TV Review: 24 Season 8/Series Finale (SPOILERS)

WARNING: This review of the “24” season 8/series finale contains SPOILERS. Do not read on until you’ve seen the episode.

And so, it’s come to this. But didn’t we always assume that this, or something like it, would be how it would all end for our hero? Jack Bauer, alone, bleeding and hurt, but determined to bring justice to the world one last time, while opposed by the unlimited might of the world’s only superpower, with only little Chloe O’Brian to back his play.

Or will she?

As the final two hours of “24” Season 8 and “24” the show ticks its way off the TV screen, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of … anxious anticipation mixed with satisfied resignation. If that makes any sense. It’s not quite the same feeling I get whenever a new season of “24” gears up for its January debut. I felt, as many people probably did, that the show has run its course, and that it was time to retire Jack Bauer.

For now, anyway, because it’s off to the big screen for Jack. Unfortunately, the fact that we know Jack is destined for movie stardom also took away any real possibility that the producers would pull a final shocking moment and send Jack off with the big dirt nap at the end of the two-hour season/series finale. The only suspense left, then, is just how screwed Jack will be when the final seconds tick off the clock.

As it turns out, sure, Jack is screwed, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as I had feared. Bleeding, battered, hunted, and alone once more. But hey, at least he’s not locked away in some Chinese prison being tortured, or stuffed into a “black site” never to be seen again. Sure, the Russians will be coming after him with everything they’ve got, and as Taylor tells Jack, even the American Government won’t have any choice but to pursue him for his actions leading up to this moment (kidnapping a former President, shooting a bunch of Government agents, etc.)

But in the end, as he peered through a sniper rifle ready to blow out the brains of the duplicitous Russian Prez, Jack chose to do the right thing and agreed with spunky Chloe O’Brian to allow her and the newly field minted Cole Ortiz to bring down the conspiracy their way. Of course, Jack should have known better, because no sooner does he give Chloe the big piece of evidence to collapse the whole conspiracy, Chloe loses it right back to the bad guys. Oh well.

End of story. Right?

Wait, nope, there are still more than 30 minutes left on the clock! So what now? A pretty unexpected twist, as it turns out.

There are two major performances that I would like to note in the season/series finale, and shockingly, neither one is series star Kiefer Sutherland. Don’t get me wrong, Kiefer has his moment — that small window when he takes the time out from his assassination preparations to talk directly to Kim Bauer via a cellphone recording was a nice touch. (Curiously, Elisha Cuthbert doesn’t make an appearance in the finale. Sigh.)

One of the performances that deserves special recognition is Cherry Jones as the morally embattled President Taylor. When Taylor suddenly turned on the fiery Dalia Hassan by threatening to nuke her country if she didn’t go through with the peace accord, it caught me completely off guard, as it probably did everyone in the audience. Bravo to Jones for a two-hour tour de force performance that forced her to go through a range of extreme emotional swings. Katee Sackhoff, as Dana Walsh, aka Possibly The Worst Conceived Character Of All Time on 24, only wishes her character had gotten an inkling of that type of credibility in all of Season 8’s hours combined.

The other strong performance is from our own Mary Lynn Rajskub, whose Chloe O’Brian was her usual twitchy self, but in these two final hours, there was a resolve to Chloe to do the right thing, even if it meant going against Jack. Steely determination mixed with geek smarts is sure sexy. Plus, if you didn’t get choked up when Chloe and Jack said their goodbyes in the episode’s waning minutes, then you’re not a real fan of “24”, and should be shot. As in right now.

I suppose in a way my somewhat not-all-that-sad reactions to the suddenly very real fact that there will be no more “24” seasons after tonight’s two-hour finale is tempered a bit by the knowledge that Jack Bauer’s day may be done on the small screen, but it’s just getting started on the big screen. Jack Bauer will continue to take the fight to the bad guys in Europe when the gang returns for a “24” movie, or movies, should the first one prove profitable, which it surely will given the show’s loyal following.

So yes, I am sadden that there will be no more anxious waiting for news of yet another “bad day” for Jack Bauer, but I am relieved that it’s not over by a long shot. Jack Bauer will be back, but who knows what kind of shape he’ll be in when he does. One thing’s for sure, though: it’ll be pretty damn exciting.

Some final notes on the season and the series as a whole:

– Freddie Prince Jr. as CTU badass Cole Ortiz. Wow, that didn’t work out, did it?

– Katee Sackhoff as CTU turncoat/mole/bitch Dana Walsh. WORST. 24. CHARACTER. EVER. Even the character’s suddenly inexplicable switch from hapless former trailer trash to devious Russian double agent can’t wash away the taste of Dana Walsh being harassed by her former trailer trash boyfriend. If anything, the fact that Dana Walsh suddenly became redeemable after she turned evil only points out the truth that Dana Walsh before the reveal was just utterly and stupifyingly weak cheese.


– Eight seasons. God knows how many CTU moles. You’d think a Government agency responsible for saving us from getting nuked by terrorists would be more thorough with their background checks, but apparently not so much.

– Dennis Haysbert as the late President David Palmer. BEST. FICTIONAL. PRESIDENT. EVER.

And finally, say thanks to the producers of “24”, TV watchers, because this might be the last TV show/movie from Hollywood that “dares” to have Muslims as terrorists.

At least, until the “24” movie comes out in a year or two…