It’s always sad when your favourite TV shows go off the air, so May 24, 2010 was a pretty bittersweet date since the series finale for 24, one of my all-time favourite shows, finally aired. I rarely get the time to follow many TV series any more, but I still remember being intrigued enough to tune in to this show in November of 2001 after hearing that it was planning to present an entire season in real time. The season would take place over the course of one 24-hour day and each episode would represent one hour. The gimmick was unique enough to get people to tune into the show, but the storytelling and characters were compelling enough that the “real time” element was practically forgotten. Ten minutes into the series premiere, you knew the show wasn’t going to strictly adhere to the realism of its “real time” format, since it somehow took Jack Bauer only three minutes to drive from his home to his workplace through downtown Los Angeles. All that mattered is that once the show reached the end of its hour, you were left wanting more. The show was a modern version of an old-time movie serial where each episode ended in a cliffhanger and you could not wait until next week to find out how everything turned out.
Considering the complexities of pulling off a format like that and maintaining a high level of quality, it’s pretty remarkable 24 lasted as long as it did. Sure, the show would often have to become formulaic, but it would still surprise you and find unique ways to keep itself fresh. After five strong seasons, the show appeared to have run out of steam after its poorly received sixth season, where the show looked like it was out of ideas and was starting to recycle itself an awful lot. The show decided to change things up by transporting the action from Los Angeles to Washington D.C. and after a solid seventh season, they would transport Season Eight to New York City. Halfway through, the announcement was made that the series would officially come to an end once the season was over. However, knowing that the end was near, the writers decided that the show should go out with a bang and the second half of Season Eight wound up delivering some of the best episodes in the show’s history. So, yes, it was definitely a bittersweet feeling because you knew the show was ending at the proper time, but it was also delivering such awesome kick-ass television that there was a feeling of sadness over knowing you wouldn’t get to see this any more. But all that matters is that 24 had the distinction of going out on a high note and that goes an awful long way to determining a show’s legacy.
So, without any further ado, I’m going to present what I consider to be my 24 favourite moments in the history of the series. This may seem like a long list, but believe me, it was REALLY hard narrowing the selections down to just 24 and an awful lot of great moments didn’t make the cut. If you’re upset that a certain moment wasn’t mentioned, just let out a patented Jack Bauer “DAMMIT!”. I wish I could include video clips for these moments, but 20th Century Fox is notoriously stingy about keeping their copyrighted footage off the video streaming sites.
Warning: This column contains massive spoilers, so if you’ve never watched “24”, but are planning to give it a look sometime in the future, do not proceed any further. Spoilers occur in real time.
24. Jack Bauer: Vampire (Season 6, Episode 1):
This may be a relatively minor moment in the overall story of 24, but it deserves a spot on this list because it may be Jack Bauer’s all-time coolest kill in the history of the series. What does Jack when he’s chained to a chair and needs to escape? He plays dead, so that a henchman will bend down to check on him. Jack then takes the opportunity to bite the henchman’s neck and chew through his carotid artery before grabbing the guy’s keys to unlock himself! Now THAT’S badass! You have to wonder if they put that scene in there because the writers were huge fans of The Lost Boys and wanted at least one scene of Kiefer Sutherland channelling his inner vampire.
23. “Is There Anything Else… Charles?!” (Season 5, Episode 22):
You knew I couldn’t make this list without including at least one scene involving secret service agent Aaron Pierce and this is probably his greatest moment. Played wonderfully by Glenn Morshower (a ginger-haired Texan who has played military and secret service roles in virtually everything that has come out of Hollywood), Pierce is the only character besides Jack Bauer who made an appearance in each of the first seven seasons. Aaron was so popular amongst 24 fans because he was such a good, principled man and was one of the few characters you could always trust to do the right thing. He was pretty much a supporting bit player for the first few seasons, but by Season Five, they finally made him an integral part of the story. He finds out that President Charles Logan, the man he’s sworn to protect, is corrupt, and after Logan tries to entice him into keeping quiet about it, Pierce decides that this man is no longer worthy of being called “Mr. President”:
“There is nothing that you have said or done that is acceptable to me in the least. You’re a traitor to this country and a disgrace to your office. And it’s my duty to see that you’re brought to justice for what you’ve done. Is there anything else… Charles?!”
