Tuesday, May 25, 2010

My review of the last 24

Jack Bauer, wounded, bloodied, with no ID or money has been asked to slip out of the country and disappear. I’ll say this for America, we sure know how to thank and honor our heroes. All the guy has done is routinely and single-handedly saved millions of lives, exposed major plots to subvert this nation, and thwarted every sinister villain not assigned to James Bond. Okay, he only works maybe one day every two years but those are full days. You’d think at least he’d get a commendation or something. They’d let him throw out the first pitch at a Nationals game. Show him in the audience of AMERICAN IDOL sitting next to Jane Lynch. Anything!

But no, for all his sacrifice and overtime, he’s told to scram. Such was the final episode of 24. No white light to walk towards for this Jack. No reuniting with his wife Terry or Renee Walker or President Palmer or Edgar or Michelle or Buchanan or the 400 other people close to him who are now dead. No, this Jack must carry on, alone, bleeding, and emotionally bankrupt. This may be the last time we ever see him again… unless he comes back in a movie of 24 or returns to television as THE FUGITIVE.

But it was a great ride. How the writers kept the suspense going non-stop for 24 hour periods is totally beyond me. How many traps can Jack extricate himself from? How many nuclear, biological, chemical, political attacks can there be? How many global conspiracies are there? The show ran for 192 episodes plus a two-hour movie. Remarkable.

For the first few years 24 was great escapist fare. It got better and better until one year the show and Kiefer Sutherland won Emmys.

Then it struggled. Dropping a nuclear bomb on Valencia was a bit of a buzz kill. Kim Raver as charmless love interest Audrey was another. And that mistake was compounded because they inexplicably brought her back. Did no 24 writer ever read a blog???

Torture was a big issue. Well, it became a big issue with Guantanamo Bay. So the producers modified it. Instead of just straight torture there was torture and debate. And Jack only tortured the bad guys… most of the time. In one episode he tortured Audrey. I think that's what won him the Emmy.

What the show generally had going for it was great villains. Dennis Hopper, Jon Voight, Powers Booth, Penny Johnson Jerald, lots of Arabs. But the greatest villain of them all was Gregory Itzin (pictured: right) as sniveling, conniving President Nixon… I mean, Logan. He was the key to the Emmy winning year and this season was spinning its wheels until he re-appeared.

They tried to shake things up last year by moving the series to Washington D.C. and this year it was set in New York. And the change of scenery helped but by that time I started watching the show differently.

The first few years I was really invested in the plots. I was shocked when they killed his wife at the end of season one. The message was received loud and clear – anybody was expendable. So the suspense heightened. These people really were in jeopardy.

Sure, there was the suspension of belief. In one episode Jack got from downtown LA to Simi Valley in twenty minutes during rush hour. If he was strapped to a Convair X-11 Atlas missile he couldn’t get there that fast.

And Jack seemed to heal very quickly. There was one hour where his heart literally stopped and fifteen minutes later he’s beating the shit out of a street gang in a parking lot. ICU is for sissies.

I just sort of accepted that every year his annoying daughter Kim would be kidnapped. It got to where she brought her own rope.

But I didn’t mind. This was a thrill ride.

After that one really bad season though I started watching the show differently. All the absurdities I had ignored, I now embraced. That became part of the fun.

My daughter Annie and I would have a rollicking good time pointing out these gaping plot holes. CTU hires Dana Walsh to be their chief systems analyst handing the most sensitive matters and their security check didn’t reveal she was using an alias and had been in prison? Really?? Meanwhile, an ex-boyfriend does figure it out. And in the midst of a national crisis she slips out to help him pull a heist? You gotta love it!

And this year I imagine the producers said, “what the hell? Let’s just go for it.” Two hours ago Jack was wearing a Robocop outfit shooting up a presidential motorcade. Yeah! Jack was crazed because the woman he decided he loved an hour before was killed. Turns out the President of Russia PERSONALLY put the hit out on her, as if the President of Russia even knew who she was. Genius! Torture is one thing but now Jack was cutting a guy’s stomach open to retrieve a sin-card. If you loved that scene in SAW you loved it in 24!

So thanks for the thrills. Thanks for the laughs, even if they were unintended. And most of all, thanks for Chloe O'Brien. As portrayed by Mary Lynn Rajskub, who knew that exasperation and eye rolling could be so endearing? The girl you hated in school is the one you loved on 24.

