* This review of Episode 12 contains spoilers.
Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) has never been meant to live a normal life. Those of us who fondly recall that first scene back in season one’s first episode, when Jack played chess with his daughter Kim (Elisha Cuthbert), remember the only time that we basically got a glimpse of his happy domestic life. It was too brief then, with 24 being set in “real” time, every minute seeming to count and with no flashbacks, Jack would never be that way again.
Moving forward through the seasons, Jack has lost everything or close to it. He has even lost, above all things, his own identity. He goes into hiding and only surfaces when he perceives a threat to President James Heller (William Devane), a man for whom he once worked. Jack knows he is a “good man” (there is short supply of them in the 24 universe), and Jack also knows that he owes him. Heller’s daughter Audrey (Kim Raver) had been his lover, and he was indirectly responsible for her being kidnapped and tortured by Chinese lunatic Cheng Zhi (Tzi Ma). Jack is in London really, more than anything else, to save Heller and his daughter and then, as we discover, the rest of the world too.
Episode 12 has to be one of the darkest in all of the 24 seasons. As Sutherland’s voices tells us eerily at the start of the episode, the action takes place between 10 p.m. and 11 a.m. This deftly gets the full 24 hours into the season with a time jump, but as we are watching we are not certain as to how it will be worked into the story. More on that later.
Audrey is still on the park bench with the sniper training his weapon on her. At the Russian house Jack and Kate (Yvonne Strahovski) are trying to get some information about Cheng’s location, but slimy Mark (Tate Donovan) gets a call from Cheng with an image of Audrey in the sniper’s bulls eye. Soon Jack is getting a call from Cheng, and it’s to tell Jack that he will kill Audrey if Jack comes after him.
Kate and Jack devise a plan to split up, with Jack going after Cheng and Kate going to the park to save Audrey. At this point Kate has earned Jack’s respect and trust (and the viewer’s too). If anyone can rescue Audrey it is Kate Morgan, especially since Jack must stop Cheng from starting World War III.
As in all 24 seasons, Jack is always forced to make a tough choice. We know in his gut he wants to go save Audrey, but he also realizes that Kate, while very capable, is probably no match for Cheng. Besides, Jack has an old score to settle with Cheng, and that cannot be done remotely. As I have mentioned in previous reviews, Jack wants to kick Cheng’s ass (and we want to see it!).
After splitting up with Kate Jack is driving and spots Chloe (Mary Lynn Rajskub) walking on the side of the road. She jumps in and soon has a laptop in hand, explaining that Adrian (Michael Wincott) had tricked her and that she feels partly responsible for the override device and the attack on the Chinese aircraft carrier. Thus, we have two guilt-ridden people in the car, but Jack and Chloe are always a good team and they still need to work together.
Once at the docks where Cheng is trying to get his sweaty butt out of the country, Jack meets up with Belchick (Branko Tomovic), whose loyalty to Jack has been unwavering this season (in one episode he does tell Chloe that Jack saved his life). Belchick has that dependability factor, one that makes him an ideal Jack sidekick. They rush off to get Cheng on the tanker, while Chloe runs into a closet to give tech support.
Back at the park Kate uses a little spy scope to try to find the sniper in the window. She secretly calls Audrey and asks her to stand up to draw fire, which is like asking a chicken to walk into KFC, but it’s the only way Kate can see where to shoot the guy. Audrey complies, a few shots are fired, and then Kate rushes forward and shoots and kills the sniper. We all breathe a sigh of relief that Audrey is safe. Kate even calls Jack to tell him, so Jack moves forward with even more gusto.
Guided by Chloe’s tap into a surveillance system, Jack and Belchick get to play video game shootout, taking out all the bad guys as Chloe reveals their location. It’s like poetry in motion watching Belchick and Jack kill these guys smoothly and swiftly, and we figure Cheng is shaking in his boots now, but Cheng also has a Shanghai surprise for Jack and Kate – a second killer.
This killer springs upon Kate and Audrey as they are evacuating. Kate dispatches the guy, but not before he has wounded Audrey. Kate desperately tries to save Audrey, but as she lies bleeding on a park bench, we can see her life abating. Audrey cries one tear, and we can imagine it is for all the wasted years, for never having been with Jack, and then she dies, and we get the silent clock. Sadly, there will be one more before the episode is over.
Kate has to make the call to Jack, and Sutherland plays it brilliantly. His face is the flashback we don’t get in scenes, and all the anger, frustration, and sadness manifest themselves in his expression. All his losses from wife Terri to Renee Walker to Audrey now coalesce, and as he stands with gun ready, we know he is on auto-pilot mode. What follows is Jack going ape (reminiscent of him taking out Victor Drazen (Dennis Hopper) and his men in season one). Anything at hand (knives, swords) will be used, but soon all Cheng’s men are dead.
