[tps_title]9.12 — 10 PM – 11 AM: BACK INTO OBLIVION[/tps_title]
The Good Stuff
- Nothing could have made this into Heller’s absolute worst day of all except the loss of his daughter; his very own lucky charm, the guardian angel keeping him sane. One of the best moments of the entire season, in terms of dialogue and directing, is when Heller lets us and Davies in on his nightmarish bliss at Audrey’s memorial service. Memories of the day will eventually fade away, leaving no semblance of the daughter he once had nor her tragic death. The scene comes out so unexpectedly and yet so thematically coherent with Heller’s arc (which basically came down to getting through the Day with head held high) that it hits you hard with its grim implications.
- The final split-screen will perhaps sit beside the most heartwrenching the series has ever pulled. Everyone’s lost something, Boudreau, Heller and Kate, in particular. Character arcs for the most part reach a satisfying conclusion, either coming full circle or ending in tragic irony, like all the best 24 finales (which curiously enough, almost never end on a happy note…and for good reasons!):
- Kate quits the agency same way she was supposed to be transferred, thanks to the Navarro conspiracy earlier in the season…Mark ends up being sent for a trial, a fate which awaited Jack back in Moscow since the start of Day 9 – and would have befallen him earlier had Russians apprehended him earlier thanks to Mark -… Heller’s last mission turns out to be his most devastating…Audrey gets caught in the crossfire when darkness catches up to her again…and Jack, having learned from his spiritual father and role model, President Heller, resurfaces from metaphorical limbo to ‘live another day’ only to ultimately find no other way than to make the ultimate sacrifice and be sent back into oblivion again…well, everyone gets a sad ending, except for Chloe who perhaps ends up in a better place when given another chance, thanks to her one true friend…to go apply for a top position at Google or something…!
- All complete with the amazing final exchange on top which along with Heller’s failed shot at heroic sacrifice (save for the cop-out letdown), makes the great thrill we were waiting for Day 9 to pull off, and it finally did. Unlike the mediocrity of the middle act, with the agency mole subplot/the wild-override device chase, the final couple of hours turned out to be pretty dark and even chillingly unsettling, bringing to mind those brilliant hours of doom back in Days 1 and 5. The show’s wild card at succeeding in this episode (holding true for the stronger points of the season) is perhaps that it sincerely cares a lot about its characters, and the twists and turns they go through. It doesn’t mess with them too much like many similar shows do, doesn’t throw them into fake drama or some too-elaborate-to-be-true grand scheme, or make them constantly switch allegiance (save for the moles, which even they are revealed only once!), and in the end manages to make you care deeply for a character like Jack, who you’ve mostly seen in action and significantly less and less in over-pronounced emotional moments, even after 4 years of absence.
- Was Audrey condemned to death for nothing or did Bauer and Heller prevent a greater disaster? Then again, seems every righteous act comes at the price of sacrifice. Bauer’s explosive reaction to Mark sits well -tragically- now with Audrey out of the picture; she, who wasn’t initially the main target but became the ultimate victim after Cheng entered the picture. And the news strike Jack hard while on the ship, of course, yet, naturally, he doesn’t get to fully grieve for her there.
- The docks mission, which takes nearly half the episode, works remarkably well with its gripping intensity and the stakes raised. It also reflects the dark atmosphere of the show’s first season, particularly resembling Jack’s face-off with Drazen’s gang in the Day 1 finale. In both cases Jack gets a call informing him of a loved one’s death (albeit in 1.24 it turns out Kim had made it alive) which in turn fuels his rage as he goes on a deadly rampage.
- One of the greater subtle moments of the episode (which doesn’t fall short of it, surprisingly) is when Jack equips his handgun, presumably considering suicide but quickly molds hopelessness into sheer fury. Then again, going off-rails, maybe it’s how the ‘prototypical Bauer’ (feel free to insert James Bond, Jason Bourne, or the stock lead in recent Liam Neeson/Nic Cage action flicks.) is supposed to function best; to manifest his inner fears and utter desolation into unstoppable contempt, all guns blazing.
- “This is for Audrey you son of a bitch!” Apart from the awesomeness of the whole docks+cargo ship sequence culminating in a satisfying conclusion (especially for those of us who’ve also watched the nerve-racking season 6 prequel), Jack actually, whether he notices it in the moment or not, fulfills Audrey’s last wish relayed via their last phone call: “Do what has to be done, do you hear me, Jack?” Cheng had already ruined Jack and Audrey’s lives, beside killing their potential happy life at the end of Day 5 for good. Cheng’s execution on board a ship of all places (symbolically perhaps representing the same ship that took Bauer for physical trial in 5.24), at the hands of Bauer of all people makes a whole lot of sense thematically, as tables are turned and former captive overcomes his ruthless captor.
- The format shift in covering the remaining 13 hours works well in some respects given that a rest is needed after the devastating final hours. Heller and his small military council transfer to the CIA station, which is a good thing, true to the old ‘presidential bunker’ days of the past. At least we don’t get unnecessary backtracking and explicitation of the events in between the president’s residence, the CIA station and Bauer in the field.