Did 24’s producers consider just renaming the series 17 and calling it a day? Last night, 24 took a big fat U-turn, suddenly having Jack Bauer end the nuke threat with seven hours to spare. It was about time; somewhere between the immolation of Valencia and now, 24 became a comedy, rehashing old plots and throwing gratuitous torture scenes that weren’t good for drama so much as gross-out comedy. Last night was a perfect example: President Wayne Palmer collapsing and being revived yet again (he’s zombie president!), Jack hanging ridiculously from the axle of the sanitation truck, and of course, the final battle with Fayed, which Jack finished with the use-in-case-of-need-to-garrot-evil-terrorist chain that all industrial facilities have dangling around as a post-9/11 security measure.
The turn came at the episode’s end, when Jack received the perfectly timed cell call from the evil Chinese man (maybe he’d been waiting on hold for the past few episodes until the nukes were secure?) saying that Audrey was still alive, and was his hostage. And here I was hoping that Jack would get to rescue her from that bank in The Nine.
Clearly the producers were listening to the jump-the-shark chorus, the complaints that they had gone to the whole evil-vice-president-usurping-power-while-terrorists-try-to-nuke-LA well too often. (I believe I’d even read the suggestion somewhere that they should have made season 6 a small-scale story about Jack rescuing Audrey.)
The producers have shifted gears before when the story had gone screwy, but never this blatantly and drastically. We’ll see if this season-ending coda shows they can get control of their show back. If not, we may just have to invoke the 25th Amendment and have them declared incompetent. And then we launch the missiles!