We've talked about how 24 is a shark-show; it has to keep moving, or it dies. Here were are at the end of another day, and while we've got a lot of plot to unpack, that constant need for forward momentum makes it difficult to look back to the opening hours of the season and try and find something constant through it all. There's Jack, there's some silliness about the ethics of torture, and there's Tony and His Amazing Technicolor Turncoat. But really, though certain threads had a decent pay-off, that's not the point. The point is that we're never bored. And by and large, Day 7 delivered.
The final two episodes of Day 7 have us back in high gear. Bad news first: the "Olivia Taylor is bad news!" story arc is back, and it's still dull as hell. Sure, it has some thematic importance—Olivia's willingness to do anything to get the results she wants fits in with the questions about Jack's aggressive information gathering techniques. Here's another character who's belief in the necessity of her actions has driven her to commit immoral and illegal acts. She forced Ethan out his position as Chief of Staff because she wanted to be as close to her mother as possible, and when it looked like Jonas Hodges was going to get a sweet Witness Protection gig after murdering her brother, Olivia took steps to have him killed. Sure, she chickens out at the last minute, but the kill goes ahead anyway.
And that leads to Aaron Pierce getting suspicious and bringing Ethan back to confirm his suspicions, and then President Taylor finds out, and she's forced to decide between hushing everything up to protect the only daughter she has left, or being true to her duties and her office and arresting the brat. Taylor chooses to uphold the law, alienating her from her husband and putting Olivia away; again, thematic stuff about the importance of justice even if it goes against the things we really want. Problem is, relevant or not, this whole thing came off as useless padding. We have an hour and a half to get Kim saved, get to the man in charge of the conspiracy, lose and catch Tony, and maybe spare a few minutes to save Jack's life. Every stupid second we spend watching Olivia whine is time spent away from the story we actually care about, killing the tension and, in the end, yielding barely anything in the way of dramatic satisfaction.
That out of the way, at least the rest of the season finale was good. The threat on Kim, which forced Jack to turn on the FBI and help Tony get free, seemed disappointingly familiar last week; but it was dealt with quickly and efficiently tonight, with Tony getting freed in about ten minutes, and Kim managing to catch on to the bad guys not soon after. Hell, Kim even got to be kind of bad-ass—after an airport shoot-out the leaves one of her potential kidnappers dead, Kim follows the remaining kidnapper out a maintenance door and into the parking garage. Instead of getting herself caught, she does the sensible thing and contacts local security. And when the guy's car crashes, Kim braves the flames to get his laptop. Elisha Cuthbert looked a little silly doing all this, but at least her character got to make aggressive, smart choices and not be punished for them down the line.
During his escape, Tony made sure to bring Jack along for the ride; he tells Cara that because Jack is infected with the bioweapon, the bad guys can used his blood and organs to reconstruct the pathogen. I have no idea how plausible this is, don't really care—it made for some creepy moments with Jack having spinal fluid removed, and then a quick action beat when Jack goes crazy on his doctors and escapes. He doesn't get far, and Tony stops him before he can incinerate himself, but the escape provides Tony with the opportunity to make his third (I think it's third?) and final character reveal: he's not working for the bad guys, he's working for himself, and this whole day has been the culmination of his plan to get to the man who had Michelle killed. In its way, this made the most sense out of any of Tony's plays. One thing that was consistent throughout his entire relationship with his (toasted) wife was his willingness to put her well-being ahead of everything else. (Sort of like Jack and Kim, although Jack has his lines.) It fits that he'd go crazy after she died.
Of course, I'm sure there are all sorts of decisions that Tony's made over the course of this day that make less sense now, but that's one of the benefits of a shark-show; it doesn't really matter. Tony puts a bomb on Jack that he plans to detonate as soon as Alan Wilson comes close. Tony got Cara to convince Alan that he wanted to be a bigger part of the team, so Alan decided to make a personal visit. Tony realizes that Alan will never get close enough to him, but Jack? Jack's a sick man. As long as he's tied down, Alan can get right up in his face.
Makes okay sense, as far as 24 schemes go. I'm just wondering when Tony planned to put the bomb on Jack—he only manages to get Bauer away from the others because Jack escapes. Did I miss something? Did Tony make it easier for Jack to get (temporarily) free? (I'm honestly curious. I didn't see anything, but I've definitely missed things this season.)
It doesn't matter in the end, because the plan doesn't work. The laptop Kim rescued leads the FBI to where Tony, Cara, and Alan are holding Jack. Renee gets the bomb off of Jack, and the two of them manage to stop Tony from killing Alan. (Tony definitely ignores Tuco's Rule of Shooting here.) Jack gets sent to the hospital. He's near death, and interestingly enough sends for Gohar, the Muslim who helped them find Jibraan earlier; in an oddly moving scene (odd because we know Jack isn't going to check out just yet), Jack asks Gohar to help him find some kind of peace for his sins.
Days on 24 often end on an abrupt note, and this latest is no exception. The stuff with President Useless is definitive enough, but back at FBI headquarters, things go all ambiguous. Before he left for the hospital, Jack had a conversation with Renee about what they can and can't do in their jobs—it made for a nice closing on all the torture debates, as Jack essentially admits to a weakness for saving lives. He tells Renee that because she swore an oath to uphold the law, she has to live by a different standard. But she's headed down the path to Bauer-dom. Alan claims there's no direct evidence linking him to the conspiracy Hodges described, he refuses to testify. So Renee gets mad, and decides she's going to make him talk, whatever it takes. It's something that's probably been inevitable since she and Jack first teamed up, but it's still creepy and a little sad when she closes that final door.
And Jack? He's in a coma, waiting to die. But Kim has other ideas. With Jack unable to make decisions about his care anymore, Kim steps in and demands the experimental surgery that Jack rejected earlier. Of course it's risky, very slim chance it will work, etc, but c'mon—Jack will be back. The infection plotline did as much to hurt the show as it did to help it, I think; Jack spent these last two hours surprisingly passive, getting the occasional shot in but mostly just trying not to die before the bad guys were taken down. But the sickness did give us some strong emotional beats, and gave Jack a new way to suffer. The last months have been by turns ridiculous, exciting, irritating, and even a little thought provoking; and if nothing else, they've proven there's still some juice left in the formula. The season closes with Jack unconcious on a hospital bed, and Kim telling him she isn't ready to let go just yet. After a day like this, I mostly agree with her.
- With all we hear about the riskiness of the surgery, I wonder how much danger this is to Kim? Given the ongoing shitstorm that's beenJack's life, I wouldn't be surprised if he wakes up to find that his life has been saved at the cost of his daughter's.
- Janis and Chloe made peace at the end. That was surprisingly sweet.
- Words cannot express how little I cared about President Taylor's moral crisis.
- It's been a pleasure, guys.