When Jack Comes Back . . . .

When we last saw Jack Bauer, he was walking into the sunset as a deeply moved Chloe O’Brian watched with a tender smile.  Now Fox has announced that Kiefer Sutherland as Jack Bauer and 24 will be back, for a miniseries starting next year.

What has happened to Jack, and what kind of perils will he be confronting when he returns to the small screen?  Beats me, but here are some ideas:

*  Haunted by the fact that he murdered Chappelle in cold blood at the instruction of former President David Palmer, Jack has sworn off violence and become a French pastry chef.  But when Tony Almeida is ruthlessly gunned down while buying a baguette at Jack’s bakery, Jack must spring into action to avenge the death of his old comrade.

*  Haunted by disturbing nightmares of being chased by several forever-comatose ex-presidents and Charles Logan with the arms of the Hulk, Jack has been become a fitness instructor.  His clients love him for the results he achieves, even though he motivates them to exercise through random acts of torture.  But when his loyal client, the National Security Advisor who happens to be David Palmer’s half-sister, is seized by French terrorists seeking to restore the Holy Roman Empire, Jack must once again shoulder the Jack Pack to battle the forces of evil.

*  Haunted by the fact that he failed to detect the presence of countless moles at CTU, Jack has become a real-life mole exterminator.  But when his excavations to knock off the furry critters infesting a large California estate uncovers nuclear devices, fatal gas canisters, and biomedical weapons planted at the estate in advance of a presidential fundraising visit, Jack is sucked into a high-energy race against time to foil the plotting of former President turned terrorist Allison Taylor.

*  Haunted by the fact that he never answered the call of nature or ate any food for days at a time, Jack has spent the last two years in the bathroom eating fried chicken and whispering inaudibly.  But when a sobbing President Chloe O’Brian calls to tell Jack that her two children have been kidnapped by her ersatz nanny, in reality an agent of the North Korean government, Jack must set down the drumstick to help his old friend and fend off an invasion led by his estranged daughter, who has been brainwashed by the North Korean state.

Well, you get the idea.

“24” Withdrawal

I miss 24.

Right about now, we would be around hour 14.  The grim terrorist plot, assassination plan, or criminal enterprise that started the new season out with a bang would have been foiled thanks to the heroism and steely nerves of Jack Bauer and the technical prowess of Chloe O’Brian, but a broader and deeper conspiracy posing its own special threat would have been detected.  The appalling Charles Logan, with his prissy smarminess, would have been seen lurking on the periphery, trying to wheedle his way into power.  Scores of bad guys would have been shot, blown up, electrocuted, tortured, or otherwise dispatched in some gruesome fashion.  And the members of the 24 Death Pool would be debating whether this was a good season of 24 or a bad season of 24.

I miss Jack Bauer’s certainty about right and wrong and willingness to endure all manner of beatings and horrors to save the country.  I miss Chloe’s constant scowls, PDA wizardry, and snarky comments.  I miss the general incompetence of every other employee of CTU, with its legendary inability to establish a secure perimeter.  I miss Presidents in constant peril and ever-present nuclear threats.  And I want to get certain questions answered.  What happened to Tony Almeida?  Are Wayne Palmer and one of the predecessor Presidents still in comas?  Did Logan survive?  Is Chloe a crappy mother?

When you think about it, 24 was a pretty entertaining show.

An End To Logan’s Run, And To 24

Well, I’ve watched the series finale of 24, and I think it showed why the show really needed to end.

It really seemed like not much happened during the two hours.  Sure, Jack got shot by Chloe, bit off the ear of Logan’s suckboy, whispered his dialogue, and resisted assassinating the Russian president, and his recorded message of lukewarm platitudes somehow convinced President Taylor to walk away from the “peace agreement” — but to my mind the “will she, won’t she” plot about President Taylor really didn’t create much tension or, for that matter, interest.  The scenes with the Russian President, the UN Secretary General, and Dalia Hassan came across as a lot of background noise and filler; it seemed clear all along that President Taylor would eventually return to her principles, and that Charles Logan would be foiled again.  You almost expected him to say, “Curses!”

It was interesting to me that, as the series reached its end, so much of the show focused on Charles Logan.  I think the writers recognized that he was the one compelling character in the show who hadn’t been fully fleshed out or painted into a corner.  We all know Jack will stoically stand for his concept of justice, and that Chloe will help him to the end.  With Logan, however, you never quite knew how far down he would go, and in the end, by killing his aide and then trying to kill himself, he showed there really was no bottom to his depravity and megalomania.  (Of course, being Logan, he couldn’t even be successful in his suicide attempt.)  Too bad he didn’t get to die a good death at the hands of Jack Bauer — but perhaps the writers wanted to leave open the possibility that Logan and Jack would cross swords again.