The fight between Jack and Cheng is satisfying. Cheng holds his own only briefly, and soon Jack has done what we all hoped he would do – he has kicked Cheng’s ass. He then holds a bloody Cheng up to the camera and calls President Heller. Facial recognition technology confirms this is indeed Cheng, and Heller calls the Chinese president and the war of the worlds is over. Heller knows that he has succeeded, largely because he believed in Jack. Once again, Bauer saves the day.
Now that Cheng is disposable, Jack takes a convenient sword and says, “This is for Audrey,” and slices off Cheng’s head. Some may quibble about this being an execution, that Cheng could have rotted in American prison for years, but Jack wants to make sure that this rat never surfaces again, and Jack’s philosophy is simple – the only good rat is a dead one.
Back in the HQ Heller is informed that Audrey is dead. He reacts as any father would, in disbelief at first, and then he collapses with grief. Devane has played Heller exquisitely all season, but this scene displays without words what seems more than credible: the grief is just too much to bear.
Back on the tanker, Jack gets a cryptic phone call after he and Belchick discover Chloe is missing. Jack says he understands, and then we are set up for the last ten minutes and the long awaited time jump.
The time jump goes from 10:50 in the evening to 10:50 in the morning. We can only speculate what happens during those twelve hours. Do Jack and Belchick go to a pub and have a few pints? What happens to Heller during this time? And who has Chloe and what are they doing to her? All this speculation as to what happens during the time jump is exciting in one sense and frustrating in another; however, it also leaves tantalizing possibilities open for extras on the season’s eventual Blu-Ray and DVD.
At CIA HQ, Kate is overcome with grief. Besides Jack and Chloe’s palpable guilt, Kate’s ride this season has been a see-saw from guilt to revelation to understanding, but the grim reality is that she did not stop the president’s daughter from being assassinated. None of us saw the second killer coming (but Jack probably would have), so Kate turns in her gun and badge (ala Eastwood’s Dirty Harry) and walks away – this time we would assume for good. I still hold out hope that Kate Morgan goes back to the States and fulfills her destiny as the female Jack in some form or another (in a show of her own).
We get a scene at the airport, where Audrey’s flag-draped coffin is being rolled onto Air Force One. Heller and British Prime Minister Davies (Stephen Fry) stand together, and when Davies offers his help, Heller explains there is nothing anyone can do. This is Devane’s finest moment as Heller (just one of many Emmy worthy scenes), and we understand that Heller’s fate may be better than anyone else’s because with the Alzheimer’s taking over, he will not be aware of his losses.
As for Jack, I imagine him preparing for the inevitable end. He is so seasoned, so inured at this point to pain and suffering, it is almost as if Jack is like the boxer longing to get back into the ring, to put himself into the enemy’s hands saying, “Give me your best shot.”
Jack and Belchick arrive at the meeting point, and Belchick asks if he really wants to do this. We already know Jack’s answer. Chloe gets out of a helicopter, and it’s the classic trade-off scenario with guns ready on both sides. As Jack and Chloe cross paths, Jack takes her hand and their exchange is heartbreaking but true – Jack tells her that she is his best friend. Jack is giving up his life for her, and Chloe runs to Belchick and Jack walks up to the Russians (who else would it be?) with a bit of a smirk on his face that says, “Okay, no matter what you do, I’m unbreakable.”
Jack warns head Russian Boris Badenov that if anything happens to Chloe or his family that he will be in a world of pain, but the Boris acknowledges that they only want him. Boris jokes that he’d like to say Jack will enjoy Moscow, but that’s not true; however, Badenov doesn’t know Jack. After nine seasons, we think that we do, but in truth this stoic, grim, and determined Jack is not able to be understood no less known. Jack Bauer has come so far from that man playing chess with his daughter, fallen so low and emotionally hitting his nadir; this Jack is like a voodoo doll that will keep breaking the hardest pins. This is the real Jack who is beyond suffering.
So Jack flies off to Russia with almost a glow on his face. He has stopped a world war, prevented Heller’s assassination, and rid the world of more terrorists than Raid inspect spray has killed cockroaches. Yes, he has lost loved ones and friends, and that he associates as being on his shoulders, a heft that would be too much for almost anyone else to bear, but this is Jack Bauer. Jack has gone off into sunsets, faked his own death, and gone off the grid – always alone, yet always capable of surviving. There is another silent clock, but is that for Jack or for those who think they now have him at their mercy?
Will there be another 24 season sometime soon? Will there be the long promised film? At this point we cannot know, but I imagine that Chloe, Kate, and Belchick could become a formidable team to go get Jack out of prison. They may be surprised by the time that they get to Moscow that Jack isn’t behind bars but perhaps helping to run the KGB. Remember, this isn’t just any one; it is Jack Bauer, one of the most iconic TV characters of all time. He just may end up enjoying Moscow more than Badenov could ever imagine, even clinking glasses of Stoli in the Kremlin and saying, “Please pass the caviar, Vladimir.”
While we wait for the next incarnation of Jack Bauer, we have nine seasons on disc to enjoy again and again. Until next time, Klaatu Barada Nikto!
Photo credits: FOX[amazon template=iframe image&asin=B0044E9JU0]