is in its treatment of soldiers who have returned from war. Carter tries to convince his wife he wants a normal life, but he still feels a strong sense of responsibility toward his squadron. He is a changed man, who feels disconnected from the world around him, even as he tells his wife he is ready to move forward.
Then there is Carter's fellow soldier, Ben, who suffers from PTSD and addiction. He feels the government has abandoned him, a sentiment the New York Times reports many veterans echo in real life. When it comes to having the proper services to help soldiers adjust to their lives post-war, the United States does not always succeed, making the characterizations of Ben and Carter the most realistic aspect of the series' political landscape by far.
Terrorism remains a real threat worldwide, but, for the most part, the ways in which it affects the world are not accurately reflected in 24: Legacy — and that is a good thing. It is fine for the show to reflect some of the realities of fighting terrorist organizations, but its first duty is to entertain. Rest assured, you can sit back and watch Carter save the world from a complex conspiracy that reaches the highest office in the land without adding to the constant stream of paranoia and fear you are greeted with on the evening news.