I still remember the day I watched the Season 1 finale of "24." I was curled up on my couch with a blanket draped around my shoulders, a bowl of popcorn to my left, and my hair disheveled from a long day of trudging through school and working for six hours. As the minutes counted down, I could feel the tension building inside of my chest, the kind of tension that sits heavy on your lungs and makes each breath feel troubled. It's the feeling of adrenaline and the weight of suspense. When Nina Meyers made the phone call to Jack Bauer and informed him that they found his wife's body in the harbor, the coldness that Kiefer Sutherland portrayed as he doled out his vengeance upon the terrorists still chills me to this day. I remember thinking to myself, "I've never seen such rage and madness in a character's eyes." Over the course of seven seasons, Jack has been in this type of situation again and again, yet nothing had ever come close to that Season 1 episode, where Jack's world seemed to be coming down around his head. However, last night's episode of "24" nearly surpassed that level. Episode 20 of Season 8 continued Jack's vendetta against the Russians, and with Dana Walsh's death, Jack's character has taken yet another turn. Killing somebody in cold blood as a means to revenge is something he's never taken lately and has rarely done, but tonight, he seemed to be caught in the midst of a fury storm, which is something that will likely last for the rest of the season.
From the get-go, Episode 20 was firing on all cylinders, it picked up exactly where the last episode left off. We got to see Jack and Cole working side by side to rescue Dana Walsh from Logan's cronies. While it's true that Cole agrees with what Jack is doing (attempting to expose the Russians as terrorists), Dana continues to try and get inside of us head, convincing him that Jack is simply compiling a hit list of men and women responsible for Renee's death and is then planning on murdering all of them. The tension between Jack, Dana and Cole is partially what drove the episode forward. The other half, of course, was Charles Logan, the most devious villain in "24" history. Last night proved that his villainy knows no boundaries. It appears he's always willing to not only cross the line, but also move it to where he's most comfortable. Upon learning that Bauer helped Dana Walsh escape, he convinces President Taylor to institute Logan's aide, Jason Pillar (Reed Diamond from "The Shield"), into CTU as a temporary director. Pillar is a cocky son-of-a-gun who rubs his new authority in Chloe's face, who is still attempting to protect Jack even while trying to bring him in. The addition of Jason Pillar to CTU should make things not only tougher for Jack, but much more interesting.
Add to this the fact that Charles Logan is teaming up with the Russians in an attempt to kill Jack Bauer once and for all, and one could argue that this is turning out to be Jack's worst day since Season 1, when his wife was murdered. It'll be interesting to see if Jack will discover that Logan is behind all of these ideas and that he is truly the person holding the reigns. Perhaps it's just the hardcore fan inside of me, but I'd love to see the series finale place Jack Bauer and Charles Logan, two opposite ends of the spectrum but two men who ultimately do what they do for their country, face off one last time. The creators of the show have already hinted that the series will not necessarily end on a happy-go-lucky note for Jack and that the story of Jack will continue beyond the realm of television and into the big screen. With a movie script in the process of being written, it seems likely that the show will be able to end on a note that leaves things heavily open-ended. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that Jack and Logan will have a face-off before the end of the season, because the way things are moving with the Russians, it appears Jack may have to go all the way to the top if he wants to complete his vendetta.
As irritating as Dana Walsh's character may have been, people shouldn't blame Katie Sackhoff for that. She's a fantastic actress that just happened to portray a character that the writers clumsily handled. Tonight's episode made me appreciate the second half of her arc, the section where she's revealed as a mole. Although her explanation to Cole for why she agreed to work with the Russians was a little paper-thin (appearently, when you get out of jail, Russian people just happen to approach you and place you in the middle of a massive government conspiracy) but each character tonight had moments of intense emotional reflection (at least Cole, Jack and Dana did). The final scene between Jack and Dana was heart-wrenching and shocking. Jack usually doesn't follow through with killing people who have wronged him and relies upon the government to punish them. However, there's the rare occasion where the government fails him and he must take things into his own hands. The image of Dana laying in the middle of plastic wrap with two bullets in her chest was haunting, and Jack's face, blank, and emotionless was as haunting as that moment in Season 1 that still gives me chills to think about.
As of right now, "24" seems to preparing for an incredible series finale. All of the major players seem to be revealed and it's just a matter of time before Jack discovers everything about who's involved. My only qualms at this point about the season is what the writers are doing with President Taylor's character. Tonight, we saw glimmers of her old self; after she learns that Jack helped Dana escape, she appears to regret what she's done. However, that lasts for only a second as she once again falls into Logan, the human version of a Venus Fly Trap. Once he has somebody in his grip, it's nearly impossible to escape. I hope that Taylor will redeem herself before the end of the series, because her character deserves much better than what the writers have done with her.
The fact that the show can still provide chills nearly 190 episodes after it first aired is incredible. Episode 20 of Season 8 proved that the showrunners seem intent on raising the bar for the final set of episodes and based on the preview for the next episode, Jack's mission isn't going to get any easier. With only four episodes left, it's becoming easier to forgive the show for the missteps earlier this year and applaud them for how great they've been doing since the halfway point. While it's certainly not the greatest season of "24," Season 8 has been impressive for a show almost a decade old and it'll be interesting to see how the show will close the books on one of television's most interesting group of characters.
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