At this point in 24's history, certain plot points are more or less a given. Torture is a foolproof method to get what you want. There's always a mole. And under no circumstances should presidential spouses be trusted.

At this point in 24's history, certain plot points are more or less a given.

Torture is a foolproof method to get what you want. There's always a mole. And under no circumstances should presidential spouses be trusted.

Twists that would have been shocking years ago now seem commonplace as writers run out of ways to surprise us. A nuclear bomb actually detonated in Los Angeles last season - how can they possibly up the ante from there?

They can't. Jack Bauer's adventures, once the pinnacle of action TV, have lost some of their thrill. Yet there's a certain appeal to going through the motions again.

Thanks to the writers' strike, it's been two years since the rightfully maligned sixth season, which began with an exhilarating four-hour sequence but lost its narrative footing after the nuclear blast.

Season seven began last week with another four-hour block that reset the series in Washington, D.C. It found Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) testifying before the Senate to defend his policy of getting results instead of following the rules.

That sets the tone for a season that clunkily debates - or, perhaps refuses to debate - the ethics of torture. It's almost comical how fast Bauer's by-the-book FBI counterpart (Annie Wersching) condones Bauer's tactics and even joins in.

But the pleasure of seeing Bauer back at it, with Tony Almeida (Carlos Bernard) in tow, is enough to overlook the heavy-handed ideology and recycled storylines and just enjoy the ride.