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As Jack Bauer’s final hour as a CTU agent came to a close, I couldn’t help but feeling an overwhelming sense of nostalgia wash over me. It helped to flush away the bitter taste left over from any disappointing seasons or episodes that the show produced over the last eight years and instead helped me to remember the show it should be remembered: as one of television’s greatest and influential dramas. “24” took an idea (each episode being an hour in a day) and turned it into a television show that combined cliffhangers, twists, turns, double agents, action sequences, moles, and an infectious tick-tock sound effect that acted as the segue way between the show and commercials. “24” grew better over time, and while some shows lose their popularity over time by sticking too closely to a format, “24” remained watchable even when it was considered mediocre. Fortunately for the show, a mediocre season of “24” was better than the best season of some other shows, and it’s final season, which was frustrating at times and brilliant at others, ended on a surprisingly quiet note. There was still plenty of great action scenes, and we got to see Jack Bauer doing what Jack Bauer does best: killing terrorists, getting justice, and just being an overall bad-ass. However, the final scene of the show decided to trade in a game-changing cliffhanger for some subtle yet emotional character development. While it may not have been the perfect series finale, it was still great and reminded us of everything “24” does good.
The final two episodes of the show focused on every element that has made “24” great over its eight years; allowing the last two hours we had with Jack Bauer to be adrenaline-laced, deeply emotional and lead to some loose-ends being tied up with Charles Logan and other characters. Some were ultimately dead-ends, like Jim Ricker (Michael Madsen), but I guess “24” should be lauded for taking their final two hours and giving audiences what they wanted: Jack Bauer kicking terrorist butt. With Jack in the middle of his murderous rampage against the Russian government, he turns his sights on President Yuri Suvorov. What’s particularly chilling is watching him prepare a video for his daughter; as he addresses her directly, explaining his reasons for why he’s doing what he’s doing. He makes it abundantly clear he doesn’t plan on coming out of it alive. As he prepares to shoot Suvorov from a window in the U.N, Chloe arrives and attempts to convince him to stop. She believes there’s a less bloody way to go about exposing the misdeeds of their government, but Jack wants them to shed blood and suffer the same way that Renee did. In one of the show’s most powerful moments, he gives Chloe the recording of Logan and Suvorov and tells her to shoot him so the government can’t question him. Just as he pulls his own gun to his head to kill himself, Chloe shoots him in the upper chest. The writers did an incredible job of building up suspense here, and based on the actions of Jack in the last few hours of the show, it would not have been outside of the realm of imagination for them to kill Jack off. However, he lived on and apparently had enough energy in him for one last attack (he bit off Jason Pillar’s ear… now that is dedication to the job).
In the White House, the time for signing the peace treaty rapidly approaches, and Dalia Hassan finally learns of President Taylor’s involvement in her husband’s death. Their interaction is everything I had hoped it’d be. If anything, Cherry Jones may have just solidified another Emmy win with these final two episodes. Her turn as President Taylor shows her to be in a master class of acting. She lets the emotions of her character show on her own face; her hands shake when she’s upset, tears rest on the edge of her eyelid, shimmering and waiting to fall and her eyes have this look of surprise at all times. She carries this mood all the way until the end of the episode, where she finally decides to come clean about her role in the day’s events. She admits to doing illegal things that resulted in the death of Omar Hassan and that there were others involved that will have to pay the consequences as well. As a result of this announcement, Charles Logan panics, shoots Jason Pillar in the head and attempts to kill himself. Of course, Charles Logan fails at this, just as he’s failed at everything he’s done in his political life.
The final scenes of the episode will likely be up for debate for awhile (not quite as long as “Lost,” but long enough). The ambulance Jack is in ends up being raided by Logan’s men and they attempt to kill him. However, President Taylor gets in touch with his potential killers and informs them that she can see their faces on a satellite drone in the sky and that she wants them to let him go. They comply and the eight year old show ends with Jack on the run again. The satellite drone zooms in on his face one last time before it cuts out to static and the show counts down: “3…2…1…0.” And just like that, “24” ended for good.
I was in the group of people that expected “24” to end its season the way they used to end their seasons: on a cliffhanger, with somebody’s life hanging in the balance. However, “24” chose to end the season on an emotional note. Just before Jack ran away for good, he confessed to Chloe that she is the reason he’s alive and that he never thought that she would be his shoulder to lean on all of these years. Instead of ending in a firefight, with Jack going out in a blaze of glory, it featured a heartfelt conversation between Jack and Chloe, an unlikely duo who ended up becoming the two favorite characters of many “24” fans. I was a bit disappointed that the writers didn’t give these two characters more to do over this season, but knowing that there was a movie after the show ended helped ease the pain of not seeing these characters on a television screen again. That doesn’t change the fact that the series finale of the show was a bit lackluster. In fact, because we know there’s a movie being made after the show, it prevents the show from killing off Jack or putting him in danger. Did anybody really doubt that Jack would be saved in the eleventh hour? Jack gets reprieve after reprieve and lives on to fight more terrorists. I’m glad Jack didn’t die, but I’m disappointed that the writers decided to end on such a predictable note. What happened to the days when the show would kill off Jack’s relatives or end with a President nearly dying? Seasons 1 and 2 of the show are examples of how to construct a perfect cliffhanger. Everything after that was a bit disappointing.
However, that’s all in the past. “24” and “Lost,” two of television’s premier shows, have ended their run, and both ended with finales that weren’t exactly what we expected. Then again, can anybody really predict how a season of “24” will end? The show was the poster child of misdirection and incredible at creating mid-season twists that would throw everybody watching off. It’s easy to remember the show for the missteps it took from time to time, but we would all be better off remembering it the way it should be: as one of television’s greatest drama’s. They reinvented the wheel in the action-adventure genre and created a new action hero in Jack Bauer. Jack Bauer and company maybe gone for good, but at least we can look forward to their presence on the big screen. Hopefully, their abilities to track down and kill terrorists are as good their as it was on television.