Wednesday, 9 June 2010

"Shut it Down" - 24 Finale Review

Over the last eight seasons Jack Bauer has gone through more changes than this site has in the last week; but when it came down to it he just couldn’t assassinate a President – no matter how evil the Russian premier might have been.

The last two hours of the eighth and final season of this incredible show were, as expected, fast-paced, thrilling and emotionally charged. The moral issues of Jack’s downward spiral aside, the last third of the season pretty much saved the whole season from being a complete bust.
From the moment Jack found Hassan with his trachea hanging out, the action has been pretty relentless and 24 has gone to some pretty dark places, even by its morally ambiguous standards. Jack’s quest for blood to avenge Renee’s murder has been thoroughly entertaining and has allowed the more casual fans of the show to get the bad-ass fix of Jack Bauer that he is often, wrongly, pigeon-holed as.

Yes, you wouldn’t want to mess with a man who has been pronounced dead twice, bitten out a man’s jugular and wielded a shotgun on a dog but Jack Bauer is far more complex than just some machine like agent who tortures people for fun.

So although the last 33% of season eight made for exhilarating viewing it definitely required you to switch your brain off for most of it. Renee herself was vehement in her disgust at Tony’s actions last season and whilst no one ‘innocent’ fell victim to Jack this time out, it would have been nice to see those parallels drawn at some point.

It is this hypocrisy from Jack that made his actions so out of character, as Jason Pillar remarked Jack had always “had a reason” for going against protocol in the past. Whilst Bauer did have a reason this time out, it was the first time it was personal and given whose honour he was defending and how he, himself had reacted to Tony last year it all kind of made your brain hurt if you dwelled on it too much.

I was quite critical of season eight during its run, with the show having now sadly drawn to a close I don’t want to be overly harsh at this juncture. The final few hours were dumb as hell and were as riddled with as many holes as Amy Winehouse’s arms but they sure as hell reminded everyone why 24 became the cultural phenomenon it did.

As character by character fell by the way-side: Weiss, Ethan, Hassan, Hastings, Dana, Renee, the show became more and more about Jack and was able to give him the spotlight for a final few hours of Bauer madness.

Characters have come and gone in the 24 universe on almost a conveyor belt but the one constant has been Jack and that is why people fell in love with the show. It almost pains me to say that because I have always been a huge Tony Almeida fan, but I’m under no illusion that it is Jack Bauer that drew in the casual fans. Although these final few hours weren’t necessarily Jack’s finest or most honourable hours they sure as hell showcased the Jack Bauer that made 24 the iconic show it was.

The finale might not have packed the emotional punch, or required the same amount of deconstruction as the Lost finale did but there was plenty on display to sink one’s teeth into; and I defy anyone to not have at least got a little emotional and nostalgic as Jack talked about when Chloe “first came to CTU”.

I’d heard there was a heartfelt Jack & Chloe moment, and I think anyone who knows the show would have probably suspected it would have involved a “goodbye” but it really was a rare tender moment for the show and both Sutherland and Mary Lynn Rajskub – who has really come into her own this season – were fantastic in that scene.

Elsewhere in the finale, it was nice to see Arlo (who at one point I didn’t think was going to see out the day, especially when Dana was looming with that garrotte) and Cole, both of whom I really grew to like over the course of the season, get some rub by appearing in that climatic scene.

Michael Madsen’s role didn’t pan out to be as substantial as I expected but he was a cool, if somewhat implausible and convenient, character and I enjoyed his handful of scenes with Jack and then subsequently Cole.

Something 24 has always done well is reintroduce characters from earlier in the season when you aren’t expecting it – done nicely this time out with Bazhaev and then Meredith Reid, who I was certain was a premiere only player. They’ve played that card in seasons gone by with the likes of Marie Warner and Roger Stanton in season 2 and then Audrey’s Brother and Read Pollock in subsequent seasons. Meredith’s reintroduction worked well this season; although I could have done without her overcooked “torture is bad” diatribe when Jack was busy gutting Pavel like Sarah Palin would a prone Moose.

The saviour of season 8, sorry Callum Keith Rennie – you were a close second, has to be the brilliant Gregory Itzin who squirmed back onto our screens as disgraced former President Charles Logan.

Does he ever learn? Undone by a micro-recorder at the hands of Jack Bauer for the second consecutive time. It was quite a sad end for Logan really and one that pretty much summed up his character – the constant failure: the poor bastard couldn’t even succeed in shooting himself in the head, instead leaving himself in what I suspect will be a vegetative state.

I really hope Logan not dying wasn’t premeditated to try and interject him into the upcoming 24 big screen outing because I think that, as good as Itzin is as the oily little weasel, his time in the 24 universe has come to an end.

Itzin’s brilliance was further evidenced as Logan’s interplay with Jack brought a rare comedic moment for 24 in the finale. With Jack, even in the middle of all the adversity, cracking a wry smile as he watched Logan through the scope of his sniper rifle and told him to do what he does best and lie.

It was a lovely moment for fans of Jack who hadn’t seen his playful side in quite some time. I’m sure there have been other instances of Jack being a bit more light-hearted but the only one I can instantly think of is back in season 1 as he torments Kim’s ex Vincent on the phone.

It was always inevitable that 24 would end up repeating certain plot devices during its mammoth run, but season 8 has to have been the most derivative yet. I’ve already made reference to some of this rehashing in my earlier posts dissecting this season but the finale evidenced even more deja vu moments. Jack being kidnapped with a bag over his head is directly lifted from the season 5 finale and disappearing into the sunset as a fugitive with a President phoning telling him to run is season 4 finale territory.

That being said (to quote Simon Cowell) even in its most imagination-void moments 24 still mopped the floor with most serialised TV dramas and its longevity in this age of TV execs who are more trigger-happy than Jack Bauer himself has to be commended.

Unlike Lost, this isn’t the absolute end for 24, so I wasn’t quite as sad to see the clock countdown to 0 as I was when I saw that wreckage on the beach circa 2 weeks ago.

It’s still going to be tough to think that I’ll never see 24 in my Sky+ ever again though.

Hopefully we won’t have to wait too long for the movie and the brains behind this iconic show will have something truly awesome up their sleeve for Jack on the big screen… And I’m personally hoping that it will come complete with a soul patch.

So thanks for eight great seasons 24, we’ve got some great memories but I guess its farewell… For now.

Whilst we’re on the 24 finale… I present the final instalment of our…

24 Day 8 Death Counter

Hours 23 & 24

Jason Pillar – capped a very bad couple of hours which included having his ear bitten off by Jack by being bludgeoned with a liquor decanter then executed while unconscious by Charles Logan

Episode Death Total = 1

Season Death Total = 101

Jack Bauer Kills (JBK) Total = 38

So there you have it, with no major catastrophes this season 101 souls were lost and over a third of those were by the hand of Bauer – not bad for a guy who was supposed to be on a plane to California at the start of the day.

God speed Jack.


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