24 Series Finale: Some thoughts.

So, 24 is finally over. It has been a long nine and half years, with eight season and one television movie, but it is finally over.

But, of course, it isn’t. Not really. As long as there some kind of convoluted plot the writers can come up with and they can find someone to write a check to the production crew and the actors, there will be more Jack.

First, I thought I should point out the significance of the show. “Oh, it’s just some dumb show, how is it significant?” you might be asking. Well, Adam over at The Jack Sack had this great quote in his post reviewing the final episodes (which, in part, motivated me to write this post):

His [Jack Bauer’s] story encapsulates a period in this country’s history that, for better or worse, has changed us forever.

I do not think that this point can, or should, be overlooked when discussing the 24 series. I have been watching the show since Day One, Hour One, and its significance has not been lost on me.

For anyone that came remember back that far (and some refuse to), 24 premiered less than two months after the September 11, 2001 attacks. Despite the first season being the product writing, acting, and directing done before the 9/11 attacks, their impact is quite clear even in the first episode. During the pilot, a terrorist (Mandy) blows a commercial jet to cover up the murder and theft of an identification card of a photographer (Martin Belkin) so an assassin can use it an attempt to kill a Presidential candidate (David Palmer). Due to the 9/11 attacks, the explosion of the plane was almost entirely edited out of the episode.

And after 9/11, and as dark as it may sound, people wanted and hoped that there was someone out there like Jack Bauer trying to protect the country. Someone that would do what was necessary to protect the country, even if it meant forfeiting his life, ruining his reputation, or standing up to countless mind-numbing bureaucrats.

That being said, there was one major problem with the final season of 24:

Inconsistent Portray of Characters

“[…] I figure the right thing starts at the beginning of the day, not after you’ve been caught.” –Commander John Crichton (Farscape)

First, let us discuss something called “suspension of disbelief”. Suspension of disbelief is defined by Wiktionary as “[p]eople’s acceptance, for the sake of appreciation of art (including literature and the like), of what they know to be a nonfactual premise of the work of art.”

For example of this, we — the audience — suspend our disbelief that Jack Bauer can survive being shot three times with an assault rifle, most likely chambered in 5.56mm, with a minimal injury of a couple of bruises. We all know that someone that was shot like that would not be getting up and chasing down more bad guys ten minutes later, even if he was wearing a bullet-“proof” vest. We ignore that, usually with a sarcastic comment or two, because the structure, and appreciation, of the story requires that we do so.

However, while we’re willing to accept that Jack Bauer is really The Man of Steel, in addition to such nonsensical stuff such as Chloe’s amazing hacking skillz, and Jack’s ability to maneuver through New York City traffic, it becomes a problem when characters — important ones — act in a manner that is totally inconsistent with prior established acts and morals.

The most glaring example of this during the final season was President Allison Taylor. The previous season established her character as someone that always did the morally right thing. When she had the choice of covering up a murder committed by her daughter — the death of someone that was responsible for the murder of her own son and the attempted murder of her husband — or sending her daughter to prison, she chose to send her daughter to prison.

However, with the majority of the viewers of the final season well aware of her actions last season, this season her character acted in a completely different manner. After the Russian government was responsible for helping to organize a terrorist attack against both the United States and the fictional country of Kamistan (think Iran), which resulted in the death of the President of Kamistan, Omar Hassan, — someone President Taylor considered a friend — Taylor decided to cover this up.

Why? Was it to keep her daughter, or another family member, out of prison?

No, it was preserve an anti-nuclear proliferation treaty with the country of Kamistan. Why was she so willing to throw away everything that she believed in for an anti-nuclear proliferation treaty? Wouldn’t me and the rest of the audience love to know. In the very end, she finally decided to be the good guy. Again, why?

But by this point I probably would not have even cared what her explanation was. By the end of the season, I would have been more satisfied with her being dead than either the Russian Preisdent Yuri Suvarov or Charles Logan.

The same thing can be said about Charles Logan. And, yes, Logan was a complete and utter scumbag through seasons four and five until Jack finally managed to get dirt on him and have him arrested. (Ironically, he would use essentially the same method in the final season). However, when Logan reappeared in season six, he came off as a changed man. And while, yes, it could have been Logan blowing smoke up people’s butts — something he was damn good at — one scene in season six is totally inconsistent with this rationale. After Jack met Logan in season six, there is a scene when Logan quotes  — to himself, while no one else is present — a passage from the Bible. With everything that is said and done by Logan in the sixth season, it presents him as being genuinely repentant about his crimes. Why else show a scene where he is talking to himself that gives that indication otherwise?

However, when Logan popped back up in this final season, he was back to his demeanor from seasons four and five. Why?

Not even Chloe O’Brain could be spared from this despite Mary Lynn Rajskub’s superb portray of Chloe O’Brain in the final two hours. If she had decided to help Jack a couple of hours ago, instead of staging a trap for him, he would have collected the information about the people responsible for the deaths of Omar Hassan and Renee Walker and the body county would be a lot lower. Seriously, when is the last time that Jack has been wrong about this sort of thing?

For another example of this problem, let us go back to last season with Tony Almeida. When we last saw Tony before the last season, everyone thought he had been killed, quite tragically. He was a good guy, one of the very few that Jack had really grown to trust throughout the years. However, it was revealed that Tony was a bad guy. Okay, I could understand that. He was pretty p-oed about the death of wife.

Oh wait, he is actually a good guy who was undercover. Okay, I can understand that (see assumption about Jack’s trust in him).

Oh wait, he’s a bad guy again and he just killed Larry Moss. By this point,  I am totally lost.

Oh wait, maybe he is crazy and half-way a good guy who is out to kill everyone responsible for this wife’s death. See previous comment.

All around, the last two season would be a lot more memorable and good if they did not leave glaring inconsistencies in characters.

Conclusion

I think the biggest problem with the final episode of the series, however, is based on an assumption that a series finale, would, you know, be an actual series finale. Instead, the final episode came off more like a regular season finale instead. And that was exactly the point intended by the writers; they wanted to retain the ability to bring Jack back in the big scene or through some other method.

Frankly, if they wanted it to be a series finale, Jack should have taken the shot and knocked off both Russian President Suvarov and Charles Logan. And whether Jack ended up dead by the end of the episode or not, justice would have been done. Instead, Logan is “alive” with some serious brain damage and Suvarov is probably on his way back to the Rodina (Motherland).

1 Comment

  1. TOS says:

    I actually don’t mind so much that the series ended with more of a season finale than a series finale — I appreciate the illusion that the stories are continuing (with Jack), even if we don’t see them.

    But I did have serious problems with President Taylor’s insane and incomprehensible behavior. The constant repetition of the importance of “peace” wasn’t adequate motivation, because everyone knows that a treaty is paper, not a magic trigger that makes something real. Completely tossing aside her morals and integrity for the sake of a piece of paper (no matter what it signified) just wasn’t believable. And when she threatened to bomb Dalia’s country if she didn’t sign the “peace” agreement — um, wtf?

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