#4: 24 - Season Five

Charles Logan: If Nixon and Cheney mated
While seasons 3 and 4 of 24 were very enjoyable and much better than seasons 6-8, the show started to feel somewhat out of fresh ideas by the end of season 4.  By the start of season 5, we were pretty accustomed to having moles in CTU and at least one supporting character killed off.  While season 4 did end with a pretty good cliffhanger (Jack Bauer faking his own death to avoid domestic conflict with the Chinese), season 5 employed full fledged shock and awe in the first hour of the season by killing off ex-President David Palmer and Michelle Dessler.  Naturally this forces Jack Bauer out of hiding, and Bauer himself is suspected of being behind the assassinations (you'd think after saving the US four times already, people would be more hesitant to accuse Jack Bauer).  While corruption was present in the government at pretty high levels in previous seasons, for the most part the threats were external in nature, whether it be radical Arab terrorists (remember 24 began right after 9/11), Mexican drug cartels, or pissed off MI-6 agents (I always kind of liked Stephen Saunders). Season 5 shifted the paradigm by making the "real" threat high ranking members of the US government (which was right around the time approval ratings for Bush's administration were starting to dip).

While we knew fairly early that some heavy hitters in the federal government were involved, the revelation that President Charles Logan had a hand in the assassination of Palmer and Dessler and the other terror plots that occurred that day.  I have always been pretty good at predicting twists and turns in movies/TV, but I was completely floored when Logan was exposed as being part of the conspiracy.  Season 5 had many other powerful moments from the psuedo-death of Tony Almeida to the release of sentox nerve gas in CTU which
claimed the life of Edgar (in truly tragic fashion) and Samwise Gamgee Lynn McGill.  Season 5 also featured Jack managing to bring Logan to justice with his brain rather than his gun, in what was one of the cooler Jack Bauer moments in the entire series.  Season 5 was undoubtedly the pinnacle of the series, offering a deadly combination of great acting, tragic deaths, exciting, yet not overblown action sequences, and some of the biggest shockers in recent TV history.  Ironically, it was all the things that made season 5 so great that ultimately led to the show's decline in following seasons by constantly trying to raise the stakes even higher (it failed miserably and I personally think the show would have been better off going back to smaller-scope storylines a la Season One).