Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Coming To Terms – Dealing With The Worst Season Finale of 24 Ever

[This article is part of a three-part series. Go here for part 2 on The Sopranos]

[Again, much inspiration, as well as some of the videos, were drawn from this Progressive Boink article]


In the season finale of 24, Karen Hayes, Bill Buchanan, and Jack Bauer risked everything to save…Jack’s supposed nephew. There was no nuke, no biological weapon, no assassination attempt; just a blond whiny kid with a rice bowl haircut. After they were done with this ridiculous and unsatisfying storyline, Jack headed over to Heller’s house (conveniently just a few minutes away) to chew him out about his insouciance from earlier. In the show’s final scene, Jack looks out at the waves, reflecting on the sociopath he’s become and his own mess of a personal life. The audience wept, but not out of sadness for Jack; rather, for the 24 hours we knew we would never get back.

This was the worst season of 24 ever, often painful to watch. Even the President of Fox thought so. I’ve already written at length about why this season was awful and I stand by my points. But rather than rail endlessly about how bad it’s become (although that will happen during this post), I thought I’d channel my energy into thinking about five things that can make the show better next season. In no particular order, they are:

1) Don’t Set It In Los Angeles – In Season 1, the possibility that presidential candidate David Palmer might be in LA for the day was extremely plausible. In Season 2, the possibility that terrorists might try to nuke LA was vaguely believable. By Season 3, the idea that LA would be the place where terrorists would want to launch a biological attack began to make LA seem like one of the unluckiest places on Earth. And by Season 4-6, the idea of using LA again just made our eyes glaze over in disbelief.

As this article by Cracked can attest to, it’s no real mystery why they set the series in LA. But it’s killing the series, taxing our suspension of disbelief to the breaking point, and basically disrespecting the audience to an astonishing degree.

(From Flickr user Kaptain Krispy Kreme via CC)

To paraphrase Seinfeld, it's flattering to think that your city is bomb-able. But we've had enough of Hollywood's self-indulgence in this matter.

2) No More Office Romance – The last compelling office romance in 24 was in Season 2, between Tony and Michelle (do we even want to remember Kim and Chase’s baby adventures in Season 3?). Since then, office romances have been a waste of time, reaching their nadir this season with the insufferable Milo and the witless Nadia (and to a lesser degree, with Morris and Chloe). When Tony and Michelle worked at CTU, you rooted for them because they were really good at their jobs and they fought for the right thing (i.e. Jack Bauer).

Nobody cared about what happened to the characters this season because more often than not, they were shown to be incompetent, bickering, and petty, to an extent never before seen even for 24. There was no reason to care why they got together or not because most of the time, they pissed you off more than they endeared themselves to you.

Witness the painful awkwardness of this scene:

3) No more CTU – Every year it's a target for hostile takeover by Division or Homeland Security. Also, it's full of moles.

Every single season of 24 has involved the same premise; either Jack is the head of CTU, leading a team from CTU, or is made to lead a team from CTU after he proves his competence.

I understand the need for Jack to use CTU; it allows him access to government-grade weapons and gives him the opportunity to continually bark “I need that information NOW” over the phone. But it’s become clear that CTU, plot-wise, has become an encumbrance to the series, with its bureaucratic redtape, its murky and sketchy superiors from “Division,” and its tedious personnel disputes.

(From Flickr user Phantasmak via CC)

Get rid of CTU next season (from the plotline, at least). Please.

4) Stop Killing Characters…Or Do It Better – This season saw the loss of President Logan and Curtis (not to mention Kumar from “Harold and Kumar”!). It seems as though just as we’re beginning to care about someone, 24’s writers take great pleasure in killing them off for us. As I’ve written before, when you do this respectfully, it pays great dividends; when you do it like 24 does it, it makes the deaths seem senseless and wasteful.

