After eight long years, FOX’s one really good show, 24, is coming to an end. After tonight, there will be no more convoluted plots, angry whispering and the phrase “you have my word” set to crises of international terrorist threats and political corruption. Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland), after tonight, could finally calm down and go relax somewhere. On the flip side, if the writers really show off their skills, he could also end up dying, which would be appropriate, given the tone of this season. The collision course he’s been on the past few weeks, working his way up the line of (spoilers ahead if you haven’t been watching lately) evil Russians and corrupt ex-Presidents, with yet again every governmental official on his ass, all on a vengeful quest to avenge the death of the only real person he held close, should only result in a finale that puts an exclamation point on the absurdly dramatic and unbelievable journey that Jack has been on these past eight seasons.
I don’t normally write articles like this, about television shows and fictitious lead characters, but I feel compelled with 24. I’ve watched the show since its series premiere in 2001, and been enthralled ever since. It has never mattered to me that Jack should have died a million times by now, (somehow those bullets always manage to miss him). The plots of the seasons always seemed to revolve around one central attack on a major city or CTU (where Jack and his sometimes friends worked), and were usually carried out by some accented Middle Eastern terrorist type with the help of some corrupt white mole within one of the government agencies (or the White House itself! GASP!). Despite all this convention, and despite the couple of seasons that seemed to run out of creativity and rehash old plot ideas, I still watched Jack punch evil in the face every year.
Let’s get one thing straight. I know the pretense of this show is preposterous. It’s a show supposedly set in “real-time”, in which one episode is supposedly one hour in an excruciatingly long day. However, each episode is only 42 minutes long (thanks to commercial breaks), so it’s not really an hour. And what the hell happens in the three minutes between commercial breaks? Jack’s on foot chasing some dude around a mall, and the clock time flashes on screen, announcing “hey, we’ll be right back!” and when it comes back, three more minutes are gone and Jack is still running. Did he take a bathroom break? Did he stop to charge his phone or PDA, which never seem to fail/die/have bad reception? I have never figured this out.
Another thing that makes you throw any semblance of reality out the window is when someone on high says something like “hey, those CTU people are up to no good. Get one of your snippy, holier-than-thou high-ranking supervisor types to go down there and bark orders and make Chloe frown a lot”, and said supervisor person appears at CTU in like five minutes. Traveling is NEVER that easy, and yet it ain’t no thing in the world of 24. Things like phone reception, battery life, traffic, communication mishaps and general human bathroom needs are not relevant to the story. When someone tells Jack “I’m uploading the files to your PDA”, those damn files are on his PDA before the sentence is finished. No compatibility issues, no server downtime, nothing. BAM, download complete. When a CTU employee mashes the keys on a computer, intricately detailed and ridiculously complex schematics of floor plans, security cameras and 3-D grids of city streets magically show up on screen, ready for manipulation. Got an encrypted file with layered passwords? No biggie, Chloe O'Brian (Mary Lynn Rajskub) can get around it in SECONDS.
Things like this always amused me about 24, and while it undoubtedly made some people say “hey that makes no sense, 24 is wack, this is ridiculous”, it just made me like the show more. It’s total escapism, taken to a sometimes cartoonish level.
Besides Jack, the show has had some pretty memorable characters during its heyday. That guy Bill Buchanan who ran CTU at one point and always came around with a stern look on his face was one of my favorites. When they brought him back in Season 7 and he was working outside the bounds of government (hell yeah) it was one of those “whoa he’s back???!!” moments that the show loves to do. They did it with Tony Almeida (Carlos Bernard), too, and he brought back even more scowling and frowny faces, since he was angry at the US government system and all that. Jack’s daughter Kim (played by Elisha Cuthbert) existed to get caught by bad guys and add tension to the plot, and she was always nice to look at. She even came back this season briefly, and was immediately the target of bad guys trying to kidnap her again.
President Palmer, played by the guy currently in the Allstate commercials, Dennis Haysbert, was around since the beginning, delivering his lines with a sort of Morgan Freeman-esque power to them. Judging by history, 24 blazed the trail for Obama to become US President, since Palmer was a black president in the show. They now currently have a woman in the White House (played by Cherry Jones), so maybe that’s a sign of things to come?? (ew I hope not, given the options).
Anyway, back to real talk.
Jack always came under fire from some people for his torture methods that he used to get information out of shady foreign dudes and double-agents. “It sets a bad example”, “that’s just endorsing torture”, “that’s not how government agents should act”, etc., they said it all. Over time, the writers of 24 made sure that such actions, while obviously controversial, affected Bauer’s personality. He became cold, callous, and disconnected from other people, and at times seemed incapable of emotional reaction. Now, in the end, when things will finally come to a conclusion for the last time, he is caught up in a vendetta against those responsible for ruining any chance at happiness that he had. However, this situation acts as a moral consequence of his actions thus far in the show’s history. Anyone he has ever come close to has died, as a direct or indirect consequence of his deeds.
His torturous, against-the-book means of dealing with enemies and bad guys caught up to him. Jack Bauer is a supremely flawed man, and the “ends justify the means” method that he once used has been proven false, since any concept of happiness has vanished from his life. He is a tortured soul, someone not meant to have any happiness, and while he ultimately works for the good of the country, he does so on his own terms. These terms, however, have put him in the situations in which he has been involved.
In the past 24 hours (haha) I’ve seen a ton of Facebook statuses, Twitter posts, and general feedback of LOST fans saying things like “I’ve felt honored to be a part of this show for six years”, “thank you for the ride” and things like that. While I gave up on LOST when its nonsense became too much to handle, I never gave up on 24. For that reason, I feel the same way with that show coming to a close tonight.
It’s been a long, eight-year ride, and I’ve enjoyed all of it. The show is not perfect by any means, but I don’t care. It’s sensational and overly dramatic, I fully admit that. It just worked for me.
Tonight may end with Jack dying, it may not. There may be a 24 movie down the line, there may not. I don’t really know at this point. All I know is that I will be watching tonight, eager to see what the writers have in store for us viewers who have dutifully paid attention all these years.
Speaking for myself, I'm grateful for the last eight seasons. It’s been a great ride, and I’m glad to have been able to enjoy it all this time.