There has never been a show quite like 24. This groundbreaking action-packed drama had a palpable tension unlike anything else on television before or since. Each of the show’s first eight seasons consisted of 24 hour-long episodes, with all events occurring in real time (the ninth season, Live Another Day, was a 12-episode miniseries with a time skip just before the ending). The adventures of agent Jack Bauer quickly became a ratings smash and captured the cultural zeitgeist of the post-9/11 era. The show dealt with timely themes like religious terrorists and confronted the amorality of torture, with Bauer’s brutal methods often earning results at the cost of his own soul. Star Kiefer Sutherland won both an Emmy and a Golden Globe for his role as the hardened killer and one-time family man who quickly became the personification of America during the War on Terror.
Long before The Walking Dead was killing off its characters with gleeful aplomb, 24 was the go-to show for unexpected deaths and explosive plot twists. Over the years, 24 broke our souls, crushed our spirits, and fed our vengeful, bestial bloodlust with its brutal and vicious on-screen kills. While we eagerly eat up the latest iteration of the series, 24: Legacy, let’s take a look back at The 15 Most Shocking Deaths On 24. Obviously, major SPOILERS lie ahead for seasons 1-9 of 24!
15. Nina Myers
In Season 1, Nina Myers is Jack’s second-in-command at CTU, the Counter Terrorist Unit, and she saves his bacon on numerous occasions. In addition, they had an affair while Jack was separated from his wife, Teri; they eventually got back together, and Jack and Nina awkwardly returned to being friends/co-workers.
Unbeknownst to Jack, Nina was a double agent, selling secrets for money and working for Victor Drazen, the Serbian war criminal behind the conspiracy to assassinate David Palmer. In the final episode of the season, Nina murders Teri Bauer in cold blood, though she fails to escape CTU and is arrested for her slew of crimes. In season 2, she receives a presidential pardon in exchange for information, which leads to her popping up in Mexico in season 3, in which she is once again captured by Jack.
Nina meets her end at CTU headquarters, in the exact same room in which she had murdered Teri two seasons prior. Jack shoots her to save his daughter, and while she lies bleeding on the floor, she insists that she has useful information, enough leverage to justify her continued existence. “No you don’t,” Jack replies, shooting her three times at point-blank range.
14. Victor Drazen
As mentioned before, Victor Drazen (Dennis Hopper) was the main villain behind the events of season 1. Years before, he was targeted by a top secret US black ops assassination mission, sanctioned by Senator David Palmer and led by Delta Force operative Jack Bauer. Though he survives the hit, his wife and daughter are killed, as is much of Jack’s team. Naturally, he eventually reemerges, seeking revenge.
By the end of the season, Drazen has failed, and Jack is coming after him. Meanwhile, Drazen’s final piece of leverage, Kim Bauer, Jack’s kidnapped daughter, had successfully escaped. Drazen then made the bone-headed decision to have a message sent to Jack that Kim had been killed, hoping that it would throw Jack off-balance and allow Drazen to gain the upper hand in the ensuing firefight. Instead, it had the opposite effect; in one of the show’s most emotionally-charged shootouts, Jack kills Drazen’s men and ultimately comes face-to-face with the man himself, who is completely out of bullets. In a wordless exchange, Drazen raises his hands in surrender, but Jack is having none of it. He shoots his unarmed prisoner to death, unloading his clip on him in a fit of silent rage.
13. Edgar Stiles
Introduced in season 4, Edgar Stiles (Louis Lombardi) was the plucky comic relief of the show, a chubby computer nerd who wanted nothing more than to color inside the lines and be a dutiful sheep. Fortunately, he was only an analyst, and not a field agent, which meant he was theoretically safe from danger during the myriad crises of the show. Unfortunately, CTU is apparently the most vulnerable government building on the planet, and has been physically attacked no less than three times across the show’s run. Season 2 began with a bombing of the building, season 5 featured a nerve gas attack, and season 6 had a squad of Chinese mercenaries raid the establishment.
The second of these attacks resulted in the death of a great many CTU personnel, including Lynn McGill (Sean Astin) and, indeed, Edgar Stiles. On 24, being an endearingly adorkable schlub is by no means a guarantee of protection from being mercilessly killed mid-season. As a toxic nerve agent began to fill the building, people raced to sealed safe areas, but Edgar was too slow, and he breathed in the gas before he could make it to the room where Jack and the rest of the crew had taken refuge. He collapsed in front of everyone and died on the cold floor of CTU Los Angeles.
