Since I am fortunate enough to write a weekly review here about the television drama 24, I was contacted by Scott Collins of the LA Times and asked what my feelings were about this sixth season of the series. I thought about it for a while, and this was my response to him. One paragraph of my response did appear in his article.
Season 6 of 24 has been a roller coaster ride to be sure. The first four episodes were fast-paced and led to a mini-climax (in terms of the season story) with the explosion of the nuke in Valencia. After that we slipped into a soap opera like zone where Jack confronted his phantom family. While this worked for me, it was a bit of a stretch to discover that Graem (the seemingly evil mastermind behind last season’s action) was Jack’s brother. It was also equally difficult to deal with the new father, nephew, and sister-in-law that just happened to be Jack’s old flame.
Still, there was the pressure of finding the rest of the nukes that kept the pulse racing more times than not. Jack is always under the gun because of the clock, and it seems never more so than this season. There were a few weird subplots, especially one involving the autistic man, but in general the action raced forward until Episode 17 when Jack killed Fayed and recovered the last two nuclear suitcases. Of course, this is when he learned that Audrey was alive and a prisoner of the evil Cheng Zhi, so now the rest of the season is about how this will be resolved.
As a fan of 24 since day one, I think the writers have recycled some plots this season that are glaringly obvious: a recording, an almost removed president, an assassination attempt on that president, an attack on a Middle Eastern country, an impending nuclear strike, a person close to Jack kidnapped, etc. Many of us who are longtime fans see this as inevitable, but those who have jumped on board recently either don’t realize that the plot is recycled or don’t care.
I think the bottom line is that we still care about Jack Bauer. Kiefer Sutherland has infused this role with grit and humanity. Despite all the horrific things Jack has had to do, there is a sense that he is on the right side, thus we are satisfied going along for the ride in order to see him survive and defeat evil and maybe find a path to some kind of happiness.
The entire arc of the series from Season 1, Episode 1, has taken Jack a long way from that chess game with his daughter Kim, and I think that is intentional. In those early episodes Jack was depicted as a lighter being, his hair and face bright with hope (even when facing dire circumstances). The death of his wife in the last episode of Season 1 set the tone for what has been a steep descent into, if not the maelstrom, certainly the darkest place a human being can go. There is no down for Jack Bauer. As he said earlier this season when facing his own death at the hands of Fayed, “Truthfully, it will be a relief.”
Ultimately, I think season 6 has given us Jack Bauer fighting back from the brink. He surprises us sometimes (like when he was so compassionate with the autistic Brady), frightens us (when he was suffocating his brother), and pushes us along on his quest to either save the world from the bad guys or himself from a grisly end.
I believe that when the series ends (maybe the end of next season) that Jack Bauer has to make the climb out of the hole and back into the light of day. I have often mentioned this in correspondence with friends and fans, and I believe the best ending would find Jack in a better place, perhaps even playing chess with Kim as her baby sat on her lap. Most of us want to see Jack find some happiness, but getting there is not going to be easy. That is why I continue to watch 24 and will keep watching until Agent Jack Bauer stops having the worst days of his life.