What else can I say? President Logan just got served!
22. Jack Scares a Suicide Bomber Out of Blowing Himself Up (Season 8, Episode 11):
If a suicide bomber is determined enough to sacrifice their own life, then you’d think there isn’t much that could possibly scare them. But try leaving them alone in a room with Jack Bauer. A young fanatic named Marcos locks himself inside a hyperbaric chamber at a hospital and works at re-activating his explosive vest, so he can blow himself up. Since he may know the location of a nuclear bomb in New York City, Marcos needs to be kept alive, so they bring in his mother to try and reason with him, so that he’ll open the chamber door. When that doesn’t work, Jack starts talking to him and it goes a little something like this:
“You detonate that vest, your mother dies. If you knew who I was, and things I’ve done before in my life, you would know that I’m not bluffing. So go ahead. Blow yourself up into a million little pieces. First thing I’m gonna do is make your mother come in here and clean it up. And then I’m gonna take her to the blast site. Do you know how long it takes the human body to absorb a lethal dose of Cesium-137? Five seconds. Followed by twelve days of pain that’s so agonizing, morphine can’t even touch it. You got a decision to make. Make it carefully.”
Needless to say, Marcos can’t open the door fast enough. The scene works so well because we the viewer know that Jack would never actually follow through on his threat and do that to an innocent woman… but Marcos doesn’t know that, so this is a great showcase of how scary Jack Bauer can look when he wants to be.
21. R.I.P. Bill Buchanan (Episode 7, Season 13):
Right from the outset, 24 established itself as a show where any character could be killed off at any time. The only person you ever felt was totally safe was Jack Bauer (and even he wound up dying twice before being brought back to life). This is the first of many moments on this list where a major full-time character is killed off unexpectedly. Like Aaron Pierce, Bill Buchanan was a much-loved character because he was such a good, principled person who would always do the right thing. When he was the head of CTU, he always seemed like the type of boss you would love to have. Thankfully, the writers gave Buchanan a heroic death that was worthy of his character. When African mercenaries invade the White House and take everyone, including the President, hostage, Jack devises a suicidal plan to save everyone. At the last second, Bill takes Jack’s place by running into a room filled with gas and firing off a bullet to cause an explosion. This distraction winds up saving many lives, but costs him his own, yet it made for a very fitting end for Bill Buchanan. I should also mention that this happens right before the episode’s first commercial break, because that’s just how 24 likes to surprise you sometimes! Buchanan’s demise is followed with a silent ticking clock, a 24 trademark for respecting the death of an important character.
20. Jack Bauer Shoots Robocop’s Wife (Episode 5, Season 11):
Peter Weller’s acting roles are pretty sporadic these days, so it was a nice surprise when he was cast on 24 as Jack Bauer’s traitorous former mentor and CTU boss, Christopher Henderson. Weller wound up being one of the best villains in the history of the show and the season would build up nicely to a “Jack Bauer vs. Robocop” showdown. The most startling moment between them came when Jack broke into Henderson’s home and took him and his wife, Miriam, hostage. After Henderson arrogantly proclaims that Jack will never break him and make him talk, Jack responds by shooting Miriam in the leg! “I shot her above the kneecap. She can still walk! You make me shoot her again, she’ll be in a wheelchair for the rest of her life!” In spite of this, Henderson still refuses to talk, but Jack does not follow through on his threat. This is actually a pivotal moment in defining the character of Jack Bauer. Jack has always does some pretty nasty and unsavoury things in the name of defending his country, but even though his enemy will not tell him what he wants to know, Jack will still draw the line at crippling an innocent woman. It’s little things like that which showcase the important differences between Jack Bauer and the evil people he has to fight, and keep him on the right side of the line.
19. R.I.P. Nina Myers (Season 3, Episode 14):
One of the most defining moments of the series came at the end of the penultimate episode of Season One, where Jack Bauer’s fellow CTU colleague and former lover, Nina Myers, was revealed to be a traitorous undercover mole. Nina would be responsible for the death of Jack’s wife, Teri, and get sent to prison, but in Season Two, Nina would be granted a full Presidential pardon for helping to locate a nuclear bomb in the middle of Los Angeles. Thus began a wonderful cat-and-mouse game between Jack and Nina, where Jack would just be itching to get revenge for the death of his wife, but Nina would always possess too much vital information and needed to be kept alive for the sake of national security. The final blow-off between the two characters would be held off until the middle of Season Three where Jack would shoot Nina as she tried to escape from CTU. While standing over her wounded body, Jack would come to the delighted realization that there was no longer a reason for her to be kept alive.