How fitting then that the final moment should be between Jack and Chloe? It ended on just the right note. Jack thanking her for everything was surprisingly touching. And when a tear rolled down her blank face well...I was misting up myself.

I will miss you, Jack Bauer. Thanks for saving the nation. Twenty times. I’d say you’re welcome to come over and hide out at my house but everyone you’ve ever helped winds up dead so I’ll just say farewell, thanks again, and you really should have that six inch gushing knife wound looked at.


Megan (Best of Fates) said...

At first I was going to say this made me wish I'd watched 24, but then I realized that I didn't need to - this summary was far better than the show could have been, and certainly leaves me more time to learn to knit, or take up running.

This Girl said...

I have a friend that watched the first season because he heard it was the only season. He watched on pins and needles because he was sure Jack was going to die at the end. But then they announced season 2, he stopped watching. He felt he's been bamboozled and gave up on 24 forever. I watched season 1 and season 7. I enjoyed them both. That's all I needed. This review was great and you're right, the unintentional humour was the best humour of all.

john brown said...

Writing for the Pres. Logan character must have been a blast.

My son and I liked the scene where he was picking out which tie to wear at the press conference, before the rug got pulled out from under him by Jack again.

I think Howard Gordon wrote the last episodes, which was great since I think he was there for the whole ride.

Bob Summers said...

I got caught up a few seasons ago and wasn't able to finish. So I saved up my viewing for DVD. Still need to sit and watch them.

The wife had never seen any of them, so we started with Season 1. She wanted to stop because the show wore her out. I realized that now it really seemed dated and the first season had lost a bit of its luster that I remembered.

emily said...

So Jack is forced to leave the country, and halfway to his destination, the plane shudders, breaks apart, and Jack finds himself LOST on an island in the middle of nowhere...

Matt Bird said...

If you'd told me a week ago that I'd be unmoved and disgusted by the Lost finale, but then find myself tearing up over a perfect 24 finale, I would have said you were crazy. Pitting the two Emmy-winning presidents against each other in a battle of wills was a genius move.

I, too, would like to imagine that this Jack is now on his way to the Lost island to force them to finally reveal what was going on. HE wouldn't have been satisfied by cheap platitudes and "a wizard did it" reasoning.

Supes said...

I'm sorry to see the show good. It was always great fun to watch. I agree that 1-5 were exceptional. Once 6 rolled by it turned into an action show, rather than a thriller show. I was happy enough with that ending, the scene where Chloe shot Jack had me screaming at the tv. My only gripe is that we know the movies are in the pipeline, so it robbed the fans/audience of a satisfying conclusion. Instead we got a 'gotta go, but I'll see you soon' ending. Shame, but nevertheless, it was a fantastic show, and Kiefer Sutherland never phoned it in once over all 8 years, he is a truely exceptional actor.

deborah Nathan said...

Love your wrap-up. And a truly fitting end to an exceptional show.

Tom Clendening - General Manager, KSER Foundation said...

I liked season 1. Because the show seemed to be very realistic. I lost interest in season2 when JB was tortured to the point where he was clinically dead, then revived, and literally 3 minutes later was leaping across a car hood to chase someone. Please. Then, of course, I feel the show also veered into right-wing racial hatred. Plus, as much as I loved Midnight Cowboy and Conrack, I want to puke anytime I see Jon Voight these days.

Roger Owen Green said...

I actually liked the firt 13 episodes of Seaon 1, though it limped to the powerful finish. But I gave up on season 2, because not only was it absurd but brutalizing as well.

Michael Zand said...

Torture is one thing but now Jack was cutting a guy’s stomach open to retrieve a sin-card.

A "Sin" Card? Is that a card you can charge your sins to and then pay up on judgment day? If so, I'm in. Sign me up.

Kevin Arbouet said...

I thought this last season of 24 was truly awful. The series had been a favorite of mine and I enjoyed them thoroughly, even though putting up with Kim's character was tough. But this season seems like an entirely new production staff took over the show.

The set design for CTU was ridiculous. It looked like something out of Star Wars. The whole thing was so ill conceived that they actually had ENTIRE WALLS moving up and down to get in and out of holding rooms. Why would they do that?

And the CGI?! One of the things I loved most about 24 were all those practical stunts and effects. I'm guessing that their production budget must have been slashed in half, which could only explain that weird and cartoony "helicopter fight" a few episodes back.

