Jack Bauer has had a pretty tough life working in his job as counter-terrorist agent for the various incarnations of CTU. More often than not, he seems to find himself caught up in various terrorist plots that take a whole twenty-four hours to resolve. And, for what thanks?
Well, he’s been kidnapped and tortured by the Chinese, put up in front of a senate committee, suffered a drug addiction, been arrested and released over and over by various authorities, lost his wife and a variety of lovers, seen his daughter kidnapped (more than once) and ended up with a few scrapes and bruises both physically and mentally and, at no point, does he seem to be really appreciated.
So, with this in mind, we move forward into Day 8 of Jack’s life, in the final season of 24.
Now, Jack has a granddaughter and has patched up his relationship with his lovely daughter, Kim. Kim’s life is also looking up. She’s now happily in a relationship with Stephen (Paul Wesley from The Vampire Diaries). Jack has decided to go back to Los Angeles with Kim and Stephen, after months of deliberation and uncertainty. His life will involve renting an apartment and working for a private security consultancy. So, prepare for 24 hours of Jack packing his clothes, sorting out loose ends, redirecting his mail and then a real time flight across the states as he sets up his new peaceful life.
Meanwhile, as Jack settles down for his normal life, President Taylor and President Hassan (Anil Kapoor, most famous in the UK for his role in Slumdog Millionaire) are attempting to build a peace between the fictional Islamic Republic of Kamistan and the western world.
Hassan is a bit of a revolutionary in his country with his support for two states, dislike of terrorism and willingness to co-operate with the West. In exchange, Taylor will be offering the lifting of economic sanctions and aide that will bring new economic prosperity to the region. The very fact that two totally different worlds are about to come together in peace and harmony is enough to cause issues for those who don’t want to see peace.
It should come as no surprise that Jack is quickly drawn into the plot to assassinate President Hassan when information is passed to him by an old informant by the name of Victor (Benito Martinez). Given no choice but to try to avert the collapse of the fledgling peace deal, Jack leaves his thoughts of retirement and heads back to the new high-tech CTU, led by efficiency conscious Brian Hastings and assisted by, amongst others, the practical Cole Ortiz (Freddie Prinze Jr) and his lovestruck partner, Dana Walsh (Battlestar Galactica‘s Katee Sackhoff).
As always, people in authority seem not to listen to Jack and he must operate outside the confines of CTU and, more importantly, above the law as he goes all out to track down an assassin, uncover a conspiracy and save the day.
Thankfully, Chloe O’Brien is still on hand and having trouble fitting into this new incarnation of CTU. Constantly on the end of a berating, it’s Chloe who sees through the wool that has been pulled over Hastings’ eyes, working with Jack as he pursues his targets with relentless enthusiasm.
Chloe isn’t the only familiar face in this season of 24, as Rene Walker returns, darker and more fragile, as an expert in Russian matters. Having left the FBI due to her interrogation of a suspect in Day 7, Rene is recruited to go undercover with Russian terrorists.
Running into Jack, the tension is almost palpable and, obviously, they end up working together for the greater good, undercover, up close and personal. With her FBI training pretty much on the back seat, the new Rene is a vicious woman who will stop at nothing to carry out her objective.
Undercover with the Russians, the truth about what happened to Rene during her time with the Russians drips out, as she falls back in with her Russian associate, Vladimir Laitanin (Callum Keith Rennie, also of BSG). Her actions infuriate Jack, but he has no choice but to allow her to carry out her self-destructive plan as he tries to secure weaponised uranium rods and prevent them from falling into the wrong hands.
On the subject of darkness and brutality, as the conspiracy progresses, Hassan becomes a much more Machiavellian character, believing that he can only achieve the peace he seeks by cracking down on those who oppose or question him. His new approach leaves him at odds with President Taylor, who recognises that Hassan’s actions will threaten the peace process.
In this thread alone, we get to explore the difficulties of two differing views of what is right and how they will seemingly continually struggle to achieve peace and tolerance.
At first, it seems that Hassan is going to be a stereotypical Middle-Eastern character. However, the series shows that Hassan isn’t a brutal dictator. He does what he does for the right reasons, even if his actions seem wrong at the time.
