As endings go, this wasn’t a bad one, and it made for the best, most consistent and most convincing episode of the entire series. Perhaps that’s not surprising: only 43 minutes or so of screen time to resolve all the set-ups doesn’t leave much space for any idiocy, though this being 24, it couldn’t completely avoid a trip to the land of the implausible contrivance on the way.
You’ll also notice that this was a thirteen hour long episode crammed into one hour. It’s been rumoured all along that there would be a twelve hour leap, just to square the circle of 12 not being 24, no matter you push, poke, prod or stretch it. The leap came fifteen minutes from the end, cutting out twelve hours at a stroke and leaving enough time for loose ends to be tied off into a presentable bundle and the cast to get the hell out, leaving the vast majority of its audience already assuming there’s going to be a Season 10, and suggesting that this time they should maybe go for 18 episodes…
Well, I don’t think they’ll do that, or if they do it would be a completely different show that maybe ought not to be named 24. Actually, as you’ll have guessed, I don’t think they should do it anyway: this one was way too risible for far too long for the prospect of extending the idea yet again.
So: when we left at 10.00pm last episode, the Chinese Government was steaming towards Okinawa at a rate of considerable knots, ready to start a world war with non-optional nuclear weaponry, Jack and Kate were charged with grabbing Cheng Tzi to prove he was the culprit, and Cheng had Audrey trapped in a park under the gaze of a sniper instructed to kill her if she moved. Oh, and Chloe had woken up from her helter-skelter trip down the wooded verge of the road to Southampton Dock.
Audrey’s plight was not just a pointless piece of malice but rather a lock to stop Jack tracking Cheng. Needless to say, Jack was all set to go rescue Audrey, but since he was better suited to bloody-vengeance-wreaking, Kate volunteered for that job, whilst Jack completed a record-breaking trip to Southampton, including stopping off to pick up Chloe en route. And even then, the faithful Belcheck beat him there.
Chloe’s out for redemption herself, after having been manipulated into this by the egregious and now late Adrian. She needs to make it up to Jack: she is, after all, his only friend. Jack reassures her that she has no guilt to bear, that she has to let it all go.
Whilst Kate completes a perfect secret rescue, killing the sniper, Jack and his buddy invade the Russian ship that will shortly remove Cheng from the jurisdiction, guided by Chloe who’s set up Comms to track heat patterns like some online multiplayer kill-or-be-killed game.
The Chinese fleet approaches the ‘Of course you realise, this means War!’ perimeter with President ‘Hawk’ Wei still believing that ‘Dove’ Heller has gone out of his mind and actually provoked this situation.
And a second sniper appears out of the long grass, shooting a couple of Kate’s team before driving off unscathed. Unfortunately, he has not just shot CIA agents, he’s shot Audrey. Fatally. The President’s daughter dies on a park bench, with a panicky Kate trying to apply ineffectual emergency medical treatment, and for the first time inside an episode, the digital clock ticks to an ad-break in silence, the traditional 24 rite that honours the passing of someone important.
The sensible thing to do is not bother Jack at this particular moment, but Kate, feeling incredibly guilty, has to ring him, in the middle of a gunfight on the Russian ship, to blurt out the bad news. Though Jack has been displaying throughout a zen-like calm as to the raddled destruction of his life and everything in it, this moment comes close to breaking him. Collapsing like a stringless puppet, he pulls his handgun from its holster, as if about to end things. Instead, the light of vengeance replaces it and he swings into one final, fast, brutal and comprehensive orgy of violence, killing everyone except Cheng.
Cheng tries to kung fu him, Jack simply smashes his head in against a locker and, after a few dozen satisfyingly vicious punches to the head, he gets on the phone to CIA HQ to demonstrate that Cheng is bloody but alive and have him confess his name. Luckily, that file is enough for Wei to give way (ouch), because the moment the tape is switched off, Jack snatches up the kind of samurai sword that you always find hanging up on Russian ships (oi!) and parts Cheng’s hair at the neck.
So: nuclear war averted, but Audrey dead. In the midst of rejoicing at the former, Heller’s deputy chief of staff broaches the latter, to the President’s genial disbelief, only for Heller to collapse when the news is finally taken in.
Back to the dock: Chloe’s been quiet for some time, and in fact she’s missing, after the kind of struggle that leaves behind a few bright spots of freshly laundered blood. Almost instantly, a mysterious call on Jack’s mobile has him going all stony-faced and agreeing to a meet with the unidentified caller. Is this?
We leap into daylight. At the CIA, Eric tries to reassure Kate that Audrey’s death is not her fault: nevertheless Kate hands in her ID and gun and leaves. Meanwhile, Eric releases Mark Boudreau into the custody of the Agents who will escort him back to America for his trial for treason. Audrey’s flag-draped coffin is prepared for boarding Air Force One and, in a final, and genuinely poignant conversation with Stephen Fry, Heller recollects a day before flying to England when he spent twenty minutes staring at the photo of a beautiful woman on hisdesk, wondering who she was: it was Audrey.
Before long, he will not remember this day, will not remember his daughter’s horrible death, will not remember anything. It’s something of a corny manner but, no matter the crappy material he’s been given, William DeVane is a very good actor, and he sells it right.
Last though is Jack, driving to a demolition site under armed guard, to meet a sleek, black helicopter. The mystery of Chloe’s kidnappers was moot, and it was far too short a real time for concern: it is the Russians, and it’s a simple handover, Chloe for Jack. She tells him he doesn’t have to go through with it, but Jack reminds her of what she said: Chloe is his best friend. He is on his way to Moscow. There is no remotely plausible way he’s coming back. As Belcheck spirits Chloe away, the helicopter rises. The clock ticks down to 11.00am. As with Audrey, the tick is silent.
It’s over. I really haven’t enjoyed this series, apart from taking the rough piss out of it, and I maintain that it was a stupid idea to have made it, but if it were done, then to have sealed off the ending of Jack Bauer so firmly was its truest and most real step. Jack cannot return without burdening another series with a weight of fatuity that simply cannot be shifted. So let’s thank Keifer Sutherland for the good seasons, and tactfully draw a veil across the shit ones.
That said, many have suggested, from quite early on, that 24 could be preserved by relaunching it with a new lead, and why not Kate Morgan? It’s a perfectly plausible scenario, though I have my douts as to exactly what proportion of what has to be a strongly masculine and right-wing oriented audience would really take to a female lead, especiaaly when she starts going kill-crazy in the Jack fashion. Such as sticking a knife in someone’s chest, holding him up by it and walking him backwards a a human shield whilst you shoot anything that moves. Can an audience watch an attractive and sexy blonde woman do that sort of thing with the same equanimity they do with a bloke?
But if they do bring this series back with a new lead, I’d counsel a change of name. I think 24 has become too wedded to Jack Bauer, for good or bad. Keifer Sutherland would be too big a ghost to exorcise.
Anyway, not my problem. My task is done. I hope you’ve had fun following this series.