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Commentary on May 24's series finale of 24 (Day 8, 2 p.m. - 4 p.m.)

A tense scene from the finale of 24.
A tense moment from the final hour of 24. (FOX)

The countdown is over, and so is 24. It's been a fun ride for the most part, yet I'm actually glad that it's come to an end. The series has certainly creaked and wheezed at times (it's easy to forget how depressingly bad the February episodes were), so the decision to call it quits now - after nearly two straight months of awesomeness - was a good move. That said, did it really just end like a seasonfinale instead of a series one? Ehhh. Kind of disappointing in that regard, even though Kiefer and especially Mary Lynn Rajskub did standout jobs in these final two hours. Still, it would have been nice to have heard even a reference to Soul Patch Tony or to Aaron, who until this season had been the only character aside from Jack to appear in every single day of 24. I'll have a little more to add after the bullet points, but for now, as always and for the last time, spoilers abound:

  • Freddie Prinze Jr. tracks down Jim Ricker at an old apartment building for people with bad names. He looks past the mailboxes: "Hmmm, let's see... M.Y. Butts, Stan Still, Paige Turner... ah, Jim Ricker!" He shoots his way in, just as Ricker is deleting his files. Freddie says, "Did you delete Jack's evidence?" Ricker answers, "Yeah, and my Internet Movie Database entry. Aside from Kill Bill and Reservoir Dogs, I've been in a lot of crap."
  • Ricker agrees to help Freddie find Jack, in exchange for a new name and a promise from Freddie Prinze that he'll never taint another TV series again. He says that Jack has a copy of the conversation between Logan and Suvarov. Chloe tells Freddie, "We need that! The data from Starbuck is gone. Meredith Reed has been grabbed by the FBI and is even now being shipped off to the Biggest Loser ranch to burn off that croissant she ate at the diner!"
  • President Taylor, who has just been told by Logan that Russian President Suvarov has been behind everything (shhh!), gets a pen from Dalia; it was a gift that President Hassan intended to present for her to use at the signing of the Greatest Peace Treaty EVAH. The inscription says, "All the religions, all the singing, cannot match the splendor of my hair." Taylor cannot speak, overwhelmed by her own guilt. Dalia mistakes this for grief and says, "That's all right. My husband's hair had that effect on people."
  • A profusely bleeding Jack Bauer forces Pillar of Salt to drive him secretly into the parking garage of a building across the street from the United Nations. The Hart Building! Yay! Jack tells Pillar of Salt, "You say the wrong word and I'll kill you. Also, the leather on your back seat is now ruined." He forces Pillar to suture him up! Helllooooo, internal bleeding? Jack shows his gratitude by telling Pillar to get on his knees in the execution position. Pillar of Salt pleads for his life. Jack does the Morally Conflicted Blinking™ and, with a grunt of self-loathing, pistol-whips Pillar yet doesn't kill him.
  • Chloe tells Freddie, "Once we have the evidence, we're going to release it to every media outlet in the world, including Cosmopolitan. I'll get on the cover yet, by God!"
  • Dalia hears the rumors about the Russians and goes to Taylor to seek help in finding Meredith - but she quickly learns that Taylor already knows the truth. Enraged by Taylor's betrayal, she vows that she won't sign the Greatest Peace Treaty EVAH and will tell the world about what's happened and let the hummus fall where it may. Taylor - in perhaps one of the darkest scenes in 24's history - threatens Dalia with all-out war against her nation if she doesn't sign the treaty and keep her mouth shut. YIKES. Hooo boy. Well, executive producer Howard Gordon said in a recent interview that they had run out of things for a moral, principled President Taylor to do, so.... let's make her a Sith Lord!
  • At the CTU Mobile Command Center (which has its own flags! That's, like, awesome), Chloe tells Freddie, "Jack is inside the perimeter!" (This lacks the creepiness of "The call is coming from inside the house!") A camera caught Jack's reflection in a vending machine across the street. Freddie gasps, "Oh no! Jack wasn't ... eating,was he?" Chloe: "He's breaking all the rules now! Guard all the bathrooms - he'll head there next!"
