Maybe Jack should've called in sick.
If everyone is allowed a bad day now and then, “24” gets a pass for its sixth season, which mercifully came to an end Monday night after 24 hours of utterly poor timing, planning and execution.
There are two kinds of “all-nighters.” There's the kind where the party is so raging that you don't even realize it's 6 a.m. when the sky starts to turn light. Then there's the kind that's more of an endurance test and you watch every aching second tick, tick, tock off the clock, fighting yawns and rubbing your eyes to make it through.
This season of “24” was the latter, and that could be because last season was the former.
The fifth season of “24” was so fantastic, with twists and turns around every corner as Jack Bauer worked to save his loved ones and his country from Russian terrorists only to find out his own Commander in Chief was behind the conspiracy. So, the natural question was where does a show about a federal counter-terrorism unit go once it has involved the President in a terrorist plot?
We still don't know. And, apparently, neither do the show's writers.
The sixth season started promising enough, with America already under attack as random bombs had gone off across the nation and the threat of five nuclear suitcase bombs going off somewhere from sea to shining sea. But it quickly spun so far out of control that nothing could save it. In fact, Fox Entertainment president Peter Ligouri told reporters in a conference call last week, days before Monday's finale even aired, that he and others were not “satisfied” with this season and that it has fueled the show's creators up to do something different next year.
As Monday's two-hour finale slogged along, it not only failed to crank up the drama, it tossed a couple more non-sequiturs into the mix. The finale was a perfect microcosm of a season filled with too many "huhs?" and not enough “whoas!”
Chloe's pregnant, so, there's that. And dead Milo's brother showed up for a minute just to pick up Milo's stuff, hug Chloe and tell Nadia that Milo had talked about her and that he loved her.
Meanwhile, the Russians were threatening to attack a U.S. military base in Central Asia if the U.S. didn't secure a really important circuit board that Jack's dad had and was using to dupe the government into giving him a free ride out of the country.
What a snoozer. The end was anti-climactic, and how couldn't it be?
The five “suitcase nukes” that kicked off the season's big threat had either exploded, leaked or been secured several hours earlier and all that was left was to stave off a Russian attack that we all knew wouldn't happen, and for Jack to save his nephew from his dad while killing off his dad. Done and done.
Season 6 just never made any sense. Fans know that “24” has never been deeply rooted in reality. They've always been asked to suspend their disbelief more for this show than most in TV history. But this season couldn't decide if it wanted to go the soap opera route or continue on the bombs-and-stuff track.
It was as if the “24” writers' room had been taken over by the people behind “Brothers & Sisters.” Suddenly, Jack's brother was behind the new plot, then Jack's father came out of the woodwork and his shady business dealings with the Russians and the Chinese came to light. On top of that, Jack's sister-in-law, an old flame of his from about 15 years ago, still seemed to have a crush on him and she has a son who's 14 and bears an uncanny resemblance to one Jack Bauer.
Please. Save all the namby-pamby family and unrequited love stuff for “Grey's Anatomy.”
What could be worse than a nuclear bomb going off in the U.S.? How about five nuclear bombs going off in the U.S.?
As soon as Bauer heard the threat, he was off to save the world again — and the downward spiral began. The writers pulled out all the stops, and none of them worked.
They had a nuclear bomb go off in the first four hours of the season, the president negotiated with a terrorist-turned-good-guy, an inside job to assassinate the president was carried out and nearly succeeded, and, in the most blatant bit of pandering, they brought back former first lady Martha Logan, who fans loved, and ex-President Charles Logan, who they loved to hate. They even had President Palmer rise from his coma so he could call off a nuclear strike, brought a traumatized and nonverbal Audrey Raines back from China (where she was looking for Jack and got captured), and had CTU infiltrated by armed gunmen. (Of course, if the previous five seasons had taught us anything, it's that CTU is likely the least secure place on Earth).
But every one of these turns quickly fizzled and, worse, was seen as more funny than dramatic.
In the end, Jack kissed his beloved Audrey goodbye, questioned the orders he'd taken from a country that didn't try to save him while he was imprisoned in China for 20 months, and set out to get his life back.
Perhaps next season will bring a more rogue Jack Bauer? One who's more vigilante than federal agent? Whatever the case, tomorrow is a new day and fans can only hope the next 24 hours don't look much like the last 24.
Victor Balta is a writer in Philadelphia