Before I begin, I would once again like to take this opportunity to thank the other contributorswho devoted their own very valuable time and resources to the Official Episode Summary & Review portion of the site this year. This was a new feature for Season 7, and from the start I knew that it would kill me to try and handle this content plus everything else every week. So to all who threw down at least one OESR this season, you have my eternal gratitude. I’m indebted. Now, let’s get on with it …
We left off at the end of the first hour of the finale with Jack having just escaped Tony and Fake Lawyer’s clutches by pulling a Nina, slaughtering their team of evil doctors with a scalpel and busting out into the sunrise. We pick up at the beginning of the second hour with Renee, Kim and Chloe desperate for the computer Kim recovered from Fake Lawyer’s hippie henchman to yield some kind of lead on where Jack might be. Cut to Jack breaking into a storage unit adjacent to Fake Lawyer’s shadowy lair, where he finds an array of taxi cabs ripe for the hotwiring. But before he can make his escape, Tony busts in shooting, putting a few holes in the gas tank of one of the cabs, causing gasoline to pour out all over the floor. Jack hits the automatic door control device to lower the door back down and Tony rolls out of the way just in time. This is a mere inconvenience for Almeida, who gets himself a forklift and uses it to force the door open. Jack spots a cache of flares on a table nearby (is it SOP for cabs to carry flares, I wonder?) and decides to blow them both to hell by tossing a lit flare into the gasoline pool. Tony, however, gets to Jack in the nick of time and knocks the flare a safe distance away from the gasoline. Jack, weak and fatigued, tries valiantly to crawl towards the flare, but Tony easily overpowers him and knocks him out with the classic Krav Maga chop to the neck — The Tony equivalent of the Bauer Sleeper Hold. He drags Jack by the feet back to Fake Lawyer’s shadowy lair.
In the meantime, it’s confrontation central over at the White House when Ethan Kanin enters Olivia’s office. Pierce refuses to remove Kanin from the premises, so Olivia calls security. That’s when Ethan whips out the recording of she and Collier plotting the hit on Hodges. Olivia meekly hangs up the phone, looking totally befuddled. When Kanin explains that he and Pierce secured the real recordings and used a blank data card as a decoy, Olivia gives Aaron an “et tu, Pierce?” look. Aaron responds by telling her he had hoped his suspicions about her were wrong in a truly disgusted tone, then excuses himself. Olivia tries to bargain with Ethan, telling him she’ll resign and he can have his job back. Ethan informs her that his only interest is in the truth, not in a play for his job, and that one way or another, the President will be informed of Olivia’s actions, but that it is up to Taylor to decide how to handle it.
By now, Tony has handcuffed Jack to a chain link fence inside the shadowy lair. Jack unleashes a diatribe on Tony about how no motive, past injustices or ideology in the world could possibly justify the things he’s done. Jack begs Tony to let him die in peace and not to let the people he works for use him to kill innocent people. This is the moment we’ve all been waiting for — the moment Tony reveals his true intentions. Tony explains that he never planned to use Jack to rebuild the pathogen, and that everything he’s done during the course of the day was part of a larger endgame four years in the making — an endgame to make Alan Wilson, the man in charge of The Group, expose himself. Tony extrapolates that Alan Wilson was also the top guy behind the Day 5 conspiracy that assassinated David Palmer and killed Michelle — the ultimate puppetmaster behind Christopher Henderson, Charles Logan and Graem Bauer — and that his singular goal is to kill Wilson to get justice for Michelle’s death. Jack is disgusted that Tony would put his own personal revenge ahead of the lives of innocents. Tony attempts to reframe his actions for Jack, pointing out that he helped them recover the CIP Device, stop the White House attack and destroy most of the pathogen at Starkwood, and asserting that he helped save lives. When Jack confronts him about the subway attack, Tony replies that he “did what he had to do to get Wilson here.” Jack reminds Tony that if he kills Wilson, the rest of the conspiracy will never be uncovered, but Tony can already taste sweet revenge. He replies that he isn’t going to kill Wilson — Jack is. He straps Jack with a bomb, explaining that Wilson’s people won’t let him get close enough to kill him personally, so he had to use what Wilson really wants — Jack. He notices Fake Lawyer on her way back to the lair, and gags Jack with some duct tape, but not before Jack asserts that Michelle would despise the man Tony has become.
