Feel that? Those are fresh legs. Limber up and keep them moving because after 11 episodes, there is still more to be had from 24: Live Another Day. As we near the finish line, we can start to measure the successes of what FOX touted as a limited-event, half-day, explosive-extravaganza of a mini-series of a lifetime or something of that nature. We know the show will jump ahead in time for the final episode to stay true to its title, but there are two aspects of Jack’s grand return that have steered this ship toward an overall successful comeback tour.
The first? Living in the past has inexplicably kept 24 churning in the present.
You hear the same rhetoric from showrunners who have to deal with the inevitable questions of should their once-popular show make a comeback whether it is on television or on the big screen. If there’s a story to tell we’ll bring it back, they say.
With a show that was as beloved as 24—and its large fan base has mostly returned—I’m not sure anyone expected a revival flush with callbacks from previous seasons. If there was one more story to tell, it was going to be epic, sure, but when Jack faded from Chole’s screen four years ago I didn’t get the feeling that he left without something. He was Jack Bauer, heading off into the distance alone, a fitting send off for a rouge hero.
Now this season is at least poking around, if not flat out asking the question, about whether Jack deserves a happy ending. What happened with Audrey has clearly never left Jack’s mind and a critical scene in tonight’s hour 9:00 p.m.-10 p.m. showed us that Audrey can’t shake the thought of Jack either. “I could never hate you,” she says into the phone. “I never have.”
Before we can resolve what could be one of the more convoluted love stories on national television at the moment (sorry Bachelorette fans), we have to talk about China, and Russia, and President Heller, and last-but-not-least, Cheng. When we had villains earlier in the season that just weren’t hitting the target—literally unable to utilize a drone—I longed for a return to 24’s heyday. Margot’s violent death set us up for a collision course of plots, two previously introduced (China and Russia) and the big surprise (Cheng!). My worry was they’d spread the plot too thin and lose what was special about bringing back Audrey, Heller and linking the past with the present. Somehow, everything connected perfectly. Transitioning from bad guys has been well-timed out. The slight of hand, especially of late, has been up to 24 standards. And Jack has a reason to be putting his life on the line again.
What else has kept the 24 comeback tour on track? Shortening the season.
24 episodes, 24 hours if you count the commercials, is a lot of television for any show. For a show with a believability factor already hovering around zero, it made sense to cut the time in half. There is less mental fatigue in being a 24 fan during this go-around because you know the timeline is somewhat reasonable. While tonight’s episode was really the set up for the finale, I’m confident that 24, even with the time jump, can wrap up the season without making a mess of the good standing it has earned. Does that mean we want to see more of Jack? Maybe. At the beginning of the season I said fans needed closure. Jack needed to die. Clearly I’ve been wrong all season.
It seems like there’s another way out. They found the story they wanted to tell. Now they have to stick the landing.