24: The Longest Dead Series Discussion of Our Lives – Season Eight

“JACK GOES ROGUER THAN USUAL”

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24 is a groundbreaking and important television series. Beyond the thrills, kills, twists and tragedies is a show that reached a new level of serialized storytelling and set the bar for action and suspense on network television. Lasting for 8 full seasons–192 Episodes plus a TV movie–24 is one of the longest-running shows of the past 15 years. Others, like Grey’s Anatomy, NCIS, Smallville, all three CSIs and three of four Law & Orders, may have run longer, but the argument can be made that none of those shows are equally as worthy of contributing to the debatably labeled and vaguely-defined “Third Golden Age of Television Drama” that began with The Sopranos in 1999 and is now fading with the end of Breaking Bad and the impending finale of Mad Men. Perhaps 24 doesn’t quite reach the dramatic heights of those shows, or others like The Wire and Deadwood, or even The Shield, Lost or Battlestar Galactica, but it was always a strong awards and ratings contender and it was just so addicting and fun to watch.

Please join us—Patches, Zach, Jeff and MegaMix—as we take a look back at this series, discussing one season every month until the premiere of the new 12-episode miniseries 24: Live Another Day in May 2014.

This month’s discussion is focused on season eight of 24, which premiered in January of 2010.

It contains SPOILERS for the entire series of 24 and strong language. Parental discretion is advised. Discussion occurs in real time.

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MegaMix

First of all, as (potentially) my last introduction to a 24 DSD, I’d like to say this has been an amazing experience. Also, I’d like to say that my fellow writers are all scholars and gentlemen…and douche bags. But seriously folks, great guys.

Secondly, ummm…Renee, is there any chance that you and I might go out sometime? (Answer) I’ll take it.

Okay, now that all of that has been cleared up, on to Day 8.

The first thing I want to bring up is that I always find it interesting to know at what point writers/producers know that a TV show is going to end. For 24, as far as I can tell (i.e it’s never been completely confirmed), they seemed to know early enough to basically give us the answer in the trailer for the season. The initial trailer states “All Jack Bauer has to do is survive one more day.” As we all know, that may have been true in 2009, but Jack will Live Another Day.

Nextly, (since I feel we didn’t talk about it enough last session) let’s talk about the women in Jack’s life up to this point. Really, we’re talking about four women. The first is obviously Teri. Second being Audrey. Renee is the third. Last (and our only non-romantic), is our ever present Chloe. For the sake of season eight, I’d like to talk specifically about the last two.

Let’s start with Renee. Renee (to me) is similar to Teri in that she is introduced to us as somewhat of an innocent. The difference being that we never get the chance to see what happens to Teri as Jack continues on the trajectory that he projects in the first season. With Renee, we see first hand just how Bauer’s disease infects those closest to him.

In the eighth season, Renee is full blown out-of-control and the only person that can possibly bring her back from that is the one person that we know to have gone that far (further, really) before. Jack acknowledges early on that she is in too deep and needs help, so there is an immediate urgency on his part to simply pull her out. Unfortunately for Jack (much like the rest of his personal life), his efforts don’t create the results he desires. Renee ends up dead (just like everyone else that means anything to him), and we see, for the first time, a truly vengeful Jack who seems to be willing to go to any means necessary to bring those responsible for her death to justice. And by justice, I (of course) mean not alive.

As a side note to that last idea, I find it interesting that we never see Bauer with this same passion for vengeance in regards to Teri’s death. I mean, he ultimately gets his revenge in killing Nina, but the rigor with which he goes after Renee’s murderer(s) is on an entirely different level. A level more on par with blind rage than a desire for justice.

Throughout the series, Jack has really only had one constant, reliable force in his life. Her name is Chloe O’Brian. Season eight adds a number of interesting wrinkles to this tried and true relationship and I would argue that it might be the best example of who Chloe is as a character regardless of her relationship with JB.

Day eight sees O’Brian become the acting head of CTU:NY. Although she has clear hesitations on accepting the role, we come to find that she may be more suited for the role than most of the previous “leaders” we’ve seen on the show. She has to make some tough calls, including several attempts (some successful) to rein Jack in or physically bring him in. What’s great about this change in their relationship is that Chloe has been one of the only people that has had the ability to know when to trust Jack, when to get in his face about something, and when to wash her hands of his actions.

At the end of the last episode, Jack and Chloe have one last moment that I think sums up their relationship rather nicely.

Jack Bauer: When you first came to CTU, I never thought it was gonna be you that was gonna cover my back all those years. And I know that everything that you did today was to try and protect me, I know that. (whispers) Thank you.

