After the eight longest days of Jack Bauer’s life and 194 hours of incredible television, the final episodes of 24 aired tonight on Sky1 HD. It brings an end to an era-defining series which has produced some of the most thrilling twists and turns ever seen in TV drama.
Over the eight seasons, 24 has developed a few predictable quirks – there’s always a mole or two at CTU, there’s always a moment that Jack has to go rouge because his bosses are getting it wrong, and the bad guy at the start of the season always turns out to be a small part of the picture, with the big boss only revealed a few episodes before the end. But it never fails to surprise, with the ability to shock over and over again. The series has had it’s highs and lows over the years (“Day 6” being particularly poor) but this final season has been riveting.
The final episodes featured Jack Bauer on a revenge mission against the members of the Russian Government responsible for the shocking murder of his lover, ex-FBI agent Renee Walker. Highlights in the final set of episodes included Michael Madsen making a surprise appearance of a friend of Bauer’s, the return of the best bad guy in all eight seasons (except, perhaps, for the late Dennis Hopper as Victor Drazen in season 1) the brilliantly villainous Nixon-like former president Charles Logan, and the previously whiter-than-white President Taylor stepping very far over the line before coming to her senses and owning up to the conspiracy.
The most unforgettable scene was, of course, Jack’s face-off with the unflappably loyal data analyst, Chloe O’Brien, the only other prominent member of CTU to make it through several seasons. He ordered her at gunpoint to shoot him so that she wouldn’t be implicated in his plot, but she refused, until he raised the gun to his head and she finally pulled the trigger, wounding her friend.
In an interesting scene which is a reminder that 24 was never as politically clear-cut as some observers would like to think, President Taylor threatened the president of a fictional Muslim nation with invasion if she did not agree to sign a peace deal with the people responsible for her husband’s death. For all the use of torture and foreign terrorist threats over the years, the series has had always had just as many villains in the American government or, as seen last season, in private military contractors.
In the end, though, Taylor came clean, deciding to resign and face her punishment, with Logan shooting himself rather than face up to justice. It was too late to prevent Jack being kidnapped by Logan’s men, but Chloe saved the day by sending a CTU drone to the scene, allowing President Taylor to call off the hitmen, saving Jack’s life just in time. Although he would be set free, he would be always on the run, hunted by the Russians looking to silence him and the Americans looking to arrest him. Chloe, watching on the video feed from the drone, promises to buy him as much time as she can so he can escape the country and go into hiding, and gives Jack her word that she will protect Kim Bauer in his absence. He thanks her for all her help over the years before they close the video feed and the series comes to an end with that famous yellow clock, for once not counting up to the hour but instead counting down to zero.
But, don’t worry, the world is still safe because we’ve not seen the last of Jack Bauer quite yet. While this is the end of the television series, the character will return in a movie which is likely to spawn a whole series of films. The film will be set in Europe, presumably where Jack has gone to hide after the events of this season. It will not be real-time, instead condensing a day’s events into a two-hour film. This might sound like too much of a break from the usual format, but I think that 24 has developed enough of its own personality aside from the real-time aspect of the series, and the fact that it will allow the writers to have more freedom with the story can only be a good thing. However it works, I’m already looking forward to our next dose of Jack.