Jack: You don’t have any more useful information, do you Nina?
Nina: I do…
Jack: No, you don’t. *BANG* *BANG* *BANG*
Now THAT’S a dish of revenge that’s best served cold!
18. R.I.P. Renee Walker (Season 8, Episode 17):
When 24 relocated to Washington D.C. for Season Seven, the series was in desperate need for a shot in the arm, but thankfully, the new character of F.B.I. Agent Renee Walker would help provide a very healthy breath of fresh air. And with the casting of Annie Wersching in the role, quite a sexy breath of fresh air as well. It was obvious that Renee Walker was being groomed to be the female version of Jack Bauer, a person so devoted to saving lives and serving her country that she was willing to sacrifice anything. Jack and Renee had such obvious chemistry that you knew it was only a matter of time before they hooked up, and they kept their sexual tension bottled up until two-thirds of the way through Season Eight when they finally wound in bed together. And if you follow the “real time” format of the show, their sex scene lasted a good 30 minutes, which is pretty damn impressive when you consider that Renee had accidentally stabbed Jack in the abdomen only ten hours earlier! However, because life just isn’t fair for Jack Bauer, Renee would be hit by a sniper shot immediately afterwards and despite being rushed to the hospital wearing nothing but a bed sheet, she would eventually succumb to her bullet wound. Some fans were unhappy with the show’s decision to kill Renee off, but this provided the perfect arc to carry the show to its final conclusion. This was Jack’s last chance to finally settle down and have a happy life, but when they took that away from him, it would send him off on an angry quest for vengeance from which there would be no turning back.
17. “I just don’t think you’re fit to be the First Lady” (Season 1, Episode 24):
Seven years before Barack Obama, there was David Palmer, the first African-American character to be President of the United States in the history of television. Dennis Haysbert was terrific in the role, playing as Palmer as a man of great character and integrity, and when people are asked what fictional President they would most love to see in the Oval Office in real life, David Palmer is one of the most common choices. Unfortunately, Palmer has kind of gotten the short shaft in this “greatest moments” list, simply because Jack Bauer gets to do all the real exciting stuff, but Palmer’s biggest moment of glory probably involves the dumping of his Lady Macbeth-esque wife, Sherry. Despite a relationship that dates all the way to grade school, Palmer realizes that his wife is not what she appears to be throughout the course of Season One. He discovers that she has become drunk with power and is guilty of perpetuating an awful lot of lies, deception and underhanded tactics behind his back. When she finally crosses the line for the last time, Palmer calls her in for a private meeting and even though it could be politically dangerous for a man running for President to divorce his wife, he does not hesitate to kick her to the curb. “After today, I never want to see you again. And I don’t care what this may do to my candidacy. And it’s not because I don’t want to be President. I do. I just don’t think you’re fit to be the First Lady.” Well, all I can say is that man would certainly have MY vote!
16. R.I.P. Edgar Stiles (Season 5, Episode 12):
Jack Bauer and Renee Walker had a brewing romance that took a full season-and-a-half to consummate, and it appeared that the same thing was going to happen with socially awkward CTU computer nerds Chloe O’Brian and Edgar Stiles. But on 24, life just isn’t fair sometimes. Edgar was one of the more endearing characters on the show and since his role consisted entirely of sitting at a desk and working on a computer, you wouldn’t consider him to be one of the most likely characters to get killed off. The very unsecure CTU building was the subject of so many terrorist attacks throughout the course of 24 that it almost crossed line into self-parody, but the sequence where Sentox nerve gas was unleashed into CTU was incredibly well-done suspenseful. The episode would climax with one of its more heartbreaking conclusions as the survivors escape from the gas by sealing themselves in a situation room, only to watch through the protective glass as Edgar comes helplessly passing by and dies a very agonizing death. Edgar’s final moments would involve him and Chloe staring at each other through the glass and wondering what might have been, as his death concluded the episode with one of 24’s silent ticking clocks.
