24 Series Finale Recap: Jack Bauer Limps Across the Finish Line

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.

The end.

Yawn.

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.

14 comments

    • Josh Zyber
      Author

      As mentioned above, Logan didn’t die. The paramedic stabilized him and said that he’d live. Probably with brain damage, but he’d live.

  1. I felt the same kind of obligation to finish it out, and while the past few seasons haven’t been Heroes-bad (another show I inexplicably kept watching even after its downhill slide into abject mediocrity), the finale definitely felt like a regular season finale/movie setup and I think that the audience that has stuck with the show for so long deserved better. It’s interesting to note that Kiefer Sutherland used to say in interviews that at the end of the series he expected Jack Bauer to take the same kind of cold, pragmatic bullet to the head that so many other characters have taken over the years, but more recently has shifted his tone, still acknowledging that once he thought the character would die, but now realizing that maybe doing some movies would be fun instead.

    I feel like it would’ve been more rewarding for the audience to have it both ways: kill Bauer in the finale, but then set the movies up as prequels, showing us some of what happened in the lengthy “gaps” between each season (as you said, the timeline spans 15 years total). Sure, Sutherland will get too old to realistically play a younger version of himself, but assuming the franchise even lasts long enough, they could always hand the reins over to a younger actor to continue on.

    I will say, though, that the show almost had me during the first hour of the finale. Josh, I find it interesting that you say the finale was “pretty much terrible from start to finish” but then go on to say mostly positive things about the first hour. I feel like there was a lot of momentum built up in the first hour that was completely blown in the last hour.

    • Josh Zyber
      Author

      I’ve only bothered to recap the highlights of the first hour. Those comprised, what, maybe 10 minutes of the episode?

      As soon as Jack let Pillar live, I knew that the finale wasn’t going to live up to the promise of the last few episodes.

  2. Bman

    Hilarious review, this is the same guy that found the LOST finale train wreck ” satisfying “..They could not have ended 24 any better to bridge the movie, you still must be hurt over how LOST let everyone down..

  3. besch64

    “Aaron Pierce never showed up this entire season.”

    I was thinking the exact same thing. Honestly, they couldn’t get the actor to come in for even a short stretch of episodes? They were clearly intentionally bringing the character back each of the past few seasons just for the sake of bringing him back, so it seemed totally illogical to just not bring him back in the final season.

    Anyway, I’m a lot like you guys. The only reason I watched the past few seasons is out of sheer obligation. Seasons 1-5 were so phenominal that I felt that I owed it to the show to watch it through the very end. Season 6 might legitimately be the worst season of any television show I’ve ever endured. I actually thought season 7 wasn’t entirely bad. Having Jack not fully associated with a legitmate government agency made things fresh enough to keep the excitement alive.

    But this season… just awful. And the finale was a huge letdown in every way.

    1) President Taylor is the most poorly written character ever. Literally, she sacrificed everything she had to protect the peace treaty. And then for her to threaten the IRK with war unless they signed the treaty? What the fuck is that shit about.

    2) Saying goodbye to Jack had no impact to it. He just kind of wandered off into the sunset, like he always does. Guys, this is the series finale. The show can’t just STOP; It has to END. Nothing was resolved at all. Not the longterm, nor the short term. Jack had to die at the end of the series. It was perfectly set up by what transpired in the final hours of the season, but of course the writers bitch out so they could make a movie. That indicates that they have absolutely no respect for the artform itself. You cannot write your story around what’s going on behind the scenes like that. Complete lack of artistic integrity.

    3) I just didn’t give a damn about Renee Walker. Parts of Jack’s vengeful killing spree were awesome, but then I remembered that he was doing it for something I couldn’t give less of a shit about. His relationship with Renee was never even close to being believable. The worst part is, she was a slightly interesting character last season, but this season she just walked around like a zombie. I just could not buy into the idea that Jack loved her. Why would he? And what REALLY pissed me off about the whole thing was that Jack didn’t even go this nuts when Teri was murdered in season 1. He even worked with Nina after she killed her. And we’re supposed to believe that Jack was willing to assissinate the fucking president of Russia just to get revenge over fucking Renee Walker? Sorry, I refuse to buy into that.

    (continued below)

  4. besch64

    Of course, there were some redeeming factors.

    1) Chloe has been one of my favorite characters on television during her run on 24, and she remained completely awesome this year. Mary Lynn Rajskub plays an extremely unique character and I’ll miss watching her in the role. Plus, now my friends and I might have to retire the term “Chloe-hot” to refer to women who are kind of weird looking but also strangely hot.

