I have no idea how many people are still watching, but for those who haven’t been paying much attention, there are only 4 episodes of “24” left before the series comes to a close.
If you haven’t been watching and haven’t been paying attention, I can’t say that I blame you. For the most part this season has been a train wreck, substituting viewer frustration for genuine suspense, and consistently creating situations (not to mention characters) that are simply head-slapping in their stupidity.
For all that, the show still surprised (if not shocked) me last night [SPOILER ALERT], by allowing Jack to kill Dana Walsh in cold blood. Dana Walsh may have been the most poorly written character the series has had in the five (six?) years I’ve been watching, and there’s no question that she deserved to die, but it was still shocking to see Jack shoot her twice at point blank range, essentially executing her in cold blood.
In the short term, the moment was very gratifying, but as a dramatic device I think it was a spectacular failure. I have no idea how the current producers and writers are planning to end the show, but it seems to me that with those shots last night, any vestiges of humanity in Jack have been obliterated. If the show opts for a “happy ending” that sends Jack back to his daughter and grandchild with a smile on his face, it will feel totally false. From a dramatic standpoint, about the only thing that makes sense now is to allow Jack to go out in a blaze of glory, killing every bad guy in sight, and closing with a “Butch Cassidy” freeze-frame, with Jack surrounded by the entirety of the nation’s armed forces and the New York City Police Department.
To be honest, I’m not sure why I still care. But I’m nothing if not loyal; heck, I didn’t even start watching "ER" until the 4th season, and I stuck with it until the end. When it worked, which was frequently enough, “24” contained some of the greatest television I’ve ever watched. But I’m convinced that if you ask anyone who’s ever seen it to name their favorite season, they’ll tell you it was the first one that they saw – whether it was the first, third, fifth, whatever. For me, that was the 4th season. And even then, I didn’t start watching until about the sixth episode, when Son #1 said, “dad, please…just watch for 15 minutes; you won’t be sorry!” And he was right; that was all it took.
And that may be another reason why that season was so special, because in a way it represented a turning point – the point at which we could watch shows like “24” with our sons, instead of telling them to turn the channel and/or go to bed.
So…whatever happens in the next four episodes, all is forgiven. Jack, you were always great.
UPDATE: I won't post the picture here, but check this link for a photo of the moment just after Jack shoots Dana. Even after having seen the show "live," looking at the picture (it's the one where Jack is looking down at her lifeless body, gun in hand) is a shock - and pretty disturbing.