In the years I've been watching 24, I can't ever recall being treated to such a lean, mean dosage of engaging back-to-back hours as the grouping of episodes leading up to the series finale (which airs next Monday at 8 p.m.). Say what you will about this season—the Dana Walsh/Jenny Scott storyline is certainly one blemish keeping Day 8 from achieving top-tier status—but since Renee Walker's murder six weeks ago, something new and fresh has emerged. And not just in regards to 24. Simply put, these hours comprise what has to be the greatest, bloodiest tale of revenge ever created for broadcast television. "Revenge is a dish best served cold," goes the old adage, and I'm reminded of some of the best screen works on the subject: The Godfather trilogy; Park Chan-Wook's revenge trilogy; Kill Bill. All are epic in scope, delving into the main character's story and the concept of revenge itself.
Some of you may dispute Jack Bauer's inclusion in such ranks of infamy, saying his kill-crazy rampage is the result of the producers going balls-out in light of the show's cancellation. Maybe, but I think that this trail of violence was a long time coming. A culmination of the wrongs this character has endured over the course of his life from powerful government suits. One minute a 'thank you,' the next a stab in the back. Back and forth. Eventually he was bound to snap. Yes, there is the motive of truth and transparency behind his actions, but vengeance and sadism seem to smother all traces of good intent.
Early in last night's hour, we pull back to see Jack's handiwork from last week. The Russian man he filleted—blood and guts slopped on the floor. I quickly came to a realization after that scene and those to follow. No longer is Jack in hot pursuit of the face of fear. He is the face of fear, as embodied by the dark ominous figure wearing a black mask. It's an unnerving image. As Jack fires rounds from an automatic rifle, President Logan helplessly watches from afar in his limo as the man in black gets closer and closer. A once coolly deceitful politician is reduced to wide-eyed hysteria before his kidnapper finally collects him. In the process, several Secret Service agents are injured either from gunshot wounds or tear gas. That's nothing compared to what's to come.
From what the audience knows at this point, Logan spills a desperate confessional fingering Russian Foreign Minister Mikhail Novakovich as the brain behind the day's atrocities. Coming from a man who doesn't know how to tell the whole truth, it shouldn't come as a surprise he's holding back vital information. (More on that in a bit.) Jack renders Logan unconscious and follows the lead, but we see only the preliminary stage of his next assault, during which he is stabbed. Once Logan comes to and Jason Pillar calls Novakovich, only then do we understand the extent of the damage. We cut to a room. A cell phone rings. The camera pans from corpse to bloody corpse. A wounded henchman crawls toward the impaled body of Novakovich before finally answering the phone of his dead boss. Somehow through all of this, Logan remains perfectly calm, as if this is all part of the plan. It is, sorta. Well, more of a diversion from the real villain, Russian President Yuri Suvarov, who first appeared in Day 5. Logan calls him after learning of the massacre, not knowing Jack is hearing the entire conversation via a bug he placed on him earlier.
The question now becomes, will Jack's blood-spattered brush and canvas end with a big red exclamation point in the assassination of a world leader? Suvarov correctly tells Logan, "There is nothing more dangerous than a wounded animal." Why? Time becomes a factor in completing the objective. There's less to lose in knowing you will ultimately die.
Things are fast unraveling for both sides. President Taylor executes a last-ditch effort to quiet the press from running the story that will bring down her presidency and the peace agreement, resulting in Meredith Reed's arrest. However, minutes before her arrest she speaks to Kayla Hassan, telling her about the Russian involvement and the evidence she has in her possession. To complicate matters, Chloe releases Cole to locate Jack's accomplice, Jim Ricker. We still don't know on which side Chloe and her peeps (Cole and Arlo) will fall. Together, they make up the wild card in all this.
Truth be told, this is shaping up to be the finest conclusion for any season of the show. The best 24 moments are usually thrust at the beginning of the day or buried somewhere in the middle. Especially when you factor in the hype, the writers and producers have more than risen to the challenge. This story of revenge has taken on a life of its own, using the iconic character we all know and love and letting him loose. Going back to my review of the episode that began this vengeance timeline, I applaud the show's creators for keeping true to that one, simple rule that has kept the show living and breathing: Jack Bauer cannot be happy.
I can't think of a more appropriate ending.