9:00am PT by Josh Wigler
'24: Legacy': The Good and Bad News About Tony Almeida's Return
Midway through the fourth season of 24, Tony Almeida (Carlos Bernard) explains the essence of Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) in uncharacteristically poetic terms: "Some people are more comfortable in hell."
Tony might as well be talking about himself in that moment. Across his six seasons on the show, the veteran counter-terrorist expert turned actual expert terrorist was shot in the neck, stabbed in the chest, presumably killed, miraculously resurrected and sustained a broken ankle and an irreversibly broken heart. No character other than Bauer suffered nearly as much heartache, often literally. Indeed, in many ways, Almeida is the "anti-Bauer." Both men lost the loves of their lives and responded in drastically different fashion. Both men are highly capable agents, skilled in uncountable forms of intelligence gathering and combat styles. But only one can keep their emotions in check. Spoiler: it's not Tony. He's all heart.
Almeida's extensive and turbulent history, along with Bernard's reliably sardonic performance from his first appearance in the pilot to his last appearance in a 24: Live Another Day DVD extra, all contribute to making the character one of the most fascinating figures in the show's lore. It's also why longtime fans of the real-time thriller are so triggered by the news that Tony is coming back for Fox's Bauer-free 24: Legacy, the first character from the old guard confirmed for an appearance on the new show. As is typically the case with Tony, there's good news and bad news surrounding his comeback — reasons to be excited about his return, and reasons to dread it.
Pro: connective tissue
Not the kind of tissue used to repair Tony's shot-up neck in season three, but the kind that threads two different eras of 24 together. With Sutherland tied up dealing with crises of his own on Designated Survivor, the odds of seeing Bauer on 24: Legacy decrease by the minute. Who else is still standing from the original 24 universe that can even come close to matching that star power? No one, really, but the tortured Tony is about as close as it gets. It's a huge acknowledgment that the upcoming series, starring Corey Hawkins as ex-Army Ranger Eric Carter, exists in the same world as former presidents David Palmer and Charles Logan, deceased enemies Nina Myers and Habib Marwan … and, yes, the somehow still kicking-and-ticking Tony.
Con: the baggage
It's a double-edged sword. Tony's story ended on a dark note, but one that was true to the character. Always prone to bad decisions whenever danger surrounded his wife Michelle Dessler (Reiko Aylesworth), it's no surprise that Tony broke all the way bad after her brutal murder. Tony's story leaned entirely on Michelle, her presence or lack thereof. Where is there to go with him without acknowledging that past — and if that past has to be thoroughly explored, is it too dense of a history for new viewers to crack?
Pro: the gray area
The early seasons of 24 established Tony as a hard-working agent with his country's best interests in mind, second only to his loyalty to Michelle. The character's final appearances demonstrated his willingness to sell out anyone and everyone in order to pursue vengeance. The Tony of season one and the Tony of season seven stand in stark contrast against one another, making it completely unpredictable as to how he'll factor into Legacy. Will he help Carter through his very bad day, or will Tony stand in the new hero's way? Based on his past appearances, it's impossible to say, which makes him an intriguing force in the modern 24 universe.
Con: a definitive ending
The opportunity exists to settle Tony's allegiance one way or the other, which potentially diminishes the character's final impact. What's more, can Tony return to the world of 24 without falling through death's door? Characters rarely make return appearances on this show without meeting the reaper at the end of the line, and Tony has already "died" once. For die-heard Almeida fans, it's exciting to think about him rejoining the world of 24, but it comes with the understanding that this could be his swan song — for real this time.
Pro: return of the Cubs mug
Although it was technically destroyed when Tony and Michelle's house blew up in the season five premiere. Still, there's no reason Tony can't buy another coffee mug supporting his favorite Chicago sports team, is there? And there's no telling what kind of facial hair Tony will wear when he returns to 24. Will it be an evil goatee, like he sported during his bad-guy turn in season seven? Will he be clean-shaven, as he was in season two and three? Will he return to the classic "soul patch," as only Tony can rock? And how many times will he huffily say the words "yeah," "OK," and "alright" over the course of the season? These are small matters in the grand scheme of things, but Tony's odd little idiosyncrasies are an enormous part of his appeal for deep-cut 24 fans. The risks involved in bringing him back into the fold are worth it to see Tony back on the field, hellish circumstances be damned.
24: Legacy premieres Feb. 5 after the Super Bowl on Fox.