Sure the series is full of plot holes (why would CTU continuously allow private cell phones on the premises??) but you can kind of excuse that. But Katee Sackoff's character was ridiculous. As a character, it made no sense. If she was as ruthless as she was in her last episodes then why in the world would she jeopardize EVERYTHING when her ex-boyfriend came back in the picture?! Wouldn't she just kill him immediately? She didn't seem to have a problem killing Stephen Root--INSIDE CTU HEADQUARTERS. And did anyone else notice that she stuffed his body inside of a wall? My wife can't even roll me over in bed and you're gonna tell me she can stuff Stephen fucking Root inside of a wall?

Oh, and 24's version of NYC is about as realistic as Lost's version of purgatory.

Great series. Horrible last season.

Brian said...

It was great fun. I started watching them over again with Netflix streaming because I didn't come in until season 5. When I first saw it, I was shocked at the toture, but now it doesn't seem like a big deal - is this what 24 has done to us?

Burning questions:

After awhile, say season 3, why don't they beleive Jack?

How can after 24 months in a Chines prison, Jack can just shave, get a haircut and become superman again?

Why would Charles Logan ever see the light of day, much less weasel himself as an advisor to President Taylor is beyond me. Why would she even listen to him?

Anonymous said...

24 was best it's first couple of seasons. After that the formula was obvious and it became boring. There's always a mole, someone dies, there's are villians that end up working under other villians when they run out of the storyline etc. The show was better as an ensemble drama with some action moments -- rather than the Jack is a superhero and all action all the time.

EK said...

I got tired of it after season 5 or 6, but until then, it was always a rush, even when my head said this was all very wrong in so many ways. And there were some terrific supporting actors-- Jean Smart as Martha Logan; Shohreh Aghdashloo as Dina, who put a human face on terrorism; Dennis Haysbert, whose President Palmer made it seem normal for the president to be a black man.

Anonymous said...

A SIM card is a Subscriber Identity Module

David O'Hara said...

You just described why I could not get into 24 or Lost and you don't like Lady Gaga? They all are shiny bits of spinning tinsel.

AlaskaRay said...

Ken Levine wrote -
>>>And Jack seemed to heal very quickly. There was one hour where his heart literally stopped and fifteen minutes later he’s beating the shit out of a street gang in a parking lot.<<<

He takes a lot of antioxidants.


Bob said...

Anyone who ridicules 24 for its gaping plot holes and inconsistencies is missing the big picture. 24 has more in common with the old "Flash Gordon" serials than anything else. It's just simply good, clean fun. You have to suspend your disbelief and just enjoy the ride (and the semi-unintended humor).

My son and I have watched it together all these years, commenting much the way Ken described doing with Annie. It is appropriate that 24 ends now, as my son will be off to college next season. Who would I watch with?


Lucky Phil said...

Logan/Itzin screaming with pure terror "THAT'S JACK BAUER" when RoboJack was shooting his way through the traffic sent a shiver down my spine. Simultaneously the funniest and truest moment of the whole season, for me.

MBunge said...

"It's just simply good, clean fun."

I must have missed that episode of Flash Gordon where he tortured Prince Barin and then suffocated him with a plastic bag.


Dwacon said...

The finale was supposedly only for the season... not for the series... it just worked out that way.

Rumor has it a movie will start production in 2011.

As for Miss Rajskub, who is an awesome comedienne as well as dramatic actress... I would have loved her in High School too...

I'm just weird that way...

Mike said...

I agree, Gregory Itzin as Logan was great in season 5 and was great when he returned this season. He did such a wonderful job playing such a weasely, cowardly villain. Even the look on his face at the end when he held the gun to his chin was terrific.

As for the final episode itself: it was great fun to watch, with edge-on-your-seat excitement and some great Jack-Chloe moments. But the ending, with Jack going into hiding (again)....I just can't help but wonder if they'd have done things differently had a movie not been in the pipeline.

Still, overall, a good episode, and I liked that they brought back the line "events occur in real time" at the beginning. That was a nice little throwback. And I got a kick out of seeing the classic 24-style blatant product placement (in addition to the weekly sightings of the Sprint cell phones): the scene where you see Cole using the video screen in his Hyundai to help him back up.

R said...

"Kim Raver as charmless love interest Audrey was another. And that mistake was compounded because they inexplicably brought her back."

3rd time's the charm!

Now I almost wish NCIS: RED had been picked up despite how horrible the back-door pilot was... almost.

I just hope that the 24 reboot will be able to hold its own against more recent shows like Strike Back, I'm just not sure how that will even be possible with the constraints of being on a network like Fox. The bar for action/suspence has been raised since 24 was on the air.