For example, what was the point of this:

or this:

And from this season, what, for the love of god, was the point of this?:

Although it gave him a nice story arc, Curtis was basically black Jack Bauer. By killing off Curtis, unceremoniously, the writers of the show killed off a lot of fans' good will. And by having Jack recover from it almost instantly (despite a 2-minute cry) is another example of the writers' continuing disdain for the emotional intelligence of its audience.

Look to Season 3 for a character's death done right:

(And Chappelle wasn't even a character we cared that much about!)

5) Bring Back Jack – Jack Bauer is the reason we watch this show. Season 6 introduced a bunch of new characters, including a potential Jack Bauer replacement (Doyle), then asked us to be emotionally invested in them without telling us why. But really, the only one person we care about on the show is Jack Bauer and he was getting crowded out (screentime-wise) by all of these nobodies.

Whether Jack is being a detective, doing some plain old killing, or physically and mentally torturing suspects, Kiefer’s performance is a joy to watch:

Proof positive - One of this season's most intense, amazing scenes was this climactic fight between Bauer and Fayed:

Even when Kiefer is showing his weaker side, Bauer remains an extremely compelling character. See the end of Season 3, when Bauer breaks down (something we should have seen slightly more of this season):

The problem was, Season Six didn't give us nearly enough of any of this.

Please give us more of Jack doing what he does best. As intense as ex-Scrubs nurse Doyle is, he can’t hold a candle to Bauer.


I’ve recently finished re-watching Season 2 of 24 on DVD and the difference was palpable. Despite Kim’s antics, Season 2 was one taut, nerve-jangling season (and as much as I hate to admit it, even the various situations Kim found herself in were directed with skill and intensity). There were suspenseful situations in which the split screen and real-time conceit were used to great effect. There were fantastically evil and chilling villains. And there were touching moments like this one:

NONE OF THESE ELEMENTS WERE PRESENT IN SEASON 6. [For any fan, I’d urge you to go back and watch Season 2 again; it will remind you why you fell in love with this show.]

The series needs a reboot in the way “Casino Royale” kicked the 007 series back into high gear. Hopefully they’ll surprise us with something completely new. Otherwise, I’m really going to have to stop watching, which makes me sad because the Jack Bauer Power Hour used to be one of my favorite weekly events back in the day. It looks like Executive Producer Howard Gordon has already gotten the message; let's hope he brings it home for Season Seven.

[Edit: Changed some of the language/videos in the "Bring Back Jack" section]


MG Siegler said...

I definitely agree on all points (and have written on some of them before as well).

Did they think Jack getting quietly emotional would be a shocking ending? It worked much better when they did it at the finale of season 3.

I thought this season was going to take place in either China or New York and I was excited for that - then it starts and we're right back in LA...

Splattergasted said...

They should do a pre-CTU Jack...The making of he became cold-blooded and cut-throat. They could probably get one or two good seasons / story lines from his earlier days then come back to the present time line in 2-3 seasons and then end the show (and Jack) is some glorified dignified horrific spectacular way.

Anonymous said...

I was with you all the way until you mentioned 007. Casino Royale was a good movie but was NOT a bond movie. No element of bond was present there.

You lost come credibility....

Kristi said...

I was a faithful 24 viewer from the very first episode. Until Season 6. I think I could only stand it for about 4 episodes before I gave up and never looked back.

Abe said...

Well said. I agree with all the points you make with the possible exception of the focus on Jack. I think he has become a bit too broken and far too resilient (tortured for a few hours, running around easily the next). I love the idea of setting it before Season 1, and having it at CTU in that case could be okay, or maybe at a different CTU in a different city (New York City maybe, which might help with the whole time thing as far as how long it takes to get places). I was disappointed with all but the first 4 episodes of this season, and those were not that great, so I am really hoping for a fresh start next year.

Jimmy said...

You had me till the "Casino Royale" point. that movie was NOT a Bond movie. Bond movies have gadgets (a portable poison analyzer?), car chases (not driving a car and crashing it right away), world conquest size master plans by villians (i have to win back money i lost by playing POKER?).

so if they do to 24 what casino royale did to bond, then they'll just make a second-rate show, slap "24" on it, and remind us how much we miss the REAL show 24.

