"24" and the Meaning of Life

Even as the world's staunchest 24 apologist, I readily acknowledge when the show seems to descend into lameness (Curtis's death turns out to be senseless and emotionally unaffecting in season six) or to be completely off its rocker (Kim Bauer caught in a cougar trap in season two). But instead of spewing vitriol and making unfair "jumped-the-shark" declarations at every wayward plot twist or character revelation, I shrug off the crap, forgive the show, and move on. It is, after all, my favorite television show of all time—a surprise, considering action shows or movies are not my forte; exposition- and tech-filled scripts usually make me cringe; and I am the only pacifist you know personally.

On top of that, as a playwright who literally throws out half of what he writes (eight of my full-length plays have been produced, but I have completed over a dozen), I know that you have to create a certain amount of trash in order to tap into the genius. Fortunately for me, I have the luxury of burying any work I deem to be unworthy and of being able to wait to write the next big thing. I show the world my best; the rest is tucked safely inside a folder on my computer.

The makers of 24 do not have the luxury that I have. Working within a very rigid real-time structure, charged with the responsibility of carrying multiple storylines and characters through 24 episodes, and having very little time to throw out bad ideas and go back to the drawing board, everyone who works on 24 faces seemingly insurmountable odds. But despite the fact that they occasionally take missteps, they hit the mark time and time again, season after season, and some of those marks they hit are so brilliant and so gratifying they blow me away and they fill me with awe and respect.

As an obsessed fan, I usually hop on the 24 message boards at the end of every episode to connect with other obsessed fans, but I also come across viewers whose seemingly main reason for living is to nitpick every little thing about the show and blow out proportion everything they can, in order to prove to the world that the show has always sucked or, at least, not been good since the first season. I do not know why these people watch the show week after week. If they hate it so much, stop watching, for Christ's sake.

Robert, who loves the show as much as I do, loves playing devil's advocate to my apologist, though I know that even if alien beings appeared next season he would still keep watching and love it.

So before anyone can continue to rail against this season's finale of 24 (as they already are on the 24 boards), can I just list all the great things about the finale, lest your lame criticisms blind you to the fact that great things happened?

  • Doyle’s ambivalence about trading Josh
  • Tom suggesting that Karen go under the radar to thwart the trade
  • Karen’s tense phone call with Bill, asking him for help
  • Phillip Bauer demanding that CTU cut off their satellite coverage
  • Phillip Bauer ordering that Doyle’s helicopter leave the beach
  • Doyle and Josh waiting like sitting ducks
  • Nadia admitting to Milo’s brother that Milo sacrificed himself and was brave, thereby revealing her cowardice
  • Milo’s brother telling Nadia that Milo was not brave but that he was in love with her
  • Bill rescuing Jack
  • Karen and Bill’s final conversation and declaration of love, right before she’s taken into custody
  • Daniels’s confrontation with Karen
  • The fake component blowing up in Doyle’s face
  • Everybody at CTU and the White House realizing that Jack was right
  • Jack and Bill arriving just a little too late at the beach
  • Chloe’s collapse on the floor
  • Morris’s heartfelt plea for help
  • CTU zeroing in on the oil rig that Phillip Bauer and Cheng are on
  • The mention of the Chinese submarine on its way to pick them up
  • Daniels orders the air strike
  • Jack deciding to take the helicopter to the rig to save Josh
  • Bill deciding to go with Jack
  • Suvarov continually putting pressure on Daniels
  • Jack and Bill fight thugs on the oil rig
  • Jack captures Cheng
  • Josh whacks Phillip Bauer with a wrench, then shoots him
  • Jack’s farewell to his father
  • Jack jumping on the helicopter ladder as the missiles blow the oil rig up
  • Tom convinces Daniels to cut Karen some slack
  • Tom’s final talk with Daniels and handing over the recording
  • Tom telling Karen that she is free to go, as is her husband
  • Bill giving props to Nadia
  • Cheng’s comment about the US government abandoning Jack
  • Chloe’s abrupt revelation about her pregnancy and her reconciliation with Morris
  • Jack’s confrontation with James Heller
  • Kiefer’s acting in his scene with Audrey
  • Jack walking away from Audrey
  • Jack contemplating suicide at the end
  • The “silent clock” at the end, indicating that this is the end of Jack Bauer (and perhaps the series?) as we know it (the show’s been renewed for two more seasons, and the producers have hinted of a complete overhaul)
Thank you, 24. Now what the hell am I gonna do for the rest of the year?!

—Reporting From Glendale, California

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