Later in the season, Hassan takes matters into his own hands to prevent a catastrophe and makes the ultimate sacrifice, though not necessarily on his own terms. This finally gives his wife a chance to step out from his shadow and take centre stage.
When we’re not dealing with an assassination attempt and weaponised uranium rods, we’ve got the rather annoying re-appearance of Dana’s old flame, Kevin Wade. He’s a stereotypical boy from the wrong side of the tracks, complete with goatee beard to make him look menacing. Threatening Dana’s career, she has no choice (it seems) but to do what he says and help Wade commit a crime.
It’s an annoying plotline as it takes away from the main story and just seems too convenient a distraction. You can almost guarantee that it’ll pop up later to incriminate Dana and throw yet another spanner into the works. It’s also going to cause problems when her fiancé, Cole, finds out. After all, he’s pretty much all loved up.
Cole Ortiz plays a pumped-up support role to Jack Bauer, initially driving around and dealing with stuff to keep Jack safe. As the story progresses, he has to deal with his fiancée’s betrayal and support Jack, despite the instructions of his superiors.
Prinze, Jr is good as Ortiz, a glorified action man who carries out his orders without question, yet ensures that whatever he does is the right thing. Of course, being second fiddle to Jack wouldn’t be enough, so we’ve get to live through his belief that his fiancée is having an affair and the realisation that she isn’t the lovely CTU agent he fell in love with. When he takes matters into his own hands, we’ve got yet another thread that, annoyingly, isn’t fully resolved. It gets even worse when it’s revealed that Walsh really isn’t who she claimed to be and Ortiz must make some tough choices.
As if Ortiz and Walsh weren’t enough, we discover that President Hassan’s daughter has gone AWOL with her lover and Hassan’s former chief of security. Hassan refuses to evacuate the city, despite the impending threat, leaving CTU to find his daughter, retrieve the uranium rods and save the day. Except, obviously, it’s not going to go anywhere near as smoothly as that, as we discover that Hassan’s daughter is being played and drives straight into CTU with a device that will disable the whole organisation, allowing the terrorists to step up their game.
The terrorists aren’t the only ones playing games! Rob Weiss, one of Taylor’s advisers, was instrumental in setting up the new CTU and installing Hastings as the boss. He’s concerned that CTU aren’t able to do the job that he thinks they should be doing and sets out to discredit Renee Walker to save his own reputation.
This isn’t going to be the only time that CTU is used as a pawn as Hastings is removed, Chloe promoted, an NSA team brought in to clean up the mess and a political lapdog is parachuted in to ensure that the agenda is carried out to its conclusion.
If ever there were a story that embodied ‘Oh what tangled webs we weave’, it’s this one! One act of deception quickly leads to another for more than one character, as the results of their actions quickly catch up with them.
With the possibility that the peace treaty may collapse, Taylor calls in disgraced President Charles Logan (once again played impeccably by Gregory Itzin) to bring the Russians back to the negotiating table. Logan, as slippery and slimy as ever, isn’t innocent in all that has happened, as we discover that he knows about the Russian’s involvement in today’s terrorist activities. However, he doesn’t count on the tenacity of Jack Bauer as he manages to demolish Logan’s operation pretty effectively. He isn’t going to go down without a fight and his poison soon spreads to Taylor.
What starts out as a hunt for missing uranium rods and a quest to uncover those behind the death of a political leader quickly becomes a quest for vengeance, as Jack takes matters into his own hands. Even wounded, Jack proves resourceful, despatching those who have wronged him in rather creative (though unseen) ways, whilst still gathering evidence and making his presence felt. Whilst Chloe and Cole try to track him down, he cuts a swathe of red across the city, leaving a trail of destruction for all to see.
24 gives us, not surprisingly, 24 episodes of political intrigue and deception, collapsing and strengthening bonds, coupled with double crossing and red herrings. Manny Coto and Brannon Braga, with the help of a talented team of writers, have crafted yet another fast moving Boys’ Own Adventure that moves along so quickly and has so many threads to it that it is often difficult to keep up with what is going on.
Whilst it may seem an annoyance, the subplots of Dana and Ortiz actually break the tension of the main story, eventually bringing Dana back into the main story as an essential component, though it still seems rather implausible that her cover would be broken and that a probation officer happens to be dropping by at this particular moment in time.