Chloe O’Brian: (tears in her eyes) Good luck, Jack.

Jack Bauer: Yeah. (hangs up)

“Yeah.”

Jack’s response to the idea of good luck is “yeah”. What a badass. A hopeless, lonely badass.

Guys, what’d you think of season eight? We all know the series will soon continue, so taking away the fact that season eight was (at the time) a really poor ending for the show, what are your thoughts?vlcsnap-2014-03-27-19h24m16s77

Zach

What’d I think about season eight? Not much.

I was really, really ready for 24 to be over, honestly. Hell, I was ready back in season five. My remaining desire was to have a good ending. Now, I may not have recognized one when I saw it anyway (as discussed in the recap of S6, I hated the end of that season, which I think in retrospect is pretty great), but I wanted an ending that my fond, earlier memory of 24 deserved.

Instead, I remember hating the end of the series. Actually, I remember indifference. I remember wanting them to shock me with something really moving, or touching, or tragic. And not quite getting there.

There were pieces of the season I really liked: the barely-futuristic use of police drones and the undeniably awesome SuperBauer raid on PO(S)TUS Logan. The way Logan squirms during that scene was simply superb. But as with much of the later run of the show, there were far more things that just brought the whole thing to its knees.

Having just watched Battlestar Galactica and finding it, “you know, yeah, not bad — above-mediocre” (no, let’s not get into it instead), I was excited to see how Starbuck panned out. We all know the answer: shittiest storyline in the run of the show (that’s right, season eight — I’m calling you out. Shittier than anything in season six). It ruined my favorite sidejack since Chase (FPJ rest in PEACE homes). CTU was it’s usual shitshow. “My fahther”. Etc.

Really though, I don’t have much to say. I didn’t like it. I don’t know why I even watched it… except that’s not true, either. I know exactly why I watched it: for the chance that maybe, somehow, that ending I always wished for would break through. That Jack might die at 52 past the hour, and we get a silent clock for the final 8. Or that the drones would strike and Chloe would deal with the tragedy with us. An ending fitting the show that brought us the death of Teri Bauer when we would never have believed such a thing would happen on network TV.

I’m excited that 24 is coming back. REALLY excited. Because I still have that hope, and I imagine the writers do as well.

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Patches

I’m riding the Indifference Express in a seat adjacent to Zach. I don’t remember much about season eight, but what I do remember is kind of a greatest hits clusterf*ck where the writers tried to cram every plot idea in the show’s history into one season. Sometimes, like the race to save Omar Hassan, it made good television. Most of the time, it did not.

Because season eight was supposed to be the final season of 24, my assessment is inextricably tied to how well season eight wrapped up the entire series. It’s hard to disagree with Zach that it was lacking in most regards. I’m also on record as saying that Jack should die at the end of the series. However, I did love season eight’s character resolution.

After a glimmer of hope with his season six pursuit of redemption, Charles Logan returned in season eight, reclaiming his place as 24’s chief antagonist. His transformation from sniveling coward to evil mastermind to fallen egotist who would go to any length to redeem his public image was a brilliant character arc. Although the amount of power Logan wielded changed, his selfishness and vainglory never wavered. After betraying his country, the US Constitution, his right-hand man (Never forget!), and basic human decency, Charles Logan didn’t deserve to die. Death would have been too easy. At the end of season eight, Logan attempts to take the coward’s way out. It backfires horrifically, leaving him alive, but in a vegetable state.

As for our chief protagonist, I know many people hoped that Jack would ride off into the sunset with FemBauer. Heck, I was hoping for that too. After all, he’s saved millions of lives. He put his country before himself time and time again. He did the dirty work his nation asked him to do.

Of course, he’s also killed hundreds of people. He’s tortured dozens more, including innocents. He nearly started a war with Russia in blind pursuit of revenge. I don’t know if he deserves happiness, or even if deserve has anything to do with it. I would, however, suggest we not confuse practicality with justice and that there’s always a choice…brotha.

Because season eight doesn’t holistically hold up, evaluating season eight as a series finale plays to its advantage. I am interested to see how Live Another Day closes out the series, by which I mean whether or not they kill Jack.

They’re killing Jack, right?

Seriously, though, Live Another Day… Kill Jack.

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Jeff

[Full disclosure: I have only re-watched the first 12 episodes of season eight. Some of my opinions could (hopefully) change by the time I finish.]

Zach, Patches: they won’t kill Jack. He’ll hang out with Dexter Morgan in hopes that 2015 brings us Live Yet Another Day.