Fake Lawyer enters the room seconds later, informing Tony that Wilson has agreed to a meeting and that he is on his way. She cautions Tony not to reveal that they are screwing, suggesting it could complicate things. They see Wilson’s limo making its approach on their surveillance camera, and head out to meet him. Wilson and his motorcade enter the alley behind the shadowy lair. Two of Wilson’s minions pat down Tony and Fake Lawyer to check for weapons. When the minions give him the all clear, Wilson emerges from the back of the limo. He and Tony eye each other up. Fake Lawyer approaches him and greets him with an uncomfortable kiss on the cheek. Tony gives his minions the keys to Jack’s handcuffs, and they drag him out of the shadowy lair. Wilson asks to see Bauer’s medical reports. Just then, Renee busts in in an FBI chopper, demanding surrender. The patented finale shootout ensues (complete with the traditional bonus Exploding Barrels). The minions are taken out, but Fake Lawyer and Wilson take cover in the shadowy lair, and Jack notices Tony, who has grabbed a gun off the body of one of the dead minions, follow them inside. Renee finds Jack and disarms the bomb strapped to his torso while he explains that Tony’s endgame all along was to kill Wilson in revenge for killing Michelle, and that they have to stop him from following through or else any information on the rest of his conspiracy dies with him.
Inside the shadowy lair, Fake Lawyer is palpably relieved to see Tony alive. If Wilson had any doubts that Fake Lawyer and Tony were doing the nasty, he doesn’t anymore. Fake Lawyer rushes to his side and in a classic dangerslut move, Tony coldly pops a slug right into her gut as she paws him, an expression of remorseless satisfaction on his face, while her eyes bug out in disbelieving horror as she dies. At last, Tony is face to face with the man responsible for killing his wife and destroying his soul. Tony attacks Wilson, pressing the business end of a gun to his head, explaining that his sole reason for living the last four years was for the satisfaction of finally confronting and killing him. Wilson responds by feigning ignorance. Tony pistolwhips Wilson, and kicks him while he’s down a few times for good measure. Tony then breaks down, revealing that Michelle was pregnant with his son at the time of her death, and that Wilson is responsible for murdering his son too. Tony raises the gun to put Wilson down, but he has waited too long — Jack and Renee bust in, and Renee shoots him in the shoulder. Tony falls to the ground and crawls toward his gun, while Jack yells at him not to move. Still, Tony goes for the gun. Jack gets off a well placed shot into Tony’s hand, and he and Renee move in. They take Wilson into custody and Tony is hauled off in handcuffs (in the words of Howard Gordon) “foaming at the mouth,” spouting off about how Jack has become “one of them”, while Jack slips to the ground in the throes of another seizure.
In the aftermath of this intense climax, Renee confronts Wilson about the other members of his cabal, but Wilson taunts and stonewalls her. She heads off angrily to where the medical team is working on Jack, prepping him for transport to the hospital. They get philisophical when Renee suggests torturing Wilson to get him to talk. Jack ultimately concludes that when someone decides to do “whatever it takes”, it’s something they can’t come back from, and that in the big picture, although he has no regrets, the laws of the land are still a valuable consideration in the ethical quandary. In the end, the advice he gives Renee is “try to make choices you can live with.” Good advice. Renee sheds a tear for Jack as he is hauled off to the hospital to meet his maker.
Back at the White House, Olivia has gathered her parents together and confesses to both of them that she was the one who set the murder of Hodges in motion. Allison is shattered. Henry pleads with Allison to bury the truth and save their daughter, talking of how Hodges deserved to die for murdering Roger, how their family has already paid a steep enough price in the name of her office and how he can’t bear the thought of losing his other child as well. Woods enters, wanting to update the President on Wilson’s capture. Taylor excuses him, saying she’ll be along shortly. Henry compels her to go and attend to business, but begs her again to destroy the recording and save their family. The President leaves, and Henry comforts Olivia, assuring her they will figure everything out.
