24: Live Another Day (2014) season 1, episode 12
"Day 9: 10:00 p.m. – 11:00 p.m."
WRITERS: MANNY COTO and EVAN KATZ
DIRECTOR: JON CASSAR
AIR DATE: JULY 14 2014
There's a moment in the midst of this final episode that leaves us on as much of a knife edge as the leading character, Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland). In an episode full of heart wrenching pain and suspense, Jack is in the midst of launching an assault on the ship carrying Cheng when he gets some very bad news from Kate. For a moment, he's alone, absorbing the news, and picking up his side arm. But it's not in a way that suggests he's going into battle- it's as if he's about to eat a bullet, end his life. And the strange thing is it makes sense for the character to feel that way.
Jack has lost so much down through the years. The murder of his wife. The way his work has dearly cost him his remaining family, including his daughter. The deaths of friends, and the betrayal of one of those friends. This final bit of news might well have been understandable to push him over the edge into suicide. And yet the moment passes. The anguish subsides, the horrible thought that he must be having fades... and then Jack Bauer literally becomes hell unleashed, venting his fury and rage upon Cheng and his associates, reminding us that as human as Jack is, he's also an exceedingly dangerous man.
And at the same time, that humanity never leaves him. The final act, which takes place twelve hours later-hence the final jump forward in time that the series was promising- is an act of sacrifice to save a friend. It entirely fits who Jack is, to do that, even if it's putting his own fate in the hands of some very bad people. Will we see Jack Bauer again? I certainly hope so... this is just too good a character to let fade into the sunset- or end up in a gulag for the remainder of his days.
Loss permeates the other characters this time out. In one case, the character has it coming. Ever since the uncertain fate of Cheng (Tzi Ma) in the original series, we might have been hoping for some resolution with the character. This was a man who sadistically had Jack tortured for months. As a rogue, he was trying to set two nations into a war that couldn't be stopped, manipulating events with a ruthlessness that fits classic 24 villainy. So when it came down to Jack versus Cheng, it was obvious that it wouldn't end well for Cheng. The way it ended though.... was stunning, and yet deserved.
Jack and Cheng
Kate (Yvonne Strahovski) leaves things off in a way that's as broken as Jack, perhaps. While she has in this long day done things that have served her country and redeemed herself, her last act as a field agent ends in failure... and she's haunted by the fact that as innocent as her husband has been shown to be, he still took his own life because she lost faith in him. It's a weight that we sense will haunt her forever.
President Heller (William Devane) finds himself at episode's end saying goodbye to the British PM, admitting in a somber way that his condition will soon leave him unable to remember anything. It's a morose final scene, and it plays on the audience's sympathies. Less sympathy, perhaps, for his son-in-law Mark (Tate Donovan), who has to face what's happened while being taken home in handcuffs. For his acts that do constitute betrayal, he's looking at the remainder of his life in prison. His power gone, his life torn apart, he's a man who's been just as shattered as many others.
Chloe (Mary Lynn Rajskub) comes out of all of this alive, but shattered just as much. Her husband and son dead, a man she thought she could trust exposed as a snake and then killed, and her status uncertain. And knowing that Jack would give himself up for her is something that will no doubt weigh heavily on her for years to come. For a character that started out as a bitterly acerbic computer expert (and has never really lost that snide tendency), she's been such a compelling character to follow down through the years too. We feel for her, and wonder where her future will take her.
Will there be another day for Jack Bauer? Time will tell. Sutherland made this character such an utterly compelling role down through the years, a dangerous man who goes beyond the limits out of a sense of duty, despite the costs to his soul. As ferocious and relentless as Jack might be, Sutherland has always kept his eyes on the humanity of the man as well, and it's given the character great depth. If this is indeed the last act of 24, then it is a fitting conclusion.