This week’s two hour episode of 24 was emotionally exhausting. Viewers spent two hours watching Jack Bauer race to save the Middle Eastern President of Kamistan, Omar Hassan, upon whose life peace in the region rested. In spite of Jack’s efforts to keep him safe, per the direct order of the President of the United States, Hussan gave himself up to terrorists to save New York from a dirty bomb. Jack Bauer and the CTU team raced to save him, but arrived too late, only to find President Hassan with his throat slit. The President of the United States, who had worked with Hassan to broker a peace agreement, watched his execution broadcast to the world on the internet.
After becoming invested in the very likeable Hassan character over the course of the season, the viewer saw him meet his bloody, horrific demise. As emotionally exhausting as that was for the viewers, that is one of the things that has kept them watching and what makes 24 so different. From season one, which ended with Jack’s wife being killed, 24 broke the rules of television drama. On television series the good guys don’t die. They are rescued in the nick of time. But on 24 no one, except Jack Bauer, is safe. 24 has kept viewers on the edge of their seats because they really didn’t know what would happen next. On 24 anything can happen. Well, anything except the death of Jack Bauer.
Fox’s 24 series began in 2001, the year of the 9/11 attacks. In fact, the premier episode was delayed because of the attacks . 24 is different from the norm — at times being politically incorrect. On 24 we saw Middle Eastern, Muslim terrorists, not just the white supremacists so many of the movies following 9/11 preferred to depict. The heroes in the show, particularly Bauer, were even depicted engaging in “enhanced interrogation techniques.” Sometimes the only way for Jack Bauer to save the day was through his ability to extract information using some form of torture.
Fox recently announced that this season will be the final one for the series. I have loved 24 from the start. I watched every episode of every season in real time, only recently watching delayed an hour on DVR (and then just so I could fast forward through the commercials). As much as I will miss Jack and Chloe and the 24 series, it probably is time that it comes to an end. I mean how many moles can infiltrate CTU before they figure out they need to tighten their screening process? And how many White House staffers can betray the President before it gets to be cliché? How long can Jack cheat death? I don’t know, but there surely must be a limit to how many times you can be presumed dead before you actually get that way. Last season Jack Bauer cheated certain death from exposure to a deadly pathogen, only surviving with an experimental treatment involving his daughter. Stuff like that has to take a toll. He is human after all. Okay, superhuman, but still, even a superhuman can only take so much.
I will miss Jack Bauer. I really hope he survives the final season and the door is left open for a 24 movie or two. Jack Bauer is just too good a character to say goodbye to forever. And there is a great need for characters like Jack Bauer — characters that are not perfect, but have the perfect kind of honor and devotion to country that leads them to risk all to keep their fellow Americans safe and free. Heroes like Jack Bauer really do exist. Not the superhuman character that is invincible and can single handedly take out dozens of armed, trained killers and survive deadly nerve agents, but the kind of character that battles evil forces in this world and puts a greater cause ahead of their own personal well being.
Even with the outrageous plotlines and superhuman qualities of Jack Bauer, 24 has at times been able to present some real life scenarios sparking thought and debate. (There was even a black President in the world of 24 back when Barack Obama was still organizing his community.) For the issues the series has tackled, as well as for the pure, unadulterated entertainment value, 24 will be missed.