The Tragic Self-Destruction of 24


Hey 24, f*ck you.

I know there are only a few episodes to go before I can stop yelling at you all the damn time, but enough is enough, and now in the final stretch here, it’s more important than ever that you don’t suck. And last night, you blew it. You f*cking blew it.

Spoilers from last night’s episode after the jump:

I’ve been sick of seeing 24 throw in “twist for twist’s sake” the last few seasons, but in year eight, we’ve really gone over the edge. The reveal of Dana Walsh as a spy was the most nonsensical, idiotic twist I’ve ever seen on the show that they’re no longer even bothering to explain, but I suppose it was harmless enough. But now, by killing Renee Walker for no other reason than to cheaply elicit a baseline emotional response from the audience is downright heartless and lazy, and I’m quite pissed off at the way it all went down.

A Russian spy and Renee traded glances at the scene of Hassan’s execution. Both of them having an insanely detailed memory for faces, they decided they both remembered each other from six years ago when Renee was undercover for the Russian mob. The spy thinks Renee has made him so he sets out with a sniper rifle to blast her away after a marathon sex session with Jack. She’s rushed the hospital, but quickly dies offscreen and Jack is given the news from the doctors that “nothing could be done.”

Yes, mere seconds after Jack makes his first real emotional and physical connection to ANYONE in eight seasons, she’s snatched away by a bullet, which is the lamest and most hurried illustration in the general rule of thumb that “anyone who gets close to Jack dies.” But to do it here, so close to the end in such an unspectacular fashion, with a character we and Jack have genuinely grown to like? It’s just a cheap trick, and in this instance, is just being mean for mean’s sake.

There’s a problem with many pieces of media out there that are otherwise great, but suffer from the chronic issue of not believing in giving its audience or characters even a prayer of a possible happy ending. I first noticed this in Grand Theft Auto IV, where the player is given two choices of a grand finale. When I picked the one that had my new girlfriend offed in front of me, I reloaded and replayed to see what the better alternative was. Though she lived in this go-round, my cousin was executed, and I found that the end was a no-win no matter what you did.


That’s what 24 has now done to Jack (and subsequently us) by killing Renee. All this time, there’s been the promise of hope, of a happy ending that maybe after eight years of strife Jack will finally get some solace in the end. But after killing Renee, there’s no going back. Even if all the nations of the world come together and sign the greatest peace treaty of all time, and if Jack catches up with Renee’s killer and puts his head on a spit, it doesn’t matter. He’s already lost. It’s a no-win whatever happens from here out.

Renee was the light at the end of not just Jack’s tunnel, but 24’s. Yes, it’s a show about danger and death and loss and sacrifice, but there’s always the hope that things will be alright in the end. But with no time left, and Jack’s last chance to not be alone forever dead in some random hospital room, that’s all gone. It might have been one thing to do it at the very end of the season, but here, now, in this sloppy way with seven more episodes to go? Horrible, just horrible.

There were two ways 24 could have ended. One with Jack living happily momentarily, his life of service to his country finally rewarded with some good fortune of terrorists minding their own damn business for a few years, or it could have gone the other way, with Jack dying and making the ultimate sacrifice for some greater good.

I always thought (and secretly hoped) that it would be the latter, because it suited Jack’s character more, but with a movie on the way, I know that’s not a possibility for this season, and now we have a threat that’s peaked way too early, and Jack now has nothing to do but chase down some random Russians who killed his one chance at happiness. But who cares? We’ve seen Jack kill terrorist after terrorist, and unless this turns into some climactic showdown with Tony Almeida and the ghost of Nina Meyers, this new bad guy is just a nobody.

I am not claiming that 24 necessarily NEEDS to have a cheery ending (though lord knows Jack deserves one), but a truly tragic ending should have been planned much better than this. But by killing Renee now in such an anti-climactic fashion, the last seven episodes ever of 24 are clearly going to be lackluster.

24 has handled death amazing well over the course of its eight year lifespan. Nearly every major death has been packed with emotion, whether it’s the tear-jerking execution of Ryan Chappelle or the pure shock at the sudden bullet whizzing through the throat of David Palmer. But last night, with Renee’s death drawn out and finally taking place in a room we weren’t even in? It elicited nothing but anger and frustration. Not at the characters in the show, but the writers, for sloppily destroying an arc that had been so carefully built up over the last two years, and one that could have made for a truly memorable finale.

My ending of choice? Renee gets kidnapped and tied up by the Russians, Jack kicks ass to save her and after killing all the baddies, approaches her bound and gagged body, only to find she’s still alive. It’d be a complete mirror of Terri’s death in season one, only this time Jack isn’t too late for once, and things seem like they might actually work out after eight hard years of chaos and tragedy.

But no, now we must trudge on toward the end, watching Jack flip out and get useless revenge on some random Russians while a bunch of politicians we don’t care about sign some treaty. Unless there’s something big and smart in store for these last few episodes, 24’s chances for a worthy finale died last night in a New York hospital bed.

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  1. Couldn’t agree more.

    The silent clock after President Hussein’s death the episode before was truly moving. Seeing him dead, realizing the Jack despite his best efforts just couldn’t save him, made a real emotional connection with the audience, even though Hussein hadn’t always been the most likeable guy (though he was certainly far and away better than many others on the show).

    But two silent clocks in a row? And knocking off Renee like that? It’s pretty unacceptable. And it leaves me thinking that the series, despite the forthcoming move, cannot end in any other way than with Jack’s death. He simply has nothing left to drive him forward. Yes he’s made a connection with his daughter, and yes he has his granddaughter waiting for him in California, but it’s Jack. He lost Terri, he lost Audrey, and now he’s lost Renee. I just can’t see him pulling out of this without ensuring his own self-destruction.

