Well it's finally over and my heart rate can drop down to normal levels for another six months. There are spoilers here, so stop reading if you don't want to know what happened.
The writers on 24 are really adept at whipsawing the viewer's emotions all over the place, but I have to say that with the two hour season finale of 24 I'm starting to see some chinks in the armor. After a whirlwind season where the terrorist's capers became more implausible as time went on, I found the finale almost anti-climactic. I had much the same feeling with the 2004 season finale of 24.
Don't get me wrong, 24 is a great show and one of the few that I look forward to watching every week and don't Tivo to watch sometime down the road (well I do still use Tivo to record it, but only so I can watch it delayed and skip the commercials). The staff is awesomely talented and I love the entire cast, including the villains that are so easily "hateable".
I think the problem is that you can only continue to top yourself so many times until you start to run out of plausible ideas. I mean these guys have to come up with 23 cliffhangers a season and this is their third time around.
If you just kind of go along for the ride and the adrenaline rush of 24, it's great. Just don't look too close because you might start thinking "Aw, come on now!".
I'm sure that the writers used the massive amount of planning and coordination that was used to commit the horrible events of September 11 as an example of the possible complexity of a terrorist attack, but they really, REALLY stretched it. After a while I just looked at the show as fantasy because the complexity of the thing just went through the roof.
I mean step back and look at what the terrorists did within a 24 hour period:
1. Derailed a train in order to secure a control unit that could cause a meltdown in dozens of nuclear reactors across the country.
2. Kidnapped the Secretary of Defense and his daughter.
3. Brought the internet to its knees in order to be able to broadcast the mock trial and execution of the SecDef.
4. Started the meltdown process at the previously mentioned dozens of nuclear reactors.
5. Stole a stealth fighter.
6. Shot down Air Force One.
7. Stole a nuclear warhead.
8. Reprogrammed the warhead.
9. Installed it in the nose of a missle. And not just any missle but a stealth-capable one.
10. Launched the missle.
11. Timed it so that they would leave the target city with only 10 minutes to spare.
I'm sure that I must have forgotten one or two items as well. Now I know that it took them time to plan all this, but I find it unfathomable that with everything that could (and did) go wrong that they could make this all come together within such a small window of time.
But hey, maybe I'm just naive. To be honest though, I was almost expecting that in addition to all of the above perhaps they were also going to blow up the moon, destabilize the orbit of the Earth or something along those lines. :P
Although almost anything can (and often does) happen on 24, I figured it was a foregone conclusion that they'd stop the nuclear missle before it impacted, but when they did it actually felt like a minor plot point and rather anticlimactic. I was actually glad that they added the complication of Jack Bauer having to take the fall for the invasion of the Chinese Embassy.
What was good:
Having the disintegration of Jack and Audrey's relationship counterbalanced with the rebirth of Tony and Michelle's was a nice touch.
Seeing Chloe defend herself out in the field and how she reacted to it was great.
The way in which the show brought back various characters was done very well. I was jazzed with every character's appearance: Tony, Michelle, and President Palmer.
The pacing on this show is incredible... like running at the pace of a 100 yard sprint for an entire marathon.
The acting all around, right down to the supporting characters. Really nice work.
The not so good (I won't say "bad" because I think that's too strong):
Jack Bauer approaching the superhero level in regards to what he can accomplish and withstand and the fact that if not for him (over and over) all would be lost.
As I stated above, the antagonists were approaching supervillain status in terms of their capabilities.
Towards the very end of the season the show seemed to get weaker, with things getting more obvious. For example in the finale, it was abundantly clear that the woman holding Tony was not walking with him towards the car or that she had blown herself up. All the angst over Tony's death didn't work since I thought it was obvious he didn't die in the explosion.
That's about it, really. It's just a bummer that 24 got weak towards the end. I'd much rather that it start out that way and finish strong. I really can't imagine what it must be like to write for this show... probably one of the toughest jobs on TV.
As to the very end of the season finale of 24, they really seem to have painted themselves into a corner: Jack is presumed dead and has to leave the country to live under a false identity and Tony and Michelle are leaving CTU. How the heck do you get Jack back to CTU without everyone (including the Chinese) knowing it?
I'm glad I don't have to come up with this stuff.