This season seemed especially slow out of the starting gate, but finally the action and story are picking up. I'm waiting to see how the season progresses to make any judgments, but as of now, I'm not particularly impressed. Season 7 switched up the show much more than season 8 which is a reshuffling of 24 concepts.
Jack spends a good part of the first episode getting his ass kicked by an NYPD officer after they find him in the house with the people Davros killed. Yeah it's stupid for countless reasons, but Jack's obligatory beating had to come at some time. And Jack facing off with the thugs playing basketball? Don't get me started.
The plot to kill President Hassan is rather elaborate, and was way more complicated than it should have been considering how close Farhad was to his brother. Decryption of Meredith Reed's stolen files reveals a schematic with the U.N. building and a couple bombs. This prompts an evacuation order from Hastings, and Hassan's car is almost destroyed if not for the Jack-like heroics of Cole.
Cole tracks Davros to a building, but isn't too good at this stuff so he needs Jack to save him. Davros is snuffed out quickly and his tattoos indicate a relation to the Russian mob. Back at CTU, his body is emanating radiation, and we learn Farhad was approached by men wanting to sell weapons grade uranium. Uh oh. Another nuclear attack plot?
Renee (Annie Wersching) shows up in the second episode of the night, and she's very different than how we last saw her. In season 7, she was the straight shooter agent reining in Jack Bauer, but in season 8 their roles are reversed. Renee is psychologically damaged after the events of season 7, and her interrogation of Brian Wilson, hinted at end of the seventh season, ended quite badly.
Jack, having gone through this before, immediately picks up on this, and tries to stop Hastings from putting her undercover with the Russians. Renee has tons of experience with them, has her cover intact, and wants to help, so there's nothing more he can do other than pretend to be a buyer and stay close.That goes horribly wrong as Renee decides to take a saw to the man's hand. She's crazy right now, but Jack's going to slowly reel her back to plane of sane people through the course of the season.
Dana Walsh's story appears to be unrelated to everything going on so far, and if it stays that way it'll be disappointing. The standalone arcs in 24--Teri Bauer's amnesia in season 1, Kim cougar adventure in season 2--are very weak and distract from the main story. The strength in having so much stuff going on is if the writers weave it into the main story. We've seen the writers do this time and time again, so I'm hoping Dana/Jenny's ex-boyfriend Kevin is trying to talk to her, because he's involved with the nuclear material or the assassination.
Annie Wersching is a really good actress. IMO, she did a better job last season than Cherry Jones.
Kim didn't show up which is great.
Hastings is chill, but gets everything wrong.
I predict Hastings will be kicked up for some hardass from Division.