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Guest Post: LQ Takes On Jack Bauer and The End of 24

EDITOR'S NOTE: LQ, aka "Little Qualler," aka FastHands26 has graciously guest blogged for us covering that *other* series finale that aired this week featuring an actor of questionable talent playing a character named Jack, 24. LQ has graciously bit the bullet for all of us by watching the last few seasons long after Chris and I had given up on the show. His post, written below, is also posted on his long-running (since 2002!) LiveJournal, "The World Through the Eyes of Dan Waller".

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The Blogulator has asked me to write up my thoughts on 24, the show that created one of the most memorable TV superheroes of all time and was, at one point in time, one of the best things you could watch on TV. The DVD craze that really wasn't all that long ago is what brought a lot of people to this show, people who started watching the show around seasons 4 or 5 and bought up the first few seasons on DVD. Those lucky punks didn't have to wait a whole week to see what happens at the end of each cliffhanger episode.

I have been watching this show since it debuted in 2001. I was in high school at the time, and oddly enough, I still remember sitting at the dinner table with my parents saying "hey there's this new show that's premiering tonight called 24, it looks good!" My parents and I watched it together and fell in love with the show immediately. It was a totally new premise, a story told in real-time and using a lot of split-screen images which had never really been done before. All of Season 1 was spectacular, but it was the finale of that season which made the show legendary. After watching that finale, I knew this was a show I'd be watching for years to come, and I definitely wasn't wrong about that.

For years, this show was regarded by me as "the best TV show I have ever seen". And to be quite honest, despite the fact that the end of 24's run was pretty lackluster and at times completely boring, I may still think that.

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See, here, Jack Bauer is so awesome that he can travel to other shows like ER and harass people like Dr. Romano.

What is it about this show that is so great? It is not a character show, though there are some outstanding characters besides just Jack Bauer. There is no symbolism or deep themes that people would discuss over glasses of scotch. 24 knows what it is and, at times, executed it to perfection: an exciting, fast-paced action/adventure story with people making impossible decisions in impossible circumstances. The writers of this show repeatedly wrote themselves into corners and jams and relied on the creativity of the characters to get themselves out of it, if they could. Sometimes, the worst did happen. In fact, on many occasions, the worst did happen, and that set the stage for a wildly unpredictable show.

When a show is on for 8 seasons, you know it is going to lose some steam at some point. For those of you who are curious, Seasons 1 - 5 were all mind-blowingly awesome, season 6 sucked, season 7 was really awesome, and season 8 was by far the worst season the show ever saw. Season 5 is likely to be considered by most to be the best season of the show as it was the one season where the show swept the Emmys and won all kinds of awards. I remember thinking that those were the most overdue awards I had ever seen...no if you want to see a good season, watch season 3. Ryan Chappelle? Remember? And the last 8 episodes where Steven Saunders had America by the balls...those may have been the best stretch of episodes the show ever had.

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But how many disasters can you have? There were several nuclear bombs, biological attacks, hostage situations, more nuclear bombs, nerve gas, nuclear meltdowns even, assassination plots. And as for bad guys, there were islamic extremists, evil Russians, crazy Chinese, corrupt rich white dudes, corrupt politicians, moles upon moles upon moles....and a cougar! Oh the cougar...for those of you who haven't seen the show, there was an episode in season 2 where Jack Bauer's daughter, who was doing stuff all season long that had nothing to do with anything, got caught in a bear trap and was being hunted by a cougar. It's considered to be the stupidest storyline in the history of the show, and yeah it's probably worse than everything that happened this season. That's not to say season 2 wasn't awesome, because it totally was awesome.

But I digress...the series finale of this show was a major disappointment because of the decision to make this show into a movie. As I watched the show in the glory days, I dreamed of how spectacular the series finale was going to be. I expected the world to damn near be at its end, possibly a nuclear holocaust and absolute chaos. And Jack Bauer's fate would be decided at the end, but if he's in a movie, you know he's not going to die. The "go big or go home" philosophy was completely abandoned, however, and the finale was about as explosive as a wet firecracker. I had read that when the writers knew that the show was going to end, they "took big risks" in the last few episodes, which to me meant that some really huge stuff was going to happen. And you know what did happen? The current president, who had been a morally good person for the last 2 seasons, decided to give moral bankruptcy a try and did some really dumb things that got her in trouble, and eventually she just resigned. Wow, that's pretty exciting. And Jack, who finally gets some after not getting any for almost a decade, finds his woman shot just minutes after they finish doing their thing, and yes she dies. I think the writers thought that we may find an angry, vengeful Jack who wants to avenge the death of his girlfriend to be exciting. But at the start of the season, he was at home with his daughter and his granddaughter as happy as can be, so now I just feel horrible for the guy that this is how things turned out for him. I'm not excited, I just feel like my hero for the last 8 years is getting crapped on for no reason.

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See, even Renee Walker is sad about how the show is ending up.

A side note about Renee Walker...she came onto the scene in season 7, a season that was outstanding and just as good as the first batch of seasons, and it's almost entirely because of her. She may be the first character on the show who actually had...gasp...a story arc! For the first time, the show got more character-based by giving Jack a partner who was a very by-the-book person and had a completely different philosophy from Jack's rule-breaking behavior. But over the course of the season, she saw things through Jack's perspective and saw why rules sometimes need to be broken. And at the same time, she had to deal with the consequences of her actions, some of which were incredibly difficult to deal with. It gave a totally new perspective on Jack, as well. We'd always seen Jack do some bad things for a greater good, but for the first time, we started to see that those bad things do have an impact. Season 7 didn't have the excitement of other seasons as the threat they were dealing with was much smaller, and that was on purpose. For the first time, the show had serious depth rather than serious action, and the season was incredibly enjoyable as a result.

24 is at its best when the outcome is unclear and likely very bad, and the talented good guys, even those as insanely talented as Jack Bauer, have to perform their best to get out of a jam. The 24 movie will only be good if it can capture that, if it can give a real sense of mortality to the important characters. And it needs to make us like the people we are watching too...season 8 saw some really terrible characters in the annoyingly obtrusive new CTU director and a data analyst, Dana Walsh, who was poorly written and poorly acted and yet got to have her own subplot for the entire season. Bring in strong characters, people like Bill Buchanan, David Palmer, David Palmer's wife, Charles Logan, Tony, etc. etc. etc. These were all great characters who I loved watching, and when they were in danger, I seriously worried for them. If the 24 movie can't recapture this, then the show's legacy will be completely forgotten. It is up to the movie to undo the bad writing and total collapse of the show in season 8. I don't feel I can safely call it "the best show I have ever seen" because of this last season, and I really do want to let it be known as such. The 24 movie has a big job to perform, but it has the potential to be spectacular and to forever restore my faith in Jack Bauer. And yes, I will be THE first person on the whole face of the earth who sees this movie when it comes out.

And for heaven's sake, if you have never even seen 24 before, WATCH IT. I can't even imagine how addictive it must be if you can watch it on DVD and not have to wait a week before viewings.

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  1. Blogger qualler | 10:09 AM |  

    Nice work! I was actually thinking the other day that the only way this show could have ended memorably is if it would have been a one-season show only. I would say season one was the best, followed by season five and the part of season three where Bauer had to kill Chappelle. I will say though that I got bored with it when I was done with watching it on DVD and it became clear that the writers didn't actually ever have any kind of plan other than "make really crazy stuff happen." Still, it should have ended with that good-but-bad ending of season one.

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