Monday, May 22, 2006

24: the last two hours

"24" season finale spoilers ahead, but before we get to analyzing the finale, I thought it might be edifying to do a quick run-through of everything that the characters featured in the above photo have been through since Day 5 began. (I will be mentioning things from the finale here, though, so stop now if you haven't seen it yet.) From left to right:
  • Tony Almeida: Watched his wife die in a car-bombing, lapsed into a coma, woke up long enough to attempt to murder his wife's killer, then killed himself after losing his nerve.
  • Edgar Stiles: Again failed to get out of the Friend Zone with Chloe, then died during a nerve gas attack on CTU headquarters.
  • Bill Buchanan: Oversaw effort to arrest Jack Bauer for assassinating David Palmer, then quickly shifted into support of Jack as he foiled an airport hostage crisis, a gas attack on a mall, and at least one other early crisis I'm forgetting about. Relieved of duty at least once (by Karen Hayes), if not twice (by Lynn McGil); it's been a long season, so apologies if I get it wrong. Anyway, definitely sent home by Karen, then brought in for questioning in the pursuit of fugitive Chloe, then returned to defacto charge of CTU, finally asking out Karen.
  • Chloe O'Brien: Woke up after an unfortunate dipping your pen in the company ink moment with a guy who would turn out to be a mole for the president's office, eluded assassination attempt by running through a pedestrian mall, helped Jack foil the airport crisis with the help of the world's most bad-ass PDA, watched Edgar die, helped Jack figure out a way out of the nerve gas crisis, subverted the Homeland Security people until she was placed under arrest, escaped the allegedly high-security CTU headquarters, helped Jack hijack a plane, tasered a drunken asshole in a bar, let Miles destroy the crucial recording, helped Jack retake a hijacked submarine and bring down the President of the United States. Oh, and potentially reunited with her charming British hacker husband.
  • Jack Bauer: Ah, hell with it. Too much to list, but he started the season pretending to be a construction worker named Frank and ended it a prisoner of the Chinese government. Oh, and in between, he took down POTUS.
  • Audrey Raines: Thought Jack was dead, found out he was alive, got pissed that he wasn't dead, fell back in love with him, suffered a potentially fatal stabbing from Christopher Henderson but turned out to be okay, thought her dad was dead, found out he wasn't, thought she and Jack would be together forevuh, found out he was missing. Nothing to see here.
  • Curtis Manning: Deferred to Jack on a whole lot of stuff, and briefly took over CTU when Lynn had his Captain Queeg moment. Miraculously survived being Jack's season-long sidekick.
  • Martha Logan: Was crazy, then she wasn't, then was crazy again, went on and off a lot of pills, flirted a lot with Aaron, seduced her husband to delay him long enough for Jack's plan to go into effect, secured the confession that brought down a presidency.
  • Charles Logan: Was a craven coward, then wasn't, then a traitor, then part of some nebulous, unexplained, illogical conspiracy, got a quickie with his wife, then ran his mouth off and went to jail.
And that's not even mentioning long-departed souls like Lynn, or Kim Bauer and her creepy older boyfriend, or the now-you-see-him, now-you-don't villainy of NotCraig Bierko, and... I'm exhausted just thinking about it all.

Anyway, onto the specifics of the finale. A really strong opening with the retaking of the sub (this show never goes wrong when it does straight action) and Jack executing Henderson, then a lull with occasional highlights (Martha asking not what she can do for her country), then a cool ending with Logan in custody and Jack taking the slow boat to Shanghai. After all this talk about season six taking place in a foreign city, who ever would have thought that that city might be in China, and that Jack might have to work as an agent of a foreign government to get out of what he did at the end of last season?

I look forward to Jack spending 10-15 episodes in the middle of the season flying back to LA so he can get back to hanging with Chloe and friends. Or maybe not. That last scene at CTU sure felt like we were saying goodbye to some of these characters for a while, if not forever. I know with 24, anything can happen because the writers make it up as they go along, but if Jack begins the season in a foreign country, he's going to have to spend most of the day there, away from his entire support staff. Could be cool, could get awkward in a hurry, and I'm sure I'll be there come January to see which.

Now that the season's over and I know the latest cliffhanger won't get resolved for a long time, it's time to re-evaluate Logan's heel turn. Does it make any more sense now than it did when they revealed it? Not really. I was hoping that Logan would suffer the Fallacy of the Talking Killer with either Jack or the First Lady, just long enough to explain why the hell he would do everything he did, who was pulling his strings, how long he'd been in place, etc., etc., etc. Maybe the writers will attempt to revisit this next year, with Paul McCrane (who, sadly, did not get drowned in toxic waste) coming back as the bad guy, but the big twist, while providing lots of story fodder for the second half of the season, was one of the cheaper things this show has done since the cougar.

Glad to see Jack's plan didn't really hinge on his ability to get a confession out of the Prez, because while he may be the greatest killing machine in TV history, dude cannot interrogate at all. Once he yells a few times, all he has left is a willingness to maim, which wasn't going to work here. If this were "Homicide," Jack wouldn't even be allowed in The Box. Even Sipowicz had more moves beyond slapping and threatening.

