First and foremost, in case there was even just a shred of doubt whether Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) survived the 24 season finale, executive producer Howard Gordon was quick to tell the crowd at today's panel, "He did make it through and you'll see a little bit later how."
Now that that's settled, we can move on to bigger and better things...
We already know that season eight takes place in New York, but it's actually a continuation of the season seven storyline. "Season seven and eight, probably more than any other season that we've done before, are really connected together. The storylines from season seven really do play all the way through into season eight," said Kiefer. We're told it takes place about eight or nine months following Jack slipping into a coma.
"Basically the threat centers around a peace conference at the U.N. that is being headed by the President of the United States and the President of Iran [played by Anil Kapoor of Slumdog Millionaire fame]. The rest of the day goes forward from that point," spilled Kiefer. In past seasons, 24 was very focused on wars and terror; however, Gordon said they're going to capture the audience this season "with peace, with the possibility of peace," to which Kiefer joked, "Don't be alarmed, we do still blow s--t up."
On top of the new threat Jack needs to deal with, he's also coming down from his near-death experience. Executive producer Manny Coto said, "[The season] starts with Jack in a place we haven't seen and that [he] is happy with his daughter and his granddaughter, and it's really an interesting place because when you see those scenes in the beginning you realize, gosh, we haven't seen this side of him for so long. There's always this dread when you're watching it that this is not going to last and it makes those moments so much more poignant." Added Kiefer, "[It's about] trying to figure out how to get Jack back to a place where living mattered. His life had been crushed so badly over the past seven seasons."
Obviously, Jack's happiness doesn't last very long, or else there wouldn't be an exciting 24 hours ahead of us. Besides the imminent threat on the U.N., Renee (Annie Wersching) is actually bringing some trouble back with her. Executive producer David Fury said, "Renee will return within the first few [episodes] and she will be a different person than she was. The hint of the relationship that we put forth in season seven—we will be following through with this season. The season begins with Jack in a happy place ready to start a new life. And when Renee enters the scene, she is a damaged person. But she is someone he decides could be a part of [his] new life."
As for a possible romantic spark between Jack and Renee, Kiefer said, "That was someone he obviously had very serious feelings for. The desire for season eight is to protect all of the things that would make living worthwhile." That sounds like a pretty close relationship is on the horizon for Jack and Renee.
In a sneak peek shown at Comic-Con, fans got a preview of the New York CTU division. It's all sleek, shiny and high-tech in a semi-sexy way (underground tunnel included!). Although high-tech is what's going to give Chloe a hard time in the upcoming season. Mary-Lynn Rajskub said, "My character starts off a little bit behind, if you can believe that for being such a genius, because I've been at home with my son. So I'm back at CTU and having to relearn some stuff." It probably doesn't help that new cast member Katee Sackhoff (Battlestar Galactica) is her boss. Quite opposite to her head-to-head rivalry with Janeane Garofalo's Janis Gold, Sackhoff's Dana Walsh puts on the overfriendly "you'll get better, you just need practice" tone to the annoyance of Chloe.
Dana Walsh, on the other hand, is not quite as friendly as she appears. Mr. Buffy Summers, ahem, Freddie Prinze Jr., whose character, Cole Ortiz, is engaged to Walsh, told us, "There's a dark side to this relationship that you find out about fairly quickly. For a character like Cole—who is someone who is very disciplined and substituted a lot of feelings that he had post-9/11 for the qualities that define a Marine, like self-respect and dignity and honor—for someone like that to go through what this character is going to go through, it's really going to turn his world upside down as far as their relationship goes." Adding fuel to the fire of her character's possible evil side was Katee saying she told the writers she loved the scripts, "but at some point I'm going to need a gun."
Finally, the possibility of a 24 movie came up. "There's been a lot of work done on behalf of Fox and us as well, kind of researching ideas for a film or a potential film franchise," said Kiefer. "We agreed after season two that we would put any real planning for a film aside until we actually felt the series was in fact going to end. Every once in a while I say, 'Wouldn't it be a cool idea for a film?' It really hasn't gone any farther than that, but certainly we've been made aware that there's some interest out there and we'd love to make it."