24 7.23-24: Make decisions that you can live with

Man, I saw more trailers for upcoming movies in tonight’s season finale of “24” than I did during the Super Bowl. Seriously, weren’t there ads for seven or eight movies? And do you know how many I stopped fast-forwarding through the commercials to watch? One: “Public Enemies.” Just sayin’, it does not look like a promising summer at the googoplex.

Maybe it’s just me, but I liked the second hour of tonight’s show more than the first one, which is odd, because they usually wait until the final minutes before fucking everything up. Remember the oil rig? The secret recording of President Logan? The last time the final seconds of “24” were truly nerve-wracking was when Jack hacked off Chase’s arm. (The best endings, of course, were the death of Teri Bauer and the poisoning of David Palmer by Mandy the bisexual assassin.) Tonight’s ending didn’t pack that kind of punch, but I like that they left us to wonder what Jacqueline Bauer did to Alan Wilson in the interrogation room (too late to give him a nickname, though I lean toward Coach Yoast, his character from “Remember the Titans”), and even having Jack end the season in a coma. Yes, we all know that he will be back for an eighth day, but perhaps Kim will die from complications while donating the stem cells that ultimately save his life. Hey, a guy can dream.

Having said that, Kim did not spend these two hours playing the damsel in distress, and in fact performed very admirably under the circumstances. She stabbed the girl in the leg and gave the cops a clean shot at her, and she saved the laptop that led the Feds to the location of Jack and Tony (more on that in a minute). No bear traps or Kwik-E-Mart holdups for our little Kimmy! Wow, maybe she isn’t as helpless as I made her out to be, but that’s no excuse for recycling a plot thread from the show’s first season, when Jack had to shoot Senator Palmer in order to save Kim and Teri. Silly, silly, silly, and that is the only reason I want her to go away. She brings out the worst in the writers.

As for that first hour…

Man oh man, I can’t tell you how many times I either laughed out loud or said, “You’ve gotta be kidding me.” Jack is doing the bidding of Mystery Girl (real name Cara) against his will, and tells Jackie that they’re threatening to kill Kim if he doesn’t cooperate. Seconds later, he tells Cara that he’s awaiting her next instruction…and she gives it to him, without a word of protest. I’m shouting, “Didn’t she just hear what he told them?” Those words should automatically trigger Kim’s death, yes? The only way around this that I see is that Cara would never actually have Kim killed before getting Tony, so it was an empty threat. Which is smart, because if Jack thinks that Kim’s dead, he kills Tony, then he kills Cara, then he hunts down every relative of Cara’s and kills them, their loved ones, their loved one’s neighbords, and their pets. Hell, Jack had a clean shot at her from inside the paddy wagon. He could have just killed her right there. I’m frankly surprised he didn’t.

“So what’s it like being the second-hottest woman on this show?” “That’s funny, I was about to ask you the same thing.”

And speaking of Jack taking shots, dude had pretty good aim when he shot Tony in the hand. This despite the fact that he’s suffering from a biological agent that attacks the nervous system. Funny how composed Jack could be when the moment called for it, and vice versa.

Then comes Tony’s big push to meet Alan Wilson. Ho, ho, and indeed ho, as our colleague Will Harris would say. Just like that, his motives became so transparent. He wants to take the big guy out! Could he be on the side of good after all? Well, no, as it turns out, but as retrofitted motives go, it could have been worse, especially when we discovered that…Michelle was pregnant when she was killed. Holy shit. As a father of two, I have to say that I would have elaborate revenge fantasies as well, had I been in his shoes. Kill my wife, and you only, only, have hell to pay. Kill my wife and son, well, you’re gonna wish the Devil was looking for you instead. I feel for you, Tony, I really do. But I still want to kick your ass for killing Dudley Do-Right.

Now back to that raid on the bad guy lair: Tony is about to hatch his evil scheme to blow up Jack and Alan Wilson with a bunch of C4, when the FBI not only finds them – last I remember, Chloe and Janis were still trying to crack the encryption on Bad Actor’s laptop – but they’re actually able to sneak up on them…by helicopter? Aren’t those things audible from a mile away? Classic moviemaking technique, that. If you don’t see it, then you can’t hear it. I also loved Jacqueline’s side saddle bit on the SUV, followed with the jump and roll. I’d love to see the real-life version of that. Jackie: Pew pew! Bad guys: Pip pip pip pip pip! Jackie: Dead.

But in the end, I’m not sure that anyone found themselves in a more difficult position than Madame President herself. After Kanin checkmated Hillary Clinton with the whole memory chip thing (which we all saw coming), I was surprised that Hillary actually showed genuine remorse and human emotion when confessing everything to her parents. I even felt a little sorry for her, which is something I never thought I’d say a week ago. But thank God that Hillary’s teary confession wasn’t enough to sway Madame Prez from doing the right thing and sending her sorry excuse for a daughter to the slammer. When she walked away from the First Man at the end, I was half-expecting her to have the First Dude escorted from the premises. After all, it’s not as though her marriage is going to survive a decision like that. On an unrelated note, I hope they bring Secret Service Agent Tim Woods back for another season. Not sure how you write him in, but he seems to be playing for the right team.

My hopes are not high that we will see our beloved Jacqueline Bauer again – odds are, she’s getting 20 years in the hole for whatever she was about to do to Wilson – and that makes me sad. I quite liked her character, and she can do Hell-hath-no-fury scorn like no other. Tony, of course, is still alive, but he may as well be dead since he’s just pissed all over the carcass of the Good Tony Almeida that we thought was killed years ago. I hated seeing them bring him back like this. Good people do bad things, yes, but they are still good at their core. I might be capable of committing unspeakable acts against anyone responsible for harming my family, but I wouldn’t kill half a dozen FBI agents to get to that person. I don’t know, maybe I’m just not hardcore enough. I can live with that, I guess.

So there you have it, another 24 hours of our lives, gone. I’m not sure if this show is ever going to give me what I want. Does it sound morbid to want more death and destruction? I don’t have bloodlust; I just want a show that doesn’t cry ‘Wolf!’ nine times out of ten. I think that all serial writers, the “24” writers in particular, should take a good long look at “The Dark Knight,” and how they mercilessly ratcheted up the tension until the very end, and none of it felt like a bluff or a false promise. There is a reason that movie made half a billion dollars at the box office, you know.

It is now three in the morning, and I have to take my son to day care in five hours. Time to head to bed. Thanks to all you wonderful 24-philes for reading my column, and I’ll see you all in seven months.

  

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