  • Now that Jack's stab wound has been sutured as though he were simply a blood-filled sack, his Wolverine healing powers kick in! Blood loss? Fatigue? Bah! Jack is back! 
  • Jack sets up a sniper rifle in a utility closet - he plans to shoot Suvarov. But first, he leaves a message for Kim: "You're going to hear a lot of stories in the next few days. About what a good actor I am. About how the subplots involving you were incredibly dumb but still gave fans something to chuckle over. I just want you to know, honey, that the Starbuck subplot was the dumbest we've ever done, worse than anything involving you. You're in the clear."
  • Suvarov arrives at the UN and greets Taylor and a stone-faced Dalia. ER's Eric LaSalle, who clearly hasn't found much else to do lately, pops up as UN Secretary-General Ootrageioos Akksent.
  • Chloe goes solo! She finds and confronts Jack alone, pleading with him to stop what he's doing or he'll be killed by the various law enforcement agents looking for him. Jack gets the drop on her and puts her in - yes! - the Sleeper Hold! That's three shots and... wait! Jack says, "Don't fight it! Don't fight it!" That's four shots!
  • Besides the debate over torture, 24's legacy may be the sheer volume of accidental homicides as drunken guys try to reenact the Jack Bauer Sleeper Hold on their buddies. "DUDE! I'm only strangling you! Don't fight it! Hahahahah... uh, dude?"
  • Since Jack has temporarily lost his shot at taking out Suvarov, he switches his sights to ex-President Logan, whose office and glass windows are also conveeeeeeniently across the street from Jack! That building has a lot of facets, doesn't it? Well, it IS the Hart Building. All things are possible. Jack calls Logan, whose jowls wobble fiercely as he realizes that Jack can shoot and kill him in a second. At Jack's command, Logan calls Suvarov and lies to get him to come up to Logan's office to be assassinated by Jack.
  • Chloe wakes up, sees that she's been handcuffed by Jack, and immediately thinks that all her wishes are about to come true. Alas, no. She points out to Jack that killing the Russian president on American soil could provoke a war with a nuclear power. "Is that what Renee have wanted?" Jack, who now has a clear shot on Suvarov, ponders, "Hmmm, no. Renee would have wanted Suvarov's head on a pike and then she'd throw darts at it. But I see your point, Chloe. DAMMIT! I'm doing my Morally Conflicted Blinking™ again!"
  • A bunch of CTU agents are about to arrive. Jack tells Chloe to take the evidence - and shoot him! It's the only way for her to avoid suspicion. She refuses to do it, Jack keeps yelling at her and then - in a wild moment - he puts the gun to his head and is about to pull the trigger when Chloe does shoot him, just as the agents burst in. Ouch!
  • Pillar of Salt gets suspicious anyway when he hears that the bullet missed all of Jack's organs and arteries. WHAAAAT?! Geez, Chloe didn't even aim! Jack must have hollow spots in his body. In case of an emergency, Jack Bauer can be used as a floatation device.
  • Chloe and Freddie try to quickly and secretively upload the evidence on Jack's data card to CTU for distribution. Freddie: "What's taking so long?" Chloe: "Our computers are still using Windows Vista. It sucks!" They're stopped and arrested before the upload is complete. Waaah! 
  • Two minutes later (!), Logan victoriously hands the data card to Taylor. (Gee, maybe he should have watched it first?) Jack is about to be transported back to CTU, but Logan suggests that Jack has to die! "He's like a zombie! He just bit off Pillar of Salt's ear! He'll keep coming back." Taylor says nothing, which Logan takes as tacit approval of his newest Kill Jack plan, a.k.a. "This time for sure!"
  • Taylor watches the video of Jack speaking to Kim. Jack's words about how peace has to be built on trust and honesty hit Taylor hard. She thinks, "I cannot allow myself to fail like that cougar failed to kill Kim back in Season 2."
  • Finally, it's time for the signing. UN Secretary-General Ootrageioos Akksent introduces Suvarov, Taylor, and Dalia before an assembly of ... 30 people? Did they run out of money to hire extras? Tupperware parties have more people! And it's not even televised? C'mon, it's supposed to be the Greatest Peace Treaty EVAH!
