NOTE: Spoilers from this season of 24, including the finale, below
The latest season of 24 wrapped its 12-episode run last night with Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) turning himself over to the Russians in exchange for the safety of best friend Chloe O’Brian (Mary Lynn Rajskub) and his family. Though this most recent campaign was, by all accounts, as violent as previous seasons of the show, its 10-minute conclusion was oddly peaceful. Kate Morgan (Yvonne Strahovski) seemed to resign her position in the C.I.A. not with a scream or a sob, but rather with the quiet and unprompted relinquishing of her badge and gun. President Heller (William Devane) didn’t beat his chest over the death of his daughter, instead accepting the bizarrely comforting reality that he won’t remember her death, or her or anyone else in a few months time. And Jack — he finished the season not in a bloody rampage but with a simple act of loyalty, friendship and resignation.
In light of the end, it’s important we not forget what 24 is really all about: absurd, ridiculous, unfathomable subplots and moments that make you say, “What?!” and then are forced to accept and move on because there’s always another one coming up right around the corner. Here are five of those moments:
1. The President of the United States of America was blown up in the middle of Wembley Stadium.
That’s a thing that actually happened. Or at least that we believed happened for a week, until it was revealed that President Heller had been rescued at the very last second, unbeknownst to the terrorists targeting him (or the audience). Part of the reason it was so absurd was that it wasn’t as though the Margot Al-Harazi (Michelle Fairley) and her band of not-so-merry terrorists hatched an ingenious plot to assassinate the President that somehow, miraculously, worked out. Instead, the President simply agreed to allow himself to be smuggled away from his criminally lax protective detail by a known fugitive, placed in the center of London’s largest stadium and be blasted to smithereens. You’ve also got to remember that this is a show where downloading a simple file onto a flash drive could end in countless lives lost and some sort of catastrophic international incident, yet arranging the murder of a President can be pulled off without a hitch.
2. Everyone kept pronouncing “nuclear” like “nuke-ULAR.”
Over and over and over again. It’s not as if characters on 24 were the first to do so (far from it, in fact), but their insistence on the pronunciation is a bit puzzling, given how ridiculed that particular phoneticism is. All the more strange: Phillip Winchester who played Colonel Shaw was one of the biggest “nuke-ULAR” offenders, but on Cinemax’s Strike Back, he’s pronounced the word correctly countless times (and in a British accent). Sometimes the world just doesn’t make sense, especially to your ears.
3. Jack Bauer murdered two major international terrorists in cold blood in two separate incidents on the same day, and no one cared.
Listen, I’m all for giving Jack Bauer carte blanche. If everyone just listened to what he had to say from the beginning of each season, the show could be called 2, and America wouldn’t have endured countless fake terrorist attacks and presidential assassinations since 2001. That said, the Jack of Live Another Day may not have always been operating in the best interests of counter-terrorism. First, he averts a drone strike against Waterloo Station. Good Jack. Then he punishes a handcuffed Al-Harazi — who may have had valuable information about the override program and who else would be after it — by throwing her out an open window to her death five stories below. Bad Jack. Later, Jack captures Cheng Zhi and compels his old nemesis (with a katana held to Zhi’s neck) to utter his name on camera in order to avert full-blown war between the U.S. and China. Good Jack. Then, to avenge Audrey’s death, he uses the aforementioned katana to decapitate Zhi. Very bad Jack. Though maybe he was just worried about the overcrowding at Guantanamo.
4. Chloe’s Makeup.
This doesn’t really require any sort of explanation, other than to say that there was a lot of it, and that it was never smudged or otherwise altered, despite many rain showers, tears and beatings it endured. Is there such a thing as facial makeup tattooing?
5. There was no just-one-final mole or huge reveal of a character from Jack’s past.
Count Zhi if you like, but he only appeared in parts of four seasons and wasn’t a particularly memorable villain. What really would have made a splash is if Tony Almeida (Carlos Bernard) — still alive, somehow — was the one on the other end of the line once Jack discovered that Chloe was missing. 24 rarely passes up the opportunity to have a genuine “What?!” moment, so the relatively straightforward nature of the season’s final hour was perhaps the most unlikely outcome of all. Still, though, if Tony’s not back for the inevitable 10th season (24: Russian to Save the World, if the producers are taking suggestions), we’ll all be rather disappointed.