15. Jack Says Goodbye to Chloe (Season 8, Episode 24):
Speaking of Chloe O’Brian, she’s another character that’s kind of gotten the shaft on this list. There are so many great moments involving her that just missed making the cut, most especially this one:
Chloe started off as a comedic relief supporting character in Season Three, but thanks to the wonderfully quirky one-of-a-kind interpretation that comedian Mary Lynn Rajskub brought to the role, Chloe arguably became the second-biggest character on the show and would have the honour of the sharing the series’ final scene ever with Jack Bauer. Chloe was always established as a computer genius with a short temper and zero social skills, so Jack (and pretty much everyone else) just could not stand her at first, but as the series went on, she turned out to be Jack’s most valuable ally and would put everything on the line to help him when nobody else did. Of course, even though Chloe wound up getting married and having a child, it was pretty clear that she always had a massive crush on Jack. 24 would end with Jack becoming a fugitive who had to leave the country and disappear forever, but he would share one final phone conversation with Chloe that you would have never envisioned after their angry first encounter in Season Three: “When you first came to CTU, I never thought it was going to be you, that was going to cover my back all those years”. Since this would also be the final scene to be filmed in the history of the series, you can tell that Mary Lynn Rajskub’s tearful emotional reaction in this scene is 100 % real.
14. Jack and Tony Escape the F.B.I. Building (Season 7, Episode 3):
After the negative reaction to Season Six, the Writer’s Guild strike lead to a full one-year delay before the start of Season Seven, so the people behind 24 knew they had to deliver big time. The season had an interesting hook as beloved character Tony Almeida, who had supposedly been killed off in Season Five, was revealed to be alive and working as a bad guy. Surprisingly, Jack would wind up arresting Tony by the end of the second episode and take him to the F.B.I. building, but then he would discover Tony was actually working alongside Chloe and Bill Buchanan as a deep cover mole in a plan to uncover a mass government conspiracy. Jack would be forced to help Tony escape from custody out of the F.B.I. building in order to re-establish his cover and this sequence successfully announced to the world that 24 was back with vengeance! The sequence was tremendously exciting and entertaining, and featured a delightful battle between rival hackers, as Chloe would hack into the F.B.I.’ s security system to try help Jack and Tony escape, only to meet resistance from the F.B.I.’s resident computer nerd Janis Gold (played by Janeane Garofalo). The episode climaxes with a spectacular stunt as Jack would escape by crash-landing a car out of an upper level of the F.B.I. parking garage, preceded by a classic Jack Bauer one-liner: “This is gonna hurt”.
13. Jack’s First Angry Killing Spree (Season 1, Episode 24):
When you go back and watch Season One of 24, it’s quite surprising to discover that Jack Bauer’s kill count is significantly lower than in future seasons. Jack’s body count would greatly increase as the series went along because the more bad things that happen to him, the more angry and vengeful he gets. The first scene to showcase just how disastrous it is to piss off Jack Bauer came in the Season One finale where the evil Victor Drazen (Dennis Hopper) kidnaps Jack’s daughter, Kim. After Kim escapes on her own, Victor decides to lure Jack into a trap by having Nina Myers tell him that Kim has been killed. That turns out to be a fatal mistake as after having an emotional breakdown, Jack goes charging in with both guns blazing and kills everyone in his path. After Victor runs out of ammo and attempts to surrender peacefully, Jack shoots him in self defence. Well, if you consider “self defence” to be pumping a dozen bullets into an unarmed man after he’s already dead! Even though this was an act of vengeance over a death that never actually happened, it would be the first real display of Jack’s darkest side and the carnage that would occur if anyone ever hurt somebody he loved.
12. President Logan’s Near-Suicide (Season 5, Episode 21):
While David Palmer was a fictional President that you really wished could be running the United States, Charles Logan was a President that made you think that eight years under George W. Bush might not have been so bad after all. Other than Colonel Hans Landa from Inglourious Basterds, I consider President Logan to be my favourite fictional villain of the past decade. This is due in large part to the brilliant portrayal of Gregory Itzin, who does such a marvellous job at turning Logan into such a spineless, incompetent douchebag that you just enjoy hating him so much. Logan was never even elected into the Presidency and only assumed the job because the sitting President was put into a coma after a terrorist attack, and in Season Five, it is finally revealed that Logan was complicit in a lot of illegal terrorist activities. After Jack Bauer obtains a recording that exposes the President’s wrongdoings, Logan knows that it’s only a matter of time before he is ruined, so he slowly walks into his office, pulls out a gun and prepares to commit suicide. At the very last second, however, Logan receives a call from a rogue CTU employee who tells him he’s going to destroy the evidence, and Logan responds by smirking and putting the gun away. Gregory Itzin probably should have a won an Emmy for this scene alone, as you almost actually start feeling bad for Logan, but his smug look after he’s rescued from the brink of ruin ensures that you can instantly start hating him again.