Over at the FBI, Janis receives a call from Woods saying to make the paperwork on Wilson’s transfer a priority. Janis informs Chloe that they will have to postpone her debrief. Chloe tells Janis she’s staying in town to be by Jack’s side, and she can come in later. The two of them acknowledge the other’s skillz in an awkwardly sweet moment, and exunt Chloe for this season. Meanwhile, Taylor struggles with her decision while gazing forlornly at family photos from when Roger was still alive.
In Jack’s hospital room, Macer tells Jack he doesn’t have much time left. She suggests putting him into a morphine-induced coma so he doesn’t have to experience the pain of the final throes. A nurse tells Jack he has a visitor — the Imam from the Al-Zarian brothers’ mosque. Jack and the Imam have a heart-to-heart about the existential dilemma as Jack tries to reconcile his own soul before coming face to face with death, and perhaps begins to forgive himself.
President Taylor has made her decision. She enters the room where Olivia and Henry are waiting, and embraces them both tenderly, saying goodbye. She then tells Olivia that while it breaks her heart, as President, she has a duty to uphold the law and therefore cannot be complicit in burying a murder. She has Pierce take Olivia into custody. Henry will barely look at her. She leaves the room and starts to break down when Ethan Kanin walks around the corner. Kanin comforts Taylor, assuring her that Henry will come around, but Taylor is unconvinced. Ethan tells her she has his support no matter what. Taylor asks him to resume his duties as Chief of Staff and he agrees.
Back at the FBI, Renee watches Wilson brought into a holding room. Janis wants her signature on the transfer order paperwork, but Renee has other ideas. She handcuffs Janis to a pole at gunpoint. Janis begs her to think of Larry, and how he wouldn’t want her to go down this road, but Renee has made up her mind. She symbolically lays her badge on the desk before entering the room to inflict some serious pain on Wilson.
By now, Kim has made her way to the hospital to find Jack unconscious. She asks Macer if it’s too late to try the stem cell therapy — it isn’t. Macer preps a room for surgery as Kim sits at Jack’s bedside. She takes his hand and whispers quietly that she’s not ready to let him go. Fade out. Boop beep on the episode, and the season.
Let’s get one thing out on the table up front — the success or failure of this final hour (and by extension the entire season) hinged on the success or failure of how the show explained Tony’s endgame, the grand motivator behind all the horrible things we’ve seen him do, and whether or not that explanation resulted in an emotionally, and to a lesser extent intellectually, satisfying conclusion for the audience. Everything else was, while in many places compelling, effectively just background noise, the tying up of loose ends. And this is more than a subjective opinion. This was the season of Almeida. The plot was predicated on his resurrection and he was the driving force behind the action virtually every step of the way, particularly in retrospect. So, given that, how did we fare?
Certainly, the writers weren’t able to please everyone on every point. This is a character who was beloved by 24 fans through five seasons of the show for his courage, his ethics, his passion, his goodness and the purity of his heart. No matter what his endgame actually was or alternately could have been, there will always exist a case to be made that he could have chosen a different path to reach his goal, one that did not call for a callous disregard of other people’s lives — people that did nothing against him. No matter how the issue was resolved, I think the fans who have significant problems with the way his arc was resolved would have those problems no matter what.
A lot of the focus of discussion amongst the community on this site since the finale hit the airwaves has had to do with whether or not the writers established a solid enough progression for the character to make the transformation of the empathetic, altruistic and sensitive Tony of old into the new, dark, cold, vengeance-driven Tony of today a credible transition. This question hinges on whether or not his rage and anguish over Michelle’s death is enough to have prompted this transformation. Some people are really pissed off that Tony put revenge for Michelle ahead of innocent lives for no “greater good” except the selfish satisfaction of executing his own personal revenge, saying this is something Tony would never do, dead Michelle or no dead Michelle, dead unborn child or no dead unborn child. But in a way, I think getting caught up in the ethical and logical questions kind of takes something away from the story’s visceral impact on an emotional level, from the humanity of the story.
