I was a fan of 24 from the very beginning. However, despite my long-held allegiance to the show, I have not once regretted my decision to sit season eight out. I had become so frustrated by the show’s descent into endlessly recycled story-lines (to a degree that verged on self-parody) that I felt it was time for me to move on.
But having followed the travails of Jack Bauer since his very first really bad day, I couldn’t resist tuning back in for last night’s series finale.
Even though I hadn’t watched any of season eight so far, it only took me a few moments to figure out what was going on. 24 is never that complicated, and it was pretty clear who the good guys were and who the bad guys were. In some respects, I think I probably enjoyed the events of this installment more than I might have had I had to sit through the previous 22 hours of circular storytelling and familiar 24 tropes of moles in CTU, double-crosses, assassinations, and Presidential moral conundrums. It’s sort of like tuning in to the final few minutes of a close-score basketball-game — I can get a lot of enjoyment from the tense final minutes without having to have watched the whole two-hour back-and-forth that got us there.
I found myself quite enjoying the first hour of this two-hour finale event. There were some great tense sequences, such as Jack’s kidnapping of Pillar (and let me say that it was a pleasant surprise to see Dollhouse‘s Reed Diamond) and President Taylor’s manipulation of Dalia Hassan. It was interesting to see how far President Taylor had slipped towards the dark side since I’d last seen her, and it’s always fun to see Jack when he’s in full-on Righteous Hand of Vengeance mode. I felt like this was the fun, fast-paced 24 that I’d loved years ago.
Unfortunately, things slowed down significantly in hour two. I had no patience for all of the silliness with the data-card that everyone was after, and Chloe seemed unusually hapless (particularly considering that she somehow seems to now be in charge of CTU). Most problematically, though, was how quickly Jack got taken off the board. After his confrontation with Chloe, he’s completely passive for the rest of the hour. I can’t say I thought that was a wise narrative choice for the final hour of this action-adventure series.
I don’t want to spoil every detail of the ending, but to me it was a big let-down. It felt like a series finale, not a season finale. Yes, Jack is in a difficult spot when the hour draws to a close, and he’s forced to make a tough sacrifice and say a poignant good-bye. But somehow this felt much less momentous than many of the previous season finales. Yes, I know that a 24 movie is in the works, so there was only so much finality that the writers could bring to this final episode. But still, I think they needed to try a lot harder to find an ending that felt more like an ENDING to the eight-year saga of Jack Bauer. C’mon, raise your hand if you don’t think that Jack and Chloe will be reunited soon in the 24 film? Yeah, that’s what I thought.
I was also expecting some attempt, in the final hour, to have some sort of reflection back on the series as a whole. I thought maybe we’d see a familiar character or two (I was really holding out hope to see Mike Novick or naked Mandy), or perhaps to see Jack in a situation that somehow brought things full circle to where the series began. No such luck. That was more than a bit surprising, and more than a bit disappointing. It feeds into what I was just saying about this episode feeling far more like a season finale, rather than a SERIES finale.
I enjoyed this two hour episode. It certainly wasn’t as head-bangingly frustrating as I had often found 24 to be, these past few years. But as a finale to this once-great television series, and as an episode that I’d hoped would bring a little bit of closure to the struggles of Jack Bauer, it fell short.