Image Credit: Ray Mickshaw/Fox; Frank Micelotta/FoxSPOILER ALERT: If you have yet to watch the 24 series finale, stop reading now. Executive Producer Howard Gordon may reveal information that you don’t want to know until you’ve watched the entire two-hour goodbye, so leave this page ASAP!
Okay, you’ve been warned…
Much about the eighth and final season of 24 may have tried your patience — Dana Walsh, President Taylor’s tap dance on the Constitution, Jack’s attraction to the once hard-hearted, now all-gooey-inside Renee. Fortunately, Executive Producer Howard Gordon — like Kiefer Sutherland’s Jack Bauer — is a thick-skinned man who knows what he wants and makes no apologies. Here, the veteran writer who’s been on the show since the beginning talks about preparing for the show’s series finale, why he left some characters on the cutting room floor this season (sorry, Aaron Pierce and Tony Almeida!) and how the finale will tee up the 24 movie.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Did you know at the beginning of the season that you wanted Jack looking up at a drone and saying goodbye to Chloe in the end?
HOWARD GORDON: Definitely not. That was something we came to fairly later in the game. And it was an image I was certainly searching for all year but not one that I found until the very end.
What about Jack going completely off the rails?
Yes, that was very much designed from the beginning. How it would end, however, was something that was really unknown. I saw a little bit further ahead than I generally do, and we wanted to knit Jack and Renee together, only to take them apart, and for that to have a really profound effect on Jack. That’s about as far as we knew in the broad strokes. How that was going to happen, and how it would impact Allison Taylor and Chloe — those were late-to-the-party additions that I think helped bolster that initial idea.
Did you know at the start of the season that the Russians would be the ultimate villains?
So you didn’t know at the beginning that President Taylor would go to the dark side with Logan?
There was some other mid-season purpose for her, but I can’t remember. But even in the beginning, I told her I didn’t have much of a part for her. My initial impulse, and our initial impulse, was that there was no more story to tell. That she, this character, had pretty much exhausted her story. And we needed her mostly to tee-up Omar Hassan, and help ennoble him as a character, rather than you know, step front and center stage herself. So the idea was always to have her at the edges of the stage, teeing up this character, and as it turned out, she became a profound player in the drama. It’s not just the death of Renee so much as it is the deprivation of justice that gets Jack to this place. I think it’s really important to look at those two as being, you know, a flip side to the same coin.
You entered treacherous territory with Taylor because you originally set her up to be a principled president.
Yeah, it was a big challenge. I know she was surprised, and she was such a great sport, and such a phenomenal actor. But I have to say, it was challenging both to write and then to communicate to her what we were trying to do.
Did you expect to get push back from fans?
You do this long enough and you start realizing that you are going to get push back for everything. You are not going to win everywhere. There are going to be unhappy people no matter what, and that’s part of the challenge of doing a show for this long. I think that I would be hard-pressed to look at a show that has kept its fan base completely happy for its entire long run, particularly one that’s serialized.
You killed off a lot of key people this year.
That’s not what we set out to do but there was a kind of a go-for-broke aspect to this year, so we felt freer to do some extreme behavior, some extreme things. I really hope that we never merged into the place where it was gratuitous, or sensational, or hysterical. I felt like the deaths that occurred were ones that were justified by the story.
The gut-wrenching scene with Pavel, Renee’s killer — what did that get you?
That was a combination of a conversation with Kiefer and a way to dramatize that Jack had actually stepped over the line, and had gone to a red zone. We knew it was going to be a risk. Kiefer really went for it. It was a grotesque ballet that he wound up dancing.
Why did you have Jack fall for Renee?
The human connections that Jack has really makes the seasons stronger. What he wants, and who he wants it with, is really important. In the end, her involvement in what was happening, and her redemption to herself in what was happening, became the very center and the reason why Jack goes back to pick up the gun again.
Dana Walsh wasn’t very popular with fans, either.
We anticipated that from the very beginning. This woman had a secret life, with a secret life behind it — something that came out later. It emotionally justified something that we always recognized was a pretty tricky and far-out story. We were very lucky to have Katee Sackhoff play along.
Did you consider a potential love connection between Allison and Ethan, her Secretary of State?
We did consider it. Bob Gunton [Ethan] confessed one night after a couple glasses of wine to having some imaginary past with her that extended beyond their professional one.