12. Jason Pillar/Charles Logan
Gregory Itzin played Charles Logan, the Nixon-esque slimy and paranoid President of the United States. Initially ascending to the presidency in season 4 after Air Force One is shot down with President Keeler aboard (he survives, but only because of a FOX network mandate to avoid killing a sitting US President), President Logan is quickly established as a weak, yet power-hungry, politician.
In season 5, he ascends to outright villainy, being part of a top secret cabal of wealthy industrialists who seek to incite terrorist attacks to justify an expanded US military presence in Asia and the Middle East. Against all odds, and despite his known evil deeds, he pops up again in season 8, where he tries to help current president Allison Taylor (Cherry Jones) broker a peace treaty with Russia. Logan sees this as a chance to redeem his legacy, even though he helped to orchestrate the whole crisis in the first place, and he ultimately comes into conflict with Jack Bauer, whom he tries to have killed. Naturally, it doesn’t take.
Jack survives, and President Taylor, knowing that the treaty is founded on blood and deception, backs out of the peace deal. In despair, former President Logan winds up going so far off the deep end that he murders his trusted aide, Jason Pillar (Reed Diamond), and then tries to shoot himself to death. Somehow, he survives, though the criminal politician is left in a coma with major brain damage. It was a shocking and appropriate end to one of 24‘s most heinous characters.
11. Omar Hassan
24‘s eighth season ended with the near-death of President Logan, but it earlier featured the death of a different, far more noble Head of State. The Islamic Republic of Kamistan is a fictional country in the Middle East, and Hassan was its president. A Muslim man of peace, he came into conflict with the more militant factions within his country and even within his own family.
Ultimately, he is kidnapped by terrorists who threaten to broadcast his execution live over the internet. Jack Bauer jumps into action and tries to beat the clock, just like he always does. He makes it through to where the President is being held, killing everyone in his way, only to find that he’s been duped; the video wasn’t live, it was pre-recorded. The president was already dead. Bauer apologizes to the corpse of his fire-forged friend and the episode ends on a dour note. This being season 8, it would only get darker before the end.
The actor who played Hassasn, Anil Kapoor, had such a great time on the show that he wound up developing an Indian remake of the series. The Hindi version of 24 has aired two seasons so far, starring Kapoor as the Jack Bauer-esque Jai Singh Rathod.
10. Curtis Manning
Curtis Manning was a fan favorite CTU operative, an effective combatant who could hold his own opposite Jack Bauer, and a cool-headed, no-nonsense company man. However, an old grudge led to his unexpected murder at the hands of none other than Jack himself.
After surviving seasons 4 and 5, Curtis lost it when he learned that he would have to play nice with Hamri Al-Assad, a former terrorist who had claimed to turn over a new leaf. Back when Curtis was but a lowly foot soldier during the first Iraq war, Operation Desert Storm, Al-Assad had led a unit which had ambushed Curtis’s team, captured several of his men, and beheaded them on camera.
Curtis didn’t believe Al-Assad’s claims of reformation, and refused to work alongside the man who had killed his friends all those years ago. He opted for vengeance, leading to a tense standoff with Jack. Curtis held Al-Assad hostage, telling Jack, “I can’t let this animal live.” Jack dropped Curtis like a rabid dog, with a single shot to the neck.
The most tragic part of the whole thing was that Al-Assad really was a changed man. He was trying to stop the killing and walk down a path of non-violent diplomacy to attain his goals. He later died shielding President Wayne Palmer from a bomb which was intended to assassinate him.
9. At least 12,000 Civilians In Valencia/Thousands In San Gabriel Island Nuclear Meltdown
While Jack was forced to kill his friend Curtis, an operation was underway to capture stolen nuclear weapons which terrorists were planning to detonate on US soil. One of those bombs was located in nearby Valencia, and a CTU strike team found itself engaged in a heated firefight with the terrorists, who did the unthinkable, and detonated the nuke. 12,000 people were killed instantly, everything within a mile of the blast was obliterated, and Jack was left with an awe-inspiring view of the mushroom cloud. With that, Jack knew this was a fight he would have to see through to its bitter end.
Throughout 24‘s long history, there have been many “successful” terrorist attacks on the US, but few match the scope of the nuclear detonation in California. There was, however, a meltdown in the San Gabriel Island nuclear power plant, triggered by season 4’s lead terrorist, Habib Marwan (Arnold Vosloo). According to a throwaway line in the show, the maximum potential death toll was upwards of 50,000, though a mass evacuation took place, surely mitigating the civilian casualties. The final casualty count was never revealed, though it was could have been in the thousands, if not higher.