Jack, meanwhile, got to say thank you to Chloe for her years of help, and that was a scene that packed some punch.  And then, Jack Bauer walked off into the sunset.  We’ll apparently see him again on the big screen, with the Russians, the Americans, and God knows who else in hot pursuit.

Jack Bauer Vs. The World (And Charles Logan)

I can’t resist posting a few words about last night’s episode of 24.  The episode featured a much-anticipated encounter of Jack Bauer and Charles Logan, and I have to say it was very satisfying.

We first got to see the smarmy Logan reveling in being acknowledged for his role in securing the peace agreement from hell, talking President Taylor into another titanically stupid decision, and then confidently assuring the Russkie ambassador that Jack Bauer posed no danger.  At that moment, he sees that traffic is stopped by a faceless man clad in black body armor wreaking havoc, realizes that Jack Bauer is coming for him, and sees that he is trapped.  Logan’s immediate freak-out in his presidential limo is one of the more believable depictions of abject terror I have seen on a TV show — kudos to Gregory Itzin — and he then gets gassed, further terrorized, and gut-punched before spilling the beans about his co-conspirators.  I think Logan is such a great character that I was even glad that Jack just put him a sleeper hold so that Jack could plant a hidden microphone in Logan’s collar and Logan’s no doubt gruesome death therefore could be plausibly postponed until the series finale.

The body count on 24 has jumped up impressively in the last few episodes, as Jack Bauer has become a completely bloodthirsty renegade who is perfectly willing to gun down innocent Secret Service agents and Russian diplomatic personnel alike.  No one seems to be safe from his killing rampage.  President Taylor, en garde!

Jack Bauer Vs. The World (And Charles Logan) (cont.)

Jack Bauer Vs. The World (And Charles Logan)

Jack Bauer Vs. The World (And Charles Logan) (Cont.)

As 24 draws to a close, the titanic struggle between Jack Bauer and Charles Logan is coming to a head.

Logan foolishly believes that he is on the cusp of redeeming his crippled reputation, but he knows Jack is out there somewhere, working to foil his conspiratorial plans.  Jack, meanwhile, has become a kind of depraved lunatic.  In yesterday’s episode alone, he recklessly endangered the life of an innocent civilian by using her as a decoy, repeatedly fired his weapon in a crowded department store, and then cruelly tortured an apprehended sniper.  The torture scene, which involved pliers, acid, an acetylene torch, and finally a torso gutting, was so graphic and disturbing that Fox ran a special warning immediately before it occurred. The episode ended with Jack learning that Logan is behind things.

This necessarily means that Logan is dead meat.  There is only one question to be answered:  what kind of horrible humiliation will Logan experience when he is captured by an unhinged Jack Bauer?  Will Logan begin with a show of false bravado, only to promptly wet his pants?  Will he burst into tears and shriek like a teenager at a Beatles concert?  Will he get down on his hands and knees, tearing his hair and begging for Jack to spare his sorry life?  Or, will he be a man about it, admit he has been a complete sleazeball who betrayed his country, and take the kill shot with a level gaze and some small measure of class?  Either way, I’m betting that Gregory Itzin, who has made Logan into a character for the ages, chews a lot of scenery in the next episode.

Jack Bauer vs. The World (And Charles Logan)

24 will soon run its course, and it is clear the the writers and producers want to end the series with a bang.  Recently we’ve seen one character dispatched with a gruesomely slit throat, and another got plugged after unwisely enjoying a few moments of passion with Jack Bauer.  So now Jack, once again, is on his own and battling the forces of evil pretty much unaided.  The only difference this season is that the faithful Chloe, who has been bizarrely elevated to head of CTU, may not have Jack’s back as he breaks the rules and flouts her orders while he exacts his bloody revenge.

As interesting as that plot development may be — and it holds great promise for all participants in this year’s 24 Death Pool, because we can only guess at the spectacular body counts Jack Bauer will rack up in his zealous quest for “justice” — the real pleasure of the most recent episodes has been the reappearance of former President Charles Logan.  You have to give great credit to Gregory Itzin, who plays Logan, because he has given birth to one of the great characters ever seen on TV.  Logan is evil, corrupt, smarmy, arrogant, devious, and craven, all at the same time.  When he is on the screen spinning his conspiratorial webs the sleaze just seems to pour out of him.  He is fascinating and riveting to watch, whether he is trying to wheedle the formerly upright President into taking her first step down the path to perdition or ranting that some flunky didn’t pay him the proper respect.

I expect that Jack Bauer will take out President Logan before this season is over.  I suppose that’s only right, but I hope it doesn’t happen for a while.  The machinations of watery-eyed and unctuous Charles Logan make an old favorite much, much better.