Right Wing Nut House



Filed under: "24", Politics — Rick Moran @ 10:39 am

I would like to think that I have something meaningful and profound to say about the end of the series 24. But that would presuppose there is something meaningful and profound that I haven’t said already. I tire of repeating myself, as you no doubt are weary of the themes I have hammered home about the show over these last 5 years - years I have spent watching, writing, thinking, and and immersing myself in all things Jack. But there are a few things specific to the finale that I think need to be said, as well as a summing up that I feel compelled to attempt that will probably break no new ground, but will, to my own satisfaction, place a coda on my efforts over the years to slot Jack Bauer and the growth of his character in the context of how America has changed these last 9 years.

The series this year was better than last year but still a pale imitation of the show’s first 5 seasons. The writers fell in love with exposition the last few seasons and this detracted mightily from the pace of the show as well as cluttering up plot lines unnecessarily. This may have been unavoidable due to a general malaise to which the series fell victim, as well as a limited number of plot devices that could be employed because of the nature of the show. Plot “twists” were used over and over; the CTU mole, the impossible dilemma for a main character, Jack losing someone close to him, etc. What was, at one time, fresh and surprising became tired and trite by Season 8.

The same could be said for the threats Jack and CTU had to deal with. There are only so many credible WMD scenarios and CTU had to deal with all of them at least twice. “What? Not ANOTHER bio weapon?”

That said, the writers and producers responsible for last night’s finale made the right choice. The show was written not to please critics or the casual fan who might have looked in once and a while over the years to see what Bauer was up to. Last night’s final two hours were geared to please the 24 fanatic - largely because those were just about the only people left who watched the show this year.

We are the ones who were still able to suspend belief and accept a Muslim woman as president of an Islamic country. It was we fanatics who could understand Chloe being placed in temporary charge of CTU, or not think much about how for the umpteenth time, CTU was penetrated by terrorists, or even that a disgraced former president could wield such influence with the sitting commander in chief.

These were but bumps in the road that 24’s loyal base of fans accepted in order to be drawn into the story. We forgave the show a lot over the years; its descent into political correctness, its dead end plot threads (that probation officer is probably starting to stink up the conference room by now, don’t you think?), and the switch from battling foreign terrorists to fighting evil American corporate criminals whose greed was portrayed as a worse sin than trying to murder a lot of citizens. The critics may have groaned, others may simply have eventually just clicked away and watched other fare, but the rest of us remained glued to our seats because Jack Bauer was the most compelling hero in the history of series TV.

A bold statement, that. But the case for it being true is wrapped up in how Bauer fit into an America that was changing at lightening speed over the past decade. Terrorism, war, financial collapse - many of the verities with which Americans began the first decade of the 21st century were shaken or sloughed off under the burning glare of history’s relentless spotlight. Certainly, 9/11 changed us. The way the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have progressed changed us. Losing faith in the complete efficacy of free markets has changed us. And the desperate desire for “hope and change” have now sobered us. What kind of America emerges from the Obama interregnum is anybody’s guess. But - and this is key - I don’t think there will be a place for Jack Bauer.

For Bauer is a creature of our past. His principles, his gallantry, his single minded determination to win, and his moral sense that allowed him to operate in a world that he firmly believed was black and white — all this and more are out of fashion.

In - angst-ridden decision making. Out - going with your gut to do what you know is right. In - a war on terror that doesn’t even have a name anymore. Out - knowing exactly who the enemy is and where they should be sent. In - a cynical outlook on power and its uses. Out - a belief in duty, honor, and that there is a higher calling to fight for justice; not above the law but beyond the law.

I will get an argument from many that most of these things deserve to be placed on the ash heap of history. Perhaps, yes. Bauer’s fanaticism led him down some very dark paths; torture, murder, willy nilly violations of constitutional rights, and a veritable smorgasbord of institutional transgressions that no decent manager would have ever put up with. But this was Jack Bauer as we found him in the aftermath of 9/11. He offered moral certainty, a clear eyed recognition of the stakes he was fighting for, and a devotion to America and American principles that had us on our feet cheering more than we were troubled by the demons that sometimes seemed to possess him.

Of course, those demons finally got the better of him this year. Bauer’s vengeful rampage against those responsible for Rene Walker’s death wasn’t shocking at all. I watched with detached interest as Jack systematically began to work his way up the chain of responsibility with bloody skill and determination, idly wondering if he’d eventually kill either President Logan or President Taylor. Both deserved whatever fate had in store for them, although the thought that Jack would actually murder a former president - even one as bad as Logan - would have been wildly out of character considering his reverence for American institutions.

But that didn’t lesson our huge enjoyment as President Jellyfish was finally in Jack’s clutches, looking down the barrel of a gun at his own mortality. No doubt Logan saw the Circle of Hell in which he was destined to spend eternity for his crimes. Gregory Itzin, playing the conniving, sniveling Logan to perfection, gave fans exactly what they wanted from that confrontation with Bauer; abject terror and cowardice.

And the irony in Chloe being the one placed in the impossible situation of having to shoot Jack so that Bauer and his compatriots could win the game and expose the cover up was too delicious - and still a huge shock when she actually shot him. The scene brought to mind Jack’s extraordinary execution of Ryan Chappelle in Season 3, among other dilemmas that have entertained us through the years.

Chloe - the last of Jack’s old friends, who never turned her back on him, would have given her own life to save his, and even in the most dire circumstances with Jack being pursued by every federal agency in the US government, foreign intelligence services, and bad corporate actors, never, ever let him down - at the end of it all, proved she had as much courage in her own way, as Bauer. Did she love Jack Bauer? Perhaps in the manner of a school girl crush on the star quarterback in high school, yes. But it was obvious from their first meeting that they were not only opposite personalities, but from different galaxies as well.

Their last scene together was played with excellent understatement and was predictably affecting. I almost expected Bauer to say that when he first met Chloe, he really, really didn’t like her at all. That may have been true. As we all know, Chloe has to grow on you. You have to learn to ignore those little personal idiosyncrasies that endeared her to the TV audience but drove friends, co-workers, and even terrorists crazy. It was part of her charm.

Instead, Jack said that he never would have believed that it would have been her who had his back for all those years. A tribute from one counterterror colleague to another, one warrior saluting a comrade. And for Jack, no higher praise.

There will be a film of 24. It’s already in development and we can see where it will probably begin; some foreign country with Jack being pursued by everybody. Also, since they didn’t quite kill of Logan, expect to see his character somewhere in the film as well.

Beyond that, we hear that they are not considering “real time” scenario for the film. Freeing Jack Bauer from the constraints of time will be interesting to see although it will be tough to save America when you are out of the country. They will probably have to find a way to bring him back, no doubt under presidential dispensation. No word on when the film is due out.

Thus endeth the tale of Jack Baur, post 9/11 American hero, accused of inspiring war crimes, catalyst for serious arguments about politics and policy…

And one helluva an entertaining character.

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