24. At the end of Tuesday's episode, the season finale, I caught myself saying to Amy, "Well, this has given me hope for next year..." WHAT AM I TALKING ABOUT? How can I rationalize giving this show another chance? Just because it was nice to me on our last date, after I threatened to leave it? I have to be strong. I have to get through this.
Let me tell you what I liked: I liked Kiefer coming in with both guns blazing. That's what I had been yearning for for weeks. I just wished they had shown him really mowing people down, like in that episode when he rescued his wife and daughter from the terrorist camp. I liked Nina shooting everyone as if she was helping Alan Rickman invade the Nakatomi building. I liked Senator Palmer telling his wife where to stick it. It was the first actual moment of courage that character has shown all season. I liked the way the show set-up for next year, even if I'm not going to watch it. And, of course, I really liked Bride of Kiefer dying, because (let's face it) somebody had to, and this show is the first show in a long time to have the balls to do something like that (i.e., kill someone because it made sense in the story, instead of just because the actor was asking for too much money to come back next season. Other recent shows, I guess, that have done this is when The Sopranos killed Pussy, and maybe when the X-Files killed Deep Throat at the end of season 1.)
So, Bride of Kiefer is dead, but Kim, the daughter, lives on to track down her teenaged-kidnapper boyfriend next year. You can be sure that Rick will re-emerge, maybe chewing the fat with Kiefer about the good ole days when Rick accidentally ensared Kiefer's family in the circumstances which ultimately led to Mrs Kiefer's death. Yep, Rick Ol' Boy, welcome to the family. Pass the pepper.
One thing I thought was not good in the episode: Kiefer's extended sob-fest when Nina told him Kim was dead. Such spectacles do not resonate with the audience (or at least not with this audience) when the audience already knows that the cried-for character is not actually dead. It is exactly like that extended sequence in Die Hard (wow, two DH references in one post) in which Bruce Willis tells Al the Black Cop to tell his wife how much he loved her and how hard he tried, etc., etc., ad nauseum. Listen, Bruce, we KNOW you are not going to die. THIS IS A MOVIE. See what I mean? It lacks the emotional wallop that it would have had if we saw Kiefer reacting to something that actually happened. Oh, well. I guess the writers/director just wanted us to see Kiefer crying so it would motivate our sympathy for him when he shot a surrendered Frank Booth-ovic in the face 18 times two minutes later. However, I still feel the crying was not necessary because I am a red-blooded American, and I don't need to know you are sad over the supposed death of your overly-whiny daughter to justify your firing round after round into a heartless son-of-a-bitch-ovic like Frank. Get it? Shoot him in the back for all I care. Just terminate him with extreme prejudice and get it over with.
Interesting that this situation was mirrored in the new Star Wars, in which young Vader is motivated to the slaughter of not-so-innocents by the death of (spoiler here) his mother. And the scene in which young Vader transmutes his despair into rage almost exactly matches the scene in which Kiefer does the same in 24. However, since Kiefer Sutherland can actually act, and since Hayden Christensen apparently can't (more on this later), one can reach only one conclusion: Kiefer should have been tapped to play young Vader. (And it follows that Lou Diamond Phillips should be young Obi Wan.)
So where does this leave us for next year? I guess Kiefer will be back trying to get to the bottom of the apparently-German terrorists who motivated Nina's triple-agent-hood, and we can expect a lot of X-Files-like labyrythine plots that penultimately go nowhere and ultimately -- surprise! -- lead to the next season.
And so it goes. Will it entertain? Maybe, but only if you can detach yourself from any expectation that the story arc is going to be consistent, well thought-out, or anything other than superficial. Maybe -- just maybe -- the writers will take some time to actually tell their actors where their characters are going. As I've said before, that was the biggest flaw of this season. The way they handle this issue will, in my opinion, determine the quality of the show.