Not that there’s been any chance that Jack Bauer won’t save the day. But each season’s plot leads to the moment when all the turncoats have been exposed, all the innocent hostages rescued and we can be confident that no one else we care about will be killed. The music takes on a more triumphant tone and Kiefer Sutherland, as the superagent and chief worrywart Jack, starts to shed the death-mask expression he’s worn for the previous 22 hours or so.
That moment hasn’t yet arrived this season, the show’s eighth — at the end of Hour 13 on Monday, the strangely dithering federal agent played by Katee Sackhoff had just been revealed as a traitor (and if you didn’t see that coming, go wait in the interrogation room). When it does, it will be the last one; Fox has confirmed that the series has been canceled, and its final episodes will be shown on May 24.
Most of the talk about “24” over the years has concerned its politics (perceived as being well to the right of most television dramas), its choices of villains and its forthright depictions of torture. None of those had anything to do with why I watched the show or how I responded to it, and as inescapable as those topics have been post-9/11, focusing on them in “24” always seemed a little beside the point.
That’s because it isn’t a show about ideas expressed through action-thriller mechanics. It’s essentially a superhero cartoon with a topical overlay, a cartoon that was well done from the start but was so rigidly formatted that it had no way to grow. Season 8, routine as it is, has not been the show’s worst — it would have to slip significantly in its last 11 hours to fall behind Seasons 7 or 3.
The great virtue of “24,” as with any traditional cartoon, is certainty — the knowledge that in moments of crisis, Jack Bauer will always come to the right conclusion and do the right thing (even if doing the right thing can sometimes lead to anguished second thoughts). The show may have been defined by its 24-hour real-time format, but at its heart has always been Jack’s comic-book rectitude, that fantastical but deeply satisfying combination of supercompetence and incorruptibility, and Mr. Sutherland’s performance in a role that easily could have become a winking caricature.
It was the demands of the format that doomed the show (though eight seasons is nothing to cry about). Repetition set in early, there was a limited stock of villains and it was impossible to up the ante on destructive threats, or absurdly byzantine conspiracies, year after year.
Maintaining a single central narrative across 24 hours required the invention of subplots that became famous for their implausibility — Jack’s daughter, Kim Bauer, versus the cougar in Season 2 has been matched by Dana Walsh (Ms. Sackhoff) versus her old boyfriend from her criminal past in the current season. Facing nuclear annihilation or biological attack, characters would wander away from their posts for the most mundane reasons.
Another problem has been turnover, as members of the counterterrorism team and their allies have been killed off or sent away. The Secret Service agent Aaron Pierce (Glenn Morshower), almost as dependable as Jack, has been missed this season, and the show has felt diminished since the decision to do away with the stalwart Bill Buchanan (James Morrison) in Season 7.
We’re left with Jack, and his mostly office-bound sidekick Chloe (Mary Lynn Rajskub). He’ll deliver the goods one more time — the moment should arrive in Hour 22 or 23, in May — and then, we can hope, retire to California, to repair his relationship with Kim (Elisa Cuthbert), and dandle his granddaughter on his aching knee. He’s earned it, eight times over.
Source : nytimes
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