[This story contains spoilers from the 24: Legacy season finale on Fox.]
Almost two decades ago, Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) ended the first worst day of his life holding his wife's limp body in his arms. For his inaugural real-time trial by fire, 24: Legacy's Eric Carter (Corey Hawkins) ended things on a considerably happier note.
Yes, there was a tragic main-character death on the 24: Legacy season finale, in the form of Eric's mentor and friend Rebecca Ingram (Miranda Otto), who died taking a bullet for him. But Eric's marriage remains alive and well, with a tearful Nicole (Anna Diop) passionately swearing to stand by her husband's side despite his deadly line of work. The final image of the season - Nicole watching Eric enter a debriefing session, an uncertain expression on his face - hints that perhaps this ending isn't as happily ever after as advertised, but for now, Eric's marital status remaining what it was at the start of the day automatically makes the Legacy conclusion the happiest ending in 24 lore.
For more on why the season ended on such a "happy note," showrunner and executive producer Manny Coto spoke with The Hollywood Reporter for a rundown on how the finale played out, the big Tony Almeida (Carlos Bernard) action scene and the ultimate fate of 24: Legacy.
Where did you start when you began breaking the story of the season finale?
The story of the finale really started back in episode 10, when we revealed that the Director of National Intelligence engaged in a covert program to grab the families of terrorists. We knew this was going to be the last few episodes of the season, where we would resolve that issue and turn the season on its head. That's where it was. When that idea hit, the final episode we realized was going to be about Eric Carter setting this right - and in doing so, he would try to get Rebecca back alive.
Can you speak more about the origin of this storyline, about the program targeting families of terrorists?
It was something I came up with, suggested from the campaign, when it was floated: the idea that we should target terrorists' families. It occurred to me that that might be an interesting thing to explore, the idea that somebody might take this up, and actually go after terrorists' families. We thought it would be more a program where multiple families had been taken, but we ultimately decided to narrow it down for narrative reasons to the one person.
The first season of 24 ends with the death of Jack Bauer's wife. This first day for Eric Carter ends on a much happier note. Eric and Nicole seem to be on the same page in trying to make their marriage work, despite Eric's dangerous career.
We didn't want to redo what we did with Jack [in season one]. We wanted to end on a slightly hopeful note. The Jack Bauer storyline and seasons became very much Jack having to end in darkness: his wife dying, or his daughter not wanting to speak with him, or some personal horrible tragedy. We wanted to take that away and go in a different direction with Eric Carter. The season swims in a pretty dark place, but we thought it would be interesting to end in a happier place. That was the original conception for Live Another Day. I always wanted to end it on a happy note. But creatively, things went a different direction, with Bauer going to Russia. In this incarnation, I was bound and determined that that wasn't going to happen, that Carter was going to find some happiness at the end of all of this.
Although, carting Carter off to Russia could have been fun as well.
I agree! If you watch the episode carefully, you'll see there's a moment where Eric and Nicole look at each other, as he's about to go into the room [for his debriefing]. The idea there was to inject a little bit of doubt into the whole scenario. He has promised her that there will be no more secrets, and when she sees him go into that room, part of her realizes it's a promise he won't be able to keep. He understands it as well. I think they both know in the moment - at least, that was the intention: "This might not be as easy as we think it is, and it might not work after all."
So that final shot of the season, a lingering image of Nicole's face ... that's supposed to raise questions about their marriage, and that's it? There isn't a more nefarious subtext, like Nicole being a mole?
That's not the way we're going, no, with Nicole as a mole. But it's a pretty good idea! I might steal it from you. (Laughs.) But I will also say, and I want to point this out: We were bound and determined not to have any moles at CTU. We achieved our goal.
Courtesy of FOX
The finale's major fight scene takes place between Carter and Tony Almeida (Carlos Bernard), representing two very different eras of 24 clashing against each other.
It's the old school versus the next generation. Almeida, in this incarnation, became something of a gun for hire, someone who was doing covert programs that the government didn't want to engage in themselves. Rebecca had used him and it occurred to us that maybe the DNI used him for the same reasons. He's hired out when you want something done dirty. We knew when Carter was going to rescue the girl, he had to come up against some kind of opposition. Originally it was going to be pretty generic, a new character who was going to be called in and be the face of this team. Then the inspiration hit: Why not make it Almeida? He's the perfect man to be hired for this. Once that clicked, it became perfect, to put Almeida up against Carter. Is Almeida going to go through with his mission? Because he doesn't know that [Rebecca's life is at stake], and the irony was too sweet, the idea that he doesn't know that if he stops Carter, the woman he loved might die as a result.