11. “The Only Person I Can Trust Right Now” (Season 4, Episode 7):
If 24 played in a movie theatre, this would be the ultimate “make the audience cheer” moment. After being a full-time character for three seasons, Tony Almeida was nowhere to be found at the beginning of Season Four since he was last seen being lead away in handcuffs at the end of the previous year. While Jack and his girlfriend, Audrey Raines, are looking for surveillance footage of a suspect at a security building, a CTU mole leaks their location to the bad guys, who stage an ambush. Since they don’t know who the mole at CTU is, Jack knows he can’t contact them for help. He pulls out his phone and when Audrey asks who he’s calling, Jack’s response is: “The only person I can trust right now”. Sure enough, Jack and Audrey soon find themselves cornered in the garage by a bunch of gunmen. When Jack runs out of ammo, the gunmen move in for the kill until Tony Almeida suddenly appears of nowhere to shoot the bad guys and save the day. Tony is yet another great character who probably got the severe shaft on this list, but this is most definitely his crowning moment.
10. Jack Bauer Interrogates Chunk (Season 9, Episode 1):
Jack Bauer has had to conduct a lot of brutal torture scenes on the show, but none of them were more intense that’s Jack interrogation of a fat kid named Chunk. Chunk would stubbornly refuse to reveal the location of One-Eyed Willy’s buried treasure, so Jack had no alternative but to stick the poor kid’s hand in a food processor…
Oh wait… that didn’t actually happen? Well, scratch that, then! Moving on…
10. R.I.P. President Omar Hassan (Season 8, Episode 16):
24 scored a major coup for Season Eight when they cast Anil Kapoor in the role of Omar Hassan, President of the Islamic Republic of Kamistan (the show never uses the names of any real Middle Eastern countries in order to avoid political controversy). Kapoor was a huge Bollywood star who had just gotten mass exposure for his role as the game show host in Slumdog Millionaire, so you’d think 24 would want to keep the guy on for the entire season, right? RIGHT?! Not exactly! Hassan was a very honourable President who only wanted to achieve peace in the Middle East, but he would be kidnapped by terrorists who intended to stage a webcast where he was put on trial for treason and executed in front of the whole world. This was very similar to a storyline they did involving the Secretary of Defense in Season Four, but in that situation, Jack Bauer showed up at the last minute to rescue him. This episode seemed to be following the same formula as Jack would break into the room where Hassan was being held and shoot all the terrorists, only to discover that the webcast was still going on. Then, in a moment that some 24 fans claim made them feel physically ill, the scene would slowly focus on the image of Hassan in the background with his throat slashed. It turns out the webcast was on a thirty-second delay, so Jack had shown up JUST after Hassan was murdered! Hassan may have only been a part of the show for two-thirds of a season, but his death was one of the more devastating of the series and powerful enough to close off the episode with the silent ticking clock.
9. “Say Hello to Your Brother!” (Season 6, Episode 17):
Season Six may be a whipping post for 24 fans, but personally, I’d say that’s only because it was below par by 24 standards, not by regular television standards. Despite some obvious missteps, the season still did provide quite a few terrific moments. If nothing else, it delivered what may be the series’ all-time best blow-off scene between Jack Bauer and a villain. In the first episode, Jack had been captured and tortured by Abu Fayed, a terrorist who wanted revenge on Jack for killing his brother many years ago. After Jack escaped from his clutches, Fayed wound up hanging on all the way until episode 17 when Jack finally tracked him down to a warehouse. After killing off all the henchman, Jack would engage Fayed in a brutal fight scene that climaxed with Jack wrapping a chain around Fayed’s neck. He would choke Fayed to death by hanging him up in the air, and precede it with one of the show’s most memorable one-liners: “Say hello to your brother”. Alas, the rest of this season just could not measure up to this classic moment. While I was not the biggest fan of the show’s miscasting of Ricky Schroeder as a CTU field agent that season, he does provide one of the season’s best moments when he arrives at the warehouse, looks around at all the carnage, and simply says: “Damn, Jack”.