And if the Logan twist was completely illogical, it at least featured two great scenery-chewing performances by Gregory Itzin and Jean Smart. The look on Smart's face as Martha prepared to have sex with the most villainous man in the Western Hemisphere is the stuff supporting actress awards are made of.

What did everybody else think? Where do you think Day 5 stacks up in the show's run? (I watched only parts of 3 & 4, so I can't make a vote on this one.) Which bit of forgotten business from early in the season were you most annoyed they never got back to? Did you buy President Evil? Whose death saddened you most? Whose made you cheer the loudest? Fire away.


Anonymous said...

So Jack didn't torture Logan, because people will say anything to avoid torture and the confession would be meaningless... but threatening to kill him avoided that problem? 24 logic.

No, I didn't really buy President Evil, but it's 24 so you're not supposed to buy it. Ever since the third season, when Bauer spent half a season chasing drugs tainted with some kind of biological weapon that not only turned out to be fake but his own doing, I've given up trying to make sense of this show. Just enjoy the hitting and shooting.

I just wish we could have seen more of the redhead Bauer was shacked up with. And I mean "see more of" in both ways.

Todd said...

Tony was killed by Henderson, actually.

I thought season five was probably the strongest overall year since year two, but I enjoy the show, implausibilities and all, most of the time.

That said, I think the final eight episodes of season three were probably the show's strongest stretch of work (everything from when the virus got out). The first 16 of that season, though, were pretty bad.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, Henderson killed Tony. I thought it was nice that Henderson got a smile off before Jack took him down. There was almost a mentorly thing, like the torch finally being passed betwixt the two of them.

What if the Chinese are planning to brainwash Jack into killing some enemy in the US? Could make for a great first half of Day 6, although, everyone was chasing Jack most fo this season sothat could be lame. I think it would be neat to see Jack isolated without much CTU support.

How to rank the seasons. That's a tough one. I think 4 is the weakest by far. I think 3 is great, 1 is great and I have only seen 2 once and need to watch it again soon. Overall, this remains the best show on netywork TV. Period.

Johanna said...

I used to look forward to reading the TV Watch columns on Entertainment Weekly's websites. No more. Alan, your blog has seriously become my favorite TV haunt. Thanks for another great commentary -- now I'm off to forward it to all my TV-obsessed friends.

K J Gillenwater said...

I was so, so excited to see the end of this season. This is where I wanted last year to end...with Jack in a Chinese prison. Because now they can plan some cool escape, and they finally are getting Jack out of L.A.! That was starting to get stagnant.

Best ending yet for this show.

I think you are right--all of next season will have to take place in China or somewhere nearby. Can't have Jack spending 12 hours of the day on a plane to get back home. Unless he never makes it to China....?

Chloe is so going to be kicking someone's ass for beating up Jack and stealing him away.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Henderson wasn't technically the guy who killed Michelle or even Palmer, but he was one of the ringleaders. That's all I meant.

And I was thinking the same thing about torture vs. threat of killing, Jim -- but I choose to believe that entire scene was staged so Jack could slip the listening device into the pen in the hope that Logan would then confess to someone else while Chloe listened. No more or less ridiculous than any of his other schemes, really.

Louis said...

Although I really started to sour on this season when we learned Logan was eeeevil, I enjoyed the finale, particularly the last scene. I hope it's a sign that they're going to do things completely differently next year: No more moles; no more demands for/grants of "full immunity"; and no more revelations of layer after layer of bad guys.

It's funny you should mention Homicide, Alan, because that show crossed my mind, too, when Jack conducted his quasi-interrogation of Logan. 24 did not do well by the comparison.

I just wish we could have seen more of the redhead Bauer was shacked up with.

Yeah -- to me, the fact that Jack would choose Audrey over Diane is proof positive that he's a Republican.

Anonymous said...

Debate my wife and I had: Was Martha’s line “I delayed him as long as I could” after putting the moves on the Prez meant to be comedy? Since 24 supposedly occurs in “real time”, there appeared to be only about 4-5 minutes where the Logans were unaccounted for. I thought this short time period was a subtle shot at the Prez’s – ahem – “prowess”, but my wife thinks I’m giving the writers a little too much credit.

Anonymous said...

Alan -- Love that cast photo. Very dramatic. =)

I don't think Jack had to worry about the confession being "coerced." It's enough to get that audio and present it to the right people. After that, the President is done, whether he's found guilty in a trial or not. Once he's forced to resign -- either by threats of impeachment or legal action -- he's shamed, ruined, and made into a disgrace. That's all the justice Jack needed, perhaps. The man who was more responsible for the deaths of all of Jack's friends was already taken out by Jack.

My theory on Jack next season? The Winter Soldier. He's the perfect assassin for the perfect times, only to be placed back into freeze until he's needed again. Hey, it worked for the Russians in CAPTAIN AMERICA, so why not on 24?

How does it all rank? The second season is still my favorite, although in retrospect that's partially because it was still all so new then. This season followed a lot of similar tropes to that one. (Can Mike Novick possibly keep his job while turning on his boss time and time again?) I think I'd rank it my second favorite, actually.

