After eight gut-wrenching, adrenaline-fueled seasons, the TV thrill ride that is “24” will come to an end on Monday, allowing beleaguered federal agent Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) to finally kick back and veg out. Of course, that’s assuming he survives his latest hellish day.
As we catch our breath, it’s a good a time to ponder the legacy of pop culture’s greatest post-9/ 11 hero — a guy who went mano a mano with a steady parade of scumbags and bailed America out of dire trouble more often than we had a right to ask. Why did he hold us in thrall for so long?
The easy answer is that, during an era of high-anxiety, he represented the ultimate escapist fantasy: a dedicated, no-nonsense mythic warrior who flipped the bird in the face of terror and delivered us from evil without ever taking a nap or getting bogged down in rush-hour traffic.
“One of the things I admire about Jack Bauer is his incredible sense of responsibility,” Sutherland once told TV Guide. “He gives you everything he’s got. I’d like to be more like that.”
For six seasons, Jack Bauer provided a slew of vicarious thrills, shunning life’s bogus rules to say and do things we’d like to say and do. Um, well, to a point: Let’s hope we never feel the need to pry a cell-phone SIM card from a man’s stomach as Jack did in a ghastly torture session two weeks ago.
Still, the series was a real rush — and so was Jack, who saved the world without rest and always looked good doing it. That kind of selflessness deserves our respect. It deserves to be rewarded.
That’s why it was a little disheartening to recently hear “24” executive producer Howard Gordon warn fans that Jack won’t exactly be skipping off into the sunset.
“This show is a tragedy, and so to give Jack a happy ending just didn’t feel authentic,” said Gordon, who reported that his writers mulled a “couple of different” endings, but “one thing we tried and didn’t work was a happily-ever-after for Jack.”
But we can always hold out hope that Jack Bauer will find happiness down the line, perhaps in that much-discussed “24” movie.