SPOILER ALERT: This recap for the 24: Live Another Day event series finale contains major storyline and character spoilers.
Jack Bauer fans, we know, we know... that silent clock at the end of the 24: Live Another Day finale was devastating, especially since the silent countdown clock — most of the time — indicates just one thing: the death of a beloved character. And even outside the 24 universe, TV characters don't get more beloved than Jack Bauer.
But before you go into a panic and start searching for ways to make it through the five stages of grief, let us toss out a nugget of hope, courtesy of longtime 24 director and producer Jon Cassar.
"What does that silent clock mean at the end? I don't know if we know that yet," Cassar tells Yahoo TV. "There were so many conversations about what the end should be. And not that we're 100 percent sure that this is the end, yet, the absolute end, but there is a possibility, so you're trying to serve both masters. You're trying to serve, if this is the end, is this the way we want it to end? And you're trying to serve, if it's not the end, what do we do to keep it open?
"So, I think we got there. I think we found a place that was still interesting enough. And, you can keep Jack alive in your own mind. That's important, too. They did that at the end of Season 8, you kind of still felt he was out there, and I think that's important for Jack Bauer. America needs to know there's still a Jack Bauer out there… what he represents is important. So that's what we were going for, and I think we got there."
Even if Jack (Kiefer Sutherland) is alive, and the 24 universe returns again in miniseries, movie, or full-blown season format, there was an awful lot of heartbreak in the intense, emotional one-hour finale, including that time jump we'd been hearing about all season; one sad, shocking death; one welcome, shocking death; an incredibly poignant moment for President Jim Heller; a long-awaited moment between two friends; and, maybe, hopefully not, but we have to acknowledge the possibility, the last time we'll see Jack Bauer.
Jack's Love Lost
Even her weasel of a husband, Mark Boudreau (Tate Donovan), had accepted Audrey (Kim Raver) was still in love with Jack, and there was some sliver of hope the two might find their way back to each other by season's end. But when the villainous Cheng (Tzi Ma) held Audrey hostage via a sniper while he tried to lam it on a steamship, Jack's attention was torn between saving Audrey and stopping a world war. Jack went after Cheng and trusted Kate (Yvonne Strahovski) to rescue Audrey from the sniper, which she did… until a second Cheng shooter showed up and delivered a fatal shot to the woman who may have been Jack's last chance at happiness. That's the sad, death, of course, but Jack avenged Audrey's demise, taking a sword he found on the steamship and — The Walking Dead fans will appreciate this — going all Michonne on Cheng's head, now a separate entity from the rest of his body.
William Devane has given a fantastic performance all season long as U.S. President Jim Heller, who not only battled Margot (Michelle Fairley) and her attempts to start a war with some stolen drones, but who also revealed in the 24:LAD premiere that he was dealing with Alzheimer's. As British Prime Minister Davies (Stephen Fry) offered his condolences while Heller prepared to board Air Force One with Audrey's body for the trip home, Heller delivered a speech that was a crushing reminder of not only the condition he would soon have to reveal to the American public as he resigned, but of the condition that would rob him of his memories, and in a small consolation, also his grief.
"No, there's nothing you can do, nothing anyone can do," Heller said to Davies. "Right before we left for London, I was sitting in my office, looking at a picture on my desk of a beautiful woman. I kept staring at it. It's been on my desk since my first day in office. And I knew that I knew that woman, but I couldn't think of her name. Ten seconds, then 15 seconds go by, then, poof, it pops into my head. It was Audrey. I won't remember anything that happens today. I won't remember anything that happens, period. I won't remember that I had a daughter who died in such a horrible fashion."
Cassar, who's been a director and producer on 24 every season except Season 8, says Heller's speech landed in the finale fortuitously, because it was written, and filmed, for him to deliver in the season premiere.
"It was the very first scene we shot in the season. If you remember in the first episode where Heller is riding in the car with Audrey… he originally said it to her, but we cut it out, because you want that first episode to move a little quicker. And, obviously, it wasn't about her being dead at the time, it was actually him telling her he had been looking at her picture, and he didn't remember who she was. William Devane did such a good job with it, and it hurt all of us to cut it out, but we found another place for [that speech], and he did just as good a job the second time around, if not better, because it meant more after Audrey's death."
The Unlikeliest of Friendships
He's the action hero, she's the computer genius whose awkward social skills prompted him to first utter what would become one of fans' favorite catchphrases: "Dammit, Chloe!" Through eight seasons, and now the LAD miniseries, they've worked together to thwart many a world-threatening baddie, but it wasn't until the final moments of Live Another Day, after the harsh time jump that saw Jack blackmailed into trading his own life to the Russians so they'd set kidnapped Chloe (Mary-Lynn Rajskub) free, that we finally saw Jack admit just how much Chloe meant to him.
"It's time for you to go home. You were right about what you said earlier, about you being my best friend," Jack said as he grabbed Chloe's hand. "Thank you."
Cassar says that moment was his favorite of the season, one that he agrees was a long time coming.
"It's funny, because they have one of the most interesting relationships, yet they've never really had a scene like that. It's the first time that he reaches out like that, holds her hand," says Cassar. "We're such an action show, and if you compare it to a big action movie, you want that big action ending, but at the end of the day… the ending's got to have a human element. When we all came up with that, as we moved around and [talked about] what that last piece was going to be, we all knew right away that was it."
The Death of Jack Bauer?
Remember, the silent clock doesn't always indicate death; it also went silent in Season 2 when President Palmer was the victim of an assassination attempt by the evil Mandy, and again in Season 6, when Jack said goodbye to a sleeping Audrey and walked off into his uncertain future.
Also, Jack's very skilled, very loyal LAD pal Belcheck (Branko Tomović) was left behind to see Chloe to safety, and, we assume, to be the enforcer of the threat Jack made to the Russian who'd come to escort him to Moscow to face retribution for Jack's Season 8 killing of the Russian foreign minister. Perhaps Belcheck and Jack had cooked up a plan for Jack's future extraction?
We're hopeful, but there's no denying things looked bleak for Jack in the end, as his host told him, "I would say you're going to enjoy Moscow, but you'd know I was lying," before Jack took one look back at Chloe and climbed into his one-way ride to torture and the clock silently ticked down to its 11 a.m. end time.
As for whether or not there is another 24 comeback in the future, Cassar — who is heading to San Diego Comic-Con for a 24 panel that features him interviewing Sutherland — says he knows that's the question everyone, certainly every Jack Bauer fan, wants to know. And he says the cast and crew were touched by just how warmly viewers embraced the return of Jack Bauer and the real-time format.
But coming off the intense season ("I think you would find most of us just staring at blank walls right now, to let the noise go away, because it's such a multi-layered show that your brain never stops from the second you say yes to doing it"), Cassar says that's a question that will have to be answered a little further down the road.
But if Monday night's finale was truly the end for Jack Bauer?
"I think it was more fitting than the end of Season 8. It feels more complete than 8," says Cassar, who also recently directed Kiefer and Donald Sutherland in the upcoming big-screen Western Forsaken, in which the son and father play a son and father. "That ending had a kind of finality to it, too, but there's just something about this year… I think we teed it up right, and the writers teed it up right, and I think it paid off better. So if this is end, this is the end. I would be comfortable with it."