"24"and all that

The two hour conclusion to "24" was both anti-climactic and irrelevant. In fact, the hint at the end that Jack Bauer was contemplating his own death by suicide was gratuitous and unnecessary since we know the show has been renewed for yet another season. So, what went wrong with this show? Why did it fall apart?

For years the show has been based on the genuine fear that Americans have of another terrorist attack. It is not that that has disappeared. Rather, the nature of the fear has changed from an everyday sense that something is around the corner, to a wiser understanding that the rules of everyday life are not the same and that we are in a phase of history where unconventional controls over violence, conspiracies and irrational behaviour cannot be exercised without also compromising the very reasons we believe in the future and in democracy. (The writers of "24" should take note of the conclusion to the far more intelligent show, "Heroes.")

"24" has remained locked into forms of violence, evil and the general turmoil of power that have lost their intensity. The show has revolved around the same failures, overwhelming threats and simple resolutions for too long. It is a comic strip. But even Marvel knew when to change its heroes or invent new ones.

"24" spent a great deal of this season in a state of hysteria. The fatal error began with the first few shows when the nuclear bomb went off in Valencia (?) and then devolved into a silly chase show.

However, the key figure was Phillip Bauer, a seemingly incorrigible maniac whose dual role as father and killer, meant to be the opposite to Jack, dragged on through endless Oedipal reversals until he finally killed his other and equally evil son. Why did the show decide to include this particular theme? And why does this man get shot by the grandson in the last episode? I am not going to dwell on the psychoanalytic tangle of father-son-grandson, other than to say that the references are all too simple — haven't all our father figures failed us in this age of dystopic conundrums synthesized most tragically by the war in Iraq?

Even if "24" were commenting on this, and I have my doubts, the visualization they have given us does not explain why so many signposts in our society don't seem to be leading to any kind of truth or resolution, but rather to cynicism and the endless ruptures of bad faith and betrayal.

Poor Jack. At the end he believes in nothing and we have stopped believing in him. The character has been so diminished that I doubt the show can come back from the marginal status that it has now acquired.