Well here we are, counting down the final hours in the final day of the groundbreaking series 24. This show which made it’s debut in 2001 immediately after the destruction of the World Trade Center in 2001 is more than just another television series. It has become a cultural touchstone.
Just as the original Star Trek carefully mirrored the Kennedy Administration’s “Camelot” philosophy and the movie version of M.A.S.H. reflected the post Vietnam attitudes towards U.S. involvement in foreign wars, 24 spoke very loudly to our feelings of helplessness and anger in a Post Cold War reality rife with terrorism.
In the days following 9/11 most Americans were filled with rage over the terrorist attack on our own soil. But unlike other enemies, (Nazi’s or Cold War Soviets etc.) the terrorist had no single identity. They were not an accessible enemy. Terrorists could be anyone, anywhere. Domestic or foreign. How do you fight an enemy you can’t see? So along with our anger, many Americans felt impotent to do anything about it.
Jack Bauer changed that .
He put a face on the enemy and then punched that face dead in the mouth. No one could stand in his way. Not corrupt politicians, incompetent bosses, internal moles…not even the law. Jack did what he had to do to get the job done. To save the most lives. He made the hard choices and then lived with the consequences, which were often devastating to him personally. One of the things that made Jack so compelling was the fact that he KNEW many of his choices crossed both legal and moral lines. At the end of last season Bauer confesses to Renee Walker that, yes, he knows the law is more important that those 50 people held hostage on the bus. His mind knows that but his heart could not live with it. Jack always chose justice, even if it was often in conflict with the law.
In 1941 it was Captain America socking Hitler in the jaw, throwing that punch for ALL of us. In the post 9/11 world it was Jack facing down the bad guys for all of us. Through jack we could all fight back.
Jack was a hero.
He was even more of a hero because, over the course of the series, the audience has seen him lose little pieces of himself with each fight to save us all. He lost his wife, alienated his daughter, lost two lovers and countless friends and co-workers. He witnessed the death of Bill Buchannan and the destruction of his best friend Tony Almedia. He was forced to kill Ryan Chapelle, his superior at the time, in order to hold off a terrorist threat. The list of unmakable choices that he HAD to make goes on and on. At times it seemed that jack would break altogether but somehow he always gathered himself for the next battle.
Over the course of eight REALLY bad days Jack has been shot, stabbed, beaten, infected, thrown in a Chinese Prison and STILL he kept on coming. Jack was A FORCE OF NATURE.
Jack Bauer was not the only element that made 24 so ground breaking. The real time conceit of the show that did not allow for any lag in pacing kept 24 a mile a minute thrill ride. It did not matter that there were so many plot holes or that CTU agents could get across a traffic jammed L.A. in a matter of minutes. By the time we noticed plot holes we were already on to the next explosive (literally) scene! But Jack was the center, the heart of 24. He is already an iconic character in the same mold as Dirty Harry, James Bond and even Superman.
You’ve done a great job Jack. Thanks for the memories. You will be missed…
At least until the MOVIE!