Matt said...

Thank You! I have been a loyal 24 fan for a long time, even organizing "24 nights" with other friends that enjoy the show. And by the end of the season it ended up being more of a MST3K session while we commented and complained about the show while it was on. The show went from the best show on TV to being not even the best show in it's time slot. I have more that I saw wrong with the show but you hit my main issues dead on! In one season I have gone from "devout 24 fan" to "I don't think I'm even going to watch next season". Great post!

Anonymous said...

how did you get the youtube player to display that cool mac os x style dock on the screen?

Alex said...

Did you hear anything about this Day 0 jazz. I've seen internet advertisements for it and apparently its a prequel (series started with Day 1). Could be interesting, maybe Jacks days in the army??

Trinity Garcia said...

I've recently finished watching Season 2 over again and I agree with you points 100%. I anticipated so many plot twists and Emmy-worthy character development from this season. Season 6 is completely hazy in my memory, nowhere near as memorable as the early seasons.

Brian said...

You know, I actually really liked the ending bit with Heller... one thing I think the show has done well is shown Jack's slow degradation into nothing more than a killing machine. He's damaged goods, and I think it's one of the few things the show did great this season, showing his continued fall from humanity.

With that being said, the season did feel remarkably inconsequential, predictable, and pointless, a rehash of everything that's came before. The officey stuff wasn't terribly done, but it's a total departure from why I tuned in in the first place.

The show needs a reboot. Let's do a season of Jack in NYC, getting back to normal, and then geting thrown into a crazy life-or-death situation. Slow down the pacing and try to tell a more complete and interesting story. The producers should be thinking less Tom Clancy and more Max Payne.

Anonymous said...

Have Jack use his normal voice instead of either whispering or yelling.

Anonymous said...

I tried to watch for the first time this year. I could not stand the split screens. also the story was did not appeal to me at all. I havent watched since.

SuneetG said...

Stop crying, 24 isnt about the story anymore its about making fox money. thats why fox with keifer to do another 3 seasons. any real fan of jack quit watching this season after 30 minutes into the first hour. I think its time for us to stop talking about the show and hope that fox will stop tarnishing season 1,2,3 jack bauer by embedding him in such poorly written and oddly similar plots. We should just accept that we are not going to get the same thrills as we did in seasons 1-3 (and maybe 4, but thats open for debate) and stop watching.

Anonymous said...

Ok I do agree with alot of the points you posted but i think you took it just a bit over the top although it may not have been as good as other seasons it was still good and it did have its memorable moments.I definitely wasn't as impressed as I was last season especially with the ending but it was still a very entertaining season as a matter of fact I managed to get people to start watching the show because of this season and not they love it.So although you make some good points(Too much rehashing)you brought this season down a bit too much as did some of the other people that posted comments,I mean honestly is this season really going to make stop watching the show?You people are being a bit too dramatic and I am pretty you sure when season 7 rolls around you will be sitting in front of your televisions enjoying it just like me and several million other people will.I know this was not the best season(My favorites are 1 and 5 still cant decide which is my favorite.)but please don't exxagerate by downing this season as much as you are.

Chris said...

I think jack should be the President on Season 7. That way, we can get rid of CTU and move everyone around. It may actually change the whole dynamics of 24 and might be really exciting. Jack this time, could solve international issues directly..well something like that.

William Warby said...

I think season four was where 24 jumped the shark, so to speak.

By the end of season four they had killed off every likeable character and replaced them with bland forgettable characters (Curtis, Sarah, Nadia, Karen) or very annoying characters (Chloe, Doyle, Erin, Audrey). They dropped the eye candy characters (Kim, Michelle) without adequate replacements and proceded to kill of any interesting new characters (Edgar, Buchanan, Logan). I've been forced into indifference towards the ever-changing and ever-decreasing-in-quality cast.