I can intellectualize, rationalize and analyze why I feel the way I feel about the conclusion all I want, but the bottom line is that I loved it and it satisfied me because while my brain can pick every last nit that lies on the twisted and tragedy-soaked path of Tony’s plan, the whole time I was watching, my heart was screaming “YES! YES! YES!”. It made sense to me emotionally and viscerally. The depths and lengths that a human being is willing to go for love, and how consuming and destructive a force the need for revenge can be are two elements that have been part of the greatest examples in the storytelling traditions of literature and popular culture since pretty much the dawn of time. This is so because they are universal truths about the human condition, and no character, not even Tony Almeida, is above them. If anything, our passionate and emotionally motivated Tony is more believably susceptible than most.
So while Tony’s actions may not have been justified, and it is undoubtedly exceptionally difficult to see the character with his soul in pieces all over the floor behaving in a way that few of us can rationally comprehend, much less advocate, I don’t know if I can honestly say I don’t think every single one of us is capable of doing some form of what he did in extreme enough circumstances. In other words, I may not agree with it, but I understand it. Completely. And no matter how nebulous, subjective or unsatisfactory that argument may be to the intellectualists, romantic me isn’t going to apologize for it or defend it anymore. I prefer to view Tony through rose-coloured glasses as a tragically flawed figure whose downfall was that he loved too much, too deeply, too all-consumingly, and when the corpse of that love started rotting inside him, the decay finally consumed the man he used to be.
The huge visceral impact of Tony’s resolution would not have been possible without the exceptional talent of Carlos Bernard. In the hands of an actor who had less skill, less commitment to the character or less ability to immerse himself in and find the emotional motivation of the character, perhaps the conclusion would have seemed more hollow. But it was obvious watching Carlos Bernard during the pivotal scenes that he absolutely believed in where Tony was coming from every step of the way, and thus I have no choice but to believe as well.
The White House storyline was nicely resolved. President Taylor stayed true to her ideals and her belief in the duty she swore to her office, even at the expense of her own daughter’s freedom and her husband’s support and respect. This decision demonstrates an exceptional strength of character, one we haven’t seen in a President since the late, great David Palmer. A willingness to see one’s family suffer to uphold academic ideas of justice and morality is not an easy place to be.
I wasn’t as convinced by Renee’s abandonment of the ethics and values she started the day off with. Somewhere between the second and third acts, she apparently decided that she came out on the side of “whatever it takes”, as opposed to “upholding the law”, but that moment wasn’t clearly marked for me. We are meant to infer that Larry’s death somehow pushed her over the edge, but by the end she was clearly laying blame on Wilson for something Tony did, and I didn’t quite key in to her mental progression on that one. Nonetheless, the moment where she lays down her badge in a symbolic rejection of her obligations as an agent was quite well-played.
The season ended on a bit of a down-note. There was no thrilling cliffhanger, no explosive peak, just a heart-broken daughter pledging to see her father live no matter how ready to die he may have been. But this was OK with me. After the emotional exhaustion of the first half of the hour, I was ready to catch my breath, and I really like the fact that the writers literally positioned Kim as Jack’s redemption and salvation, right where she’s always been figuratively in the world of the show. Jack’s existential exploration of the meaning of his life within the framework of his death balanced the ending nicely, addressing issues the show has been touching on all season: forgiveness, subjective notions of right and wrong, etc. It was one of the most well-rounded finales we’ve seen in a long time.
It’s a total toss up between the endgame reveal scene with Jack and the confrontation scene with Wilson. Both were superbly acted and emotionally gripping. But I’ll give the edge to the Wilson scene. The rawness and fragility of Tony was heartbreaking. Jack showed mercy and empathy at the moment of truth. And the coldly remorseless look on Tony’s face as he shot Fake Lawyer in the gut sealed the deal.
What else can I say? I was satisfied. What I wanted from Tony was a rationale that made intuitive sense to me and that did not incorporate misplaced logic about how innocent people had to die to prove to the government that Michelle’s death was unjust, or notions that Tony really did believe in The Group’s cause. Tony had an endgame, a larger plan, and that is what I wanted. He didn’t die, leaving the door open for what I feel is a necessary return next year in the show’s final season. I got everything I wanted. I smile.
For the first and only time this season, from me or anyone else, 10/10.