Having read and re-read Dan’s last two articles, and his beautiful analysis of just why Jack’s time has run out, I find myself having to agree – Season 7 has so nicely rounded up things for Jack that bringing him back for one final day – and possibly a movie or beyond – just seems unnecessary, no matter how I twist and turn it in my head. And regardless of whether or not I’ll miss 24 when it ends. The most organic thing for his character at this point would have been to let him go and rest in peace.
If we think back to Redemption, we remember – Jack had spent one or two years travelling around the world, trying to stay one step ahead of the people who wanted to subpoena him back to the US, but that wasn’t the only reason. He was looking for something, and as he so nicely stated when asked by David Emerson (R.I.P. David, I wish we could have seen more of you) what it was that he was looking for, “It doesn’t really matter. Whatever it was, I didn’t find it.”
I think that in the moment quoted by Dan, where Jack tells Renée about the 15 people on the bus, Jack did find it: the understanding of why he’s done the things he’s done the way that he did: his heart. And there you have it: Bauer isn’t above the law, he’s just between laws, the laws of the country and his mind, and those of his heart. In that moment, like Dan said, Jack made sense.
But as for peace, is it absolutely necessary for Jack to be at peace? Isn’t Jack the tragic hero who never quite gets there? I frankly don’t believe that it is possible for Jack to leave his demons behind and finally live a happily-ever-after life; it is not possible for Jack to live in peace, not until one of two things is erased from this Earth: evil or Jack himself.
There were times when Jack seemed at peace. And those were the moments when he’d made his peace with the thought of dying. When he felt that he had the choice, a chance to choose whether he lived or died, a chance to die in his own way.
We saw him go quietly and peacefully into his planned death in season 6, as he’d been taken home from China and asked to lay down his life for the Greater Good. He agreed without a second thought, without hesitation, and explained to us that…
“The only reason I fought so hard to stay alive in China was because I didn’t want to die for nothing. … Today I can die for something. My rules, my way.”
And we’ve seen him lie on his deathbed peacefully in Season 7, having made peace with the thought of dying once more, knowing that in his last 24 hours on Earth he’d helped avoid yet another big terrorist attack, after knowing that he’s done one final big deed, and taken down yet another terrorist, that his daughter was doing well, and wasn’t going to watch him die, that he had a choice to end things and finally escape his demons for good… That’s when Jack decided that he could leave this world. And finally, rest in peace.
To me, this could have been the perfect ending for a tragic hero like Jack. Completely anti-climatic of course, since, hey, wouldn’t we all rather have him run into that huge, bomb-rigged, burning building, rescue 100 hostages and then get back inside to hunt down that one last bad guy, run out of bullets during that final shootout, but instead of letting the guy escape, Jack cuffs himself to the terrorist and a pole in the middle of the room and they both get blown into pieces…? To go out with a bang, that’s the other possibility, and seeing as Jack’s survived Season 7, it just might be what the writers are ultimately aiming for, whenever his countdown ends. Otherwise, they would have made the bold call and let him draw his last breath in Season 7.
However, Kim wasn’t ready to let go and so, Jack lives to see another day. I can’t imagine the anger and disappointment in his mind when he woke up one day and realized that Kim had overruled him. And what would have been his feelings when, the day after the stem cell treatment had been completed and pronounced successful, the doctors told him that he would survive?
“You’re cursed, Jack. Everything you touch, one way or another, winds up dead.”
Has Jack ever forgotten Heller’s words? How long did it take him to dare get close to Kim’s new family? How long until he stopped looking over his shoulder, wondering when the other shoe would drop? Has he ever?
My guess is that by Season 8, Jack’s seemingly at peace with life in general. He’s a granpa, he’s reunited with the only family he has left, he’s probably retired and trying to stay one step ahead of his past every day, trying to make the peace last, trying to keep the world he’s left behind as far away from the family as possible. But I don’t think that he’s completely detached from his demons, from nightmares. He just might wake up every day wondering if today would be the day that his new-found idyll gets crudely smashed and put into jeopardy.
Over the years, Jack had come to an understanding that,…
“You cannot have a normal life and do this job at the same time.”
…And then he’s seen that even choosing the normal life over the job does not offer any guarantees (a.k.a. Michelle’s death and Tony’s downfall). He himself had tried it more than once, getting out of counter-terrorist work and being pulled back in. The difference: it had been more by necessity than by choice back then – this time it’s personal, and it’s his choice. He dares live with a family again, he dares make real emotional connections, and that means that if things go wrong again, someone will miss him. There are people he cares about again, family he’ll do anything to protect. When shit hits the fan, Jack will be vulnerable. Actually, that’s a good starting point.
The burning question is: Will he be any different when it does happen? Will we get yet another instance of the uncompromising, hard, no-nonsense Jack? Or will it be a vulnerable kind of Jack, the season 1- kind?
I know that it isn’t possible for Jack to emotionally or in any way return to the way things were back all those years ago, not with everything that he’s been through. But people who’ve survived a potentially fatal illness and literally come back from the dead (no pun intended), tend to have a different view of the world, a different view on life.
And it might be interesting to explore this kind of thing with someone whom we’ve come to know as someone who…
“will let you bleed to death on this landing”
…if you don’t start talking, but also as someone who….
“will do whatever it takes to save [the 15 people on the bus], and I mean whatever it takes, because maybe I thought if I could save them, I could save myself.”
I wish he could. I hope he can. Someday. In life or death.