Why did I cry? Well, not only will I never again be able to enjoy a 24 weekend – when I watch an entire box-set of the latest season, pausing only to toss buckets of waste out of the window and scavenge for edible detritus down the back of the sofa – but I also found the ending just heartbreaking.
Over eight seasons of 24, if you tiptoed and strained your neck to peer over and beyond the high body count, you could see that all Jack Bauer really wanted was some kind of peace. He wanted his life back. He wanted his family. He wanted the chance to love again. And I wanted him to have those things too, even though it would’ve made the grand finale seem a little bit twee.
But seeing as the show’s writers all have their buttocks painfully branded with the sentence: “Jack’s romantic interests must be killed or incapacitated”, there was never any real danger of a heart-warming, schmaltzy end to the series. And certainly not after a sniper’s bullet took out Renee Walker before Jack could even boil the kettle for a post-coital cup of coffee.
Had there been a scene in which Jack melted with delight after discovering a basket of Labrador puppies on his doorstep, scooping them up in his protective arms and promising to care for them always, they probably would’ve ended up being smothered to death by Russian assassins while he was out at the shops stocking up on tins of Cesar and squeaky toys.
That’s just how 24 works. It doesn’t really do ‘happily ever after’.
Can you imagine watching a final scene in which a blissfully happy, tearful Jack Bauer runs towards his daughter and granddaughter in slow motion through LAX arrivals lounge, while Take That’s Greatest Day plays in the background? No, of course you can’t. Which is why season eight ended with Jack facing a life on the run, while his family looked forward to new identities and round-the-clock security for the rest of their days.
I always experience a fleeting feeling of emptiness when a 24 box-set comes to an end, but the season eight finale left me feeling even more bereft than normal.
When the action is over and the story’s been told, that’s usually it for me. The DVDs are then immediately returned to the case, which is then dutifully shut away in a cupboard. You see, I like to immerse myself fully in the world of 24, which is why I’ve made a point of never watching a single second of the DVD extras (of any season). It’d just spoil it for me.
I don’t want to see outtakes where Jack kills a load of terrorists, only to have them tremble to life in a fit of giggles because someone sneezed or Kiefer Sutherland let out a squeaky fart as he plunged his Microtech HALO into someone’s throat. And I don’t want to see how the special effects are done, with wireframes superimposed over certain scenes, making them look like the result of a one night stand between 24 and Tron.
I know it’s not real. But at the same time, I don’t want to furnish myself with details that will destroy the illusion (as dark and unrelenting an illusion as that may be).
Anyway, to dull the pain after watching the last ever episode of 24, I dug out my season one box set and immediately started watching that. I now intend to watch the entire eight seasons all over again. Although, I have to say, it was quite odd going from the very end back to the very beginning.
The first time we see Jack in episode one/season one, he’s sat enjoying a peaceful game of chess with his daughter, Kim. It’s such an astoundingly ordinary scene that we could just as easily have caught up with him buying silicone bathroom sealant and a pot plant in Homebase. It almost makes you weep for the fact that the blissful ordinariness of his family life is about to be shattered forever.
When you consider the fact that, only a few episodes later, Jack threatens to force-feed a wet towel down a man’s throat and then remove it – along with his stomach lining – as he starts to digest it, you know there’s never going to be a time in the future when Jack can say to his daughter: “Do you fancy a mug of hot chocolate and a game of Connect Four?” There’s sort of no turning back.
So I shall once again enjoy the adrenalin-fuelled kill fests, the superb plot twists, the feelings of dismay whenever characters I like turn out to be shady terrorists, the friendships, the bravery, the sacrifice, the betrayal, and the fact that Jack Bauer is essentially Monty Python’s Black Knight armed with a SIG Sauer P228 and a cold stare.
In other news, it’s rumoured that the 24 movie is currently on hold. To be honest, I don’t think I could go to the cinema and watch it with other people anyway. It’s always been such a personal experience for me. And what the hell am I supposed to do with a film lasting just a couple of hours? It should be 24 hours. Always 24.