The L.A. proximity thing is unfathomable, but it's just one of many suspension-of-disbelief-killing weaknesses that are built into the premise. Nobody eats, drinks, sleeps, gets tired or has any plans to cancel for exactly 24 hours. Wars are almost started with nameless countries ("Fayed's Country", "These three countries"). Nevermind moles, according to 24 the entire government is rife with corruption, distrust, disloyalty, and a lack of respect for the law in at every level. Evil agendas are rarely adequately justified and characters are often switched from good to bad without any solid explaination (Logan, Jack's brother, Marianne). The pace and gradual expansion into progressively more complex and devistating evil plots by progressively more important people is also incomprehensible.

I agree that all of your suggestions would help to improve the show but I think in addition they need to find better actors and hold onto them. I powered through season six out of respect for a show I once loved. It has three or four episodes of the next season to recapture my interest or I will be going the way of everybody else in my office and giving up.

SHAZ said...

Yes, season 6 is forgettable. It seems like the writers feel in a coma. Here are my suggestions for next season in addition to what was said already:

1. JACK BAUER AS A BAD GUY. This might seem hard to digest but it will be a welcome change for the series to be more interesting. Jack Bauer's persona is predictable these days. You know that he will always escape, live or even outsmart a bunch of thugs. Making him the terrorist is a plausible idea.

2. BRING BACK KIM. Ummm, she is hot.

3. PRES. BILL BUCHANAN. His demeanor and character is more enjoyable than Pres. Palmer (DB Woodside). I think he can be convincing as a President.

Paul Bjergsted Jensen said...

Good article. I'd hate to say it, but I think the show has run its course in terms of plausibility.

Season 2 was good, but Season 1 will always be the best in my opinion; it was original, believable, edgy, and (dare I say it) multi-layered. There was so much depth to it, and I don't know how they could return it to that kind of fresh-faced wonder.

subcorpus said...

agreed on all ponts ...
you mirror my sentiments to the very word ...

Anonymous said...

I agree with you except the deaths issue. 24 claims to be a "realistic" show, so deaths don't always need to have a meaning. I stoped viewing se6 at about episode14 but I'll finish it now. What a boring season! I also agree with you about casino royale. A perfect movie!!!

Anonymous said...

"Quietly emotional"???

Maybe they were too subtle about it, but am I the only one to realize there was a silent clock after Jack was looking over the cliff?

For once, the cliff hanger is really that. I'm at the cliff wondering if he jumped or not.

The main thing I would have done differently would have been to drag the search out for the nukes longer. The "FB subcircuit" chase was a little cheesy, but the tension between Jack and his father over what I think will end up being Jack's son was well done.

PestControlGuy said...

You hit the nail on the head. I didn't think it was possible when I started watching this season, but 24 has become the ultimate repetative situation show to ever exist.

Hopefully next season they fix it.

Or replace it with something new.

Brian said...

What I would have wanted to see is to have this season end by of course foiling the terrorists, but I wanted to see a great setup for next season.

Imagine if Jack's love interest (Heller's daughter, sorry, can't remember her name) ends up dying by the hands of the Chinese guy and the Chinese gets away. Next season could be entirely different with Jack going to China seeking revenge. It'll be Bourne Identity except much better because Jack isn't nice to the bad guys.

It'll be different and you get to see Jack doing what he does best.

Anonymous said...

I disagree with all those criticizing the Casino Royale point. I think it was a very good and apt point.

Those people who left those comments said that they agreed with every point up to there, well you must not have understood them. Because according to what you said about Casino Royale, if Season 7 is like the blogger suggests, you will come out of it and say that was a very good season but it wasn't 24.

Casino Royale was a great example of what can be done, it was fresh but it kept just enough of what makes a James Bond film. It had the random hot girl Bond slept with which had nothing to do with the rest of the plot, the slightly less in your face hot but pretty girl that he finally got with near the end of the film, but we are unlikely to hear anything about in any following films, and a number of witty one-liners.

