For all the disappointment we’ve gotten at the box office, one summer event has lived up to its hype: the television return of American hero Jack Bauer. For the past eleven weeks (and twelve hours), the cast and crew of ’24’ proved that you can go home again, with a brand-new thrilling adventure that really only had one weak entry (way back in Episode 3). But you know what they say about all good things…
Of course, Jack has no plans to end things quietly. At the Russian diplomat’s house (and with what appears to be either an incredible stroke of luck or Jedi-like powers we were previously unaware of), he finds a hidden compartment in a drawer where the guy has hidden his cell phone. From the phone, Jack learns that Cheng is taking a freighter out of the country, but he also learns that Audrey is being held at gunpoint. After a brief conversation, Jack goes after Cheng while Kate tries to save Audrey from the sniper.
On his way to confront Cheng, Jack gets a call from Chloe, who has finally recovered from knocking herself unconscious in last week’s episode. Chloe wants to help, but Jack is hesitant after what transpired with Adrian Cross. However, she’s able to convince Jack that she’s on his side, so Jack swings by to pick her up. He also teams up once again with Russian pal Belcheck, and the three work their way toward Cheng. At the docked ship, Jack and Belcheck take out the guards one by one while Chloe sits in a secure (actually not so secure, but I’m jumping ahead) building using her laptop to track infrared images of the men from a satellite.
While all this is going on, the President and his military advisers have moved over to CIA headquarters – for no other good reason than to eliminate an extra location for this finale. The Chinese are ready to attack the American fleet at Okinawa (which would probably really tick off the Japanese too, although they’re not even mentioned here). Heller gives the Chinese President a warning that if his navy crosses a certain point, the Americans will retaliate. Everything is riding on Jack being able to prove to the Chinese that Cheng is still alive.
Over at the sniper’s nest, Audrey is still sitting motionless on the bench when Kate shows up. After getting Audrey intentionally shot at (no, I’m not making this up) just so she and her team can find the sniper, Kate makes her move – killing the sniper and saving Audrey. However, it never occurs to anyone that there might be more than one shooter, and the team is ambushed by a second gunman. In the shoot-out, Audrey is fatally hit (cue the silent clock). Now, after telling Jack just minutes earlier that Audrey was okay, Kate has to call him back and tell him that she’s been killed.
In one of the entire series’ best emotional moments, we see Jack Bauer’s face turn from grief and agony to pure rage. An angry Jack is a dangerous Jack, and although he’s lost communication with Chloe, he starts shooting and killing guards left and right, making his way to Cheng, with whom he fights in hand-to-hand combat. Naturally, Jack gets the upper hand and… Wait, what’s this? Someone has conveniently left a samurai sword hanging on the wall! Jack puts the blade to Cheng’s neck as he broadcasts a video back the President and the CIA, which will confirm Cheng’s identity to the Chinese. Once the video transmission is completed, Jack chops off Cheng’s head. Yeah, I was hoping for a hacksaw, but this will do.
With Cheng’s identity now positively confirmed, the Chinese President pulls back his troops. But all is still not well, as President Heller must now be told about his daughter’s death. He doesn’t react well, collapsing to the floor in grief. Meanwhile, Jack and Belcheck go to pick up Chloe, only to find that she’s missing. They see signs of a struggle and drops of blood on the floor. Jack then gets a mysterious phone call from someone. We’re not sure whom it is, but we know that it has something to do with Chloe. Jack agrees to a meeting with the person on the other end.
After almost twelve straight hours, the timeline jumps ahead to just shortly before 11 AM in the final ten minutes, assuring that this season will still take place over the span of 24 hours.
Mark Boudreau has been informed that he’ll be escorted by military police back to the United States. (Honestly, I was hoping they’d cut this guy some slack, but I guess not.) The President and British Prime Minister are at the airport watching Audrey’s coffin being loaded for its trip home. In a great bit of acting by William Devane (who’s been a hoot to watch these past eleven weeks), the President laments that soon he won’t be able to remember what happened on this day. In fact, soon he won’t even remember that he had a daughter at all.
The final scene has Jack meeting with Russians to exchange himself for Chloe’s freedom. Before he gives himself up, he tells Chloe to look in on his family (meaning daughter Kim and his granddaughter) from time to time. He also tells Chloe that she was right – she is his only friend. Jack tells the main Russian taking him into custody that he better not come after any of his friends or family. “You’re all we ever wanted, Mr. Bauer,” the Russian replies. Jack then boards the helicopter and takes off for Moscow. The season (and quite possibly the series) ends with a silent clock.
Okay, you weren’t actually expecting a happy ending for Jack Bauer, were you? Although I can’t confirm it, some rumors are already going around this morning that two endings were shot – the one we saw, and another where Jack returns to the States and is reunited with his family. I’ve seen other reports say that other endings were considered, but the one used in the episode was the only one ever shot. Regardless, a number of factors indicate that this is probably the end for Jack Bauer. While the season’s ratings were solid and pretty consistent, they weren’t blockbuster by any means. Also, a change of regime and a recent restructuring at Fox may mean no clear future for ’24’, depending on how the new network execs feel about bringing the show back once again. I’ve also heard that the show’s producers have no ideas for how to bring Jack back again, so even if another season (or that long-rumored feature film) was greenlit, it would take a few years before anything materialized.
So, for now, we bid adieu to one of American’s greatest action heroes. If this is the end, Jack Bauer went out in style and, for the most part, the show was one hell of a great ride. Tick-tock, tick-tock.