July 15, 2014

THE SKED Season Finale Review: “24: Live Another Day”


The idea of a changed format turned out to be something of a pretense:  until the last 10 minutes of the final episode, which jumped forward half a day, 24: LIVE ANOTHER DAY could more accurately have been called 12.  But the need to fill only half as many hours was a tonic for 24, which for once was able to tell a relatively straightforward story, without the elaborate digressions (cougar, anyone?)  and false starts that mucked up the middle sections of so many 24-episode seasons.  In fact, perhaps for the first time in 24‘s entire existence, it didn’t need to make much use of a piece of melodrama it had in its pocket, as President James Heller’s (William Devane) deepening Alzheimer’s turned out to have little effect on the events of the day.

Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) saved the world (of course) from the cataclysmic war almost started by renegade Chinese terrorist Cheng Zhi (Tzi Ma) in the season’s final episode, but writers and Executive Producers Manny Coto and Evan Katz–both 24 veterans–kept the hour’s bigger developments more personal.  The equivalent of a 21-gun salute on 24, the silent commercial break countdown, went to the death of Audrey Boudreau (Kim Raver), one-time and now eternal love of Jack’s life.  That provided the impetus for Jack to go one-man-army on Cheng’s cadre of assassins (a sequence well-directed by Jon Cassar, another old 24 hand), culminating in Jack decapitating Cheng with a conveniently available sword.

24 has always gone for darkish endings, at least where Jack Bauer is concerned, and the season’s coda continued the personal theme, as he gave himself up voluntarily to Russian custody in exchange for the release of Chloe O’Brian (Mary-Lynn Rajskub), finally acknowledged as his best, and only, friend.  Of course, Russian imprisonment is hardly a permanent sentence for Jack Bauer, so this needn’t be the last we see of him.

Although 24: Live Another Day wasn’t the ratings bonanza FOX had hoped, it did fairly well for a scripted summer series, and probably has considerable value overseas, where action thrillers are prized.  The finale did a fair job of keeping things in place for his return.  Although Yvonne Strahovski’s CIA agent Kate Morgan was apparently resigning from the service when last seen, distraught over her inability to save Audrey, not to mention her betrayal (and her husband’s suicide) at the hands of her former Agency boss, she proved herself a worthy comrade for Jack in the steely ass-kicking game, and would be an asset to return.  Chloe, too, is still alive, and while her role this season made about as much sense as her eyeliner, Rajskub is always a fine ally for Sutherland’s 50 (at least) shades of grim.  (Excellent villainess Michelle Fairley. unfortunately, appears to be permanently dead.)

There was a brief time when 24 was taken seriously, hard as that is to believe now..  (It’s pretty amazing that in 2006, the show actually won the Emmy for Best Drama.)  At its best, it’s been a very enjoyable ride, and there’s certainly no shame in that.  Live Another Day suggests that a shorter span is better for everyone, audience included, and another return, maybe not every year,  but after a break, could be another welcome popcorn event.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."