24: Live Another Day Episode 12 Recap: '10:00 PM - 11:00 AM' [Season Finale]
How do you do justice to a unexpectedly great season of one of television's most seminal characters and shows? How do you cap the unlikely ninth season of 24 after everything Jack Bauer has been through?
Since 2001, we've seen Jack lose his wife to one of his closest friends, lose so many other friends to death and the pressures of his job, his family even, we've seen him betrayed and abandoned by his country time and time again. Jack has never gotten his happy ending, but if that happened after all this time, I feel like it might be cheap. To see him happy just for the sake of a positive ending is not what Jack Bauer is all about. He's about being the one constant of good in a sea of terrible people and evil things. He's about moving forward no matter the odds, trudging through the mud and doing what's right.
On the other hand, do we really need to see him at the end of another gun, facing another impossible situation on the run or in the clutches of one of his many enemies?
It's a tough question to answer, and an even harder nut to crack, especially after all the good that 24: Live Another Day has done for Jack and the series. Not a lot of people thought a ninth season of the show would work, particularly one that did away with the titular premise of the show. But that sacrifice led to concise storytelling over the course of 12 episodes and hours, instead of scrambling and stretching to fill an extra twelve. It led to what's usually a fleeting balance between plot movement and character moments, all while moving things forward at breakneck speeds and doing things that previous iterations of the show would have only dreamed of.
The aptest way to sum up Live Another Day would be "Jack Bauer doesn't have time for your bullshit", and that's exactly what we got over the course of the season. And it was tremendous. So in a way, no matter how it would have ended on Monday night with 10:00 PM - 11:00 AM, I would have appreciated the journey much more than I did the destination. And the finale brought more of those very moments that made LAD so great. Still, I would be lying if I said that the ending didn't leave a little to be desired.
Before that, Jack, Kate, and a newly resurfaced Chloe must run a delicate operation which involves Kate saving Audrey from the sniper that had her pinned down at the end of last week's episode. as if they were to raise any alarm on either end, she would be dead. Kate fails and Audrey dies, tragically, which sets Jack off on a rampage. He dispatches of Cheng's men and gets to him fairly easily at that point, and does his duty in delivering the proof to the Chinese to avoid a war, but then promptly severs his head from his body in Audrey's memory with an errant sword which just happens to be there.
That's all well and good, and pretty much what I accepted from the lion's share of the episode. It's what happens next which is a little underwhelming. Jack goes to get Chloe, only to find that she's been kidnapped. He gets a mysterious call and tells them to set up a meeting. Twelve hours later, he meets up with the Russians, who give up Chloe and take Jack to Moscow to end the season.
It's and open ending to the season which should have probably been expected. The ratings for the show have been fairly modest, but not really a far cry from where they were when the show went off the air four years ago, and the show has been heavily DVR'd, with final numbers likely to put it in profitable vicinity for Fox when you factor in post-airing revenue. It's also sort of a prestige drama with awards already behind it, and at the very least a healthy dose of nominations to come with next year's Emmys (LAD missed the deadline by a few weeks this year). Fox would be stupid not to try and entice Kiefer Sutherland and the writers to come back for one more season. So while it may have been more fitting for Jack to crash that helicopter while he was in it, or to somehow find a way to get a more definitive ending, finishing LAD in a way that would allow us to return to Jack Bauer once more was really the only option, and frankly, the idea of setting the next season in Russia, with Jack's remaining friends possibly working to get him out of the clutches of his new captors, is fairly exciting.
That's a discussion for another day, as right now, there really is no indication that the show will come back. All we really have are these twelve mostly spectacular episodes, which not only breathed new life in a show we didn't know had any left, but possibly helped make the case for a different form of network television. For event series, for seemingly dead shows to be given another another shot, for writers to take risks with their work. Thirteen years after 24 debuted as a brave show in a newly post-9/11 world with a bold take on terrorism, torture, and action, it's still making important waves. That's almost too hard to believe, and as a longtime fan of the show, it makes me really happy.
Still, you have to wonder if it's necessary to beat down Jack yet again. Killing off Audrey unceremoniously is a cruel trick, yet another reason to make Jack question what he's doing and why, and for a moment, it almost seems as if he's questioning it himself. He picks up his handgun and for a second, you wonder if he's going to point ti at his own head. It seems to be the closest Jack has come to suicide, or to at least giving up, since season 6 when he saw Audrey in a catatonic state, but it's only a moment before his default setting kicks in in order for him to get his revenge on Cheng. But it plays out like the show is telling us that it gets how it's a little much, even for Jack, and that elevates up and shows us why 24 has come this far all while giving its main character such a hard time. Kiefer Sutherland is a big part of why it all works, and his acting chops really come out in these moments. The quiet ones where he doesn't have to say damnit or yell at someone (those are great too), but here, where he stares at his gun not knowing what do to next, or at the end of the season when he faintly smiles even though he knows he's facing merciless torture at the hands of the Russians.
But if you're not into all that, this episode is just great enough on its own for that one last mission it gets to put on. The sequence between Chloe coordinating both Jack and Kate's operations, to Audrey dying, to Jack losing it and going berserk, then capturing Cheng and taking off his head, is just phenomenal and exactly why we love 24. To get one last sequence like that is how you go out with style.
So it's okay if Jack doesn't get his happy ending. If he finds himself in the clutches of another group of people who will mercilessly revenge-torture him. Because much like the show itself, Jack went out on his own terms. Saving his friends, saving the world, and taking names while he was at it.
Living up to the expectations 24: Live Another Day had set for itself may have been impossible, but the final hour of this event season definitely came a little close. "10PM-11AM" gets 9 severed heads out of 10.
The season as a whole? 10 foiled plots out of 10.
Notes & Quotes:
- Here's a Sophie's choice for you: What was more satisfying, Jack defenestrating Margot or beheading Cheng Zhi a few hours later?
- Tzi Ma has some great martial arts skills doesn't he? I wasn't expecting that elaborate a fight scene.
- A lot of great little character moments here too. Chloe taking the brunt of the blame for the day's events and declaring her loyalty to Jack, Kate feeling guilt for losing Audrey, Heller's speech about how he won't remember his daughter's death and the nuance that comes along with such a statement (which should be more than enough to nab William Devane an Emmy nom next year).
- I like Kim Raver and Audrey's been a good character, deserving of her silent clock, but boy that death scene left a little to be desired. Also, did they really need the second shooter? They could have just had the first one get her and given us a couple extra minutes of something else.
- So what happened to Navarro? I guess he'll be on the same plane with Boudreau?
- Another candidate for most satisfying moment of the season: Jack telling Boudreau to straight up shut up. The moment Jack lost his patience with Audrey's husband their relationship got so much better.
- "You should have stayed hidden like a rat."
- "This is for Audrey you son of a bitch."
- I need a screencap of Jack's selfie with Cheng.
- I almost forgot about Jack meat cleavering a guy. That was like the best thing of all.
- It's been such a blast covering Live Another Day, and I really hope Fox and the people involved are smart enough to do another season. Until then (hopefully), thanks for reading along and make sure to check out the rest of our coverage here on the site!