When it isn’t delivering all out action, 24 manages to tell a pretty good political story. It doesn’t have the depth of a series like The West Wing, but it still conveys the power struggle within the White House and the seemingly endless desire of the presidency to hold itself up as a bastion of morality whilst dealing in the darkness that it has sometimes created.
Whilst Walker may want to be seen as moral and just, her staff often gets their hands dirty in order to get the job done. ventually, even Walker, losing control and tainted by Logan, succumbs to the necessity of sin as she uses the threat of military might to protect something that she holds dear.
Casting the President as a bully with all the toys is a brave move for an American television series, especially one as popular as 24. Corrupt presidents, puppet presidents and inept presidents are easy to accept. Bullying presidents who, even when they are wrong, use their position as leader of the free world to get what they want, are a chilling reminder of the sheer power of one country on the world stage.
So, in 24 The Final Season, we’ve had terrorist threats, nuclear weaponry, political shenanigans and a president that falls and then attempts to rebuild bridges. However, Jack’s story ends with him pretty much on the run, again. It’s an emotional ending, between Jack and Chloe, that isn’t the big, blow-out that might have been expected and definitely leads into the touted big screen version.
You know he’s going to be back, called upon when the US needs defending, and it might have been disappointing, except it seems to be a fitting way to end the series.
The acting is, once more, top notch throughout the whole season. From the second he speaks, Anil Kapoor is incredibly charismatic, proving that his role as Prem Kapur in Slumdog wasn’t a one-off. He has one of those voices that rumbles with confidence, authority and warmth.
On top of that, his presence radiates from the screen in every scene in which he appears. Hopefully, he’ll appear in more English language work in the near future. There’s something almost Shakespearean about his performance, alongside his onscreen wife Dalia, played brilliantly by Necar Zadegan. Zadegan gets the opportunity to turn her performance right up in the final hours of the season, as she grudgingly takes centre stage and discovers many disturbing truths that don’t sit well with her own beliefs.
The return of President Taylor allows Cherry Jones to put in a multi-faceted performance alongside the returning Bob Gunton as Taylor’s trusted ally, Ethan Kanin. Together Jones and Gunton are a spectacular team, giving the impression of elder statesmen who may seem a little jaded, but are working towards the same goal, even if they don’t share full disclosure.
Kiefer Sutherland gives yet another robust performance as Jack Bauer. He even looks masculine with his manbag! Every threat he makes seems real, leaving in you no doubt that he would really shoot you if he so much as believed you might know something.
Huge respect goes to the wonderfully talented Mary Lynn Rajskub, who first appeared as Chloe in Season 3 and has gone from being annoying, antagonistic and socially inept to, well, annoying, antagonistic and socially inept, but trustworthy and talented, with a mean comic streak.
As the series as progressed, Chloe has moved up to more of a leading role, complete with family and history, and Rajskub has demonstrated her ability to deliver subtle comedy and intense drama. In this season, she takes control of CTU as Acting Director. It’s a real shame that we won’t get to see more of the character in this role.
Katee Sackhoff and Freddie Prinze Jr spend a little too much time being loved up, until Sackhoff’s Dana has a ghost from her past make a reappearance and threaten to ruin her life. However, later in the series, both actors get chance to flex their acting muscles as the truth about Dana’s background rushes to the surface and Ortiz finds himself implicated in her deceit.
One of 24‘s strengths is the way in which it shows that finding and neutralising terrorist threats is not primarily down to high technology or political manoeuvring, but down to manpower and perseverance. Whilst the President and Hastings may stand there, wringing their hands and making demands, Jack goes in with a gung-ho attitude, pulling together seemingly random threads and bringing it all together in a blaze of glory.
Everyone in the series has weaknesses and the series manages to expose these effectively, without ever stepping into the realm of pantomime villainy or soap-style melodrama. Having been borne in the shadow of 9/11, there’s something patriotic about Jack’s actions as he attempts to prevent terrorists from invading America’s home front. He may not be the clean-living, law abiding action hero, but he gets the job done, despite those who stand in his way.
Extended episodes bring an additional two minutes to a number of episodes. The scenes appear to be mostly dialogue driven and offer a little more insight into characters and their motivations. You can choose to watch the extended episodes or the original television versions.
