Jack Bauer has survived being stabbed in the back by presidents, tortured by Russian thugs, a near lethal dose of radiation poisoning and even a heroin addiction acquired in the service of his country. But "24," the edge-of-your seat Fox drama that made Keifer Sutherland an adrenaline idol, ends tonight.
When it launched just months after the 9/11 attacks, the show's "real time" gimmick and focus on terrorism seemed fresh and timely. Bauer's actions often paralleled the national debate on terror, torture and civil rights. He always came down on the side of getting the bad guys, even if it meant extracting information with extreme prejudice.
But over the years, Sutherland's rangeless, terse whisper lost its ability to animate Bauer in any meaningful or believable way. The plotlines grew increasingly implausible and, having taken on Islamic terrorists, Russian mobsters, African dictators and even spies and turncoats at his side, maybe Bauer simply ran out of enemies.
As the final season lurches to a conclusion, we've seen Bauer kidnap and torture a former president, disembowel a Russian operative (to retrieve a swallowed SIM card) and lose his soulmate to a sniper. Indeed, to the extent his character's arc has any coherence, seeing Renee Walker, played by Annie Wersching, shot dead seemed to send Bauer on an ever darker spiral. He loved her; after all, she once cut off a thug's thumb.
There's been talk "24" could be made into a movie, or that another network could even pick it up for next year. When the dust settles and the blood stops running tonight, we'll see what's left of Jack Bauer and assess his future.