Get the Kleenex out, and brace yourself for some real-time drama as "24" reaches its end.
During a conference call with reporters on Friday, "24" executive producer Howard Gordon said the Fox ticktocking drama will not end with Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) smiling joyfully at the cameras, planning a trip to Disneyland with his granddaughter.
"One thing we tried and didn't work was a happily-ever-after for Jack," Gordon said. "What he's done -- forget about the last eight seasons -- but in these last six episodes ... leaves him, once again, in a very morally compromised place, morally, ethically and emotionally. This show is a tragedy, and to give Jack a happy ending just didn't feel authentic.
"Where we wanted to leave Jack was something that we tried on for size," he said. "And the one we came to at the end was the one that felt just right. So it wasn't for lack of trying a couple of different ways, but we knew it when we saw it that this was the right way to do it.... But in the spirit of taking the series to a place where it hasn't been before, we've done this thing, and it's certainly not playing it safe. But it is very emotionally climactic, and we're pretty excited by it."
Indeed, even during Jack's fleeting moments of joy -- his romance with Audrey, his new relationship with his daughter and granddaughter, and his sexual encounter with Renee before she was killed -- he has never been able to let go of the emotional wounds of the tragic eight days of his life viewers have witnessed.
"The good part about Jack's character is that we never press reset." Gordon said. "Jack is a character, and you feel the accumulated scars of his experience and the weight of his actions for eight years. Jack's never been able to snap back. Even with Audrey, it's not like it discounted the tragedy that preceded it. And just like the beginning of this year, for a moment, Jack allowed himself a moment of joy or possibility of human contact with his daughter and her husband and his granddaughter. I don't think Jack's ever going to recover from what's gone on. And it just adds to the weight and the complexity and the darkness of his character."
With only four hours of "24" left -- the series ends on May 24 with a two-hour finale -- there are many story lines to work through. But Gordon said that Fox's decision to end the series this year didn't change the essential story the writers had outlined for the season.
"To me, the show was always going to end the way it was going to end, whether there was a ninth season or a movie because the story's been told," Gordon said. "I think what changed was the context of it all. In other words, it really took on a different meaning. Any number of seasons in years past could have been a really cool series finale. And only the fact that this was our series finale did it really have the kind of context that, wow, we're really saying goodbye to this character. And there is a final moment that is very, very specific to this series finale. It's not so much a plot moment, but it's a punctuation mark that is unique to the series finale."
Gordon said he hopes that the much-discussed "24" movie will be released within a year or two, but the planning of that film is in initial stages. Writer Billy Ray has written a first draft, which Sutherland has read. Ray, Sutherland and Gordon are working on a second draft together, but no one at Fox has seen the script yet, he said. Gordon says they are working toward the dual goal of honoring the franchise in a film while trying to attract newcomers to it as well.
"We need to make sure that, like every season, we're moving forward," he said. "When we begin, Jack needs to be in a different place than he's been before."
-- Maria Elena Fernandez
Photo: "24" cast. Credit: Brian Bowen Smith / Fox
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