No it didn't have some crazy gadgets that fortunately is exactly what Bond needs to take out 50 terrorists or the evil crazy genius bent on world domination or the provactive dancing girls in the opening credits. But none of these are present are the original Bond books. They are all 'fads', things people enjoyed about the 1st Bond film so the directors decided to keep them in. But fads get stale, and most people get bored of them.

Take Die Another Day for example, I'm sure if you give me a brief summary of the characters involved I could give you a fairly accurate transcript of the film without even watching it, and 24 is becoming the same.

24 has its own fads, such as the mole, an attack on CTU, shock deaths of characters, weapons of mass destruction, all things that people enjoyed mainly in Season 4 when 24 became popular with the masses. But here again the fads have become stale and 24 needs to go back to its roots and the more subtle things that made 24 good in seasons 1 & 2, and some good suggestions for doing that have been made in this blog.

Anonymous said...

Sorry - but have to weigh in on the Casino Royale comments. The Bond franchise was dying. It had become a parody of itself, and was losing fan base. Casino Royal brought back respect for the character,AWESOME chase scenes - on foot no less - and managed to pay homage to the original Casino Royale which was a spoof itself.

Casino Royale was the "Making of Bond" as people have been asking for the "Making of Jack". Similar to Batman Returns - which, again, took a franchise that was a joke (George Clooney?) and made it riviting.

Anonymous said...

I've watched every season including part of this one but after a few episodes I zoned out. Got a bit ridiculous kinda like the difference between the early James Bond movies and those 20 years later.

Anonymous said...

I know you all have your own ideas but here is the 7 things i'd like to see happen in Day 7. I'm not interested in a prequal I what the Jack Bauer character to have a forfilling story arc that Season 6 has not provided!! So here are my ideas feel free to rip on me after you've read them!
1. Set it in China
2. Jack and a small team of special ops guys (ie other tortured soles with nothing to lose/something to prove, perhaps Doyle?) no more massive cast of characters!! This allows the viewer to become more emotionally invested. Also if they are on there own with not CTU to bail them out would create more tension?
3. Jack is on the trail of what they did to Audrey so she can be cured and/or revenge for his time in captivity.
4. Jack is captured and has to escape before he is exicuted (here is you ticking clock moment)
5.Chen character brought back again after being released due to some diplomatic immunity etc But is made less of a pussy and less incompitant!
6. Jacks father to reappear after making it to the boat before the missiles hit the oil platform.
7. More believable violence and consiquences for characters actions. Foe example if a priciple actor is shot this injury should slow them down for more that 10 minutes!

Prescott said...

I agree. In general I think the greatest difference between the earlier seasons and this most recent one is how the story is told; in the earlier seasons, the audience gets to know information that Jack and company don't. We learned things before Jack did, and therefore a sense of suspence was greated by us asking "when, when". These days, we learn things in the same half-hour that they are solved, and cliffhangers don't entice because we know it will be taken care of in the next 20 minutes.

Orange said...

This almost 100% echos the statements that I've been making about this show since the beginning.

Season 1 was all new ground. They had episodes where Jack would spend the majority of his time in his car as places in LA even in the middle of the night are more than a 5 minute drive. There were a few technology gaffes. The only major negative was the stupid amnesia part with his wife. Loved the show so much that I was begging friends and family to watch it.

Season 2 was the best ever in my view. Yes Kim was over the top, but who cares when it comes in a package like that? The show was still very good on the real time part.

Season 3 was still great but now it only take 5 to 10 minutes to get anywhere in LA. They really did a great job of emotional tie-ins with even the most bleh of characters. This very well might have been the best writing job ever.

After that, it has been very ho-hum. After season 5, they left themselves with a perfect opportunity. They could have 24 - escape from Saigon or something like that. He could be in prison, getting tortured and escape. He could find some way to contact CTU who could then coordinate an extraction while he continues to evade those evil Chinese. I realize that would step on the toes of Prison Break (which is a much better show right now), but 24 really needed it. I was very disappointed when it became nothing more than a cookie cutter season.

