When the television series 24 was first introduced in 2001 I was not a fan. Friends urged me to watch but I remained a hold out until about three years ago. After five and a half seasons of 24 I decided to see if the hoopla was really worth the time. I started, as I was dutifully told, with Season One and watched them on disc. I still remember the sense of addiction that soon developed. Such a television series had never captured my interest and sustained it. If someone had said, “I bet you can’t watch just one episode and stop I would have argued that surely I could.” Truth is, I watched two or three at a time, reminding myself that I did not have to endure the commercials and could watch each show in 40 minutes, thus three of them was a movie-length film. More than once I planned on watching one more episode before going to sleep but then I got into the next episode. Before long I was discussing this series with friends, especially my older brother, a huge 24 fan.
As fans of this frenetic series well know tonight is the final episode of Season Eight, which is the final season for 24. Eight amazing days, over eight years of television, in the life of one man, a special agent named Jack Bauer. Jack, played by Kiefer Sutherland, has been the consummate protector of America. Sometimes you just felt good knowing that this guy would protect our liberty from tyranny. He has consistently been the go-to guy who could solve the terrorist threat for the next eight years. The series debuted on Fox on November 6, 2001. The timing of the series beginning was not intentional but Fox hit a home run after the events of 9/11. We longed for a hero who would sacrifice everything for the nation and Jack was it. An agent of the Counter Terrorism Unit (CTU) Jack seemed normal enough in Season One, with his devotion divided between his duty to his country and his genuine love for his family. In the very first season Jack stopped a terror plot and saved African-American presidential candidate David Palmer (Dennis Haysbert). Jack’s deep commitment to America kept him from walking away from CTU and thus ended all chances for a normal life.
Along the way we were introduced to characters who came and went and characters who stayed for the entire series, like the intriguing CTU technical agent Chloe.
It is this gritty reality that made Jack Bauer both appealing and appalling. He used methods of interrogation that would offend even the strongest proponent of such methods because Jack always seemed to do it for a higher cause. But as the series progressed Jack seemed to move more and more toward the dark side, revealing that no one can escape the lingering impact of constant killing. But Jack plugged on, year-after-year, stopping plots to destroy America or bring down a new president. One commentator said, “To conservatives Jack was our Rambo and to liberals he was our guilty pleasure.”
The premise of the show is that the events all happen in real time, all within the space of only 24 hours. Some of us asked: “Does Jack ever sit down? Does he ever go to the bathroom? Does he ever need sleep?” Jack became a modern Superman and one believable to viewers living in the age of global terrorism.
Fans believed that Jack would always do what was right, one way or the other. This is what makes this final season so difficult. Jack seems to have finally lost it. I have actually found this season even more compelling for this very reason. Jack has finally lost it, just like a normal person would under such circumstances.
In the end the 24 series will end because the fan base had not increased and the revenue stream has been slowing down. Pop philosophers and television critics all agree that 24 is anything but a perfect series. The best made-for-television series in the last decade were made for HBO but 24 is still very good television, especially if you like action and intrigue.
Jack, I will miss you. 24 was truly fun while it lasted. Someday, sometime, I will probably watch the whole series again. I expect I will see a lot to like and some things to dislike but I doubt that I will not find the series immensely good entertainment.