World without a Jack…sort of

24 Day 8 – Final ever episode 


So, this evening we watched the last ever episode of ‘24‘ .

Like so many finales of too many shows, I felt distinctly underwhelmed. Not sad, either, just grateful that the beast was put to sleep after three years beyond really caring. Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) lives, of course, and that was never an issue. It’s a pity that by this point there was almost no one else left who mattered, and its staggering plot sank under its own weight and self-loathing. And now it’s gone, and Jack waits for his fate in the twilight world between script approvals.

You’d be crazy to think Jack was ever in any danger. There’s a movie coming, Dammit. But that’s absolutely no excuse. After Jack Bauer’s years of struggle, the character ended up with something similar to the final scenes of the Dark Knight. He’s on the run from everyone again, but the President was kind enough to give him a small head start to escape through New York’s streets, and he even gets to thank Chloe O’Brian, his loyal IT-nerd who is now inexplicably head of CTU, for her faith in him before he leaves. This was a thank you to us as well, the equally loyal viewers, although we’ve had a lot more cause to doubt the power of Bauer over the last eight ‘days’.

Since 24’s launch, Jack Bauer gradually altered into a different beast from the family man – albeit a fucking scary one if you crossed him – into a full-fledged ‘do whatever it takes’ kind of crazy. This included starting prison riots, biting a baddie’s neck open with his teeth, and shooting his head of department (RIP Chapelle) in the head. He also had the uncanny knack of getting every cop, or passer by, or soldier he promises to ‘protect’ or ‘get through this’ killed before the end of an episode.  Still, as Jack faced down threats to the United States of every description, in seasons past the many people he destroyed kind of deserved it. But by the end of Season 8, he truly goes off the deep end.

It began with a crucial peace conference and an unholy alliance between Made-Up-istan, Russia, and the United States is about to be signed off. Only problem is, it’s more corrupt than the rotten meat serving as President Logan’s brain. The Russian president is responsible for the snipering of Jack’s Bauer’s last shot at love, the poor, ill-fated Renee Walker (Anne Wersching). Even after a few hours of watching it, I feel the story should have worked, but it stretched events and characters to their thinnest. Show’s weakness lay in its unhealthy dependence on barely explored, novelty plots, rather than truly character driven arcs, and this had become increasingly the case ever since Season 5. Which is a shame, because by the end, all we had to root for was Jack, and he had become the kind of person you should cross the street to avoid, then continue crossing the streets and perhaps ask for a policeman. Then Jack would stab the policeman and demand you tell him what you know, or he’ll put a rope down your throat and rip out your stomach lining. True story. Eeep.

In the end it was harder to understand why the writers sonsidered Jack the good guy – do we want to root for a hero who has to perform such brutal acts to get the job done? Was it realistic, was it a warning? As Fox announced the show’s cancellation at the end of Season 8, you could wonder (if you’ve time on your hands) – Have viewers become more squeamish? Is it the liberal-leaning Obama effect? Or had Fox just finally realised that the show needed to rest and become a less stressful (but hopefully as lucrative) film franchise instead? I think the latter is more likely and that many former fans breathed a sigh of relief. I had found watching it a strange duty, wanting to know what happened whilst simultaneously not caring very much at all. The Season 8 characters were, on the whole, unlikeable and as I watched Season One again at the same time, it was even clearer that 24 needed to ground its characters again. The last time it really managed this was in the brilliant Season Five plot finalé, where the recurring cast worked together with Jack to bring down the despicable President Logan, a character so evil that they actually had the sense to bring him back for a big chuink of Season 8. Then Jack was carted off to China for torture. Then they brought him back and, er, stuff carried on as normal.
While it lasted, though, 24 was serious appointment TV. Absorbed in huge chunks at a time, it was impossible to look away, and the pace – even at its worse – was never less than compelling. I’ll be interested in the movie, although I may wait for the DVD. After all, 24 was born on the small screen and brought the popularity for DVD boxsets along with it. We have a lot to thank Jack Bauer for, in this case. Like the X-Files, 24 showed other shows how it’s done, only to be surpassed by the likes of Prison Break (can’t praise highly enough) and apparently Lost is quite good….(one day, oh yes, I’ll actually see it)!

But for now, goodbye Jack. We’ll always remember you and occasionally catch up with the old season box sets. And we’ll always have the HUNDREDS of youtube parodies, and of all of them I like this one the best. For this, and for so many hours of OTT entertainment that was often so much better than it had any right to be, thank you, Jack Bauer!


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