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For "24" And Its Final Hour, It's Not Too Late to Kill Jack Bauer
May 10, 2010  | By David Bianculli
24-jack-kills-dana.jpgIn two weeks, we'll be saying goodbye to the Fox series 24, and to Kiefer Sutherland's character of Jack Bauer, who's had a memorable string of terrible, horrible, no good, very bad days. The real-time clock on 24is running out -- and so is the chance for the series to deliver one last, shocking, legendary twist:

Kill Jack Bauer.

This is something I think the producers should have done a year or so ago, if not this year -- midway through the season, with no advance warning whatsoever.


After all, Jack Bauer has died on this series before. He's just been revived after a few minutes of the big sleep. But if he died mid-mission, the water-cooler and talk-show conversations the next day would be dominated by the sudden death of a TV hero. And the rest of CTU would be left to pick up the pieces, and we'd stay with them, leaning forward in our chairs all the way.

After all, if Jack Bauer can die, who's safe? No one. And isn't THAT a nice switch for a weekly TV series?


The second Jack Bauer got to kiss fellow agent Renee, you knew she was a goner. But what if it had gone the other way? The bad guys have surrounded Jack and Renee, gunfire is blazing -- and at the end of the episode, it's Jack, not Renee, who takes the fatal bullet, and is cradled in Renee's arms.

Cha-CHUNK! Cha-CHUNK! The episode ends, and you're left reeling. But the next episode continues, with Renee, not Jack, in full-on revenge mode. THAT would have been a cool way for 24 to go out -- and, perhaps, to continue next season, following Annie Wersching's Renee or some other agent. If Law & Order can continually refresh its roster of character and stars, why couldn't 24? And with Renee at the center, wouldn't that refresh the show -- until, someday, SHE dies unexpectedly?


This is nothing against Kiefer Sutherland, or his portrayal of the long-tortured Jack Bauer. (And in this case, the "long-tortured" can be taken literally.) It's just that in a show where the life-and-death stakes are so constant, killing the protagonist -- especially without warning -- would add credibility to the show's premise and reputation.

I know, you're saying, it's just wishful, ghoulish thinking. After all, the producers and Sutherland have talked openly, and often, about making one or more theatrical movie versions of 24 once the TV series has wrapped. You couldn't really do that, and expect to draw a big audience, once you've killed the main character.


Although, come to think of it, there IS a precedent: In the 1950s, ABC's Disneyland presented three monthly installments of a Davy Crockett miniseries, killing him at the Alamo to complete the trilogy. But by then, Davy was such a hit that Disney produced a couple of prequels, presenting more adventures of the frontiersman from the time before he met his well-documented end.

24-dana-second-shot-dead.jpgBut regarding Jack Bauer, there's still a way to pull off one of the biggest dramatic surprises in TV history. What if all that talk of a 24 movie franchise has been a brilliant bluff? A sly smokescreen?

What if the producers have been throwing that out, as a red herring, so that they can kill Jack Bauer tonight, or next week, or the week after, and catch the nation by surprise? After all, once he killed Dana last week with only vengeance as a motive, doesn't he DESERVE some sort of serious retribution?

I'm not saying it's probable. I'm just saying it's possible... and boy, from the wider perspective of TV history, wouldn't it be wonderful?




R.Orr said:

Hey David-
Now that such shows as Lost and 24 are soon ending after great runs - I'd be curious (perhaps a blog idea) to read your thoughts as a tv critic surrounding the anticipated endings of other great shows throughout the years.

Which shows' endings did you anticipate the most?

Which lived up to your expections? Which did not?

Which shows' endings have been your personal favorites?

Just curious mostly!!! Thank you!

[Nice idea... I'll write it up, closer to the end-of-month finales of Lost and 24. But I'll warn you: Expect to hear mentions of Newhart, St. Elsewhere and Six Feet Under in the positive column... -- David B.]

Comment posted on May 10, 2010 2:29 PM

Angela said:

That *is* a nice idea! I'll really be looking forward to that, and especially your take on 6 Feet Under, one of my favs.

Comment posted on May 10, 2010 8:35 PM

David D. said:

Do you remember an obscure Western called "Nichols," that starred a pre-Rockford James Garner as a laid-back, Mavericky sheriff? (Margot Kidder was in it too.) The ratings weren't great, and NBC thought it was because there wasn't enough action. So they killed off Nichols and, sure enough, brought in Nichols' TWIN BROTHER -- THE GUNSLINGER!!! (Sigh.) No better ratings, though.

[i DO remember that... a very funny last-second ploy that didn't work, but made me smile anyway. The twin-brother gimmick was introduced in the season finale, but there was no renewal. -- David B.]

Comment posted on May 11, 2010 12:40 PM
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