Before I begin, I must thank Kasia once again for letting me be a part of this especially notable year for AlmeidaIsGod.com. It’s been a pleasure sharing my long-winded and vaguely self-important blatherings on this website. And I’m not through yet, I’ll probably do a review of the season as a whole while it’s fresh in everyone’s minds, so check back for that pretty soon. But for now, we’ve got a season finale to discuss.
Complying with the demands of Cara the Fake Lawyer Subway Commuter, Jack executes his plan to extract Tony from FBI Custody. After waving his gun everywhere, shooting an agent in the foot, and making everybody cuff themselves, he explains to Renee that his daughter is at stake. Cara meets up with the hijacked van, and she and Tony make their getaway. Jack is subdued and taken along for the ride, since Tony believes that they can still remove the pathogen from Jack’s bloodstream and recreate the bioweapon.
At the airport, Kim receives a call from Renee, who warns her that Tony is involved in the attacks and has agents watching her. She deduces that the creepy long haired guy with the laptop has got a webcam on her (there’s a really funny yet tasteless joke here, but I can’t seem to reach it), and that he and his “wife” must be the spies. Her suspicions are proven correct when the “husband” opens fire on approaching FBI agents and the “wife” takes her hostage with a knife to the throat. However, Kim is able to escape her captor via pen to the thigh, but the “husband” escapes into the bowels of the airport.
Ethan arrives at the White House and he and Aaron work out their next move. He’ll sneak into the office and look for the potentially incriminating recording while Olivia is tied up in the Cisco Product Placement Suite. However, Olivia comes back earlier than expected, and nearly catches the ex-Chief of Staff red handed. He mumbles some excuses about coming back to get some mementos and slips away, but the (rightfully) paranoid Olivia has Secret Service intercept Ethan at the door and take him into custody.
Jack is brought to a team of sinister looking doctors in a grungy warehouse, and Tony and Cara are told that they’ll be able to extract the pathogen from Jack’s spinal fluids very quickly. Privately, Tony expresses his desire to Cara for a larger role in the conspiracy headed by Alan Wilson. Jack screams in pain as a very large needle is shoved into his back.
Olivia confronts Ethan in the holding cell, and the two make a lot of innuendo about each others’ wrong doings. Eventually, Olivia confiscates the recording, destroys it, and sends Ethan on his way. But you, the savvy long time 24 viewer, know that it was a fake, Ethan handed off the real recording to Aaron. He discreetly hands it back to Ethan, who gets a safe distance, listens to it in his car, and hears proof of Olivia’s involvement in Jonas Hodge’s murder.
Kim shadows the “husband” through the airport, and eventually witnesses him stealing a car for his escape. She alerts airport security, but the “husband” elects to drive onto the scene, guns blazing. He mows down everyone but Kim, but not before catching a bullet himself and flipping the car. Kim is forced to crawl into the overturned vehicle to retrieve the laptop, but the “husband” predictably wakes up and grabs her. She breaks free with the laptop and escapes just as the car ignites. Kim only suffers a singed arm, and the “husband” and his hideous haircut are burned alive. Renee arrives, and Kim hands her the laptop, busting out some technobabble on how they can use it to find her father.
…Who is “unconscious” in the warehouse. Wilson and Cara debate over about whether Tony has earned a spot in their dastardly conspiracy, and Wilson decides he’ll have to come down to the warehouse to meet Tony in person. The situation complicates when Jack takes a page from Nina Myers’ book, grabbing some surgical instruments and dispatching all the doctors working on him. He flees the warehouse, with Tony in hot pursuit…
Wow, this finale was awesome! It brought the arcs of Jack and Kim Bauer, Tony Almeida, Renee Walker, and the Taylor family to powerful conclusions. It had an outstanding action climax. It had amazing thematic depth and continued to give the character’s intriguing shades of gray. The episode was such an effective end that it strengthened the season as a whole.
These are all the things I would be saying if I was reviewing the second half of the finale. What about the one I’m actually assigned to, Hour 23? Eh, it was all right.
