Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Day 9: 10:00 PM - 11:00 AM

Last week, I wondered if this revitalized half season of 24 would manage to stick the landing. Now I know the answer is yes, definitely. (And along the way, it delivered us three or four drinks in the form of "perimeters," the exact count depending on whether you counted the on-screen appearance of the word or not.)

If my memory serves, 24 hasn't really put a big character death in the season finale since all the way back in the very beginning, when Jack lost his wife Teri in the final minutes of season one. But arguably, the lost of Audrey here was even more potent. Make no mistake, I wasn't Audrey's biggest fan as a character. And it was awfully (in)convenient to put her out in the open right at the end just to kill her off. Yet what made all the difference here was the context and the consequences.

Actress Kim Raver really did a hell of a job in her final scenes as Audrey. Unable to actually acknowledge her situation out loud with dialogue, you could nevertheless tell that the realization Cheng was still alive -- and that she was once again in his power -- had an effect on her that shook her to her very core. And then later, 24's first ever time jump allowed us to see the aftermath of a major character death, in a way we'd never seen it before. It didn't matter that I didn't care for Audrey as a character; I still felt President Heller's pain as he mourned not only for his daughter, but for the fact that in a few short months or years, he wouldn't even remember his daughter. It was a powerful performance from William Devane, his best ever on the show.

The episode didn't just deliver on the emotion, it delivered on the action too. The triad of Jack, Chloe, and Belchek, working together in the assault on the ship, was certainly the most satisfying action sequence of the season, and probably one of the best of the series as well. Nor did the writers skimp on the blood lust of Jack and the audience, allowing our hero to behead the villainous Cheng with a freaking sword!

It's the nature of 24 that even when the world is saved, you can't really have a happy ending. So it all ended on an appropriately sour note. Kate had the death of the president's daughter on her hands, to add to her recent misery of having learned her husband was innocent. Mark Boudreau was going away for treason, knowing his wife had also been murdered. And Jack, in acknowledging Chloe as his only friend in the world, was going away for imprisonment/torture in Russia.

When 24 ended as a regular series, it had been years since they'd pulled off such a satisfying finale. I'm glad they came back to end the show right. Assuming it's actually ended now, I suppose. Things are certainly set up for another future continuation, should FOX and the writers wish to do so. They might even go the spinoff route, having clearly set up the adventures of Kate Morgan, should they bravely (foolishly?) decide to have Jack Bauer sit out the next incarnation.

In any case, if taking a few years off and cutting the season in half yields this overall level of quality, then I would welcome 24's return some future summer. But at the same time, if this wonderful "epilogue" is all we get, I can be satisfied with that too. I'd rate the finale an A-, and probably give the same mark to the season overall.

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