[Spoiler Alert: Stop reading now if you haven't watched the season finale of 24: Live Another Day]
24 is a very noisy television show. For one, the show is structured around the sound of a ticking clock—it maintains the show’s rhythm. This clock serves not only to provide the series with structure and order, but with each tick it also reminds us of just how disorderly the world of 24 is and how close it is to full chaos if Jack doesn’t succeed in time. Additionally, most 24 episodes (especially this season finale) feature a musical score that runs throughout the episode along with the sound of gunfire and explosions. Essentially, there is a rarely a quiet moment.
It is because 24 is such a noisy that the silent clock is so important when it comes to honoring the passing of beloved characters. The silent clock helps mark a rest in the runaway plot and allows a moment for the death to register with the audience. It marks one of the few moments when there is nothing else happening on the show and there is just complete silence—something that is rare on 24.
All of this is a roundabout way of getting at what really stuck out in 24: Live Another Day‘s excellent finale: how important sound is to this show. Composer Sean Callery’s score plays an important role in creating tension, does a fair amount of the emotional heavy lifting, and helps make these character’s emotional responses more impactful.
Tonight, the silent clock made an appearance after the death of Jack’s onetime lover Audrey Raines (Kim Raver). At the end of last week’s episode, one of Cheng’s men had a sniper rifle trained on Audrey, and Cheng told her that if she moved or tried to contact anyone, he would shoot her. In tonight’s episode, Kate (Yvonne Strahovski) goes to Audrey’s aid, while Jack, Belcheck, and Chloe go after Cheng. Kate and her team take out Cheng’s sniper, and it looks as though Audrey is out of the woods. As they start to leave the scene, however, another one Cheng’s men appears out of nowhere and starts shooting at the party, and poor Audrey catches a bullet in the ensuing gunfight.
It’s highly unlikely that a death on 24 will ever resonate as well as the deaths of Jack’s wife, Terry, in season 1 and David Palmer in the fifth season. However, Audrey’s death is still rather powerful as we see her slowly die in Kate’s arms as Kate keeps pleading, “stay with me.” The character might not have been well liked, but it was hard not to be moved by her passing, mostly due to—once again—that music as well as Raver’s superb performance.
Even more poignant, however, were Jack and President Heller’s reaction. Audrey’s death brings both men—who both stand quite tall and are forces to be reckoned—to the ground. Jack found out about Audrey’s death midway through his assault on Cheng’s escape boat. After Kate tells him, he slowly sinks to the ground and Jack’s pain is all over Kiefer’s face. In that moment Jack Bauer disappears, and we’re left with a man who seems to finally have been defeated by the world and is considering taking his life (Jack takes out his pistol). It’s not only Audrey’s death that crushes Jack, but the fact that he has lost almost everyone close to him. Creating, maintaining, and restoring any kind of order normally comes with a price, and we’re reminded of that in this moment. This already exceptional scene is further elevated by the score, which mirrors Jack’s emotions. The music feels just as lost as Jack, but that all changes when Jack hears Cheng’s men approaching: rage stars to fill his face as the music rises.
What happens next is very reminiscent of 24‘s eighth season, which saw also Jack losing it and going on a killing spree. Here, Jack takes out all of Cheng’s men with his gun and makes his way to Cheng’s location. Cheng and Jack’s hand-to-hand combat scene is expertly choreographed. After giving the Chinese evidence that Cheng was the one who attacked their ship, Jack beheads Cheng with a sword, a moment which is followed by another one of the episode’s few quiet moments (but obviously, Cheng doesn’t receive the honor of the silent clock). Although this sequence was too similar to Jack’s rampage in the eighth season, it still works because the writers do a great job of setting it up. By the time Jack beheads Cheng, the moment definitely feels earned.
The President’s reaction to Audrey’s death is even more heartbreaking. When he first hears the news, he collapses to the ground. However, it is not until after the episode’s 12 hour jump that we understand just how tragic Audrey’s death is for him. Talking to the Prime Minister (Stephen Fry), Heller admits that not only will he soon forget about Audrey and her death, but he’ll soon not be able to remember anything. This exchange helps draw a nice comparison between Heller and Jack: Which man is more unfortunate? The one who will forget every memory, both happy and sad, or the one who is forced to live with his pain, but also has a few good moments to look back on? It seems as though 24 is saying both are okay: Ignorance will bring some bliss to Heller, and Jack will have his relationship with Chloe to hold on to.
Although Chloe and Jack’s relationship reminds us of just how tragic the world of 24 is, it also helps the show end on a hopeful note. At the beginning of the episode, Chloe has to convince Jack to let her help capture Cheng and reminds him that she is in fact Jack’s only remaining friend. It’s a tragic, yet valid point, and one that Jack doesn’t accept until he turns himself over to the Russians at the end of the episode to save her. In a moment that echoed their final goodbye back in 2010 and pulled at heart strings everywhere, Jack thanks Chloe again for all that she has done for him over the years. Knowing he will always have Chloe in his corner allows Jack to turn himself into the Russians with something of a smile on his face.
Overall, 24: Live Another Day gave 12 great episodes and reminded us all why we fell in love with the show way back in 2001 when it premiered. There’s no word yet on whether or not we’ll see another season, but the writers have definitely shown that they are up to the task of bringing Jack Bauer into this post-war-on-terrorism world.