Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Jack Bauer Needs to Die


After last night's amazing episode, I went back and re-watched the "24" pilot. As I watched Jack as he was before the job twisted him into the benevolent monster he is today, I realized the best possible way for the show to end is for Jack to die. They're in talks for a movie, so this won't happen, but I hope when they end the show, they realize death is the only way for Jack's story to end. They nailed it at the end of season 1 when they realized that Jack's no-compromise attitude has to come crumbling down on his head for his character to experience real tragedy.

This past episode almost made the argument for me. I've made my opinion of Dana Walsh clear from the start. From the beginning, the writers dragged her character through a subplot ridiculous even for "24." The revelation that she was a mole, and even in fact a super sweet double agent, doesn't change how stupid the first half of the season was for her. If she has been a mole the whole time, why didn't she just call up her Kamistanian or even Russian friends to just go kill her ex-boyfriend and be done with it? That's not why she needs to die. Despite how I felt about her very presence on the show, it was really uncomfortable watching Jack slap her around. That seems contradictory. I'm not ok with Jack smacking her, but I'm totally cool with him planting two bullets in her chest. It's not. Let me explain.

After Jack and Cole break Dana out of "not Blackwater"'s torture warehouse, she immediately tries to play them off each other. After swearing while being waterboarded that there is no evidence against the Russians, she spills to Jack that she has some in a safe deposit box. After getting to the bank and manipulating Cole a whole lot more, she gets him to open the box, only for it to explode in his face. The writers have made it abundantly clear that Dana will always have another trick up her sleeve, and she is definitely smarter than Jack.

One could argue that when Jack finally catches up to her, he kills her to, as Dana suggested, start taking out everyone responsible for Renee's death. I don't think that's why he does it. He kills her because he has to. He kills her because she's a walking obstacle. He got the evidence from her, which I'm pretty sure is just a blank disk, and keeping her alive only means she can out-smart him. If she doesn't die, everything she does, we just have to blame Jack for not killing her when he had the chance. When something is that clearly setup, the writers have to pay it off for the story to feel right to the audience.

How this applies to Jack comes down to a line in the pilot. When Nina questions his motives, he responds to her (paraphrased, speaking of the IA investigation he headed shortly before the pilot began), "The men I busted weren't bad guys. They just compromised... once." In an interview with Alan Moore about "Watchmen," he said Rorschach had to die because he too would never compromise. Go back and watch the pilot, and the trajectory toward Jack's death seems clear.

His driving force is his moral compass. He has the ability to stop horrible things from happening, and to turn a blind eye would be a compromise. Putting anything above his ethics, be it friends or country, is simply not in his nature. He will continue to get involved as long as he's alive. I thought they were going to set up Cole as new Jack, a man so good at his job that Jack could feel comfortable retiring. Cole is looking more like a Rick Schroeder, so there goes that. Jack will never find peace. He will never move back to LA and be grandpa to little Teri. Putting family above duty would be a compromise. The world, especially the world of "24," will never stop having problems, and as long as Jack Bauer is alive, he will never stop. The writers need to kill him off.

For his ethics, Jack has lost his wife, lost another love to insanity, watched another love get shot and die in his arms, almost lost his daughter, watched all his close friends die except one who became a bad guy, became addicted to heroin, and almost died several times. Simply put, Jack Bauer needs to die for good. It would be a mercy killing.

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