Did you consider showing the recovery of Bill Prady’s corpse after Dana shoved it into the wall at CTU?
Yes, we did. But it was a scene we never got to. We figured it takes five hours for a body to decompose and by then, the season is over. That’s what we told ourselves, anyway.
How come you didn’t bring back Tony Almeida this season?
We tempted fate once with him, for sure. I seem to have gotten away with it, so we consider ourselves lucky and ahead of the game.
What about Alan Wilson, who masterminded the Sentox nerve gas conspiracy last year?
I think you got a sense that Renee broke him and broke the back of the conspiracy at a tremendous personal and professional price.
Did you ever consider bringing back Mandy, the professional assassin from seasons 1, 2 and 4?
Mandy always came up a bunch of times, but unfortunately, it felt like a sensational move. We chose not to go down that path.
We always considered bringing back Aaron Pierce. The story never presented itself. Other than Kiefer, he is the only one who has been in every season. Unfortunately, we couldn’t give him a perfect run.
The pitch for the 24 movie was done before the series ender. Did you draft off the pitch?
The movie has to defer to the end of the TV show, not the other way around.
Will it be a prequel?
It definitely will not be a prequel.
What will your role be on the movie?
I’ll be a producer on it. There is a draft that is in. No one is in a position right now to know when or what the movie will be, exactly. Now that the TV show is over, the movie will be it’s own thing.
What are you most proud of this season?
I am proud of the whole season. Every year has become increasingly challenging to do and so getting through it gave me a tremendous feeling of accomplishment. I would say my favorite moment was the last moment. That was the moment I felt the most pressure. It’s an exercise I go through at the end of every year: Who do you want to see, and then how do you figure out a story with the people you want to see? In this case — of course — it was Chloe, Taylor, and Jack.
If you had your druthers, do you wish Lost and 24 had ended a year apart, not around the same time?
All I can say is I hope we will be missed as much as Lost. I hope we will both be missed. It’s good to be missed rather then sent out of town on a rail.
’24’ series finale: Shut it down
Hoping for a more dramatic (and Smoke Monster-free) finale? Well look no further than Jack Bauer’s last ride on “24.”
Cole finds out that Jack was responsible for the annihilation of the Russian delegation. As he departs to confront Jim Ricker, Chloe makes a beeline to Jack’s ultimate destination: the United Nations. Of course, he’s not done collecting audio yet. He gathers even more evidence before hitching a ride with Jason. Russian President Suvarov is the new target, and Logan’s right-hand man is going to take Jack right to him. Once Chloe and Cole have the evidence in hand, their plan is to spam every government e-mail with the audio. Let’s see the president take THIS down, eh?! Jason makes his way into a building across the street, sutures Jack’s stab wound and begs for his life. I imagine calling Jack’s actions nothing more than “bloodlust” didn’t help his cause, but Jack only knocks him unconscious.
Meanwhile, Dalia presents President Taylor with a pen that her husband was going to give her at the peace signing. This is the only time we see Dalia happy (or with a calm tone of voice) the entire time, as Kayla reveals her conversation with Meredith. When our cheating journalist doesn’t answer the phone, Dalia immediately smells what the conspiracy is cooking and storms into the president’s suite, demanding answers. Taylor comes (mostly) clean about all her evildoings, which leads Dalia to refuse to sign the treaty. Taylor threatens to rain holy hell upon the IRK if she doesn’t. Dude… harsh. Mere minutes later, President Suvarov arrives for the signing.
Across the street, Jack sets up operations. He records a farewell video on the data card, explaining his actions to (presumably) Kim and the world. Chloe and Cole devise a plan: Find and talk down Jack in 20 minutes, or Cole blows the whistle and Jack probably dies. As the world leaders are introduced by U.N. Secretary-General Dr. Peter Benton, Chloe discovers Jack’s hideout and tries everything to get him away from the gun and window. He responds the only way he knows how: by putting his ally into a sleeper hold. His real reason for being in that spot: to aim his rifle right at the head of Charles Logan and demand Suvarov be in the room as well.
