24: Live Another Day Season Finale Review

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Live Another Day‘s grand finale is here at last, and it promises to be an explosive sendoff. Fasten your seatbelts, please.

The Chinese government is still dubious of Heller’s claims that Cheng was behind the attack on their vessel. President Wei has begun moving the Chinese Navy towards Okinawa in a hostile posture. Meanwhile, Heller and friends have moved to the CIA station to monitor the situation more directly. Despite his misgivings last week, Heller isn’t wasting any time in putting American forces on high alert.

At Anatoly’s residence, Jack and Kate snoop through his shit until they discover a PDA detailing the location of Cheng’s ship out of the United Kingdom, plus a feed from the sniper with Audrey in his sights. Jack wants to go rescue her himself, but Kate quite rightly points out that if Cheng sees the CIA moving on him, Audrey’s dead anyway. Kate takes a TAC team to Audrey’s location, while Jack makes for Cheng with no help other than Belcheck.

Along the way, Jack gets a call from Chloe, who has stumbled out of the woods. She explains that she had no idea what Cross was really up to, and that she wants to make things right. Jack swings by to pick her up, before heading off to the docks.

Jack and Belcheck load up on machine guns, while Chloe sets up in a security-shack thingy to provide tech support and use the cameras’ infrared to spot goons for them to shoot, in what proves to be a highly suspenseful sequence as the two men stealthily take out the guards, making their way through the shipping containers and onto the ship itself. Eventually however, Cheng notices Chloe hacking into their system, and since the jig is up, he orders Audrey shot.

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A fine pair of badasses
 Kate and pals sneak around in the bushes, trying to pin down the location of the sniper. Her efforts go a long way toward eliciting a good deal of tension from the audience, especially when she surreptitiously calls Audrey and asks her to draw the sniper’s fire. It doesn’t work, so I had a heart attack for nothing. Thanks, Coto & Katz. I appreciate that.

Cheng’s order comes through, but thanks to a warning from Chloe, Kate’s team manages to get her out of harm’s way and get rid of El Sniperio. Unfortunately for them, Cheng has a second shooter, and in the confusion, Audrey is hit in the belly. Despite Kate’s best efforts, it’s just not enough, and Audrey slips away from her.

Audrey’s death fell surprisingly flat, and it’s one of the few things in this episode that didn’t really work for me. Oh, I’m sorry to see Audrey go, but I’m not opposed to her biting it in principle. I just think it was somewhat poorly handled. Neither the actors nor the script really sold the moment to me. It might be the nitpicker in me coming out again, but I just don’t buy that Audrey dies that fast from a gunshot wound to the gut. I mean, wouldn’t she take a good long while to bleed out? Like hours, even? Certainly long enough to get proper medical attention. But Audrey, I guess is a hemophiliac or something because she peacefully closes her eyes and expires like ten seconds after being shot.

Why, if they wanted her to die that quick, did they not just have her shot in the head, or her heart or the throat or something? A wound that really would kill quickly? It just bugs me. Bleh.

The actual effects of her death are much more interesting, especially for Jack. I have no idea why Kate thought it was a good idea to call Jack up and tell him the bad news when he’s in the middle of a combat operation, but even so, it’s well played. Jack looks like he’s had all the breath sucked out of him, and his face is a study in abject dispair. He puts aside his rifle and unholsters his pistol and I swear for a few moments he’s seriously considering sticking the barrel in his mouth.

I think for those moments, this is just one loss too many for Jack. Since Day 1 he has lost just about everyone close to him and he’s just had enough. Luckily for us, he decides against giving up, and directs all that pain towards Cheng’s goons, as he fights his way to the bridge.

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This scene is Jack Bauer at his best and scariest as he cuts a bloody path towards Cheng, consumed with cold fury. Sutherland is almost expressionless in this sequence, and it’s fucking terrifying. None of the enemy combatants stands the slightest chance as he rains a hail of bullets and kitchen implements down upon them. His confrontation with Cheng himself is another standout. Cheng proves to be a better melee opponent than I thought he would be, but naturally Jack gets the upper hand through sheer brutality.

The Chinese forces are beginning to inch over the US’ defense perimeter, and war seems inevitable, until Jack calls in to announce that he’s taken Cheng alive.

Jack forces Cheng to confess his identity on broadcast as both the Americans and Chinese watch, and thankfully, it’s enough to put an end to the hostilities. Jack’s not done, though, because one he flicks off the camera, he disposes of Cheng in one of the most gruesome kills on the show – he’s beheaded onscreen with a sword. And it’s awesome.

