Saturday, May 29, 2010

What I’m Watching: 24 (Series Finale)

I don’t really know what I was anticipating from the end of this long-running, once-great show. It’s completely lost sight of any sort of legitimacy, and I couldn’t have possibly expected redemption for it in its final hours. What we did get, of course, is two hours that sacrificed a number of lives and body parts for no real reason since the most powerful person in the United States confessed at the last minute anyway. Unlike something like “Lost,” this show doesn’t have hanging mysteries yearning to be answered, and as a result, the finale of just one season can’t wrap up the entire show in the same kind of way. Instead, Jack gets brought back from the edge by those he trusts (despite putting them to sleep via chokehold several moments beforehand) and ends up on the run, with considerably more incriminating and indefensible acts to his name than ever before. That’s hardly new territory for the show, but it might make for a decent premise for a TV movie where Jack gets the chance to be pardoned for all of his crimes. A good TV movie? I doubt that.

This season has pretty much been an inconsolable disaster, starting off at a somewhat okay point with a four-hour opener but immediately deteriorating into a mole-driven, stupidity-fueled exercise in preposterous twists and endless new ways of watching Jack torture people. The most inexcusable of plotlines is that of Dana Walsh, who started out as a pointless distraction comparable to Kim being menaced by a cougar and then somehow became a mole (I’ve written about this too much already, I have nothing more to say on this – go back and read previous episode reviews to remind yourself of why I’m appalled by that twist). Bringing back Logan wasn’t completely necessary, and this again becomes a season where characters that were crucial towards the beginning, like Rob Weiss, have been totally forgotten by season’s end. And don’t even get me started on the worst character ever to (not) appear on this show: the drone.

This final episode did showcase some impressive acting from the likes of Necar Zadegan as Dalia Hassan and Reed Diamond as Jason Pillar, but in both cases, they’re acting well above the material. And the quality of both performances and how hard they’re working make the futility of their existences even sadder. Dalia has to watch her husband get killed and then take over for him, only to find out that both of her fellow peace treaty signers are duplicitous. Jason has it much worse, since he manages to talk down Jack Bauer from shooting him in the head but still loses his ear and ultimately his life due to the cowardly nature of President Logan, who seems just as hell bent on revenge as Jack himself. The failed suicide of Logan and the impending resignation (or something to that effect) of Taylor is going to have such a negative effect on the country, and it’s a pity that Jack couldn’t see that and felt the need to stir up such a fuss. Interesting political commentary, you say? No. Rather, lazy storytelling and a desperate attempt to keep this show alive after eight seasons on the air.

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts on this show, I’m of the opinion that the first year of this series is probably the best single season of television I’ve ever seen. To me, it wasn’t all about heart-pounding action and Jack torturing people, but instead about interesting characters and great episode-to-episode suspense. This show lost touch with that long ago as it became increasingly popular, and once Logan was revealed to be behind all of the terrorist acts of season five, the show never bounced back from its nadir. Bringing back Tony Almeida, who suffered an onscreen death that cannot be explained away by science, was another sign of the apocalypse. Seasons two, three, and four were all fun in their own respects but couldn’t possibly top season one. I’m preparing a list of the top 24 “24” moments for next week, and it shouldn’t come as a surprise that almost half of them are from season one. I’m not suggesting that this show shouldn’t have continued past its first season, but it’s really a good idea to have a legitimate premise for a new day before investing it in its production. And there really was no need for a President of the United States to be involved as a main character after Palmer was out of office. Much as he believe it, Jack isn’t Superman. The President is more important and more powerful.

The one thing I did like about the finale was the ticking out of the clock from three seconds left to zero. While that doesn’t prevent the inevitable TV movie from ever being created, it does seal off the show and say that, in the format that we know, this show is done. At least that’s a relief, and we can rest easy knowing that Jack Bauer’s story has come to a close, at least temporarily. What have I learned from this show? As reader JK knows, I can take comfort in the fact that if I ever get shot, as long as the bullet doesn’t hit any vital organs, I’ll have the stamina and the energy to bite someone’s ear off two minutes later. Thanks for that, 24. What has this show taught you? And what did you think of the finale? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Series finale grade: F
Season grade: F
Season MVP: Anil Kapoor as Omar Hassan
Series grade: C
Series grade (seasons one through four): A-
Series MVP: Kiefer Sutherland
Best season: Season 1
Best episode: “Day One: Midnight-1AM”

1 comment:

Jen said...

The shout-out made my day :)

Totally agree with what you said--what made the earlier seasons so good was the way they ended each episode with you not knowing what happened next, with incredible character development, and true plot suspense, not "who-will-be-killed-next" suspense.

That being said, however, I do think that the first half of this season was significantly better than the last half--I saw a lot more of the aforementioned true suspense/character development in the first few episodes, but as the season came to a close, characters were just thrown out or not mentioned again, and it was very repetitive (e.g., Logan trying to convince the President to do something she didn't want to do, over and over again) instead of unique and suspenseful.

The ending, I thought, was appropriate, although cliche, but as many are already also expressing (like you), it is leaving fans with yet another reminder that "no matter what, your president will always betray you".