In the end, it all came down to Jack and Chloe, surely one of television's most complicated, and unconsummated, romances.
Yes, Chloe (Mary Lynn Rajskub) is married and Jack (Kiefer Sutherland) has had his string of disastrous love affairs, but it was Chloe who saved him from all his enemies, including, in the second-to-the-last hour of the series, himself. And it was Chloe to whom Jack directed his final farewell via drone satellite. "When you first came to CTU," he said, bloodied but unbowed as ever, "I never thought it was going to be you that was going to cover my back all those years. … Thank you."
With Chloe's final words — "Bring the drone back to the base. Whatever happened here didn't happen," she said, pausing to gaze through her tears at Jack's face before adding, "Shut it down" — 24 managed to do what so many shows try and fail to do: Go out with not just a bang but its original convictions intact. Jack Bauer remains, to borrow the words of the immortal Harper Lee, one of those men born to do our unpleasant jobs for us.
Though Monday night's finale may not be the last of Jack Bauer, it's hard to imagine a sweeter victory.
Unless you count how creators Robert Cochran and Joel Surnow managed to gut-punch what for weeks seemed like the lamest season yet and send it to the finish line swinging.
One can only hope that in the congratulatory frenzy of bringing one of the more talked-about shows on TV to such a satisfying close, the folks at Fox remember to send Gregory Itzin, who played former President Charles Logan, a very fancy fruit basket. Because even though the season opened big, it almost immediately collapsed because, until Logan showed up, there was no good villain.
Sure, we had President Allison Taylor (Cherry Jones), who covered up the fact that the assassination of the president of Kamistan was orchestrated by the Russian government. Fortunately, she was coaxed into this precarious position by Itzin's Logan who, like so many Iagos before him, stole, and saved, the show. That Jack, unhinged by the death of Walker (Annie Wersching), seemed to have lost whatever was left of his moral compass didn't matter, really, because he was trying to stop a corrupt and infectious ex-president. He was trying to stop a political plague before it irrevocably infected the fine and decent President Taylor. And he gave Taylor the necessary injection — in the form of a taped soliloquy about the nature of peace — Just in Time.
"Grave crimes have been committed in the run up to this treaty," said President Taylor at the end, adding: "Before there can be a meaningful peace, justice must be served."
Which is why 24 was the show it was, over-the-top but compelling if for no other reason than justice was complicated but still inevitably served.
As for Jack Bauer finding peace, well that is, no doubt, another story.