Counting down the seconds to the new season of 24, I honestly didn't know what to expect. From the teasers, I knew that CTU was gone, Jack Bauer was on trial, and Tony Almeida was, somehow, both alive and evil. I knew there was a new presidency and a crisis in Africa, and I had a sneaking suspicion that everything would somehow be interconnected. Having watched the premiere, I can now report that my suspicion was correct, and that the seventh season of 24 is off to a satisfying start.

Getting poll results. Please wait...
As I mentioned before, the season starts with Jack Bauer standing trial, though he is quickly whisked away by the FBI, who believes he can help with a case. We find out there is a situation that is quickly "heating up," and the main suspect is Jack's old friend Tony Almeida, who was supposed to be dead but apparently is not. Tony's return was the first believability hurdle this episode had to clear, and though it did not do so gracefully, it was handled quickly enough so the audience had to move on to the next plot line without giving it too much thought. Having had a chance to sit back and think a bit more, I've decided I'm okay with the explanation; I could probably pick it apart and find a million inconsistencies, but 24's given me enough in the past to get the benefit of the doubt here.

Once Jack accepts the situation and agrees to help, he quickly discovers a link to an old contact from his CTU days. Funny how the FBI's been investigating this for God-knows-how-long, but a few minutes after Jack Bauer gets involved, he finds the top lead in the case. The fact that this startling coincidence can be attributed to Jack's knowledge of CTU is proof that the writers are in top form this season - it is not only an instance of Jack Bauer's infinite awesomeness, there's also a logical explanation for it. Good stuff.

After a brief run-in (surprise, surprise) with the FBI office's man-in-charge, Larry Moss, Jack goes with a small team of agents to question Gabriel Schecter, who they believe helped Tony with his illegal activities. After some light questioning, which features Jack threatening to take Schecter's eye out with a ballpoint, the suspect is shot by a sniper just as he is about to talk. The building where the sniper was spotted is quickly locked down, and Jack advises Renee Walker, the agent-in-charge, that he believes the FBI has been compromised. She doesn't believe him, and makes him go sit in the car.

While all this is happening, new president Allison Taylor is preparing to send troops to help stop the genocide in Sangala, the fictional African nation we first saw in "24: Redemption." As she meets with her advisors, her husband talks a reporter into withholding a story against the American intervention in Sangala. He then turns his attention to his son's death, which he believes was murder, though it was officially declared a suicide. I am inclined to agree with the First Gentleman, as I remember "Redemption" ending with his son having some vital information, and being under surveillance by the mysterious (and evil) Jonas Hodges.

Though the White House storyline seems pretty solid, I have one pressing concern: After watching the premiere, I am far more interested in the First Gentlemen's investigation than in the President's politicking. I realize the show is only one night old, but the presidential storyline should never take a backseat to anyone other than Jack Bauer. For the sake of this season, Allison Taylor better get way more interesting way, way fast.

The last element in any season of 24 is, of course, the villain. We first see Tony Almeida steeped in shadow, directing his men as they break through the Air Traffic Control firewall and commandeer a plane. He's sporting a bad-ass shaved head and facial hair, and he seems pretty serious. It's clear that he's angry, and looking for payback, though I'm not sure he truly believes in the crimes he's committing. From what I've seen, there's a real possibility that Tony will be an incredibly deep character this season, and I think he may ultimately be redeemed. Case in point: He could have crashed two planes, but aborted at the last second. These may have been his orders, of course, but something tells me he would have done it anyways. Call me crazy, but I still see good in him, and I think it will come out by season's end.

The premiere ends with Jack and Agent Walker tailing the sniper, who managed to escape the building because the FBI was compromised. Turns out Jack was right. Shocking, I know. Anyways, Jack and Agent Walker tail the sniper to what looks like a marina, capture him, take out the surveillance, kill some bad guys, and eventually come face-to-face with Tony. Jack begs for some kind of logical explanation as the episode winds down.

All in all, this episode felt more like a series premiere than the launching of a seventh season. There are all new characters, all new agencies - the show is working off a blank slate, and that is working to its benefit. There are no personalities to be keep alive, no old grudges to play out, no set hierarchies to conform to - there is limitless freedom and limitless possibility, and I think this season will reinvent Jack Bauer, revamp the show, and silence the critics who said 24 had worn out its welcome.

24 Cast: Kiefer Sutherland, Leslie Hope, Elisha Cuthbert, Sarah Clarke, Dennis Haysbert, Penny Johnson, Tanya Wright, Mia Kirshner, Carlos Bernard, more

Story by Jose Flores

Starpulse contributing writer