8. Michelle Dessler
Season 2 introduced Reiko Aylesworth as Michelle Dessler, a high-ranking CTU agent. After the events of season 2, she and Tony Almeida got cozy, and even retired together. Unfortunately for her, 24 simply doesn’t do happily ever after.
Season 4 ended with Michelle, Tony, Chloe O’Brian, and ex-president David Palmer faking Jack’s death so he could escape President Logan’s assassins (who wanted to kill Jack so he would not be captured by the Chinese). Season 5 began with a slew of attacks on those who knew Jack’s secret. First, Palmer was killed (more on that later), and then Michelle was killed by a car bomb. Her husband Tony cradled her dead body in his arms before a second explosion knocked him unconscious.
From that moment, Tony dedicated his life to avenging the death of his wife; upon his return from the dead in season 7, he went so far as to betray his friends and coldly murder FBI agents just to get the opportunity to confront Alan Wilson, the architect behind the events of the show stretching back to the nerve gas conspiracy of season 5. Tony’s story isn’t over yet, as he has been confirmed to appear as a special guest in 24: Legacy, confirming that the new series is not a reboot, but a spin-off/continuation of the original story.
7. Paul Raines
In season 4, Jack had kindled a relationship with Audrey Raines (Kim Raver), daughter of the Secretary of Defense, James Heller (William Devane). Paul Raines was her estranged husband. The viewer wanted to hate him because he was the third wheel for Audrey/Jack shippers, but he was such a noble stand-up guy that even his most ardent haters became converted fans.
Paul’s finest and fatal moment came when he pushed Jack out of the way of a gunman’s sights, taking the bullet himself. Jack rushed his friend/romantic rival to CTU Medical and oversaw his surgery. However, a Chinese national who had been working with the terrorists was also wounded, and Jack had to make the hard call. At gunpoint, he forced the doctors to stop operating on Paul and instead save the villainous terrorist agent. Jack did his best to keep Paul alive, but to no avail. Did Jack make the right decision? The information they got from the terrorist did help to save the day, but at what cost?
6. Audrey Boudreau
After Paul’s death, Audrey drifted away from Jack, perhaps after learning first-hand of the effects, positive and negative, of his barbarism. Either way, she searched for him after season 5, deducing that he had been captured by the Chinese. Unfortunately, she was captured in China by agents of the villainous Cheng Zhi, who faked her death and tortured her for over a year before she was finally returned. Years after putting her trauma behind her, she finally settled down and married Mark Boudreau (Tate Donovan).
In season 9, Live Another Day, Audrey learned that Cheng Zhi was alive and trying to spark a war between the United States and China. During her investigation, she was assassinated by one of Cheng’s snipers. 24 has always been cold and brutal with its lack of regard for human life, but Audrey’s death was particularly cruel. Some would argue that it’s as simple as Jack not being allowed to walk away from his own brutality without paying the price. Others would argue that her death was cheap and borderline sexist. Either way, our hearts were broken, and so was Jack’s. Only one thing was certain: Cheng was gonna pay.
5. Cheng Zhi
At the time of Audrey’s death, Jack was in hot pursuit of Cheng Zhi, hoping to beat the clock and defeat the rogue Chinese agent. If he could prove that Cheng was alive with video and voice evidence, he could save the world and the girl. Unfortunately, he didn’t complete his mission in time, and Audrey was killed. Jack went so far as to reach for his sidearm and possibly mull over the prospect of taking his own life, but when he heard footsteps, those of Cheng’s men, he changed his mind; he’d kill them all instead.
In Jack Bauer’s final firefight to date, he tore through Cheng’s men like a demon, gunning them down with the unstoppable rage and relentless efficiency of a highly-trained agent pushed past his breaking point. After besting Cheng himself in visceral hand-to-hand combat, Jack ties him to a chair and sends photo and voice confirmation to the Chinese government that he was, in fact, responsible for the escalations in US/China tensions. War was averted.
With Cheng defeated and of no use to anyone, Jack indulged in his primal bloodlust. He pulled a katana (!) that was conveniently hanging on the wall of the ship and decapitated Cheng with one swift and righteous stroke.
4. Renee Walker
First introduced in season 7 as an FBI agent tracking rogue CTU agent Tony Almeida, Renee Walker spent that day learning just how far she was willing to go in her dogged pursuit of justice.
