“24” rode off into the sunset tonight, although the plan is for it to ride right into your cineplex in the not-too-distant future. So our mourning may be muted: yes, we’ll never see another failed perimeter grace our television screens, but the possibilities for Parisian, Peruvian, or Pakistani perimeters being breached on the silver screen are endless! Since it was a two-hour finale, I will waste as few words as possible mulling over the impact of the show now, and will hold off grander thoughts for the end. For now, let’s dive into what went down during the series finale of the show. 

 

[Full recap of Monday's (May 24) series finale of "24" after the break...]

Cole visits Ricker’s apartment, scanning him through the concrete wall with a sweet infrared device. Unfortunately, Ricker saw his vacant face coming a mile away and instigated a full-scalle wipe of his hardware. The two face off, with Ricker eventually agreeing to help Cole locate Bauer before he’s killed. Bye bye, Michael Madsen. We hardly knew ye, and I’m pretty sure we’re OK with that. 

Cole passes on Ricker’s information about Suvarov’s involvement. He notes that while Ricker deleted the conversation between the Russian President and Charles Logan, Bauer would have his own backup files on hand. (With Meredith Reed arrested, Jack’s file is the only proof of the conspiracy.) The plan: reroute Suvarov to the U.N., where he’ll be vulnerable at the signing itself but protected until then. They hope to find Bauer in the meantime and talk him down. Once obtaining the file, Chloe plans to use the CTU servers to email over one hundred thousand people simultaneously so Taylor can’t suppress the information. She’s going to email the press, the government, The Drudge Report, Perez Hilton…everyone! 

Speaking of talking people down, Logan calls Taylor to try and preemptively calm her nerves about the latest in a series of bad events for the conspiracy. Taylor can barely register her voice above a whisper, both due to the close proximity of other advisors but also due to the horror of how high up the Russian chain that the day’s events truly go. She steels up in time to participate in the protocol meeting, but sinks once again upon receiving a pen from Dalia, a posthumous present from Omar himself. Taylor gazes upon the gift and wonders how easily she could shove it into her own jugular. 

Jack sneaks into Pillar’s car and uses him to access the Hart Building, adjacent to the U.N. At gunpoint, he forces Pillar to sew up his knife wound. (Jack Shephard did the same thing in the pilot episode of “Lost” with Kate. Oops, sorry, I said the “L” word. Too soon?) Pillar tries to dissuade Jack from his vigilantism, but gets knocked out for his trouble.  

After getting no answer on Meredith’s line, Dalia goes straight to Taylor to address her concerns. Oooh, it’s on in a way that is not dissimilar to  “Donkey Kong” now, people. Cherry Jones and Necar Zadegan act the HELL out of this scene, making me envision a show that would have been about these two female heads of state going toe-to-toe on the international stage for an entire season, Bauer-free. It’s THAT good, from Dalia’s horror at learning of Taylor’s involvement to the latter’s turn to the Dark Side, threatening military invasion if the IRK doesn’t sign the treaty. Brutal discussion, personal stakes, worldwide implications. “24” used to excel at moments like this on a weekly basis, and it’s great to see another moment like it in the show’s swan song. My favorite moment of the finale, and one of the final season’s overall highlights. 

As Dalia and her advisor Jamot realize the predicament they are in, Jack sets up his sniper position in the Hart Building. At CTU, Arlo manages to pull Jack’s face from the reflection in a vending machine from inside that building. (That Arlo’s pretty clever when not chasing skirts.) Chloe and Cole, both at the U.N. by this point, come up with a plan: Chloe will go alone to talk Jack down one last time; 20 minutes later, Cole will send in the cavalry to back her up. As they make their plans, Jack makes a videotape Kim to listen to in case he doesn’t make it out alive. He wants to make sure she knows the truth from him, not the media. Since it’s the series finale, I’m refrain from making any cougar jokes. 

Inside the U.N., Taylor summons Dalia down to greet Suvarov’s arrival. File under: awkward. After stilted condolences from Suvarov, Dalia leaves in a huff, uninterested in hearing Taylor’s justifications. Just one building away, Chloe tries to get the jump on Jack, and has about as much success as I personally would have in getting the jump on Jack. He puts her in a choke hold, knocks her out, handcuffs her to a nearby rail, and makes a phone call to Charles Logan. Turns out he has the ex-president in his crosshair, not Suvarov. He tells Logan to bring Suvarov up to his suite or he’ll execute President Wormy on the spot. 

Onto Hour 2! 

*** 

Onstage, The Secretary General of the United Nations (played by Eric LaSalle, who pretty much fell off the world when he ended his run on “E.R.”) introduces the wacky trio of international power players to the stage. Suvarov praises the treaty as a “living memorial” to Omar Hassan, even though a series of salons to honor the man’s epic haircut might have been a better way to memorialize the man. Suvarov soon deduces that Dalia knows of his involvement, and is vaguely impressed by whatever means Taylor used to keep Hassan involved with the proceedings. 

Just as Suvarov answers Logan’s summons to come to his suite (under the guise of a mole in his midst), Chloe wakes up and begs Jack not to start an international war between nuclear superpowers in the name of Renee Walker. “Don’t dishonor her memory like this,” she pleads. Jack eventually relents, and asks Chloe to pass on the evidence in his possession. With Cole’s backup bearing down on them, Jack asks Chloe to shoot him. It’s a monumentally tense scene between old colleagues placed into an unfamiliar situation. (Only by shooting Jack can she pass through the imminently arriving soldiers without suspicion.) She refuses to shoot him, until Jack points the gun at his own head prompting an instinctual shot by Chloe into his chest. Whew. Hot damn, that was good, “24.” 