Logan gets the Russian president in his suite by saying there’s a leak from within. Chloe wakes up and begins the verbal assault on Jack to stand down. Naturally, he finally listens to reason and removes himself from the rifle before placing a bullet into Suvarov, a la David Palmer. Then begins a very tense back-and-forth, with Jack demanding Chloe shoot him. With a CTU unit closing in on their location, it’s the only way they can both safely extract themselves from the situation.
Chloe absolutely refuses to shoot her closest friend. Seriously, this goes on for (seemingly) forever, until CTU is practically there AND Jack is a split second from shooting her. Once Jack is shot, Chloe (now in possession of the evidence) tells Arlo to stand by for upload … except Jason arrives and begins frisking her for the data card. When he doesn’t find it on her person, she exits. If only that wer the worst thing to happen to him — Jack inflicts one final attack on Jason by going all Mike Tyson on his left ear. Seriously, Evander Holyfield didn’t scream as much as Jason did. Now he’s really mad and orders Burke to take Chloe and Cole into custody before they can upload the audio to the government.
Logan ultimately shows the card to President Taylor, then offers to take Jack Bauer off her hands by ambushing his ambulance transport. A nod is as good as a wink to a blind horse, as Taylor does nothing to stop him. She begins watching Jack’s video when Tim summons her to the peace treaty signing. With Logan and Jason watching and sipping scotch from their suite, the principals in the treaty are introduced by Secretary-General Benton. Suvarov wastes no time by applying pen to paper. Dalia (who seriously hesitated to join the others when she was introduced), takes a New York minute before she ultimately signs the document. As for President Taylor … well, her conscience FINALLY gets back to her and she not only refuses to sign, but announces that she’s been complicit in the whole thing. After storming out of the room, she demands Tim do everything to save Jack from ambush — except it’s too late. Jack escapes the overturned ambulance, but is no match for the masked mercenaries.
Realizing the end is near, Logan first knocks out, then shoots Jason in the head. With President Taylor bearing down on his suite, he does the only honorable (to him) thing: puts a bullet in his head from under his chin. Amazingly, he doesn’t die, but is likely permanently brain-damaged.
As for Jack, the end seems near. Chloe, Cole and Arlo clear out CTU (after detaining Eden) and begin using the drone to find Jack. It’s not easy, but they eventually spot the A-Team van they’re driving. Jack is mere seconds from a bullet to HIS brain, but the president somehow makes contact and orders the men to stand down. Once on the phone with Jack, she reveals that she’ll be resigning soon and will face the full force of an angry government and country. Jack expects the same, but Taylor offers him an out and a head start in leaving the country. With the Russians coming after him, he needs to disappear in a hurry. She also apologizes profusely for not listening to him all along.
The final exchange sees Jack and Chloe and tears aplenty. He makes her promise to look out for Kim and little Teri. Jack never thought it would be Chloe (of all people) who would have his back all this time. With Chloe breaking down before our eyes, she orders Cole and Arlo to silence, and then with one final command:
“Whatever happened here didn’t happen. Understand? Shut it down.”
192 Hours. The end.
24 Episode Recap: 2:00 P.M. – 4:00 P.M.
Source: TV Guide
The final two hours of 24 involve Jack Bauer’s attempt to assassinate Russian President Suvarov, the man who ordered the hit on Renee Walker. As Jack prepares his sniper rifle, Chloe and Cole attempt to locate him, lest he be discovered first by CTU and killed on sight. Meanwhile, as the three delegates prepare to sign the peace treaty, President Taylor battles with her decision to participate in the cover-up, including who really killed President Omar Hassan.
The series finale opens on Cole learning that Jack has killed Novakovich and his men before jumping off the radar again. Though Jack has evidence of the Russian involvement in Omar Hassan’s assassination, both Arlo and Cole agree that Jack has gone overboard. Still, Cole presses on to find Jack by heading to Jim Ricker’s apartment.
Cole’s arrival at Ricker’s place is definitely not welcome. Ricker immediately wipes his computers before Cole even has a chance to enter. The two face off, but Cole is able to explain he’s actually there to help Jack — well, at least to make sure he doesn’t end up dead. Ricker gives up the info that the Russian president is really the man behind the order to kill Renee Walker. Oh, he’s in trouble!
Over at CTU, Agent Burke questions Chloe (just as she’s learning Meredith Reed has been arrested) on why Cole is back on duty. Get over yourself, buddy, you’re not in charge anymore. Cole fills Chloe in on Jack going after the Russian prez, adding that the recording Jack has is the only one left, so they need to find Jack first and get Suvarov out of the line of fire.
