Friday, July 2, 2010

A Tale of Two Finales, Part II — 24

It's funny — for years I had considered Lost to be "real" television and 24 a guilty pleasure sideshow attraction unworthy of shining Lost's shoes, so I never would have guessed until a few weeks before their back-to-back finales (around the time we got the Lost episode entitled "Across the Sea") that 24 would end up being the more coherent, competent, and recommendable series by a pretty big margin. That's not to say that 24 is perfect and it's sure as shit not to imply that perfection was even a blip on the hazy horizon for its eighth, final, filler-choked season, but by and large I thought it did well by its protagonist and left behind a somewhat proud decade-long legacy of constant cliffhangers, gratuitous violence, sudden deaths, and absurd plot twists.

Also, the nice thing about 24 is that each season stands alone, as the overriding threat and mysteries and major villains are pretty well cleaned out every year. I mean, sure, you gotta keep track of big picture stuff like who's President of the United States, which main characters are dead, and where exactly Jack Bauer stands with CTU and the government, but unlike Lost where the entire series-spanning mystery was reliant on its eventually botched conclusion, a bad season of 24 (and there is at least one really bad one, the dreaded season six) can be seamlessly skipped and doesn't sour what came before — all this being a longwinded way to say that whatever silliness followed, season one of 24 remains a clockwork action thriller, one of the absolute best produced in film or television over the last decade.

But we're not here to discuss the first season. Not yet, anyway. Quite the contrary, let's get into the show's ending.