Unfortunately, with Pillar now awake as well (Jack’s apparently terrible at knocking people out for longer than 10 minutes), Chloe’s unable to leave the building. With Jack playing possum under medical surveillance, Pillar pats Chloe down, and doesn’t even bother to buy her breakfast afterwards. Ick. Fortunately, Chloe had already placed the evidence inside her cellphone. Jack tries to stall Pillar from putting two and two together, even going so far as to pull a Mike Tyson and bite Pillar’s freakin’ ear off. You (van) Go(gh) with your badself, Jack Bauer! Alas, Pillar manages to stop Chloe from e-blasting the evidence to TMZ anyways, and the evidence falls into Pillar’s hands. 

Pillar, in turn gives it to Logan, who then triumphantly presents it to Taylor as the final ribbon around the conspiracy present. As she eyes the evidence in front of her, Logan turns on his own version of the Jack Bauer Velvet Voice, cooing, “All great achievements in state are fragile things,” noting that nothing short of killing Jack Bauer would ever stop him from trying to expose this conspiracy. Secret prisons, international hideouts, Planet Hulk…nothing could contain him! (In fairness to Logan, he’s 1] a supreme wuss, and 2] just saw Jack go all Battle Robot on him in the alleyway last week.) When Taylor says nothing in response, he says, “I will take your silence as tacit approval,” and then leaves. Before starting my next paragraph, I’m going to ask my now sleeping wife if I can have a new Porsche, and then take her silence as tacit approval. 

OK, back. Before leaving to sign the treaty, Taylor takes a look at the evidence, and is startled to find not an audio recording but Jack’s face on her computer screen. She listens to his message to Kim with a heavy heart. After that, it’s Ceremony Signing Time! Suvarov signs first, followed by a hesitant (and most likely nauseous) Hassan. Finally, it’s Taylor’s turn, and for a second, I thought the show was going to be bold and create a world in which even the United States was part of a compromised peace accord.  

But no, Taylor absconds, unable to use Omar’s pen to sign something that would dishonor his name. She announces, in vague terms, the conspiracy behind the day’s treaty, and leaves to save Jack’s life. Sadly, her plea for help to Tim Woods is too late to stop the attack on Jack’s ambulance, which we learn as the show cuts to a destroyed ambulance and masked men whisking Jack away to parts unknown. 

Upstairs, Logan and Pillar see the Secretary General announce the dissolution of the peace agreement. As the phone rings in the background, Pillar sullenly accepts their fate. Logan? Not so much, and he kills Pillar (twice, seemingly, for good measure) before turning the gun on himself. However, he’s a lousy shot, alive but potentially brain damaged in the aftermath of his attempted suicide. (Just in case they need him for the movies, I guess.)  

Woods preemptively reinstates Chloe while Taylor deals with Logan’s condition. Chloe, Arlo, and Cole are the only ones left in CTU, and they track the van containing Jack via a drone. Using that footage, Taylor manages to call the black ops team off and save Jack from execution. On the phone with him, Taylor confirms that the treaty is off, that she will be remanding herself to the Attorney General, and that Jack will have to flee the country as soon as possible, with both the US and Russia inevitably on his trail.  

Our final sequence of “24” centers around the two longest standing characters on the show: Jack and Chloe. As Chloe watches onscreen, Jack thanks her for being the one that always had his back over the years. He puts the safety of his remaining family in her hands, and runs off towards parts unknown. The final countdown clock counts not up to the end of an hour, but down to the end of an era. 

*** 

As my HitFix colleague Dan Fienberg wrote earlier today, these final hours of “24” played less like a series finale and more like a season finale. And that makes sense, since the show’s preparing its move to the big screen with a film that, given the final moments of tonight’s broadcast, will seemingly be set in international setting. With the show’s historical propensity for filling up its seasons with as much padding as punching, I’m actually intrigued to see what a 2-hour, big-budget “24” would look like. It might not be something on par with the “Bourne” series, but could be just the type of change needed for a franchise that long ago either exhausted all of its small screen possibilities or simply was content to restage earlier iterations of the same situations.   

Whatever the case may be, I watched every episode of “24” during its run on television. While it may have overstayed its welcome, I appreciate its lasting contributions to television over the past decade. It’s impossible to argue that the show was not influential, coming off the heels of 9/11 and in many ways mirroring the cultural zeitgeist surrounding the new world in which we all found ourselves. It didn’t actively seek out this niche, since it was in production before that terrible day, but it did take on new resonance thereafter. 

While the mirror wasn’t always favorable (or often, even accurate), the fact that it found itself in that unique position and chose to engage it, rather than shun it, was a bold choice. But to call the show 100% political theatre is also a falsehood. “24” was above and beyond escapist entertainment, but over the years, the show itself couldn’t escape its own violence, leading to this season’s increased carnage, but also Jack’s increased weariness as well as the increased sense that we’re no longer the same world as we were a decade ago. Not nearly enough has changed, but enough has to make “24” feel at times slightly anachronistic. Maybe the change from television to film is just what is needed to revitalize this once proud franchise again. 

But for now, I humbly bid both the show and you, the readers, adieu. I give you both a silent countdown as well as my gratitude. 

What did you think of the series finale? What do you think the lasting contributions of “24” will be? Did it go on too long, or are you wishing for more? Leave your thoughts and comments below!