MegaMix: Why no vengeance for Teri? By the time he knew she was dead, he had already rage-killed everyone responsible because he thought Kim had been killed (well, except Nina, but she was in custody). Also, Jack Bauer wasn’t Jack Bauer back in season one. It took Teri’s death to push him to despair, only to come back with a hacksaw in season two.

In season eight of 24, everything old is…still old. Patches noted its “greatest hits” feel, but so much repetition makes this season the most boring, anonymous and forgettable of them all. Do we really need CTU to lose a car beneath an underpass for the fifth season in a row? Do we really need another attack on CTU? Is it still exciting to see Jack break a dude’s neck with his legs for the fourth time in the series? Okay, maybe it is.

Season eight has problems generating excitement. The early assassination threat is pretty good. The arrival of “Dark Renee” is awesome, and Wersching is clearly enjoying playing scarred and damaged. After that, however, we’re forced to wait several hours for someone to even announce a threat to irradiate Manhattan. And with a cast so deeply uninteresting, I don’t think I’d care if they did.

We get six new regulars here, and through 12 episodes, they are all stuck in terrible storylines (Dana, Cole) or just underused, underdeveloped and bland (Rob, Hastings, Hassan, Arlo). Even President Taylor, a standout in much of season seven, is sidelined. Additionally, I’ll counter MegaMix by declaring season eight the worst season for Chloe. Through 12 episodes anyway, she does almost nothing of value.

The bad guys don’t fare much better. First off: Eff. Kevin. Wade. Also, actors who have been good in other things—Callum Keith Rennie in BSG, David Anders in Alias and Jurgen Prochnow in Das Boot—are wasted here. Some give us flashes of evil or complexity, but none of them are around long enough to be worthwhile. One bonus though, Farhad Hassan looks like a Middle Eastern Jason Schwartzman.

Halfway through, I’m hopeful for the back-12. It has Hassan’s execution, Chloe’s promotion, Logan’s return, and the Renee’s death which leads to arguably the series’ best Jackssacre. But we also get the finale you’ve all mentioned. I’ll reserve judgment on that until I’ve finished my re-watch, but underwhelming sounds about right.

MegaMix

In the eighth season, we see President Allison Taylor fall in many of the ways that characters on the show often do. Unfortunately for her, said fall is assisted by trusting the one guy you simply don’t trust your presidency to, Charles Logan. One of the conversations go a little something like this:

Logan: As long as Jack Bauer is out there, the agreement will never be safe.

Taylor: Then we will lock him away in a black site, half-way around the world.

Logan: He will find a way, Madam President. Mark my words, he will rise up out of the deepest hole in the ground. He will claw his way back from the ends of the earth, unless we stop him before that can happen.

There are a few things in this conversation that I’d like to discuss a bit further, starting with Logan’s understanding of what Bauer is capable of. One of the most common shortcomings of characters on 24 is a failure to comprehend just how suited Jack is for this line of work. Logan, with all his flaws, at least gets this right.

Then, as President Taylor is continuing her trajectory into demise, she still maintains a bit of the innocent hope that made her a great leader in season seven. She isn’t being ignorant when she says that they’ll just lock Bauer away on the other side of the planet, she’s trusting in her comrade even as he’s foiling her plans.

The next line may be the most accurate statement ever made about Bauer on the show. If you didn’t know any better, you’d think Logan was talking about a “bad guy” here (I understand that he is sort of a bad guy in their eyes at this moment, but go with me). Jack is only a “hero” because he’s on our side. In the eyes of anyone that might be in his way, he really is more of an anti-hero.

The part of our introduction that describes the “vaguely-defined ‘Third Golden Age of Television Drama’” isn’t really that vague. I think the cog that makes this time period a “golden age” is the rise of the anti-hero. For whatever reason, America desires the stories of the Tony Sopranos, Walter Whites, and Don Drapers of the world more than anything else at the moment. I would argue that Jack Bauer helped us get there. He was there when we needed him most and we’ll root for him until we can’t root for him anymore, because he’s the anti-hero we (America) will always deserve. BAM!

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Zach

I have nothing much to add here, which is good, because

THERE’S

NO

TIME

I’m excited to get this guy on the GD road. I guess this makes me a hypocrite — I wanted them to kill Jack — still do want them to do it. But I also just want to see him do something ridiculous again, even if I’ve seen it a million times. Along the lines of what Jeff said above: I’m all in if this season sticks to Jack snapping necks with his feet and steers clear of sniveling political aids plotting which amendment they will invoke against the President.

Excuse me — Prime Minister.

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Patches

A brief glance at our season evaluations and each season’s cast seems to reveal that 24’s better seasons featured fewer well-known guest stars. Is that true? And if so, is it correlation or causation?

