24 8.23-24: The last day of our acquaintance

There but for the grace of God goes Fox, who dares to air the series finale to one of their most successful shows in the shadow of “Lost,” which was basically the biggest series finale since “Cheers.” Man, do you remember the cast of “Cheers” on Leno’s show after that last episode aired? They were smashed. Good times.

The “24” finale, however, was not good times.

The bad guys won. Allison had the video of Starbuck with the Russian. Mr. Blonde wiped his servers, so the backup copy of the video was gone. The recording of the conversation between I.M. Weasel and Suvarov, which Jack gave to Chloe, was confiscated by Dominic. Chloe and Buffy are looking at long stints in the slammer for treason. Jack is looking at either the death penalty or life in a deep dark hole somewhere halfway around the world, if he’s lucky. Game over. Bad guys win.

Well, that’s how this would have happened in the real world.

But not here. Instead, Jack, Chloe and Buffy are saved by a long-overdue crisis of conscience on the part of one Allison Taylor. One that, ideally, shouldn’t have needed to happen in the first place – this is where frequent commenter Mr. Paulsen would make a crack about manufactured conflict, and he’s not wrong – but there you are. That’s a hell of a way to end your show about an ass-kicking counter-terrorist agent, with him being saved not by his wits but by someone else’s guilty conscience. And by a hell of a way, I mean lame.

24-823_Sc35_0077

“So what did that Medsker fucker say about me this week? Man, I hate that guy.”

Jack should never have a passive role in how events unfold. He should have been at the center of it all, not on his knees getting a last-minute pardon. To his credit, at least he took his execution the way you would expect him to, by telling the guy to pull the damn trigger already. Still, being a fugitive should have been his choice. The exposing of the scandal should have been by his hand. Hell, he just whacked a small army of Russian goons, and it was one of the best episodes of the show in years. There should be a rule with the “24” staff to never, ever take the power out of his hands.

It was actually going well in the first hour. Jack finds that sweet location where he can take out Logan, and from there it all went wrong. Biting Dominic’s ear off? Really? If I were in charge, I would have had Jack wound Suvarov in Logan’s office at the very least, prompting Allison to sing like a canary not because her conscience is getting to her but because Jack Bauer will fucking kill her if she doesn’t. The truth comes out, the peace treaty is killed, Logan is exposed as the puppet master, Allison’s legacy is ruined, and Jack flees the country as a wanted but righteous man, becoming a folk hero in the process. Years from now, Kim will get a text message from an unknown number saying, “New Zealand is nice this time of year,” or “Zihuatanejo.”

I’d blame the limp-wristed ending on the producers’ desire to maintain “24” as a viable movie property, but the strange thing is, this ending does not set up a potential “24” movie very well. How do you bring him back when both the Russian and US governments want to put him on trial for mass murder? Throw in the Chinese, and Jack is effectively banned from 60% of the world. Ah, well. It’s over. As Marge Simpson once said, when Homer wasn’t sure if a problem was properly resolved, “It’s an ending. That’s enough.”

Our last song comes courtesy of the Pope-dissing firecracker Sinead O’Connor. She took her PR lumps after that incident on “SNL” but those first two records of hers were damn good. Thank you to everyone who read this column over the years. It’s been fun sharing the experience with you all. My current plan is to not like another TV show enough that my bosses will ask me to blog about it. Wish me luck.

  

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