And that’s the difference, really, between Jack killing Margot, and Jack killing Cheng. With Cheng, he and Jack have a lot of unpleasant, personal history. He’s just had a woman Jack probably still has feelings for murdered, and Jack is in a very bad place emotionally right now. His execution of Cheng feels right. His confrontation with Margot doesn’t have that. Obviously he was invested in stopping the drone strikes, but it wasn’t necessarily personal between him and Margot. He wasn’t heartbroken and enraged. The show hadn’t earned that beat, but it sure as shit earned this one.

But all is not well, of course – when Jack returns to the security shack to collect Chloe, he finds that she’s gone, with blood on the floor. He then gets a mysterious phone call from someone wanting to set up an exchange for her.

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The great leap forward from 10:xx pm to 10:xx am was rather cleverly done after coming back from commercial break. I was really curious as to how they’d cover 13 hours in about 45 minutes of show, and they did quite well under the circumstances. I almost wish this had been a two hour finale, with the first hour being 10:00 pm to 11:00 pm wrapping up the Cheng thing, and then another hour covering a Cliff’s Notes version of the events from there to 11 am.  I don’t think that the pacing suffered from the one hour format; we still got a ten minute denouement and nothing really feels rushed or left hanging. I think I just wanted more show is all. I suppose this marks the first season where people actually got to go to bed during the wee hours.

Heller’s conversation with Davies as Audrey’s casket is loaded onto Air Force One breaks my heart more than her actual death scene managed to do. He calmly tells the British Prime Minister about how he once noticed Audrey’s photo on his desk and couldn’t remember who she was. How eventually, he won’t remember this day, or that he had a daughter at all. Beautifully written, and beautifully performed by both William Devane and Stephen Fry.

It’s at last time for the Chloe-exchange, and Jack and Belcheck roll up to a construction site where a bunch of Russian goons are waiting with a helicopter. I’m a little hazy on just who this random non-Anatoly Russian guy is, or how he knew where Chloe was located. Perhaps Cheng or one of his goons alerted the Russians once they noticed Chloe sneaking into their network. I admit I may have missed something to that effect. In any event, the prisoner exchange is a really beautiful scene, all things considered.

Chloe is pretty much the last friend he has left in the world,  and Jack is willing to do whatever it takes for her to go free. Including surrendering himself to the Russian government. That brief moment Jack has as he and Chloe pass by each other, where he takes her hand and tells her she’s his best friend is a real testament to the journey the character has been on this season. He’s beginning to change the dark path he had been heading down for years, and it’s a far cry from the beginning of the season where he roughly told her that he has no friends. It’s heartbreaking, and bittersweet, and it’s perfect.

Jack’s willing sacrifice is another measure of how he’s changed. He has more or less been in hiding between seasons ever since Day 4. The Russians have wanted his blood since Day 8. But now, it’s over. He decides to stop running, and to face the consequences of his darkness and his violence. I kept waiting for Belcheck to open fire, or for there to be some kind of twist, but instead Jack simply got into that helicopter and accepts his fate. Phenomenally well done.

Looking back, Live Another Day was a fantastic return to the world of 24, eschewing most of what hadn’t worked in years past for a leaner, more satisfying experience. Combining slick visuals with a great cast and a tightly plotted, well paced storyline, Day 9 is a real contender for the top spot out of everything the show has done. It’s everything the revival of a beloved franchise ought to have been.

One question remains: Will there be more? It’s up in the air at this point, and even the writers aren’t sure. 24 is one of those rare shows that doesn’t necessarily need to come to a singular grand conclusion. Since no two days are consecutive, oftentimes with years passing between seasons in-universe there aren’t many direct cliffhangers. In most cases, each season finale provides sufficient closure to the stories told that year, and so 24 can either stop just about any time, or continue on as long as there are stories to tell.  The exceptions being the finales for Day 2, which leaves off with David Palmer having been poisoned; Day 5, in which Jack has been abducted by Cheng; and Day 8, which more or less resolved the plot threads but didn’t provide a lot of closure, with the intention of making a film to provide a real ending. A film which eventually became Live Another Day.

And Live Another Day itself is no exception to that. It wouldn’t be a happy ending for everyone involved: Jack in Russian custody, Heller’s health continues to decline, Audrey’s dead, Stupid Mark is going to prison, and Chloe is left without a soul in the world. Even so,  I would be satisfied if this turned out to be our last rock around the clock.  And if not, well, Jack Bauer is still out there, somewhere, until we need him again.

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