8. Chase Edmunds Lends a Hand (Season 3, Episode 24):
In Season Three, Jack was finally given a younger partner, Chase Edmunds, who also happened to be conducting a secret romance with Kim. Admittedly, the character could be a bit whiny and hot-headed throughout the season, but he did do his fair share of badass things. He most definitely earned the viewer’s respect during the season finale when he wound up getting a dispersal device attached to his wrist that was about to unleash a deadly virus. With only a few minutes left on the unit’s timer and no way to take it off Chase’s wrist in time, Jack would go through the typical bomb defusing scene where he needed to decide which wire to cut. After finding out that the bomb squad didn’t have the faintest clue about how to disarm the thing, the show would provide one of its all-time greatest shots by slowing focusing on a fire axe in the background. It immediately became obvious that not something, but SOMEONE was about to be disarmed. Most other films or TV shows would probably have the bomb squad call back at the last minute to tell Jack what wire to cut, but 24 does not chicken out from these things. Jack would wind up using the axe to chop off Chase’s hand before sliding off the dispersal device and sealing it inside a refrigerator as the virus was unleashed. This would mark the end of Chase Edmunds’ run on the show as it appears the ultimate cost of being allowed to leave 24 alive is sacrificing one of your limbs.
7. “I’m Gonna Need a Hacksaw!” (Season 2, Episode 1):
While we’re on the subject of people getting their body parts cut off, Chase Edmunds actually got off pretty easy. Since Season One of 24 had climaxed with Jack’s wife being murdered, he would start off Season Two as a broken-down man who didn’t care much about anything any more and clearly had some mental instabilities. Jack would be brought back to CTU in order go undercover inside a gang of militants who could help lead them to a nuclear bomb that was set to go off in Los Angeles. Jack knew that re-establishing his old cover in a matter of hours would be virtually impossible, so his plan would involve a witness named Marshall Goren, who was set to testify against the gang’s leader. After bringing Goren into CTU and establishing that he is a total scumbag with charges like child pornography on his record, Jack shocks the hell out of everybody by pulling out a gun and shooting Goren right in the middle of the office, following this up by the immortal line: “I’m gonna need a hacksaw!”. Sure enough, the next episode would involve Jack earning trust with the militants by delivering them a box with Goren’s head inside! Words cannot describe how shocking it was to see the beloved hero of a TV show do something like this, but it just demonstrated how Jack sometimes had to resort to incredibly nasty things for the greater good. It also made for an unbelievably great hook for the season since after this incident, you knew Jack not entirely stable and was capable of ANYTHING!
6. How to Get Rid of Your Girlfriend’s Ex (Season 4, Episode 20):
One of the strongest elements of 24 is that it often puts its characters in situations where they have to make impossible choices. It encourages the viewers to debate about what they would have done if they were in such a difficult situation and also makes them very grateful that they’ll never have to make a decision like that. In Season Four, Jack was given a new love interest named Audrey Raines, who helped him settle down into a normal, happy life again. Audrey’s ex-husband, Paul, would be brought into the picture and even though he looks suspicious at first, he is eventually revealed to be a good guy who winds up saving Jack’s life by taking a bullet for him. Later on, Jack is forced to bring a wounded, dying witness into the CTU operating room who needs to be kept alive since he has information that could stop a nuclear missile from hitting Los Angeles. The CTU medical staff just happens to be operating on the wounded Paul Raines at the same time, but since the witness knows importation information that could save millions of lives, Jack pulls a gun on the doctor and orders him to start operating on him instead. The downside is that they have to neglect Paul and let him die. Audrey happens to be in the room while this is happening and freaks out, wondering how Jack could do this to someone who saved his life. After Paul dies, she starts beating on Jack and telling him how much she hates him. The scene is just an awesome piece of drama and the devastated look on Jack’s face while all this happens shows how hard it is for him to live with the horrible consequences of the choices he makes. Even though people will tell him that he made the right decision and wound up sacrificing Paul to save many more lives, it certainly doesn’t offer Jack much comfort.