Ultimate CTU is a short feature about the creation of the new CTU and the transfer to New York. We get to see Carlos Barbosa discussing his design and the location scouting process. Disappointingly, we don’t get to visit the location, an island that features a derelict former smallpox hospital. However, we do get to see some of the designs and how they were realised for screen. Short, but interesting, it’s amazing the amount of work that goes into creating what is, ultimately, a temporary structure and the lengths that the crew take to maintain the sets.
Scene Makers are short (usually under three minutes) featurettes that look at the making of particular scenes, particularly those that feature action sequences. Despite their length, they are quite interesting, showing the techniques (some of which aren’t as technical as you’d expect) used to create some of the more memorable moments. Once again, cast and crew talk about their involvement in the scene, discussing the filming process, stunt work and effects worked involved.
Deleted Scenes are scenes that could have been added back into the episodes, given that there are already extended episodes in this boxset. Particularly of interest are the various scenes featuring President Taylor as she attempts to keep the peace process on track.
Virtually New York runs for nine minutes and explores the difficulties of filming in New York and the use of digital backlot to cover up some of the budgetary issues of filming on location. It’s amazing to see the scenes that genuinely looked like they were filmed on location are actually green screen effects. Some CGI sequences are also discussed, including the helicopter chase sequence, which was part visual effect and part CGI, including the windows of the chopper!
Chloe’s Arrest is an unusual sequence that is also referred to as Chloe’s Interrogation on the box, featuring Chloe as she is questioned by FBI agents about the location of Jack Bauer. With nothing really substantial to frame the sequence, it comes across as more of a deleted scene than anything else.
On the bonus disc:
Comic-Con 2009 is a 31 minute recording of the panel that was held at, not surprisingly, the Comic-Con 2009 event. Alongside producers and composers, we have Kiefer Sutherland, Mary Jane Rajskub (pronounced, I’ve discovered through this, ‘rice cub’), Katee Sackhoff, Freddie Prinze Jr and Anil Kapoor. Of course, there’s nothing contentious in the discussion, and it’s obvious that the cast and crew represented are passionate about what they’ve done. Being filmed before Day 8, there are few spoilers or discussion of the plot.
Eight Days is a four part featurette that can also be played together. Collectively, they run for a total of 28 minutes.
Jack Bauer: Evolution of a Hero features cast and crew talking about Jack Bauer and how the character evolved. It’s interesting hearing the recollections of the past years, particularly reminding us that Jack started out as quite happy and respectful of the work he did. Various producers and writers talk about how Sutherland became the role and Sutherland himself comments on his lack of TV experience.
Presidents, Friends and Villains looks at the various colleagues, peers and villains that Jack has encountered. Writers talk about their love of writing for various characters, Logan, Chloe and David Palmer amongst them. They comment that the show “isn’t just an action show, it’s a character drama with action.” Sadly, no actors from previous seasons return to talk about their roles. There’s also comment on shows that were modelled on 24 and failed.
Memories and Moments allows the producers to talk about their recollections of the past eight years. Short clips are played to frame these memories that range from explosions to interrogations. There are comments on things that happened outside of the series, such as Bill Clinton’s love of the show and how the producers visited some actual locations, including a nuclear submarine and the White House. Bizarrely, there’s a conversation about the smoking room, in which many things are discussed and actors have saved the lives of their characters!
Goodbye does feature previous cast members as they gather for an ‘exclusive party’ to celebrate the end of 24. It’s great to see people like Dennis Haysbert (President Palmer) return and talk about their memories, albeit briefly. There’s also some footage of the last day of filming the final scenes of the series, commented upon by the writers.
It would have been nice to see some features focusing on the publicity campaign for this season, or lengthier features on the stunt work and effects work. Overall, though, the extras are worth watching, with the Scene Makers features being a welcome addition that, hopefully, other television series might replicate.
Let’s face it, if you’re thinking about buying 24: The Final Season, then chances are you’ve bought or seen the first seven seasons. I could say it was a pile of horse droppings, and you’d probably still pick it up. Truth be told, it isn’t bad at all.
24, as a series, may have lost its way and become a bit ‘paint by numbers’ over the years, but it still tells a compelling story of one man and his ongoing quest to see justice done, no matter what the cost.
24: The Final Season is out now and available from the Den Of Geek Store.
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