It’s been an uneven season, but 24 went out on a nicely resolved note in tonight’s season finale. Palmer let loose a bizarre growl upon learning of Sherri’s fate and then dropped out of the Presidental race. Tony had one last moment of glory – and a little smootch from Michelle – before being carted off to jail. Saunders got clipped by the late Gael’s wacko widow. And Jack lopped off Chase’s already shot-through hand to save the country. All in a day’s work, I suppose.As episodes of 24 go, tonight’s was exciting, although run of the mill for this series. The car chase early on was solid, and the manhunt in the middle school was enjoyable enough, if only to see Jack wield a gun on a class full of fifth graders. A showdown in a science lab was nicely fitting with this season’s chemistry theme, but with all that melee between Chase and the courier, couldn’t we have had a little acid in the face? Or even a base? They sting too.
We’re getting a little too aware of 24′s tricks though. When Gael’s widow showed up in CTU, we knew something was up. New characters are not usually the norm for season finales. Of course she was going to off Saunders just as the bad guy’s face shows up on screen. And how did that rogue courier manage to kill two officers and a civilian in like thirty seconds without a peep from anyone. That guy is the best courier ever. But it didn’t take a genious to realize that when he stood poised with a gun over Chase’s head, the sound of bullets ringing out was clearly coming from Jack. And of course the one device that’s in LA that no one can find has different wiring from all the other virus contraptions. And of course Jack was going to chop off Chase’s arm. Well, that might not have been as obvious, but it was delightful.
At this point though, part of the fun of 24 is anticipating all these crazy twists, even the small ones. I thought for sure Jack was going to drop the virus in a toilet – I don’t know why (this is why I don’t work for CTU). I was pleasantly surprised when the teacher’s lounge turned into the world’s best defense against a globally threatening virus. Some poor bastard won’t be having his egg salad for lunch today, that’s for sure.
Tonight’s episode was certainly fun and tense, but it lacked the climactic aura of past 24 season finales. I think part of that problem was that our main enemy – at least for the past eight weeks – was apprehended two episodes ago. The final standoff with the courier was exciting, but seriously, we just met the guy. The stakes were about as high as any midseason installment of the series. We’ve had so many fakeouts with the virus – and last year with the nuclear bomb – that getting rid of the final container just isn’t as climactic as it could be. Additionally, the perpetually happenstance Palmer storyline failed to interweave in the climax as it has in years past. The convergence of the two major plots of the series is what truly gives the season finale the added surge of importance that it needs, and unfortunately it was sorely lacking this time around.
Still, I was glad to see President Palmer elect to stay in office only one term. The whole dead wife thing really would have been too much of a PR nightmare for shiny Wayne Palmer to handle. For a moment, I thought the Palmer kids would make their first appearances since season one, but their conference call was kept offscreen. Dammit. I love faces from the past.
Speaking of which, where is Mandy these days? She blows up a plane, tries to kill the President, and no one seems to care. I guess this is why the producers kept tonight’s episode cliffhanger free. They so clumsily dropped the ball with last year’s doozy of a finale that they must have opted to go into next season without any viewer expectations of what’s to come. With so many villains killed this season, Palmer becoming a private citizen, Tony shuffling off to the Big House, and Kim and Chase moving to the ‘burbs, it looks like we’ll be going into next year with a virtual clean slate. TVgasm editors have already suspected something vaguely convenient like Jack heading up Palmer’s post-Presidency security. I wouldn’t mind an entire season of Jack shooing away onlookers from the Palmer estate. Or if the producers wanted something more exciting, maybe they should move away from the mass destruction premises of global terrorism and touch on something more immediate like a plane hijacking or even a court trial or Senate hearing.
As season three wraps up, I can’t help but notice some disturbing trends about character maladies. First, at least one spouse dies a year. Teri Bauer was the high profile goner in season one. Then Marie Warner’s fiancÃ© (technically, it was their wedding day) Reza in season two. And finally season three resulted in of course Sherri Palmer (and also Dr. Ann’s ex husband). A more bizarre phenomenon is the limb sacrifice that Kim’s suitors must make. Season one featured no Kim boyfriend (that guy Dan doesn’t count. He abducted her). But season two featured samurai kicking Miguel who quickly lost his leg by the 24th hour. And of course tonight Chase had his already battered hand chopped off with a quick thwack. Not a good track record Kim. At least she kept the abductions to a minimum.
And so now begins the long six month wait for next year’s season. That’s right six months. New episodes begin in January.