Logan finally decides to reveal the truth to President Taylor, letting her know that Suvarov is implicit in all the misdeeds from Day 8. Fortunately, Logan thinks Jack didn’t find out about the Russian president’s involvement, so their worries should now be over. Little does he know, Logan just fed Jack this information since Mr. Bauer bugged him in the previous hour.
After leaving Logan to head to the U.N., Pillar learns that Bauer has been injured while on his rampage. Unfortunately for him, Bauer is sitting in the backseat of his car and uses him to get into the U.N so he can get at Suvarov.
Dalia Hassan gives Taylor a gift from Omar Hassan: a pen to sign the peace treaty. This touching moment is soon diminished as Kayla Hassan describes her cryptic phone call from Meredith Reed, who pointed a finger at the Russian government in connection to Omar’s death.
When Cole arrives at the mobile CTU set up at the U.N., Chloe says she plans on distributing the evidence Jack has to every media outlet, along with thousands of government employees, ensuring that Taylor will not be able to muzzle this news once the snowball starts rolling.
Once underground at the U.N., Jack has Pillar sew up his knife wound, urging him not to make any false moves or it will result in a bullet to his brain. Pillar questions Jack’s blood lust, since it’s completely (somewhat) different than what Jack normally does. Since the law won’t prosecute the people implicit in Renee’s death, Jack is the law now. Fearing death, Pillar cries out that he has a family, so Jack just pistol whips him, ties him up and leaves him in the trunk.
When Dalia is unable to contact Meredith Reed, she feels it’s her duty to inform Taylor of the possible Russian deceit. Though Taylor tries to brush off the allegations, Dalia insists she contact Meredith Reed or else she won’t sign the peace treaty. Taylor explains that she had ordered Reed’s arrest because her information was true.
Now that Dalia knows the Russians killed her husband, she decides to back out of the treaty and inform the U.N. about the cover-up. Taylor goes on the offensive, essentially blackmailing Dalia into signing the treaty. Taylor says she’ll reveal the near-nuclear attack on the United States, which would force her to order a strike on the IRK.
This does not sit well with Dalia. She’d love to get back at the U.S. and Russia by reactivating their nuclear program. She’s calmed down just enough to meet Suvarov upon his arrival at the U.N. “There is nothing left for either of us to say, Madam President,” says Dalia as Taylor tries to speak with her again.
Jack (incredibly!) makes it through the adjacent U.N. building without being seen, pinning mini-cameras along the way, and setting up shop in a storeroom that has a sniper’s-eye view of the podium being used in the peace treaty. And just when we thought Jack hadn’t been detected, a reflection in a vending machine is his downfall. Chloe decides to go after Jack, telling Cole to send in reinforcements if she doesn’t respond in 20 minutes.
Before Jack goes commando with his sniper rifle, he makes a video — likely for Kim, his daughter — that explains his motives. Chloe tracks him down shortly after, though Jack disarms her quickly. She tries to explain that she needs to walk him out of there or else he’ll be killed by CTU agents, but he puts her in a sleeper hold and handcuffs her to a post.
The first hour closes on Jack setting up his sniper rifle, though he’s not aiming for the podium: Jack is targeting Logan, who he’ll use to get the Russian president into his office, enabling Jack to kill him. Jack plays back a portion of the evidence on the data card to prove he means business. And with a little smirk from Jack, we move onto…
President Suvarov opens the second hour by discussing the peace treaty at a press conference, using the memory of Omar Hassan to push it forward. He realizes after the conference that Dalia has learned of his involvement in the death of her husband, though, and commends Taylor in convincing her to stay.
Logan gets Suvarov on the phone, asking him to come to his office because he has credible intel that there’s a leak inside the Russian camp. All the while, Bauer is on Logan’s other phone trying to justify his actions (though mostly to himself). Chloe wakes up and begs Jack not to kill Suvarov; that they can get the audio file to the media.
When Chloe doesn’t answer her phone, Cole deploys a CTU squad to go after Bauer. They definitely won’t make it in time though. Fortunately for Suvarov, Chloe convinces Jack not to kill the Russian prez, explaining that this assassination would incite a nuclear war.
