SPOILER ALERT: If you have yet to watch the 24 series finale, stop reading now. Executive Producer Howard Gordon may reveal information that you don’t want to know until you’ve watched the entire two-hour goodbye, so leave this page ASAP!
Okay, you’ve been warned…
Much about the eighth and final season of 24 may have tried your patience — Dana Walsh, President Taylor’s tap dance on the Constitution, Jack’s attraction to the once hard-hearted, now all-gooey-inside Renee. Fortunately, Executive Producer Howard Gordon — like Kiefer Sutherland’s Jack Bauer — is a thick-skinned man who knows what he wants and makes no apologies. Here, the veteran writer who’s been on the show since the beginning talks about preparing for the show’s series finale, why he left some characters on the cutting room floor this season (sorry, Aaron Pierce and Tony Almeida!) and how the finale will tee up the 24 movie.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Did you know at the beginning of the season that you wanted Jack looking up at a drone and saying goodbye to Chloe in the end?
HOWARD GORDON: Definitely not. That was something we came to fairly later in the game. And it was an image I was certainly searching for all year but not one that I found until the very end.
What about Jack going completely off the rails?
Yes, that was very much designed from the beginning. How it would end, however, was something that was really unknown. I saw a little bit further ahead than I generally do, and we wanted to knit Jack and Renee together, only to take them apart, and for that to have a really profound effect on Jack. That’s about as far as we knew in the broad strokes. How that was going to happen, and how it would impact Allison Taylor and Chloe — those were late-to-the-party additions that I think helped bolster that initial idea.
Did you know at the start of the season that the Russians would be the ultimate villains?
So you didn’t know at the beginning that President Taylor would go to the dark side with Logan?
There was some other mid-season purpose for her, but I can’t remember. But even in the beginning, I told her I didn’t have much of a part for her. My initial impulse, and our initial impulse, was that there was no more story to tell. That she, this character, had pretty much exhausted her story. And we needed her mostly to tee-up Omar Hassan, and help ennoble him as a character, rather than you know, step front and center stage herself. So the idea was always to have her at the edges of the stage, teeing up this character, and as it turned out, she became a profound player in the drama. It’s not just the death of Renee so much as it is the deprivation of justice that gets Jack to this place. I think it’s really important to look at those two as being, you know, a flip side to the same coin.
You entered treacherous territory with Taylor because you originally set her up to be a principled president.
Yeah, it was a big challenge. I know she was surprised, and she was such a great sport, and such a phenomenal actor. But I have to say, it was challenging both to write and then to communicate to her what we were trying to do.
Did you expect to get push back from fans?
You do this long enough and you start realizing that you are going to get push back for everything. You are not going to win everywhere. There are going to be unhappy people no matter what, and that’s part of the challenge of doing a show for this long. I think that I would be hard-pressed to look at a show that has kept its fan base completely happy for its entire long run, particularly one that’s serialized.
You killed off a lot of key people this year.
That’s not what we set out to do but there was a kind of a go-for-broke aspect to this year, so we felt freer to do some extreme behavior, some extreme things. I really hope that we never merged into the place where it was gratuitous, or sensational, or hysterical. I felt like the deaths that occurred were ones that were justified by the story.
The gut-wrenching scene with Pavel, Renee’s killer — what did that get you?
That was a combination of a conversation with Kiefer and a way to dramatize that Jack had actually stepped over the line, and had gone to a red zone. We knew it was going to be a risk. Kiefer really went for it. It was a grotesque ballet that he wound up dancing.
Why did you have Jack fall for Renee?
The human connections that Jack has really makes the seasons stronger. What he wants, and who he wants it with, is really important. In the end, her involvement in what was happening, and her redemption to herself in what was happening, became the very center and the reason why Jack goes back to pick up the gun again.
Dana Walsh wasn’t very popular with fans, either.
We anticipated that from the very beginning. This woman had a secret life, with a secret life behind it — something that came out later. It emotionally justified something that we always recognized was a pretty tricky and far-out story. We were very lucky to have Katee Sackhoff play along.
Did you consider a potential love connection between Allison and Ethan, her Secretary of State?
We did consider it. Bob Gunton [Ethan] confessed one night after a couple glasses of wine to having some imaginary past with her that extended beyond their professional one.
Did you consider showing the recovery of Bill Prady’s corpse after Dana shoved it into the wall at CTU?
Yes, we did. But it was a scene we never got to. We figured it takes five hours for a body to decompose and by then, the season is over. That’s what we told ourselves, anyway.
How come you didn’t bring back Tony Almeida this season?
We tempted fate once with him, for sure. I seem to have gotten away with it, so we consider ourselves lucky and ahead of the game.
What about Alan Wilson, who masterminded the Sentox nerve gas conspiracy last year?
I think you got a sense that Renee broke him and broke the back of the conspiracy at a tremendous personal and professional price.
Did you ever consider bringing back Mandy, the professional assassin from seasons 1, 2 and 4?
Mandy always came up a bunch of times, but unfortunately, it felt like a sensational move. We chose not to go down that path.
We always considered bringing back Aaron Pierce. The story never presented itself. Other than Kiefer, he is the only one who has been in every season. Unfortunately, we couldn’t give him a perfect run.
The pitch for the 24 movie was done before the series ender. Did you draft off the pitch?
The movie has to defer to the end of the TV show, not the other way around.
Will it be a prequel?
It definitely will not be a prequel.
What will your role be on the movie?
I’ll be a producer on it. There is a draft that is in. No one is in a position right now to know when or what the movie will be, exactly. Now that the TV show is over, the movie will be it’s own thing.
What are you most proud of this season?
I am proud of the whole season. Every year has become increasingly challenging to do and so getting through it gave me a tremendous feeling of accomplishment. I would say my favorite moment was the last moment. That was the moment I felt the most pressure. It’s an exercise I go through at the end of every year: Who do you want to see, and then how do you figure out a story with the people you want to see? In this case — of course — it was Chloe, Taylor, and Jack.
If you had your druthers, do you wish Lost and 24 had ended a year apart, not around the same time?
All I can say is I hope we will be missed as much as Lost. I hope we will both be missed. It’s good to be missed rather then sent out of town on a rail.