DO NOT READ THIS POST UNTIL YOU’VE SEEN THE FINALE EPISODE OF “24: LIVE ANOTHER DAY.”
SPOILERS WILL FOLLOW.
So I’ve been a 24 fan since day one (or rather, “Day One.”). Back in 2001 when it debuted, everything about it was fresh and original. Dennis Haysbert and Penny Johnson Jerald were the original Barack and Michelle. There were all these split-screen action sequences, and this bright yellow clock that kept pounding, pounding, pounding away. There was literally nothing else like it on television.
Now, 8 full seasons, one movie, and one 12-hour miniseries later, watching “24” feels familiar and comfortable, like elephant ears at the county fair. It might not be the most mindblowing or sophisticated taste, but you know what you’re gonna get, and you love it. Explosions, betrayals, terrorists, government intrigue, fleeting romances, computers and communication gadgets galore, car chases… and guns. PLENTY OF GUNS.
And I loved it. As TV critic Alan Sepinwall mentioned in his finale review, taking in this shortened season has been sort of like watching a beloved band play a reunion tour. You came to see the greatest hits, and that’s what they delivered.
And yet, many of the really great bands — Earth Wind and Fire and Snarky Puppy come to mind — they know how to play their hits with the right combination of familiarity and innovation. You want to hear the songs you love, but you don’t want them to sound exactly like they sound on the record, otherwise, what’s the point of seeing them live? Great bands evolve over time. They know how to reinvent themselves. They can present new versions of their sound, take calculated risks, and still feel familiar enough to keep fans coming back.
I genuinely enjoyed every second of “24: Live Another Day,” but I was hoping they would do something different besides just set it in London. And not just any old change. There was one specific choice, that fans like me have been clamoring for, for years. I wanted them to kill Jack. In my mind, it’s the only truly fulfilling way to end the series.
The problem is, Kiefer Sutherland is still a bankable star, and nobody wants to kill the golden goose. If the people want more Jack Bauer, they will get more Jack Bauer. It’s as simple as that. The powers that be at FOX know how their bread is buttered, they can’t be convinced to stop the gravy train. (And yes, my mixed metaphor just ended up putting gravy on toast. Actually, that could be kind of good, if it were the right kind of gravy.)
The really frustrating thing is that I thought this one would be different.
It seemed like all the signs were there. Yvonne Strahovski played a great strong agent, much like Annie Wersching’s Renee Walker character, as a female counterpoint to Jack. Kate Morgan seemed very similar to Jack, having suffered the loss of a spouse to the job, and featuring those great field agent instincts and ass-kicking techniques. The show seemed to be grooming her as Jack’s eventual replacement.
So I really thought it was going to happen. I was mentally and emotionally preparing myself for Jack to go out in a literal blaze of glory, and I was so close.
Just imagine with me.
At the very end of the finale, after Jack has the tearful exchange with Chloe as they’re walking past each other, after Jack gets into the chopper to save Chloe, and the camera is tight on his scarred, tortured face as the helicopter lifts off… … the camera CUTS to a bulge in his jacket… …Jack unzips to reveal a SUICIDE VEST of explosives taped to his body… … AND … No more Russians, and no more Jack.
Would’ve been epic, right?! Would’ve been one of the greatest endings on television.
Instead Jack goes to prison… again.