5. “THAT’S JACK BAUER!!!” (Season 8, Episode 22):
Many of the greatest moments on 24 are very tragic, but if there’s any sequence from the show that makes you giddy with delight while watching it, it’s probably this one. The previous episode ended with an awesome cliffhanger as Jack would find a phone on the sniper who murdered Renee Walker and discover that the last call he made was to the voicemail of former President Charles Logan. Given the immense hatred Jack has for Logan, you just know that the ex-President is FUCKED! Logan surrounds himself with massive security when he finds out Jack is coming after him, but you just know that nothing could possibly protect you from a vengeful Jack Bauer. After Logan’s secret service motorcade is brought to a halt, he is horrified to see a figure appear in the distance with an assault rifle, wearing a black mask and full body armour that makes him look like a cross between Darth Vader and Iron Man. In what may be the greatest line reading in the history of the series, Logan screams in terror: “THAT’S JACK BAUER!!!”. Sure enough, Jack is able to blast through the secret service, break into Logan’s limousine, and kidnap him. Rarely have I ever seen an actor convey pure piss-your-pants terror better than Gregory Itzin in this scene. If there’s one sequence on 24 that I could probably rewind and watch over and over again, it’s this one.
4. R.I.P. Teri Bauer (Season 1, Episode 24):
Quite simply, if the first season of 24 had not ended the way it did, it’s unlikely that the show would have had nearly as much lasting power. It seemed that after surviving the most hellacious day of their lives, Jack Bauer and his family would finally be destined for a happy ending. Unfortunately, Teri Bauer would accidentally discover that Nina Myers was a spy, and after Jack returned to CTU and had Nina arrested, he would make the horrible discovery that Nina has shot Teri and left her for dead in a maintenance room. The season would end with an emotional Jack cradling his dead wife in his arms and saying how sorry he was for everything that happened as the silent clock made its first appearance and ticked down the final seconds. It was a horribly sad and depressing way to end the season, and the producers would shoot an alternate ending where Teri was found alive in case they didn’t want to go this route, but in the end, this was the only possible decision they could have made. If the first season of 24 had ended on a happy note, people probably would have remembered the whole thing as an entertaining thrill ride, but nothing more. If Teri had lived, there would have been no “I’m gonna need a hacksaw” moment to start the next season and Jack’s character would have been nowhere near as interesting. The Jack Bauer presented in Season One would not have done many of the crazy and unsettling things that he would go on to do throughout the rest of the series, and the whole show may have run its course after only two or three seasons. Teri’s death would establish Jack as one of fiction’s all-time great tragic figures, who may do incredibly heroic things and save millions of lives, but has to pay a huge personal price for his actions.
3. R.I.P. Ryan Chappelle (Season 3, Episode 18):
It’s hard to imagine that the death of a whiny bureaucratic asshole like Ryan Chappelle could provide even more emotional impact than the death of Teri Bauer, but only a show like 24 could pull this off. The main villain of Season Three, Stephen Saunders, would hold the country hostage by threatening to unleash a deadly virus throughout the U.S. if President Palmer did not give in to his demands. At the end of the previous episode, Saunders demanded that Palmer have CTU head Ryan Chappelle killed within the hour or millions of people would die. Of course, Jack is entrusted with the horrible task of pulling the trigger. While Chappelle was always portrayed as an unlikable (yet entertaining-to-watch) bureaucrat who was always butting heads with Jack Bauer, it’s impossible not to feel sorry for a man who’s just sitting at his desk, doing his job, when he’s suddenly told he’s going to die in less than an hour just for the purpose of appeasing a terrorist. A lot of people have debated whether the President would actually give in to a terrorist demand by ordering one of his ownto be killed, by the episode makes it pretty clear that there are no other options that don’t involve the deaths of many innocent people. The entire episode is a wrenching, manipulative roller-coaster ride as Chappelle is given briefly given hope that Saunders is about to be captured, only to find out that CTU has tracked him to the wrong building. The final few minutes of this episode are some of the most powerful in television history as Chappelle begs Jack for the dignity of taking his own life, but after the putting the gun to his own head, Chappelle realizes he does not have the stomach to pull the trigger, so Jack is forced to go through the horrible ordeal of killing Chappelle himself. Seriously, how many other network television shows would have the balls to present a scene like this? In the history of 24, there is no image more haunting than the final long shot of Jack shooting Chappelle in the head, followed by the silent ticking clock and the distant sound of a train whistle.
