For six seasons, Fox’s fictional action hero Jack Bauer from the series 24 battled terrorists, American turncoats, and stupid bureaucrats with a single-minded determination and fanatical devotion to duty that made him an American legend. His iconic stature in our culture was established in tandem with the war on terror and the war in Iraq — real time events shaping Bauer’s character and the plot threads on the series.Now comes the Oprahfication of the show?
What’s significant is that for the first time in seven seasons, we discover Bauer actually has a conscience. He may not regret anything he’s done, but he is perfectly cognizant of his transgressions and is willing to pay the price for them. While some may see this as liberal blather (indeed, it is hard to see Bauer saying this in the first few seasons), it shows a growth in his character that makes him seem far more real than the slam-bang action hero in the early days of the show.But if, as many observers suspect, next year's show will be the last, there are a number of unanswered questions. Several episodes have featured mysterious Americans directing the terrorists, if they're not actually ordering the President of the United States about. One day included Jack Bauer's brother as a leader of those mysterious Americans, with their father either in league with the mysterious or playing some double game of his own. (Both died before they could explain.) And the most recent day ends with a female FBI agent and potential Bauer successor about to demonstrate unpleasant methods of persuasion to yet another mysterious American who has been in charge of several of the previous days' plots. I'm hoping that next season's episode will give her the opportunity to obtain some answers, although something about the very premise that there is somebody in charge bothers me. Tom Clancy fans know the reason: the likelihood of a secret being blown is proportional to the square of the number of people in on it. Yet here we have some powerful cabal, with operatives in every part of the law enforcement and the military, and with Congressional staffers in their pay, and yet more effective than the government. And nobody's considered operational security.
Or, like Dallas, will it all prove to be a dream, with Mr Bauer waking up in a state hospital?