24’s ending, unlike Lost’s, was pitch-perfect, as was its final season – admittedly after a slightly wobbly beginning. Season 8 showed us Jack Bauer with the safety off; a vengeful, brutal, half-mad slayer of wicked men; a man whose moral ambiguities about torture and killing had been flash-bombed from his soul following the execution of his girlfriend and the realisation of the extent to which evil and corruption had tainted the Oval Office – the hitherto incorruptible Alison Taylor included.
Jack went absolutely fucking ape-shit, and in his fury – and my imperfect use of English – seemed even more indestructible and unstoppable than usual. His ass-kicking abilities were almost supernatural. In one scene, a few episodes from the end, he single-handedly ambushed a secret service convoy in a tunnel. Decked out in head-to-toe black body armour, complete with sinister black face-mask, he advanced on his enemies with the eerie, murderous calm of Jason Voorhees, spraying machine-gun fire this way and that, absorbing and ignoring their return bullets as if they were nothing more substantial than dust motes. It was a joy to behold. Genuinely thrilling and exciting, like 24 used to be.
Yes, 24 in its own way was just as preposterous as Lost; 24’s writers loved their nonsensical, character-destroying curve-balls, too. But we forgive 24 because we don’t – and were never encouraged to – take it too seriously. We let ourselves get swept away in the viciously fast current of its plot, our logic centres battered into submission by the insane rhythm of its non-stop, high-octane excitement. 24 has never had high or lofty ideals, or wished to stir our souls; all it’s ever wanted to do is to go to town on our adrenal glands.
Day 1 was great. Day 2 was good. Day 3 was a bit iffy, although the multi-episode arc with the hotel and the bio-weapon was thrilling. Day 4 was a bit shitty. Day 5, featuring our first taste of President Logan’s evil, was one of the best. Day 6 was one of the most preposterous and abominable outings for Jack, during which the series didn’t so much jump the shark as secure it to a space-rocket with a length of chain and tow it to Mars. 24:Redemption was pant-shittingly bad. Day 7 had its moments, but collapsed under the weight of its own ’double-double-double-double-agent’ ridiculousness: a certain someone should have stayed dead. Day 8, the last day, restored all of the series’ starting quota of intrigue, fun, thrills, scares, shocks and brutality, ensuring that past transgressions into illogic and shoddiness will be forgotten, and only the good times remembered. What a way to go.
In 24‘s final scene, Jack and Chloe share a goodbye. Chloe is in New York’s CTU, watching Jack on the screen, his image relayed by a CTU drone. They know this is probably the last time they’ll speak to each other. Because of the enormity of the scheme Jack has helped to expose, and the uncompromising brutality he’s visited upon its architects, he will forever be on the run from both the Russian and American governments. The peaceful retirement he was promised in the season’s opening episodes is now an impossible dream.
I half-expected Jack to quote Jim Carrey at the end of The Truman Show: ‘Good morning. And in case I don’t see ya, good afternoon, good evening and good night!’ Then he‘s gone. Jack Bauer: the man whose chase will never be over. Tortured. Hunted. Haunted.
We’ll miss him.