Before the series finale of “24” began, Kiefer Sutherland (a.k.a Jack Bauer) appeared on the Fox network and thanked the show’s audience for their support of the long-running program. After eight seasons (eight days in the show’s life), “24” was cancelled earlier this year, although the show will likely be made into a movie. However, after so many great seasons and an emotionally satisfying conclusion, it should be the audience thanking both Kiefer Sutherland and his alter ego.
As the series finale began, the president of the United States, Allison Taylor (Cherry Jones), was preparing to have a historic peace agreement signed. However, the idealistic Taylor had been forced to make numerous ethical compromises in order to get the agreement signed and then discovers that Russia’s leader had planned the assassination of a Middle Eastern leader who was set to sign the agreement. Even knowing that, Taylor continued to obsessively pursue the treaty, which would likely become a major part of her presidential legacy.
Her Shakespearean fall continued throughout and in one unbelievably good finale scene, she even threatened to brutally attack another country if the leader of that nation (the widow of that country’s president, who had been killed only hours before) revealed the truth about Russia’s involvement in the assassination. This was a shocking turn of events as this once hopeful president suddenly made horrific decisions in order to achieve “peace.”
Taylor’s fall from idealism was only one part of the jam-packed finale. As Taylor was fighting for her treaty, Jack Bauer was seeking vengeance against those who had killed Renee Walker (Annie Wersching), a former work associate and love interest of his who was assassinated. In the meantime, disgraced former president Charles Logan (Gregory Itzin) was trying to find redemption in the public eye by helping President Taylor get her important peace treaty signed. Throughout the last few episodes, Logan has been pushing President Taylor to make grievous errors in her pursuit of the agreement.
The finale was full of great twists and turns. From seeing how far President Taylor was willing to go in pursuit of the agreement to seeing how close Bauer came to causing a war because of his need for vengeance, this show continued to excite and surprise the audience even in its closing hours.
Some criticism, including on this blog, has been leveled against the show’s writers for pushing Jack Bauer into extremely dark territory and surprising the audience by Bauer’s lust for vengeance. I can appreciate those criticisms and I can understand that on numerous occasions Bauer has crossed ethical lines. However, Bauer has been an extremely flawed character for a long time and he has been willing to do things that are immoral and wrong. In the end, and as is noted in the finale, he will have to eventually face the consequences of what he has done and even though we, the audience, can support his mission of saving millions of lives, we should also be able to understand that Bauer is not a perfect human being. He is a hero, but he has also done cruel things.
The first hour-plus of the finale focused on the action and the excitement that the show did so well. However, in the end, it was not the action or the excitement that closed things out. Instead the focus was on politics and relationships. President Taylor, who was eventually able to manage the cover-up that she supported, was forced to decide what the “peace” agreement was worth to her. Her choice may have been presented in a clichéd way, but it was a strong way to end her character’s arc.
Additionally, the best part was in the closing sequence between Jack Bauer and Chloe O’Brian (Mary Lynn Rajskub), one of Bauer’s former CTU colleagues. Throughout the past few seasons, O’Brian and Bauer have been worthy allies working against terrorist threats and fighting against people who wish to do this country harm. Instead of an action-packed few final moments, the show decided to focus on this strong relationship and show what they meant to each other. The final few lines of dialogue avoided blatant sentimentality to simply show these characters saying goodbye.
As these characters were saying their respective goodbyes and acknowledging their longtime support for one another, the audience was saying goodbye to them and this fantastic show…until it moves to the big screen.