hit the road, jack

Fox delivered a screener copy of the last two hours of ’24’ Friday with a request – don’t give away ‘the most surprising plot points.’

Fair enough. After eight seasons of being repeatedly shot, tortured, arrested, subjected to public humiliation, watching loved ones die and having to display various brands of cell phones and computers and cars in the name of product placement, government agent Jack Bauer deserves a break from someone.

I will tell you this: the ending is absolutely worth it, maybe the best two hours of ’24’ on record. For the record, I watched every episode in the first six seasons, wavered last year, and could not bring myself to do it this year, even though I thought the season started strong.

There are, after all, only so many ways to save the world. This year also had more than its share of brutal, stomach churning torture.

Wisely, the last two hours are wrapped tightly around Jack and Chloe O’Brian, the central relationship of the show. And because of that, the ending – the last 10 minutes – is surprisingly deep and emotional, hitting just the right bittersweet note on the way out.

It also leaves the door open to a ’24’ movie, which would be a good thing, I think. Over the years, I have most looked forward to the beginning and ending arcs of each season – usually the first and last three hours. That’s natural, but it also speaks to the difficulty of making each and every show a cliff hanger. Once you don’t have to do that, and can compress the action to your best two hours, a lot of problems disappear.

Chloe and Jack are an odd couple – they’re not lovers or brother and sister. They are friends, and for such a work of fantasy, that friendship feels very real. In the end, it’s the realest thing either one of them has.

The final two hours also features performances from two of the series’ best actors – Cherry Jones as President Taylor, and Gregory Itzin as evil former President Charles Logan. (’24’ has been blessed with three outstanding Presidents over the years.) And even though there’s the usual plot noise and wooden lines to be recited, even they are better, grander as the show winds to its end. Think of ’24’ as opera, and the last two hours are finally as tragic as they should be – there is no happy ending, but there is a squaring of accounts, which in Jack’s world is about as good as it’s going to get.

(Note – For folks who think of ’24’ as a right wing fantasy, be assured the last two hours will do nothing to change your mind. The President has to choose between a dishonorable peace and an honest un-peace; Jack and Chloe are still persecuted ‘real patriots,’ and government is not to be trusted – after all, they can literally send the men in black after you. On the other hand, total surveillance can be a good thing. It gets confusing.)

– originally written for the web site of my employer, a few days before the final episode of ’24.’


One thought on “hit the road, jack

  1. Good riddance.

    Any history of “24” must reconcile the torture-porn fantasy with the use of the show to condition the American public to embrace torture. (And has there ever been a more contradictory, ugly phrase than “embrace torture”?)

    “24” is, at its heart, a fascist fantasy.

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