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Last Updated: Wednesday, 21 May, 2003, 09:27 GMT 10:27 UK
Patchy 24 ends second day

by William Gallagher
BBC News Online

Kiefer Sutherland
Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) fights against the clock
Cult TV drama 24 rounded off its second series in the US with a gripping final episode although the ending was an anti-climax.

If you do not want to know what happened, do not read any further.

When the first, fresher series ended last year there was a sense of anti-climax that all that momentum was finally over.

It was the same this year too.

Producers told US press that the finale was "guaranteed to shock" but after 23 episodes and the last exceptional eight hours you were too programmed to suspect everyone, to analyse, to predict fruitlessly.

So when the shock came it was just one of many you were considering and was more of a nod than a jolt.


Yet the journey to that point was marvellous and where the first series faltered at the midpoint, the second got better and better as well as more exhausting, particularly because of a brave move by the makers.

Elisha Cuthbert
Elisha Cuthbert's character improved
Look away now if you are watching the show in the UK but that brave move was to do with the bomb story.

This second series of 24 ran from 8am to 8am as Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) searches for a nuclear bomb that is due to explode in Los Angeles and we all knew he would find it at about 07:59:45.

But we were all wrong.

The bomb went off at 23.00 and we appeared to be faced with another nine episodes of light music.

For the first hour after that things did seem a bit padded, even dull, but when you look back at the series every favourite moment will be from between midnight and 08.00.

Even Kimberley Bauer (Elisha Cuthbert) improved, partly because she and her ever more preposterous subplots vanished for several hours but also because she was forced to kill.

Like Jack, she became harder and harsher as a consequence of her actions; unlike Jack she was brutalised by what she has done.

Dennis Haysbert
What will become of President Palmer?
For such an action series it is surprising, and commendable, that the characters do all progress and are all changed by the terrible things they go through.


It added depth and believability throughout the twists of who was good and who was bad: characters turned for strong reasons instead of plot convenience.

But the series was still at its very best when everybody was on their feet in a heart-stopping race - for Jack, literally - and there is just no other series with this power to keep you tense for 24 hours.

The question now is whether it can continue to be good in a third run and that is one reason why the ending was not the jolt it should be: the shock is more for setting up day three than ending day two.

In what is unfortunately a huge spoiler, if President Palmer has been killed, as it seems, then it is more because his character was spent: if he stayed in office, next year Jack Bauer could do anything he liked and there would be no pressure on him.

Mind you, if anyone deserves a holiday, it is Jack.

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