Spoiler Alert: If you haven’t gotten around to watching the season finale of 24 and plan to, read no further as this article contains major spoilers on the series conclusion.
24 exec-producer Howard Gordon spoke with Entertainment Weekly about the end of the series and some things about the movie, which looks as though it stands a good chance of getting made. One of the things he was asked was “The pitch for the 24 movie was done before the series ender. Did you draft off the pitch?” to which he responded, “The movie has to defer to the end of the TV show, not the other way around.” He went on to say that the film will not be a prequel. Taking that into account, added to the way the series wrapped up, I’m starting to feel a bit ripped off in terms of 24’s finale. It’s as though the ending was really just another to-be-continued moment for the series, much like any other season ending.
I wouldn’t say that the last two hours of this season of 24 were bad. In fact, quite the opposite. In closing out a season that had its ups, its downs and then more ups, the final two hours served their purpose in delivering as exciting conclusion as possible, given that there were no bombs set to go off, no bio-weapons loaded up to take out a city and nobody being held at gunpoint other than the people Jack was targeting. Before the finale aired, we wondered whether President Taylor would continue to let Logan manipulate her as she paved her way to a valueless peace treaty with good intentioned threats and lies or if she’d come to her senses and remember she once had principles. We were also made to wonder whether or not Jack would finish exacting vengeance or if he’d be killed or captured.
The season ended as nicely as it could have. Taylor did the right thing and gave the peace-pen back to Dalia before vaguely admitting semi-publicly to having some part in a conspiracy and later promising Jack she’d resign and give a more in depth confession of her misdeeds. Jack nearly got a bullet in his head on the silent orders of a misguided Taylor, only to be saved in the nick by the President once she realized she still had a chance to fix one bad thing she’d almost let happen. And Logan tried to kill himself and failed, capping off another bad day for him. And Jack was given time to escape. Off he limped to an unknown future. Not a happy ending but a fair one for the season. It's the series' closure that was left wanting.
The tearful words shared between Jack and Chloe in the final scene emphasized the one bond that was left between Jack and any other main character on the show. (This excludes Kim, of course but I’m sure I’m not alone in saying a tearful Kim/Jack ending wouldn’t have been nearly as effective or as relevant.) As words of appreciation or affection between Jack and Chloe are rarely spoken on the show, that moment was the only true indication that the series was ending. The rest of the ending was pretty standard. Throw in a bitten ear, Logan’s suicide attempt and Jack’s almost-death near the bridge and it was a better than average episode, which closed out the season nicely. As for closing out the series, is it wrong of me to have expected more? And would I be out of line to suggest that the movie is to blame for us not getting a proper ending to the series? Or at the very least, that the hope/promise of a film forced the writers to leave things unfinished?
We’ve seen Jack go into hiding before. We’ve seen him fake his own death (if memory serves, this required actually dying once) to slip away from his enemies and the government. So as an ending, Jack’s departure from the public eye wasn’t anything new, nor was the open-ended nature of the final moments. The fact that he lived through another day couldn’t even be considered a truly happy ending, given that he told the guy about to kill him to pull the trigger. His life’s a mess. He has to grieve and he can’t even do it with the love and support of the few people he has left on the planet who actually care about him and understand the magnitude of what he’s sacrificed for his country. No, the series ends with Jack by himself and off to hide out like a fugitive.
I doubt any true 24 fan could picture a happily-ever-after scenario for Jack Bauer, given everything that’s happened to him. The physical and emotional scars will always be there and nothing, save amnesia could erase the loss he’s suffered. All the same, movie or not, the series and the character deserved a conclusion and while the season got one, I really don’t feel as though the show did. Perhaps that was necessary in order to leave an opening for the film but it felt like they left an entire wall open, when it should’ve been a window. Looking at the series as it is now, it doesn’t just feel open-ended. It feels unfinished.
This is forcing me to wonder if the series would’ve ended the same if there were no chance for a 24 movie? Could the writers have figured out another way to give Jack a better ending (and preferably one that didn’t involve a bullet to the head) if they didn’t think there would be any other opportunity to do it? Can the movie make up for what was left open and unfinished in the TV series?
Maybe you’ll shrug it off and say, “Hope so.” For me, looking at 24 as a series, I feel let down by the ending. The final season was a good one and a lot better than I thought it would be given how it started out but as a series ending, I feel a growing sense of dissatisfaction. Jack deserved a better ending, and we did too. Whether or not the movie can make up for it, rather than being just a big screen version of another bad-day-in-the-life of Jack Bauer, remains to be seen.