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Monday, May 22, 2006

"24": An Ugly Ending

There are some shows that just shouldn’t end in a cliffhanger. “24” is one of them. After a cliffhanger every week for 18 straight weeks, one last one is a little hard to swallow.

Especially one as ugly as this one.

As we saw the last scene of the ship headed to China with Jack inside, I sat in total silence, unsure what to say. It was a jarring contrast to the plenty I had to say about the rest of the episode.

In short, the episode rocked.

Only “24” could end a major threat in the first 20 minutes and still have plenty of other stuff to fill a two-hour episode. But even though the threat was dispatched quickly, it was still plenty exciting. The contrast between Jack’s ruthlessness and the Petty Officer’s fear of killing someone was a great storytelling device. And I finally got what I wanted. Tell me you didn’t cheer when Jack took Henderson down. That guy SO had it coming.

With Bierko and Henderson out of the way, it was time to focus on Logan. I admit I felt sorry for Martha as she resorted to sleeping with her husband so Jack could sneak on the helicopter (She didn’t kiss Aaron again, why?). But it was worth it for us, as the confrontation between Logan and Jack was just as phenomenal as advertised. Watching Logan break down in the helicopter while Jack just stared at him was seriously awesome (and if I might say so, totally hot). I was glad to see that Jack didn’t kill him, because that would have been hard to come back from. Gregory Itzin (Logan) was his masterful self, going from terrified to smarmy in one breath. And I think it goes without saying that Kiefer was outstanding as well. I hope the Emmys agree.

Jack was pretty outstanding himself as he managed to get Logan without killing him by planting a microphone in Logan’s precious pen. The smile on Martha’s face as her husband was led away by the federal marshals said it all. Kudos as well to Sean Callery for dropping the weird James Bond music and just going with a straight dramatic score.

As has become the tradition on “24,” the last 15 minutes were filled by both happy and bittersweet moments. Bill asked Karen out (Way to go, Bill!), Audrey and Jack shared a special moment (Yuck!) and Chloe turned to her ex-husband (I did not like him!) after Bill gave her a picture of her and Edgar. But this being “24,” happy endings are not in the cards and Jack was ripped from his reunion with Audrey by masked kidnappers. I just knew it was the Chinese; and sure enough Jack was dragged into the same dimly lit room we saw last season. As he lay on the floor, asking to be killed, looking near death already, the Chinese promised to keep him alive since he was too valuable—exactly why Logan marked him for death last season.

As I said, it was a little hard to swallow. And seeing Kiefer Sutherland with a huge swollen eye really didn’t help.

So does that mean I think the ending was bad?

Now that I think about it, no, not really. It was nice that the show didn’t just ignore the whole Chinese thing and frankly, the idea of Jack and Audrey reuniting makes me sicker than Jack’s swollen eye. And now, we get to wonder who gave Jack up. Was it Logan? Was it Miles? Was it Graham (aka Dr. Romano)? Or was it the German intelligence agent Jack double-crossed? Or maybe the Chinese just have really good intelligence.

So what now? There are rumors that for the first time in “24” history, the next season will pick up right where this one left off. And “TV Guide” reports that both Aaron and Martha will be back next year—which probably means Logan will be back. And if Jack had to get caught by the Chinese to bring back Gregory Itzin, I might forgive them for the swollen eye.

You see, this season was the best “24” season ever because for the first time, we actually cared about someone other than Jack. The secondary storyline (which is usually a little ludicrous) was just as outstanding as the primary one.

Now that doesn’t mean I’m ready to say goodbye to Jack just yet, because I’m not—by a long shot. So I’ll look forward to January when Chloe gets back to work and gets Jack back.

In the meantime, I’ll just go back to my “Friends” reruns on TBS. They’re a lot less stressful.

Thanks for the ride, boys. It’s been fun…