    2) Gregory Itzin should be nominated for an Emmy. I have no reservations saying that. Charles Logan is probably the best bad guy 24 has ever had (probably because he’s a holdover when when 24 used to be awesome), and Itzin was just absolutely stellar at being the cocky but insecure coward.

    3) Cole Ortiz was actually kind of an interesting character. I think he was more interesting than Jack this season. What the hell has happened to this show when you can say some random CTU agent was a more interesting character to watch than Jack Bauer?

    Not everything was awful this season, but close to it. Character motivations made no damn sense, plots seemed completely absurd (Dana’s creepy stalker guy from early on was made COMPLETELY irrelevant once we found out she was a mole and, therefore, already fucked), and none of it at all carried any emotion. Not a single drop. And not only did the finale fail to fix any of these problems, it actually made them worse.

    It’s sad to see a show that was so damn good, and so consitantly damn good throughout the first 5 seasons to end up like this.

    Then again, it’s kind of hard for me to judge the finale 100% fairly. After that Lost finale, I don’t think anything could ever measure to up how masterfully they ended that series. But then again, the comparison makes some things clear: whereas Lost ended on its own terms and forced itself into a position where the show speaks for itself and a spinoff or movie tie-in would be literally impossible, 24 bent over backwards to make a movie tie-in work. And the difference really shows. It’s a sad way to go out.

    I’ll miss the Jack Bauer Power Hour, but only the good ones. I’d prefer to forget these last three seasons actually happened.

    Now if only the Office would get cancelled, then I’d be completely free of my television obligations. Please NBC, let that one die.

    • I (obviously) agree with you in large measure. But I think you’re being too hard on Renee. I actually found that character kind of annoying last season, and greatly preferred her as a “broken” woman this season. The message here is that being around Jack Bauer will just ruin your life. The closer you get to him, and the more you try to be like him, the worse off you are. Being Jack Bauer is a terrible burden that only he has the strength to bear.

      Jack’s reaction to Renee’s death wasn’t just because he loved her. He knew that she was his last chance at any small bit of happiness in life, and then she was ripped away from him. THAT’S what he’s pissed about. When Teri died, he still had other things that made life worth living. He had Kim. He had a job that he believed in. He had the support of his friends and even the President of the United States. Over the seasons, all of those things were systematically taken away from him, leaving him with nothing. Renee’s death was just the final straw.

      (Yes, Kim is still around, but she clearly doesn’t need him anymore. And he knows that she’s better off without him around.)

      That’s why I really liked the previous three episodes. They made it look like the writers of the show were finally following through with the inevitable outcome of Jack’s life. There can be no peace for Jack Bauer. Death is his only reward. He needed to die.

      Unfortunately, the writers completely dropped the ball on that in the finale.

      • besch64

        Yeah, I guess I get what you’re saying. But still, Jack had a sniper rifle trained on the president of Russia because his actions resulted in Renee’s death? I just cannot accept that. It’s insane.

        • Josh Zyber
          Author

          I think the point is that he went insane. Jack Bauer himself was this season’s “Big Bad.” He just didn’t realize it.

          As I mentioned in the post, Jack actually PREVENTED WORLD PEACE this season. That pretty much makes him the villain, doesn’t it?

          • besch64

            I get that, but even so, his rampage was really inconsistent.

            He killed a ton of people willy-nilly just to get revenge for Renee’s death, which made it seem as if doing what’s right for the country took a back seat to his quest for vengeance. As I said, I never liked the Jack/Renee romance dynamic at all, but whatever. I’ll suspend my disbelief enough to think that Jack might actually be willing to assassinate the Russian president over Renee. Ok.

            BUT THEN he gets talked out of it by Chloe in about 30 seconds. After he’d already killed a dozen people just to get to that point.

            Ugh. I dunno, it just didn’t work for me. It was like how President Taylor suddenly threatened nuclear warfare if her peace bill wasn’t passed. Makes no logical sense.

          • Josh Zyber
            Author

            Fair enough. To me, it’s just the finale that’s inconsisent with the last few episodes, not a problem with the story direction in those episodes. I didn’t take issue with Jack losing his shit over Renee (I liked it), but I *do* take issue with him suddenly turning soft again just because Chloe talked him out of it.

            He should have killed Suvarov, and he should have killed Logan right then and there, damn the consequences. He had already passed the point of no return. You can’t have somebody return after passing the point of no return. They call it that for a reason! 🙂

            Or, if the writers were too chicken to end the series with the implication that Jack had just started World War III, then Chloe should have taken him out. That could have been a truly tragic and moving ending if done right, not the utter cop-out we got instead.