JDJ -- you weren't the only one laughing at the president for having such a quick trigger. . .

Anonymous said...

jdj, we said the same thing! "THAT was quick!" Logan's quite the "minuteman," eh? It might not have been so obvious if the episodes hadn't run back-to-back like that.

If I had to rank the seasons, I'd go with 2 just because of George Mason. That dude was awesome.

Kenji Fujishima said...

I'm with you, jim treacher. Though I enjoyed Season 5, I wouldn't go so far as to call it the best season ever.

In spite of the silly Kim Bauer storylines, I still retain a soft spot for Season 2: it's the first season to really articulate the themes that the show has played with since, even more so than its groundbreaking first season. And I think that, at its best, Season 5 reminded me of what I loved about the show in its first two seasons: the emphasis on the humanity of the characters amidst all the action, the ambivalence towards Jack's violence, etc.

And while yeah, the President Evil twist was cheap in retrospect, is it that much cheaper than the 11th-hour revelation of Nina Myers' being a CTU mole towards the end of the first season? (If anyone disagrees with that, let me know, by all means.)

I've actually written up some of my thoughts on the 24 finale on my own brand-new blog, and I'm wondering if I'm the only one who thought of the climax of Vertigo when I saw that second scene between President Logan and his wife Martha: Logan sounding all angry, desperate and Jimmy Stewart-ish for having allowed himself to be led on by Martha's deception of submissiveness and compromise. Obviously, it doesn't have quite the same impact as Jimmy Stewart's confronting Kim Novak about her deception---Scottie Ferguson wasn't a baddie like President Logan was---but the same emotional vibe, I think, was there. Or maybe I'm just seeing things that aren't there...

Johanna said...

I love the idea of 24 taking place in China (or, anywhere but LA for that matter). But I wouldn't get my hopes up. The writers seem glued to the idea of having Jack at CTU.

I wouldn't be surprised if the first episode features Jack strolling through the airport after having just landed in Los Angeles. And then we could see that he's a brainwashed killing machine, there to get the President (or a CTU or Homeland Security staffer). Would be lame, but I could see them doing it.

Alan Sepinwall said...

It also occurs to me that one of the strengths of this show is its use of practical locations for the action scenes. No cheap CGI trains or cityscapes like on "Alias." When Jack is kicking butt in the Hollywood Hills, you know he's in the Hollywood Hills. If next season takes place in a foreign city, they'll have to do virtually all of it on sets, which could be enough of a logistical headache to make the action scenes fewer and less complex.

Anonymous said...

Not only was the Nina revelation cheap, but it totally broke continuity. The whole reason Nina and Tony held Jamey in that room was because there were no cameras. (Or the cameras were disconnected, I forget.) And yet when Jack found the surveillance video, which shouldn't have existed, Nina looked right into the camera after she killed Jamey! Even by 24 standards, that one's always bugged me.

Anonymous said...

Anyone figure out what happened to Wayne Palmer, or Curtis, for that matter?

I'd rank this season up there with the S1 & S2, despite the lack of cougars. And I'd focused so much on figuring out who had their hand up the Logan puppet that I'd completely forgotten about the Chinese, so the ending surprised me. Perhaps we will get the Manchurian Jack next season? Unless he can jump off that boat and swim back to shore...which he totally can because he's JACK! BAUER!

Anonymous said...

You know, usually I don't notice the stuff on Alias, but the bit on the mountain last night? Very poor. Otherwise I enjoyed it, even if they never did really explain what was going on with the Rambladi stuff. Good ending for Sloane, and great seeing Amanda Foreman again.

As for 24, it definitely ticked me off less than some other years, and it actually had a pretty good ending, which it doesn't always. Season 2's last episode was especially poor, which is a shame because that was probably the best year overall.

As for the deaths, Edgar's definitely ticked me off the most, just because we never got to see the Edgar/Chloe relationship go anywhere. Even if it's with her blah ex-husband, I'm still holding out hope for a future season featuring Pregnant Chloe. That's gold, Jerry!

What frustrated me about President Evil is that they wouldn't have really had to change that much to make it consistent all along. I know they like making it up, but you really would think that by Season 5 they'd have a better grip on how much story they'd need. Get the overall plot straight, you can always stick in sidetracks that don't wind up anywhere (how long did we waste on the tape recording?)

Anonymous said...

"I'd rank this season up there with the S1 & S2, despite the lack of cougars."

Well, Karen Hayes!

Anonymous said...

I wish I was Karen Hayes--she's gonna be getting some lovin' from Buchanan soon! Homina homina!

Anonymous said...

I hate to say it, but Chris Henderson is not dead. Jack was just putting on a show for the Petty officer so that Henderson could "dissapear". Why would Henderson (who trained Jack Bauer to be the killing machine that he is) not check the gun for bullets? and when he finds out there are no bullets in his gun, he smiles and winks at Jack before getting "shot". This one isnt over folks. I seriously would not be at all suprised if next season consists of Henderson helping Jack out to return the favor. I know its a long shot but it is 24. We should be used to it by now.

Unknown said...

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