Because the CTU team is about to find Bauer, Jack makes Chloe shoot him. If she doesn’t, she won’t be able to walk out with the data card. Just before CTU agents rush in — with Jack putting his own gun to his head — Chloe shoots him in the chest. Chloe is able to debrief Cole, but Pillar (who has now been found in the back of the SUV) is suspicious of her, and asks Agent Burke to keep her in the building.
Logan explains to Pillar that he must get Bauer’s data card or else they’ll all be going down together. Pillar decides to search Chloe, much to her chagrin, but he doesn’t find the card. Just as the paramedics tell Pillar that the bullet didn’t hit any of Jack’s major organs, he figures out that Chloe is in on this plan. Jack acts as though he’s going to tell Pillar something, but he bites off his ear instead. Ouch!
Chloe starts to upload the data card at the mobile CTU, but Agent Burke quickly apprehends her and Cole, calling Pillar to let him know he’s retrieved the card. Both Chloe and Cole are sent to CTU for detainment.
Logan hand delivers the data card to Taylor, telling her she’s won. There’s just one slight problem: Jack Bauer will never quit. So unless they have him killed, this news will eventually come out. “I will take your silence as tacit approval,” Logan says before heading out to approve the hit on Bauer.
Taylor sits down to watch Jack’s video and you can see on her face that she finally has a revelation: what they did today was a bad idea. (We could’ve told you that hours ago!) Elsewhere, Logan and Pillar decide to celebrate the peace treaty, and Logan’s return to notoriety, with a drink.
When the three delegates gather to sign the treaty, Taylor declines to sign, saying that some serious misdeeds where done in conjunction with this treaty. Taylor adds that she’ll have a full announcement within the hour, effectively ending the treaty.
As she walks out, she gets Tim to call CTU and have them warn Bauer’s medical transport of an impending ambush. (Can I just note that the 24 series finale should also be called Cherry Jones’ Emmy submission tape?) The call did not come in time, though, as Jack has already been grabbed by whoever Logan hired.
As the Secretary General announces that the peace accord did not go through, Logan’s phone rings. He knows that Taylor is calling so she can cancel the hit on Bauer, but he refuses to answer. As Pillar finally picks up the phone, Logan knocks him out before shooting him in the head. (Oh, the irony!)
The truth is, Logan just wants vengeance on Bauer for taking away his last chance. To ensure that the president will not be able to cancel the hit, Logan puts a bullet in his own head. Though the paramedics will be able to save Logan, he’s most likely sustained severe brain damage and is essentially dead.
Taylor has Tim release Chloe and Cole so they can use the CTU drones to find Jack. Using archive video, they are able to backtrack and discover the location of Jack’s kidnappers. Just before the hitmen can kill Jack, Taylor gets them on the phone and demands his immediate release.
Taylor admits her mistakes to Bauer and apologizes profusely. She says they’ll both have to atone for what they’ve done in the last 24 hours, but her one consolation is that she’ll give him enough time to get out of the country.
Jack calls Chloe, who is watching him on a giant surveillance monitor. He pleads with her to make sure Kim is protected since both the Russian and United States’ governments might decide to use her to get at him. She agrees, adding that she’ll try to provide him with ample time to escape.
“When you first came to CTU, I never thought it was going to be you that was going to cover my back all those years,” Jack tells her. “And I know that everything that you did today was to try and protect me. I know that.”
And as Jack looks up at the drone, he adds a “thank you.” As Cole and Arlo watch Jack begin his escape, Chloe orders the drone to be brought back to base, adding that none of this ever happened. As Jack’s pixelated face cuts out, the timer counts down to zero.
24 has come to an end with the producers, writers, etc., basically saying: To get the ending, you’ll have to pay to see the movie. Closure wasn’t given, though if a movie deal does fall through, at least Jack made sure Chloe will protect his last remaining loved ones.
What felt wrong was how far Jack pushed to get revenge on those who had a hand in Renee Walker’s death. In actuality, they spent part of a day together where she questioned his tactics, then spent around six months apart where she was on suicidal spiral, then worked together for another day where she was undercover and slept with her ex. It felt as though the writers just needed some way to get Jack on a bloody war path that would leave us without a “happily ever after.”
But hey, at least Christian Shephard didn’t show up and tell Jack (ha!) that he’s already dead…