Coming into Live Another Day’s finale, I kept thinking that 24 had a reputation to maintain. The show has taken a sadistic joy in punching Jack Bauer right in the nuts over the years, starting with his wife’s death in the Season One finale. He’s broken down, been forced into hiding, and captured by the Chinese in various season finales over the years. 24 builds its hero up as high as it can, just to bury him at every opportunity. So, how would Live Another Day take its shot at Bauer’s sensitive bits?
Sorry, Audrey. Jack Bauer’s longtime love interest paid the price for knowing Kiefer Sutherland’s signature character. Audrey’s death felt a little cheap. She escaped the sniper’s scope just to be taken out by a second gunman when all was thought well. But that’s 24‘s brutal M.O. in a nutshell. Good job, Kate Morgan, you saved the day! Oh, wait, no you didn’t. Now go feel bad.
That Cheng Zhi, a show villain since season four, was responsible just added insult to injury. Cheng had tortured and brainwashed Audrey in 24’s worst season. His reappearance was a surprise, although it shouldn’t have been since this show even found a way to bring Tony Almeida back from the dead. Cheng was no Nina Myers, but was a pretty good recurring villain.
Leave it to 24 to find a way to have Jack save the day and take out the villain in the most violent way possible. Jack decapitated Cheng with a katana! A goddamn katana! Mere minutes before that, he took out a guy by throwing a butcher knife. It’s no drone missile into Wembley Stadium, but it’ll do.
Live Another Day leaves Jack in the custody of another foreign government. Unlike his abduction by the Chinese, his surrender to the Russians was fairly emotionless. He was saving his best friend and all out of fight after learning of Audrey’s death. His wanted status with the Eurasian powerhouse had been an issue all season and needed some sort of resolution. Jack Bauer can’t have happy endings. The most pleasant finale in 24 history might have been the one where he’s on death’s bed and his daughter decides to try and save him. Game of Thrones finales seem cheerful in comparison.
This doesn’t feel like the end for Jack Bauer. Live Another Day closed the door on a number of old storylines. Cheng and Audrey are gone. This is most likely the last we’ve seen of James Heller, his Alzheimer’s threatening to overcome him. If the show comes back for a 10th season, it can go anywhere it wants. Maybe some prison break action in Moscow? I don’t think anyone would be opposed to see Jack Bauer in Goldeneye.
The abbreviated season was the most tightly-crafted run that 24 has ever done. That doesn’t mean it’s necessarily the best (it’s a toss up between seasons 1 and 5 for me), but it was a solid return for a program that had been off the air for four years. If this is the real end for 24, then I’m glad it got one more chance to shine. A hearty “dammit!” to all, and to all a good night.