Seasons one and two are well-regarded by critics and 24 fans with taste. I didn’t recognize many guest stars in those seasons beyond Dennis Hopper as an accentally-challenged warlord and Lou Diamond Phillips as a guy you recognize before he dies two episodes later.  Seasons three and four were two of my favorite seasons. The only big-time “That Guys” in those seasons were Joaquim de Almeida (as if a drug cartel kingpin could be anyone else), Arnold Vosloo as a potentially Egyptian terrorist and William Devane as the Secretary of Defense.

From there, each season brought more cast members with star power. Season five, the most critically lauded season, had several, including “That Guy” Hall of Famer Ray Wise. Season six, our consensus worst season, featured Ricky “The Murse” Schroeder  and “That Guy” Patron Saint James Cromwell. Season seven had a ton. Finally, they rounded it out with 11 or 12 in season eight, including Bubba.

So, did all the familiar faces distract us from the show? Did the show favor name-recognition over a good fit?

To find out, Jeff and I counted the number of actors we would have considered well-known or the sort of “That Guys” who might make a list like this before appearing on 24. I took the average of our numbers and compared it to Metacritic’s user rating for each season. Metacritic’s critic rating had too small a sample size to be useful and IMDB has ratings only for individual episodes, which is less useful here than full season ratings.

That Guys
The results show a strong negative relationship between the number of “That Guys” and season quality. These results, although fun and probably a massive waste of my time, should be taken with a grain of salt. This experiment doesn’t account for series fatigue or the sort of poor writing that can turn motherfucking Starbuck into the worst part of the franchise.

I think season eight was a microcosm of these questions. They found some (Reed) diamonds in the rough, like a surprisingly competent, sorta awesome Freddie Prinze Jr. But Michael Madsen’s appearance didn’t do anything other than make us say “Hey! It’s Michael Madsen!” That happened too much later in the show, despite the occasional, and always welcome, Tony Todd sighting.

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Jeff

I get it. We’re all ready to move on to Live Another Day. Season eight hardly registered when it first aired and by now we’ve forgotten it to the point of dismissal. However, as the one of us who re-watched every episode of 24 for this series, I have to tell you…

The back half of season eight is actually good.

MegaMix mentioned 24 knowing its end date in advance and I found that the public announcement was made around 3/26/2010. This is right after the airing of what I consider the season’s worst episode (episode 13 – “Jack and co. disassemble a car for 30 minutes/Dana is the new Nina”). The production timeline was undoubtedly further ahead, but still, I find it interesting that the cancellation notice came just before the season stopped being shitty.

I think the quality of 24’s endgame got lost because the first half was so bad. It was betraying our devotion with lackluster product. Cancellation sealed the deal. Knowing this mostly-crap season was going to be the last one, we stopped caring about anything other than Jack’s ultimate fate. The season didn’t train us to expect anything better, and when it finally did get better, we tuned out instead of savoring the last act of our once-beloved series.

In my opinion, the final 12 episodes of season eight stand alone as a pretty good single-season of 24. Call it the proto-Live Another Day. Start with the EMP attack on CTU (end of episode 12) and go from there.

Why does the back half stand out?

First, it’s focused and deliberate. No longer must we wait for a credible threat or interesting story to arise. Episodes 13-16 deal with the bomb (finally used as a threat!) and the moral quandary of handing over Hassan. By episode 17, all of the cards are on the table and we’re propelled forward through the government cover-up, Jack’s one-man vengeance tour of NYC and the finale.

Second, the back half slowly pares down the useless supporting cast and puts the weight of the story on the shoulders of characters we know. Chloe finally gets something to do. Logan comes back. Taylor becomes a villain of sorts. Jack, again, becomes the most wanted man in America.

Third, it keeps the excitement high. The writers could do pretty much anything with the finale looming. They kill Hassan. They snipe Renee Walker. They pit Chloe against Jack. They make Jack an even darker SuperBauer leading to the scary-awesome attack on Logan and the bloody massacre of Mikhail Novakovich and company, the latter of which, in a brilliant move, we only see the aftermath of. Sure, familiar tropes appear—another recorded conversation that proves everything, another cold-blooded execution of a CTU mole, another microchip inside of a guy, another bug planted on Logan—but by finale, we’re not certain exactly how this might end.

But end it must. I’ll agree with Zach in believing that the series finale of 24 falls short of doing anything as shocking, dark or groundbreaking as it might have, particularly considering the show’s initial novelty and its former juggernaut status. Jack doesn’t die. Taylor doesn’t sign the peace treaty (a dark ending I think I would’ve loved). Although Jack’s plan fails, ultimately it’s his words that lead to Taylor’s change of heart.