    And to be honest, if this is the route the writers want to go down, any other ending will seem petty and contrived, much like Renee’s death.

    Sigh, I want to go back to season 1.

  2. I was talking to a buddy and we were arguing over how it should end.
    Personally, Jack should go the way of Hartigan from Sin City. He knows that everyone around him won’t be safe because of his existence, so he honorably ends himself.
    I mean the whole time the sniper was there I was just waiting for the shots to come, it was far too predictable.
    Dana Walsh needs to get shot repeatedly.
    I’m not sure how I feel about Logan. It’s probably a trap.
    WHERE THE HELL IS TONY? I want him mentioned, but it would feel rushed considering there’s only 7 (Or 6, not sure) hours left, and just another on the list of fuckups this season is responsible for.
    Freddie Prinze can’t act.
    Mykelti Williamson DIDN’T MENTION SHRIMP ONCE.
    Subarov is still the Russian President? Goddamn.
    Having Hassan’s wife fill in for him was interesting. Totally goddamn implausible considering the circumstances, but hey, they’re drawing at straws at this point.
    I theorized Jack’s granddaugther is actually a splinter cell during Ep.1. DO IT.
    I’ve said this far too many times before, but they need to officially jump the shark and do a zombie/alien invasion. It’s at least better than the cliched “you-can’t-trust-those-around-you” political bullshit we’ve been dealing with far too much.
    Bruce Campbell should be Jack’s sidekick. That would destroy TV.

  3. Paul my friend, I have already dismantled “24’s” main problems in my blog.

    and it’s only 10 reasons.

    Anyways, I laughed my ass off when Renne got capped, I knew the second Jack was happy she’d be dead. Anywho, I’m stickin’ around for the end of the season…just because I’m REALLY hoping Chloe dies…in following with the common thread of everyone who runs CTU gets screwed over somehow. Great article Paul ! You da man !

  4. The second worst thing this season, other than Dana Walsh, has been Freddie Prinze Jr. He’s supposed to be some sort of bad ass, I guess, but instead he sounds like Tony Danza and Sylvester Stallone’s retarded love child

  5. haha, “Shrimp Gumbo, Shimp scampe, shimp & potatoes….”

    I pretty much had an MST3K night last night watching this episode. Laughable at best. And why is Mykelti hunched over constantly like he’s the lost Addams family member?

  6. Jack’s gonna die. It’s the only way they can end it now. Jack and Chloe will both have to go down, and so will Tony since he’s still alive in some random prison somewhere.

    Although Chloe as head of CTU is one of the best ideas the writers have ever made.

  7. @josh

    Everytime I see Chloe now I cant help but to think of Gail the Snail.
    You gotta make the slurping noise after everything she says…’s hilarious.

  8. renee’s death had to be abrupt because the actress is pregnant and they had to write her out. i like the idea of chloe being the head of CTU because she does certainly have the brains to run it and i think it will be interesting seeing her give orders and have to actually have conversations with the employees because she is socially awkward. i do think that Jacks death would be a perfect end to his story but i do kinda wanna see more 24 so im on board with the movie idea, freddie prinze doesnt bother me that much, katee sackoff bothers me way more (battlestar fans please dont hunt me down) i thought that i had seen the last of her but she’s back next week, but at least we get to see jack beat her ass.

    P.S. kiefer sutherland was spectacular in this episode

  9. Yeah, what no one realizes is that this entire season was filmed BEFORE they knew that the show was canceled. Its not that the showrunners are going for cheap heart-tugging moments because its the end of the show, its because they thought they would have more time to give Jack a “happy” ending. And also… NO ONE ON THIS SHOW EXISTS! ITS ONLY A TV SHOW! This whole pissy article was written as if the characters are real living people. Get over it. I love 24 and I’m sad to see it go, but its scripted fantasy. Enjoy the show while you can. Stop posting twaddle.

    (Or wait for the rumored 24 movie)

  10. ” And also… NO ONE ON THIS SHOW EXISTS! ITS ONLY A TV SHOW! This whole pissy article was written as if the characters are real living people.”

    If you get offended at someone writing about 24 you must’ve never read an article about Lost…..

  11. I don’t watch 24, and I didn’t watch this show, so I have to ask…did they actually show Renee’s body after she died? It’s common TV trickery to just conveiently have them disappear to the hospital and be pronounced dead, but never show the body, then have them suddenly pop up again later. By the sound of it, if they just said she was dead, chances are she faked it…

  12. My reaction exactly, you cut right to the core and even though it’s supposed to be ‘accepted’ that deaths happen on the show basically f*** you is the way I reacted. I am not a fan of the deaths on 24, and after this one I’m going to follow my friend who wisely patted me on the back and said she’d not watched the show since they killed off Tony and Michelle….



  13. I felt like an idiot screaming at my TV after I promised never to watch 24 again halfway through season 6. I said to myself…the only thing I could get out of this season is Jack and Renee leave happy, and maybe Freddy Prinze gets promoted/gets to curbstomp Starbuck.

    I’ve been catching up on 24 a few days after they air, because I just can’t care enough to waste a full unskippable hour on it, but they made me care just enough…to do that. -_- Thank god it’s cancelled, because I know just for season 4 and 5, I’d have no choice but to watch that too.

  14. You’re forgetting something. If we didn’t see a body there’s always a chance that someone has been decieved/is lying/any other excuse to bring her back or find out she hadn’t died in the first place and Jack was just being manipulated… again. This isn’t much better than having her dead but at least there’s a chance this could turn out better for poor Jack.

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