Carl Junction, MO

Brandon said...

You know, I agree with the idea that Jack should be a Bad Guy next season. Every single time he has laid down his life for his country and EVERY. SINGLE. TIME they betray him. He's lost everything in service to his country and they give him no credit.

Jack walking into CTU should be akin to having a Living Legend walk into your midst. The people who know him talk with reverence and those who don't know him are all wondering who the hell he is.

If there's ANYTHING that destroys the show's credibility it's that these people - many of which have known him for YEARS or literally owe their lives to this man take him with a grain of salt. They countract his ideas at the drop of a hat often with very little reason than to stand in Jack's way.

I swear, if I have to hear "I'm sorry Jack" "That's okay, you were just following orders" one more time I'm going to explode.


Perhaps instead of being the villain they should just finally have him snap and say "You know what? Screw you, I don't need this anymore" and watch in horror as CTU and company try and make it through the day on their own with each hour getting successively worse - and, no, Jack doesn't appear to 'save the day' but maybe he shows up in Comms and helps to run Tactical, showing everyone what years of thinking on your feet can do to make you an effective - albeit mildly crazy - leader.


Lisa said...

I began losing interest in the show as they continued to kill off all the main characters.

It's difficult to remained attached in that circumstance. "Gee, I really like this character -- oops, she's dead."

But my husband still watches it, so I can't really get away.

The first season intrigued me, and I really liked President Logan (until they killed him).

But it's been spiraling downward -- in my opinion -- because they keep trying to make it more and more sensational.


PS - I agree with splattergasted that if they backed up in time, and showed the making of Jack, I might start watching again.

That might be the only way that they could return to what one commentor called the original "fresh-faced wonder."

s said...

The show should have stayed in china with jack trying to get out.

Anonymous said...

I have always thought that the series should sustantially change cast and location with each season. More like a Twilight Zone with no permanent cast. You could have a sequence in a season were they coordinate with a previous season for support (Atlanta FBI asked LA CTU to track down a suspect or some info.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry, but I have to weigh in on the Casino Royale issue that was raised. In particular:

"Casino Royale was a good movie but was NOT a bond movie. No element of Bond was present there."

Are you serious? I'm assuming by your comments that you've never read Ian Fleming's novels. I'm a big fan of Sean Connery's portrayal, but Bond was never meant to be the gadget-happy pretty boy that Pierce Brosnan turned him into.

Many critics agree that Ian Fleming's bond was a romanticized version of Fleming himself. He was supposed to be more rough-and-tumble (ruggedly handsome, if you will). Read the original 1953 "Casino Royale" by Ian Fleming and marvel at how much Daniel Craig's portrayal kept to the original Bond.

Anonymous said...

Casino Royale was xXx 3, please do not ruin 24 the way the Bond genre has been screwed...

I agree that a Jack the early days would be a great watch, but maybe a season in a new city would be best...

Anonymous said...

I would love to see the show unfold as you've proposed.

The only point I differ with you on is the "kill characters more respectfully" thing. I can see where you're coming from, but for me, things are more exciting when you know that the writers have the balls to kill off any character at any time.

Rickard Johnsson said...

Good points! One thing that really bugged me in Season 6 was the 'excitement' music in the background, constantly trying to create drama in dull situations.

Anonymous said...

Season 6 of 24 was so incredibly lame, i could hardly believe it was the same series. In my opinion, the story line for season 6 SHOULD have been the rescue of Jack Bauer. Not another end of the world plot (although you can work that in, if you want: any rescue attempt would be tantamount to a world war), just the rescue of Jack Bauer by a bunch of renegade CTU personnel. Just like in "Star Trek: The Search for Spock" (nerd alert), Sometimes, the needs of the one outweigh the needs of the many.