2. R.I.P. David Palmer & Michelle Dessler (Season 5, Episode 1):
I’ve mentioned many times that 24 is known for its willingness to kill off any character at any time and never was that better demonstrated than during the first 15 minutes of the premiere of Season Five. I know it’s something of a cheat to count two separate deaths as one moment, but considering their combined impact, they deserve to be side-by-side. In the opening moments of the episode, David Palmer is just going about his morning routine, when, in one of the most shocking and unexpected moments you will ever see, he is suddenly killed by a sniper shot. It’s one thing for a television series to kill off the second-biggest character on the show, but to do so in the FIRST TWO MINUTES OF THE SEASON is just unfathomable! You’d think that no moment during the rest of the season could come as close to surprising you as much as this one, but 24 actually manages to do that just over ten minutes later! Former CTU agent and full-time character Michelle Dessler is just leaving her house and opening the door to climb into her vehicle when a car bomb suddenly goes off. Tony Almeida comes out and cradles his wife’s body before he nearly being wiped out by an explosion himself… and then the show goes to commercial and the viewer spends the next few minutes repeating: “What the fuck did I just see?!”. Seriously, what other show would kill off two of its most popular characters before the first commercial break of its season premiere?! It’s quite amazing to chart the trajectory of 24 as a series since Jack Bauer is literally the only person to remain a full-time character on the show for all eight seasons. The lesson here is that it’s definitely not advisable to become too attached to a character on this show because they all have an unpredictable shelf life.
1. R.I.P. George Mason (Season 2, Episode 15):
Yes, believe it or not, my favourite moment in the history of 24 is not provided by Jack Bauer. One of the best characters on the show was CTU director George Mason, who provided the series with some of its all-time funniest moments and greatest lines of dialogue since he absolutely personified a bitter, cynical bureaucrat who just hated his job. At the beginning of Season Two, Mason was established as a complete coward who only cared about fleeing Los Angeles before a nuclear bomb went off, but he would soon wind up being exposed to a lethal dose of plutonium that left him with less than a day to live. Mason then decides that he wants to go out by finding the bomb and doing his job with more passion that he’s ever shown before. This was one of the show’s best uses of the “real time” format as it gave them the opportunity to showcase the slow physical and mental deterioration of a man who’s dying of radiation poisoning, and prominent character actor Xander Berkeley would deliver a knockout performance in this very challenging role. Eventually, the nuclear bomb would be found, but they’d soon discover that it could not be disarmed and would have to be flown into an unpopulated location within the hour before it went off. In what may be the all-time greatest episode in the history of 24, Jack volunteers for a suicide mission where he will fly the bomb into a large depression in the Mojave Desert while it goes off. After delivering an emotional goodbye to Kim over the phone, Jack is prepared to die when he discovers that Mason has snuck on board the plane and is willing to finish the mission while Jack parachutes to safety. Jack is reluctant to go along with this at first until Mason delivers this beautiful speech:
“You still have a life, Jack. You wanna be a real hero, here’s what you do. You get back down there and you put the pieces together. You find a way to forgive yourself for what happened to your wife. You make things right with your daughter, and you go on serving your country. That’d take some real guts.”
After an emotional goodbye, Jack finally decides to parachute out of the plane while Mason finds redemption for every wrong thing he’s ever done by dying the most heroic of deaths. This whole sequence pretty much sums up everything there is to love about 24. When Jack and Mason had their first interaction in the series premiere, they clearly could not stand each other and Jack wound up shooting Mason in the leg with a tranquilizer gun. After that, who could have ever envisioned that 39 episodes later, Mason would be sacrificing his life for Jack and that the two of them would be sharing such an emotional and moving farewell scene together? As you can see from many of the other selections on this list, no show was better than 24 at keeping the viewer on its toes and taking them in surprising, unexpected directions.
Anyway, those are my 24 favourite moments in the history of 24 and I think it only appropriate that I close off this epic column with a silent ticking clock.
00:00:03… 00:00:02… 00:00:01… 00:00:00