  • Suvarov signs, Dalia signs after some hesitation, and Taylor looks at Hassan's pen, pauses, and backs away! She hands the pen back to Dalia and tells the tiny group, "Grave crimes have been committed in the run-up to this treaty. Subplots were wasted, and viewers' patience was taken for granted! I've been a part of that conspiracy. I'll have more to say after I get my second Emmy nomination."
  • She tries to stop the hit on Jack's CTU ambulance - but it's too late! We see the van flipped over in an alleyway, with the stabbed & shot Jack as the only survivor. He's taken away by masked guys. One guy says to the leader, "Why don't we just kill Bauer NOW?" The leader barks back, "Idiot! Don't you know that there's a movie in the works?! We have to delay killing him for as long as possible, no matter how ridiculous it gets."
  • Logan and Pillar of Salt hear about the collapse of the peace treaty. Logan knows that his dreams are kaput. He clobbers and shoots Pillar of Salt! Then, as Taylor, Tim Woods, and Secret Service agents show up at the door, he shoots himself in the head. 
  • Ehhh, not crazy about that end for Logan. For one thing, it seemed gratuitous. For another, I can't see Loganever choosing suicide. Making matters worse, he's still technically alive (with brain damage likely), which means the producers are trying to cover all bets in case they decide to use Logan in a future 24 movie. That's a wussy way to treat a good character.
  • Freed from their brief captivity, Chloe and Freddie - with help from Arlo's Big Brother drones - quickly find the van carrying Jack. The leader of the paramilitary guys (or federal Black Ops guys?) says, "OK, we've delayed long enough. Now we can execute Bauer! Oh, what's that, a call? From President Taylor? Wow, I timed that well!" Taylor orders the men to leave Jack alone and threatens to use the drone's Hellfire missiles if they don't!
  • On the phone, Taylor tearfully apologizes to Jack and says she'll resign. She'll face the consequences of her actions - but so does he. "The Russians will be coming after you, Jack ... and so will we." She tells him to leave the country while he has a chance.
  • And so another Chief Executive goes down for the count! 
  • Jack then calls Chloe, who is watching the scene from the drone's camera. She tears up, knowing this is goodbye. She vows to protect Jack's family. Jack says, "When you first came to CTU, I never imagined it would be you who would always have my back. The weekly Valentine cards and sexy photos of you should have been a clue. Thank you, Chloe." He then runs off, a bloody mess and a fugitive once more. I guess he'll need new clothes from his cousin Eddie.
  • Chloe sobs and Freddie contemplates the end of his acting career. Frightened Mannequin Face! As Jack looks up at the camera one last time, Chloe says, "Shut it down." Fade to black and the last ticks of the countdown clock.

So, yeah, I'm disappointed that it ended on such an obvious "Wait for the movie!" note, and in a way that was pretty similar to the end of Day 4, when Jack faked his death and did the Bill Bixby/Incredible Hulk thing to evade the Chinese. This season peaked a couple of hours too soon, but I give them credit for amazingly pulling it out of the tailspin of the first two months.

And I give everyone involved credit for creating a great, entertaining, exciting series. It'll be interesting to see whether24 stands the test of time; that is, will it still be considered an all-time great series 10 years from now, or will it be regarded as a great snapshot of our culture in the post-9/11 world? 

Finally, one last set of 24-related bullet points. In no particular order, here are my five favorite 24 moments:

  • Jack lands the passenger plane on an LA freeway to escape the fighter jets sent by President Logan -- wild!
  • Chloe machine-guns the bad guys sent to kill her. Awesome.
  • Nina is revealed as 24's first mole - the first and still the best.
  • While handcuffed to a table and still spasming from the nerve toxin, Jack kills the three doctors giving him a spinal tap in last year's finale!
  • The heroic death of George Mason, way back in Day 2.

Thanks for reading the 24 recaps these past few months. I hope you've enjoyed them.


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