The limited twelve episodes of technically the ninth season of 24 titled, 24: Live Another Day, ended very well with this past Monday's June 14th finale. For the finale did not fail to remind us, not that devoted fans need to be reminded after previous seasons, that for every world saving endeavor there is a price.
It's true there were some high expectations since the previous season eight ended in 2010. And season eight ended with modest ratings. Therefore to minimize risk, the powers that be obviously decided on a limited run of twelve episodes this season instead of twenty-four. Nevertheless it worked.
With twelve episodes this time around, Jack Bauer, acted by Kiefer Sutherland for which he has received an Emmy and a Golden Globe for the role, came flying out of the gate in this one. This season also marked the second time the show was filmed on foreign soil, filmed in London, England. The first time was a two hour episode in 2008 titled, 24: Redemption filmed in South Africa, although in that story the African nation was called Sangala. And now spoilers are definitely ahead.
The death of Audrey Boudreau, daughter of President James Heller, formerly Audrey Raines from seasons four, five, and six acted by Kim Raver, was obviously tragic. There in London to help her father President Heller, acted by William Devane, to broker a diplomatic state deal with the prime minister of England, neither not only expected Jack Bauer to return in their lives, but also an old nemesis who had given all three of them some major league grief. And that man's name is Cheng Zhi, wonderfully acted by Chinese American Actor Tzi Ma.
It was Cheng Zhi, formerly head of security at the Chinese consulate in Los Angeles during attacks upon the U.S. by terrorist Habib Marwan in season four, who had abducted and had Jack tortured at the very end of season five. Following that it was Audrey who devotedly sought Jack's whereabouts, finding out it was Cheng Zhi, who we learn also had apprehended Audrey and had her tortured in season six. Although her method of torture was not physical like Jack's, but from powerful drugs which resulted in her catatonic traumatized state in season six. Her remarkable appearance in season nine, and married to White House Chief of Staff Mark Boudreau, acted by Tate Donovan, all the more proves her successful recovery.
The crazy thing about 24, is that there is always a follow-up threat, in all of its previous seasons. That hooks you. And it's also why we fans try to explain to those who have perhaps heard of the show but say it's not their cup of tea, of one of the reasons why we enjoy 24.
The first threat of drone strikes upon London by Margot Al-Harazi, acted by Irish Actress Michelle Fairley also known for her role as Catelyn Stark in Game of Thrones, British widow of a known terrorist, had been dealt with. Jack sent her flying out a fifth floor office window. And that was just after he sent her son flying out the same window. Located at a secondary base of terrorist operations east of London, and the site were Jack successfully piloted the last drone to harmlessly hit water in the English Channel, away from the intended target of Waterloo Station. The radicalized Margot Al-Harazi and Al-Qaeda operative had blamed President Heller for the death of her husband by a U.S. drone. And her demand was for him to give himself up, or else.
After the deaths of Margot Al-Harazi and her son who had piloted the previous drone attacks, Cheng Zhi is the follow-up threat. More dangerous than ever in his late appearance in season nine, he now operates independently from the Chinese government.
Having stolen the override device used by Margot Al-Harazi yet retrieved by Jack Bauer from a CIA raid, with the help of CIA operative Kate Morgan, acted by Yvonne Strahovski, Cheng Zhi raises the stakes. For he causes the device to issue an order to a U.S. Nuclear sub to fire torpedoes on a Chinese naval carrier, an effort to cause World War III between the two nations.
Before that, realizing that Jack Bauer is again after him as Bauer is also helped by former CTU (Counter Terrorist Unit) colleague Chloe O'Brian, acted by Mary Lynn Rajskub, Cheng Zhi informs Bauer that he has Audrey Boudreau as hostage in exchange for his escape. Kate Morgan then reminds Bauer to fulfill President Heller's order to go after Cheng, although the president did not realize his daughter being in danger, while dealing with the escalated military response by the Chinese president. Kate Morgan, with the help of a CIA TAC team, agrees to seek out the sniper trained on Audrey while Jack goes after Cheng. Kate Morgan and her team were successful. But unbeknownst to both Jack as he closes in on Cheng, and Kate Morgan, Cheng also had a backup shooter who fired upon her team, with Audrey killed as a result.
Just recently I realized that the character of Audrey in 24 may not have been well liked, or a mixed response at best from fans of previous seasons. Perhaps it was from her first appearance in season four, whom some say she was whiny while Jack dealt with her ex-husband Paul Raines who was suspected of being in league with the terrorists.
But Audrey had stepped up, more than once even. Having helped Jack deal with the nerve gas in season five, by trying to get Regional District Director of CTU Los Angeles Lynn McGill, acted by Sean Astin, off of Jack's back, she also helps Jack go after the corrupt President Charles Logan who had appointed McGill to run CTU. For President Charles Logan, acted by Gregory Itzin, was also behind the killing of former President David Palmer, known also as the first African American U. S. president in the TV series, acted by Dennis Haysbert, whom Jack also saw as a friend. Jack also killed the sniper responsible for the Palmer hit an hour into that season. Of course again, it was Audrey who bravely sought out Jack after his abduction by Cheng.
Finally Cheng meets his fate. After Jack knows about Audrey's death, and President Heller just after he shows proof to the Chinese president that Cheng was alive and behind the attack on the Chinese naval carrier, the brave woman's death has both men down to their knees. Then Jack recovers to go mano-a-mano with Cheng. Later, he decapitates Cheng with a Samurai sword. At the end Jack agrees to give himself up to the Russians in exchange to free Chloe O'Brian. That involves a previous plot.
In the June 16-29, 2014 double issue of TV Guide, Jack Bauer lists as number one of, "TV's Twenty-Four Greatest Action Heroes". Some may disagree. But perhaps I can offer why.
In previous seasons of 24, brief intervals of moral dilemmas were weighed, but lacking in the ninth season because of limited episodes. In season seven's final hour, FBI Agent Renee Walker, acted by Annie Wersching, seeks Jack for guidance after the arrest of Alan Wilson, head of an American shadow organization responsible for terror attacks. He tells her as an FBI agent she is sworn to uphold the law. Whereas he sees fifteen people held hostage on a bus, and knows in his mind that the men who crafted such laws are smarter than him. He knows in his mind that such laws are more important than those fifteen people on the bus, but that he doesn't think his heart could ever live with that. His only advice to her, is to try to make choices that you can live with. She knows Alan Wilson is powerful enough to go free, and later, she decides to act. The point is, in my May 24, 2013 HuffPost blog titled, "Jack...Is Back!" I wrote that, "He is the most complex, innovative, relentless, cunning and unorthodox character protagonist in television history."