It seems to me that this episode has a very specific purpose: Get all the less interesting stuff out of the way so that the path is clear for Hour 24 to blow us away. The primary storyline involving Jack and Tony is barely seen, this episode is all about Kim Bauer having to fight her way out of an extremely perilous situation, and advancing the White House drama just enough so the resolution can be entirely contained in the final hour. Fortunately, the two actors most prominent in the episode, Elisha Cuthbert and Bob Gunton, do outstanding jobs.
It’s redundant to say that Kim is one of the most maligned 24 characters in history, isn’t it? Well, you can almost imagine the conversation in the writers room as they were breaking this episode. I’m sure they were very consciously trying to undo every single complaint the fans have had about her, as she breaks free of a hostage situation, shadows an enemy operative, selflessly risks her life to retrieve some vital intelligence, and offers a valuable solution on how to find Jack. Kim has come a long way in the six years since we last saw her. I’ve always thought that she had a lot of value as a character because she’s the Most Important Thing in the World to Jack, but if she can become a likable character in her own right, well that’s fantastic.
This subplot was resolved within the hour, and was here to supply the usual helping of action/adventure. The shootout in the airport was well staged and, as is expected with any shootout not featuring Jack Bauer, pretty unpredictable. The chase through the luggage hanger and the ultimate conclusion with the flipped car was similarly exciting, proving that if nothing else, 24 can still do a good action sequence.
Over at the White House, I find myself a bit more mixed. First off, as I’ve been saying since his introduction, Jonas Hodges was an outstanding addition to the 24 cast. And killing him off as a means to facilitate Olivia Taylor’s downfall is not necessarily the best use of the character, in my opinion. Olivia is interesting and complex in her way, but the most pleasant character to follow from hour to hour she certainly is not. Of course, the ultimate purpose of this plotline is to drive the Taylor family apart and make Allison a more tragic character. But in Hour 23, we didn’t know that yet and the President was barely seen, so this somewhat tedious subplot continues to march along.
It’s not a total loss though. After just kind of being there, neither a good nor bad character for the first two thirds of the year, Ethan Kanin gets a chance to shine. Forcing seemingly by-the-book and straightforward characters to be more rebellious is the kind of thing that makes a 24 character a fan favorite. Seeing Ethan sneak around and refusing to be intimidated by Olivia finally makes him worthy of comparison to past Chief of Staffs like Mike Novick or Tom Lennox. I’m now hoping Bob Gunton will come back in Season 8 and get a chance to explore this new side of his character a bit more.
And I have to mention Aaron Pierce, of course. Seeing him back as a recurring character was a true unexpected pleasure of Season 7. Even though he’s brought down his own employer yet again, the fans love him and I expect we’ll see him again.
Oh yeah, and Jack and Tony. To be honest, there’s really not too much to talk about in this first hour. There was potential for an exciting action scene or a scene fraught with betrayal on Renee’s part as Jack hijacks the transport vehicle, but the show didn’t really bother to do either one. Tony’s plan to rebuild the pathogen from Jack’s bloodstream was a bit of an eyeroller for me (even though it hardly mattered in the long run). Jack being strapped to the operating table for half the episode similarly smacked of the writers killing time until his inevitable grisly escape in the final scene. Everything in this storyline was all about setting up things that pay off in the final hour.
I feel like I should talk about that subplot more, but hey, I gotta save something for my…
I choose the moment in which Tony began pushing for an invitation into the conspiracy. Not because the moment was great in and of itself but because it was the moment I realized that all of our crazy theories from these past few weeks were about to be proven right. Of course, I didn’t call Alan Wilson being the literally the seventh character who ostensibly ordered the hit on David Palmer and Michelle Dessler, but that’s an issue for our Hour 24 reviewer to deal with.
I wouldn’t dream of calling this episode filler, as I’ve sometimes accused penultimate 24 episodes of being. It was completely necessary to get all the preliminaries out of the way and save the truly satisfying stuff for the finale, which I’m cool with. But although Hour 23 and Hour 24 together formed a truly outstanding episode, by itself, it was merely serviceable.