I should have seen this coming. I don’t know why I let myself get my hopes up. Toward the end of yet another lackluster season, ’24’ really seemed to turn a corner a few weeks ago. The last three episodes were pretty good, especially last week’s ass-kicking rampage. I wanted to believe that the show’s producers could get their acts together and let Jack Bauer go out on a strong note. I almost couldn’t believe that I found myself looking forward to the series finale so much. And then, well, there’s this. One word can sum it up: LAAAAAAME…
Seriously, the two-part finale (‘Day 8: 2:00PM – 4:00PM’) is pretty much terrible from start to finish. Let me put it this way: Only one person dies in the finale, and Jack doesn’t kill him. I don’t think Jack even shoots a gun the entire time. He certainly doesn’t torture or eviscerate anyone. He spends most of the last half hour on a hospital gurney, fer-chrissakes. Do the producers not understand at all why we watch this series? ’24’ ain’t a compelling character drama. (At least, it sure hasn’t been in years.) It’s an action and suspense show in which a badass hero takes out entire armies of bad guys single-handedly. Where was any of that in the finale? Who thought it was a good idea to end this series so tepidly? It’s a crime, I tell you. An absolute crime.
Very few things in the finale worked. Let’s go through the highlights:
Jack gets the drop on Jason Pillar (Reed Diamond) and takes him hostage. Pillar looks almost as scared shitless as ex-President Logan did last week. This seems promising. After getting the info he needs and forcing Pillar to suture up his wound at gunpoint (nice move), Jack seems ready to put Pillar down like he did Dana Walsh. But then Pillar starts whining like a bitch about his wife and family, and Jack totally wusses out. He knocks him unconscious but lets him live. Already, we can tell that the episode isn’t going to live up to expectations.
By far, the best part of the finale is the storyline in which Dalia Hassan finds out about the Russian complicity in her husband’s murder. Even worse, she finds out that President Taylor knew about it and covered it up. Dalia freaks out and announces that she’s pulling out of the treaty signing. President Taylor, in a desperate bid to hold the peace process together, threatens to declare war on her country. Yes, that’s a rather profound irony. This is a very dramatic turn of events and pretty intense stuff.
Part 1 ends with Jack in one building, aiming a sniper rifle at Logan in another, as Chloe walks in and tries to talk him down. Jack is having none of it, so he knocks her unconscious and handcuffs her on the other side of the room.
In Part 2, Jack calls up Logan, tells him that he’s got a bead on him, and demands that Logan lure Russian Premiere Suvarov to his room to be executed. Logan of course complies, because he’s a spineless bastard. But then Chloe wakes up and talks Jack out of it by promising to release his recorded evidence of the Russian plot to the media. Once again, Jack goes soft.
As CTU rushes upstairs, Jack releases Chloe, gives her the data card with the evidence, and hands her a gun. He tells her to shoot him, to distract attention from what she was doing there. She can’t bring herself to do it. They have a screaming match. CTU gets closer. Jack puts a gun to his own head, but Chloe shoots him first. Sure, it was only in the shoulder, but Chloe has officially shot more people this episode than Jack Bauer. That ain’t right.
Jack is taken into custody. Eventually, Pillar gets there and starts looking for the data card. Jack pretends that he’s going to tell him something, lures him close, and then bites his ear off, Mike Tyson-style. Normally, this might seem kind of badass, but we just saw Jack disembowel a guy two episodes ago. In relative terms, this is pretty mild.
Some more plot wrangling happens, mostly while Jack remains strapped to the gurney. Long story short, Pillar gets the data card and gives it to Logan, who gives it to President Taylor to reassure her that the truth will never get out. But Taylor is having pangs of conscience, which are only reinforced when she watches the video, a secret message that Jack recorded for her with a preachy plea about the importance of truth and justice, yadda yadda. Taylor eventually backs out of the peace treaty at the last minute, vowing to fully disclose the conspiracy and her part in the coverup, and then resign.
Consider this for a moment. Of the 9 Presidents that Jack has served under, Allison Taylor is only the second (after David Palmer) even remotely competent at the job. It occurs to me that Jack’s actions this season were directly responsible for her fall from grace. If he hadn’t been running around trying to uncover the Russian conspiracy, Taylor would never have known about it, or felt compelled to cover it up. Dalia Hassan wouldn’t have found out either. There wouldn’t have been any strife between them, and no threats of war. The peace treaty would have been signed, and both countries would have done their best to live up to it.
Jack Bauer has not only caused the ruination of one of the few good Presidents to serve during the last (fictional) 15 years, he’s also effectively prevented world peace from happening. Great job, Jack!
Anyway, Logan realizes that he’ll be disgraced again, and totally freaks out about it. He kills Pillar (the only casualty of the finale) and shoots himself in the head. But apparently he’s too incompetent to do even that right, because the paramedics say they can stabilize him.
In the last act, Logan had previously arranged for Jack to be taken out and executed. A couple of mercs are about to do that, until one of Arlo’s magic invisible drones finds them and beams a call from the President to them. She demands that they stand down and release Jack. Then she tells Jack that he needs to go on the run to avoid prosecution for his crimes. He looks up at the drone camera, and walks away.
This is basically the exact same way that at least two or three previous seasons have ended. It’s patently obvious that the episode wasn’t written with the intent of being a series finale, just another season finale. Over the last few episodes, Jack had set himself on a course where the only dramatically valid outcome could be his death, which is essentially his only chance at peace. But the writers copped out and couldn’t kill him. Nor could they let Logan die, and there’s absolutely no reason for that unless they plan to bring him back. The show may have been canceled, but never you mind a trivial concern like that. Coming soon: ’24: The Movie’. Really.
Frankly, this sucks. And you know what’s most disappointing of all? Aaron Pierce never showed up this entire season. Other than Jack Bauer himself, Aaron is the only character to have appeared in every previous season of the show. Except this one.
For most of the past three seasons, I’d only continued to watch ’24’ out of some sense of obligation. I wanted to see it through to the bitter end. I think my disappointment might have been tempered had the last few episodes not raised my hopes. I should have known better.