While watching the last minutes of the series finale of 24, I had a very bad feeling about what was happening. Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) is on his knees with a gun pointed to his head. The guy with the gun is about two seconds away from pulling the trigger, and I start thinking, "Damn, are they really going to kill Jack Bauer?" Then the guy gets a call from President Taylor. Jack’s reprieve is brief because, after Jack gets on the phone with her, Taylor basically tells him that he’s as good as dead. The Russians want him. The Americans will be after him too. Get out of the country. Run, Jack, run.
Jack makes one last call to Chloe. It is fitting that one of the fixtures of this show during all 192 episodes (the cellular phone calls between Jack and Chloe) is what ends it. Jack and Chloe talk. He thanks her for covering his back all these years. Chloe starts crying. Jack asks her to protect his daughter Kim and her family. Chloe says that she will as more tears fall. A drone hovers in the sky above the 59th Street Bridge, and Jack looks up at it one last time. Bleeding, beaten, and bruised, it’s a haunting image of Jack as he stares at the camera. Chloe utters the last line of dialogue in the series: “Shut it down.” The picture goes out and the iconic on screen clock clicks backwards to zero hour. Series over; Jack gone.
The true 24 fans will probably love that Jack did not die, even though it is like he is dead. He will never be Jack Bauer again. His family life is destroyed and his chances for a normal life along with it. By making him a man without a country, without a persona, Jack will be forced to do what Jack does best: survive and kill to survive. In essence that is what he has always done. It is left to our imaginations as to how he will do what he needs to do, but we have no doubt at all that he can and will do whatever it takes.
In the days leading up to the series finale, there was great speculation that Jack Bauer would die in the end. The producers and writers obviously knew better than to let that happen. Besides a 24 movie in the works, there are the residual elements that benefit from a breathing Jack Bauer as opposed to killing him off. For example, when the inevitable eight-season DVD package hits the market, people are more likely to invest those hard earned dollars in something that keeps their favorite character alive in their imaginations and in any other configuration likely to follow. Will there be 24 novels, cartoons, comic books, video games, and action figures? Of course there will be, and they will be more marketable with fans thinking Jack is out there somewhere in the world.
The series finale scored some points early on in the first hour when Jack kidnaps ex-President Chucky (your friend to the end) Logan’s lackey Pillar (acting head of CTU), and forces him to stitch up the wound in his side. As Pillar sews Jack up, Jack points a gun to his head and basically explains his actions not only in this season but for all eight seasons of the show.
He tells Pillar that he would have accepted justice through the law, but President Taylor blew the opportunity for that by becoming part of the cover-up. This is when Jack decides to take the law into his own hands. He then has no choice but to become “judge and jury” for those nefarious characters who have plotted to set off a nuke in Manhattan, kill innocent people, and leave Renee Walker and other law enforcement people dead in their wake. This has always been Jack’s motivation, and he is finally able to speak the truth. He will right the wrongs, he will stop the bad guys from winning, and he does not care who or what gets in his way.
Pillar gets knocked on the head for his trouble and Jack goes upstairs in the building across from the UN. His plan is to get Chucky to call Russian President Subarov into the office, giving Jack a clear opportunity to nail the bastard who ordered Renee's death with his sniper rifle. At this point Jack has recordings implicating Subarov, Chucky, Taylor, and a partridge in a pear tree to boot. Chucky knows this and is shivering worse than a guy in his skivvies in an outhouse in January.
Chloe has other plans. Thanks to Cole’s brief showdown with Jim Ricker, they know Jack is heading to the UN to take out Subarov. Chucky gets a call from Jack, and he realizes that Jack has a rifle trained on his head, and he snivels and snarks as he talks during the call to Subarov, hoping to get the guy to come in and be a sitting Russian duck.
Chloe locates Jack and tries to stop him from killing Subarov. She asks him if he wants to start a war. Is that what Renee would have wanted? Jack backs down. Chucky, waiting for the bullet to take out Subarov, tries to stand up without his spine and then realizes the shot isn’t coming. Meanwhile, because CTU teams with "shoot to kill Bauer" orders are coming, Jack makes Chloe shoot him in order to save his life. Got that one? Having watched every episode for eight seasons, the last thing I ever expected to happen was for Chloe to shoot Jack.
The events from this point on are classically anti-climactic. The most intense moment is when President Taylor is confronted by Dalia Hassan, widow of the IRK President who had been assassinated that day. It is a great scene with Taylor starting to break as she understands the length and breadth of her complicity in the carnage of the day. By the time she reaches the podium to sign the much publicized peace accord, she lifts the pen (a gift from Dalia that her husband had intended to give Taylor) but cannot sign the agreement. Subarov starts to sweat out those Stoli shots; he knows the broken deal will bring him down as well.
When Chucky hears the news report about Taylor's actions, he gets his shaking hands on the nearest object and clunks Pillar in the head. Knowing everything has been for nothing this day and that Jack Bauer has won, Chucky takes Pillar's gun and shoots him in the head. Chucky then turns the gun on himself as Taylor bangs on the door. BANG! Chucky is his own best friend in the end because he takes the coward's way out.
Taylor’s reclamation is last minute when she calls off the attack on Jack. In a phone call between the two, we can see the heartbreak both are experiencing. Credit Cherry Jones and Sutherland for performances that shake the viewer with sincerity and grief. All the "what ifs" and "could have beens" are imagined as Taylor expresses her regrets and sorrow to Jack. She is taking responsibility. She will resign and put herself into custody. Another 24 president meets an inglorious fate.
There is nothing left to say (though I thought a presidential pardon was in order), and after Jack ends the call with Taylor, we get the last scene with Chloe. Jack has to get out of the country, and we know all of this is a perfect lead-in to a movie that will be filmed in Eastern Europe, centering the action in Prague. Jack will be on the run from the Russians and the Americans and everyone else.
Without the "real time" limitations of the TV series, it should be interesting to see what happens to Jack Bauer. In between all the shootouts and explosions, maybe he will fall in love again, and hopefully we'll see the guy get some sleep and maybe a bite to eat. After nine years, he must be awfully hungry. Can you picture Jack eating in the McDonald's in Prague? "Uh, Big Mac, prosim." I can't wait.
Until the movie, Klaatu barada nikto!