Tony is the only character from the old guard to appear on this season, and he's also the most iconic character still alive in the 24 universe outside of Jack and Chloe. With the season finished, what can you say about what your goals were for Tony this season?
We wanted to tell the story of a man who is still struggling with his polarity, and maybe somebody slowly trying to work his way back into a normal life, and it not quite arriving for him. He went to a pretty dark place in season seven. We had done this little video in the Live Another Day DVD where he's released by somebody, although we don't know who. In our minds, it could have been Rebecca, because she needed him for stuff they didn't want to get their hands dirty with. Almeida would have signed onto this in my mind to begin a slow coming back to the light - although he's working in the dark to get there. It's the first steps of a character's journey out of darkness. We didn't want to go all the way because, God willing, if there's another season, there's a lot of fun to be had with Tony, and telling the journey of a man who's trying to come back to make some good in this world.
Can you commit to the idea that we've reached an end to Tony's depths, at least as far as him killing innocent people in order to pursue vengeance? Would you ever make Tony quite that dark again?
Probably not, but you never know where the story takes us. But I would guess not. He's been there. He's trying to work his way out. We would give him another reason to live. Sidra (Moran Atias) was someone who was important to his life, and so is Rebecca. The idea is maybe next year, God willing, the reaction to Rebecca's death could open up a pretty emotional place for him and how he reacts to that.
Speaking of Rebecca's death, how far in advance was this planned?
Right around the middle of the season, we had an inkling. We didn't know for sure right up until the very end. It started to be a possibility because of where the Donovan (Jimmy Smits) and Rebecca storyline was going. We wanted to tell a story of someone who had to do things for her career and to protect her husband and to achieve what she achieved would have to do some dark things. Having done so, she would ultimately have to pay the price for that and atone for that, and we thought that her dying in the end by saving Carter was a good way to tell that story. Once we arrived at the idea that Rebecca had gone into a dark place and committed some infractions herself, she would have to pay for it, in her own mind and in the eyes of justice.
It's a big decision, because in killing Rebecca, you're losing a major player on the show in Miranda Otto.
It was a really difficult decision. We were thinking a lot about Jimmy's character as well, by the way. Her death and his decision in the end to not disclose what she had done is his first step into a possible darker place. We want to set up someone who will be struggling with the sins of what his father did and keeping that a secret. We wanted Rebecca's death to motivate him and continue forward and go with the presidency, but at the same time, taint that presidency by him agreeing not to say how she was involved in this program. It was difficult to lose Miranda, but we really felt the relationship between Donovan and Eric Carter would be a really principal relationship we could build on.
There's a significant time jump at the end of the finale to bring the day to a close, which is also how you handled the time jump in the 24: Live Another Day finale. If you get to tell another season in the 24 universe, would you do this again, or would you institute earlier and perhaps even multiple time jumps?
Yes, absolutely. The time jumps can be very disorienting and hard to do. You don't have just one story going, you have several stories going. For all of them to pause in the same spot is something that becomes increasingly difficult as we started plotting these things out. Also, we felt that this was a season one. We have one story we're telling. We want to keep the story going and not interrupt it. For that reason, and because of how the ending worked out, we ended up doing what we did. But next season, if there is one, we would love to explore trying something different with the format.
What's the status of season two? What's your feeling on whether or not 24: Legacy will return?
I'm sure Fox would have wanted the ratings to be higher, but the fan reactions have been greatly gratifying. My guess is it's a decision that will come some time in May [when all the bubble shows are evaluated], in concert with Fox's decisions on their overall programming for next season. But I'm hopeful! I think the show is really good and I think Fox loves the show, so we'll see.
Have you pitched what season two would be?
There are ideas that we've floated around. We all know where we want to take the next season. I could say pretty confidently that it would probably be Eric as a CTU agent, and my guess is it would be in a place that's not necessarily the U.S. As a young agent, he's stuck somewhere. He's not getting the choicest assignments. It might be fun [to focus on] someone in some backwater CTU station who ends up stumbling on a larger plot that could bring down the country. My feeling for next season would be something where the country is at stake in a large way. It involves Jimmy Smits and the country and his presidency. It would hopefully go big, and be more along the lines of Live Another Day, and be larger than life and still explore relationships, like Eric and his wife. Are they still together? Are they not?
And more Tony Almeida?
Tony Almeida would definitely be in there, and I would love to bring back Chloe as well.
What's your take on how the 24: Legacy finale played out? Tell us your hopes for a second season in the comments below, and follow THR.com/24Legacy for more interviews and news.