Even if we don’t get the most downbeat ending possible, things are certainly not happy. Taylor is disgraced and will resign as yet another bad 24 president. Logan is brain damaged because he can’t even get suicide right. Chloe is able to save her friend and share a moving, tearful goodbye with him. Jack is forced to flee the country he’s saved so many times.

Maybe in Jack’s case, this isn’t the character resolution that Patches mentioned above. Back in 2010, it was certainly unsatisfying to know that Jack was alive, but not know how his story would truly end. I think it makes a certain kind of sense. Jack is still out there, as he is at the end of every season, stabbed, shot, beaten, bloodied and emotionally destroyed. Jack Bauer is cursed to survive—to live, as they say—another day.

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KILL COUNT

Jack Bauer’s Season Eight Kill Count: 33 (he also killed Novakovich and 4 guards off-screen. We just saw their bodies later.)

Jack’s Overall Kill Count: 265

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PARTING SHOTS

Megamix

Favorite Moment: The part that I remember most from S8 is the final moments between Jack and Chloe. Even if I felt the show didn’t end as well as I had hoped, i.e. Bauer dying, the bittersweet goodbye between these two “friends” (for lack of a better word) felt perfect. Nothing about their relationship was ever easy or straightforward, but it worked on an intangible level and I think they nailed it.

Parting Shot: Katee Sackhoff was coming off being a main player in one of the best TV shows of the last 20 years (BSG) when she took on the role of Dana Walsh. I can’t help but wonder if this career choice is something she regrets. It basically killed the potential career ahead of her and she still hasn’t recovered. Sad day for her, sad day for all of us.

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Zach

Favorite Moment: On Google maps bad traffic is usually colored deep red. That’s because the worst traffic jams include blood spilled by a Jack Bauer assault on presidential motorcades.

Parting Shot: I love that they actually spun off 24 in India, casting President Hassan, Anil Kapoor (can you say “casting” when Kapoor bought the rights to produce the show) in the place of JB. I love it almost as much as I love the fact that they brought in a mega-famous Bollywood star to play the islamic president of Commie-stan.  I imagine that their game spinoff — Tata Safari Storm presents 24 — The Game —  is no more than three times as boring.vlcsnap-2014-03-26-20h23m34s196

Patches

Favorite Moment: Memory is a funny thing. I could have sworn that a storage room in Sergei Bazhaev’s restaurant featured wall-to-wall cases of Jägermeister. I would have bet my life on it. The picture below is the only evidence of Jäg I can find. Weird…

Parting Shot: Last season, I talked about how President Taylor’s season eight fall from grace made perfect sense given the fallout from season seven. The same can be said for Renee Walker. Without Larry Moss as her moral compass or anchor or some other aquatic metaphor, it makes perfect sense that she fell off the deep end. She is haunted enough by her decisions and their consequences that she attempts suicide between seasons and is still in pretty rough psychological shape during season eight. Logical storytelling and meaningful character development is pretty cool, you guys.

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Jeff

Favorite Moment: I’ll double down on Zach’s. Jack’s attack on Logan is more awesome, insane and frightening than anything we’ve seen Jack (or most of his enemies) do in the entire series. Putting the cherry on top of this sundae (bloody sundae) is the cut to the aftermath of Jack’s annihilation of Mikhail Novakovich and his men, complete with fireplace poker impalement. Jack doesn’t kill another person for the rest of the season. He doesn’t have to.

Parting Shot: One of the last lines President Taylor ever says to Jack Bauer needs to be emblazoned on the tombstones of pretty much everybody ever in the 24-verse: “If I had listened to you, none of this would’ve happened.” Of course, if everyone would have listened to Jack, none of 24 would’ve happened. So, here’s to the parade of suits from Division, stubborn politicians, self-righteous local law enforcement officers and misguided allies that kept Jack Bauer in action for 8 seasons-plus. Your existence is almost justified.

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Season OneSeason TwoSeason ThreeSeason Four Season FiveSeason SixSeason SevenSeason Nine

Bonus Screen-Grabs

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Jack goes "undercover" as the one German who pronounces Meier as "meer."

Jack goes “undercover” as the one German who pronounces Meier as “meer.”

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Hey, it's Michael Madsen!

Hey, it’s Michael Madsen!

Jack finally chokes his last ally.

Jack finally chokes his last ally.

Kevin Wade, punishment for our sins

Kevin Wade, punishment for our sins

Jack runs into the cast of My Brother and Me, all grown up

Jack runs into the cast of My Brother and Me, all grown up

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10 thoughts on “24: The Longest Dead Series Discussion of Our Lives – Season Eight

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