In season 8, the audience learned that she had gone too far, nearly torturing cabal mastermind Alan Wilson to death and losing her job and reputation as a result. She was damaged goods, and when we next caught up with her, she was mentally unstable and deep undercover with Russian gangsters, not unlike when Jack himself was undercover with a Mexican cartel in season 3. Of course, they fell in love, but she was shot by sniper Pavel Tokarev just minutes after she and Jack finally revealed their feeling to each other. Jack carried her dying body to the hospital, but it was too late. She was dead, and Jack had failed to save yet another love interest. He was quickly consumed by his failure and thirst for revenge, and went over the edge. By the end of the season, Jack found himself a hairsbreadth away from killing Russian President Yuri Suvarov and starting World War III to avenge Renee’s death before he was talked down by his last remaining friend, Chloe O’Brian.
As for Renee’s direct assassin, Tokarev didn’t get very far. After Jack caught up with him, Tokarev tried to be clever and swallowed his phone’s SIM card in order to protect the identity of his contacts. Jack welcomed the opportunity to exact his brutal revenge and tortured him with an intensity never before seen on the show. Finally he sliced Tokarev’s stomach open and took the card from the gory maw, leaving the disemboweled assassin to bleed to death, slowly and painfully.
3. Ryan Chappelle
Ryan Chappelle was nobody’s favorite character, but he didn’t deserve to go out the way he did. The obnoxiously stringent bureaucrat may have been a pain in the butt to the field agents of CTU, but he was a good man and only wanted to keep everything by the book.
A veteran of the show’s first season, he met his demise near the end of season 3 on the orders of the terrorist Stephen Saunders (an old war buddy of Jack’s, who went missing and was presumed dead during Operation Nightfall, the botched assassination attempt on Victor Drazen). Chappelle was on Saunders’s trail, running money traces which would ultimately foil his plans. Saunders contacted President Palmer and ordered that Chappelle be killed or else he would attack a major city with his bioweapon.
Reluctantly, and after the failure of a plan to capture Saunders, Palmer was left with no choice but to order Jack to kill Chappelle. Just before 7:00 AM, Jack and Chappelle were alone in a trainyard. Chappelle tried to shoot himself but couldn’t bring himself to pull the trigger. Jack apologized to his longtime frenemy and shot him once in the back of the head, killing him instantly.
The legend goes that Chappelle’s death was meant to be faked, that he would ultimately survive Sauders’s ultimatum, but when the script was leaked by a spoiler website, the show’s writers decided they had no choice but to abandon those plans and go through with the shocking execution.
2. David Palmer
The first season of 24 had Jack Bauer protecting an idealistic Senator with aspirations of being the first African-American President of the United States. By season 2, David Palmer’s dream had become reality. At the end of season 3, the tired Palmer, who had made it through numerous world-threatening crises and failed assassination attempts, decided not to seek re-election for a second term as President.
In the opening minutes of season 5, Palmer is seen discussing his in-progress memoirs with his brother Wayne. They briefly chat about something which seems to be bothering the former President, when, out of nowhere, he is shot in the throat by a sniper. He dies within seconds, before the opening credits have even finished rolling, a shocking start to what many would say was the show’s finest year.
The legend goes that actor Dennis Haysbert was adamantly opposed to the death of his character, but reluctantly agreed to go along with the controversial storyline. Eventually, it is revealed that President Palmer was killed as a result of his knowledge of a secret cabal of wealthy Americans plotting to launch terror attacks in the United States to justify a greater US military presence worldwide.
1. Teri Bauer
The first season of 24 made its debut right after 9/11, and thus didn’t have radical terrorism in mind when it came to mapping out the plot of that year. The plot is as initially simple as Jack foiling an assassination attempt on Senator David Palmer, the first African-American with a legitimate shot at the presidency. Of course, by the end, it is revealed Jack is also a target, and that his confidant at CTU, Nina Myers, is a mole working for Victor Drazen, the mastermind behind the heinous plot.
In the closing moments of the episode, Jack finds his wife, who had been captured by Nina. Although versions of the episode were shot where Teri survives, the show made the bold decision to have him find her dead body, closing the season on a tragic note. Perhaps Teri’s death was meant to echo national sentiment after 9/11, the idea that we can’t have a classic “happy ending” anymore, not in a world where thousands of Americans were killed on a single day and there was nothing anyone could do to fix it. Nina’s death set the stage for the series’ ‘no one is safe’ philosophy, and helped shape Jack Bauer into the twisted sould we all know and love.
24 was the first great television series of the 21st century, as it captured the fear and the violence of the era, as well as the overwhelming sense of helplessness felt by so many Americans during those first post-9/11 years. Such sentiments were so prevalent at the time, but have simply become the expected standard by 2017.
What do you think? Was Teri’s death a bridge too far? Or was it the perfect end to a genre-defining, game-changing first season? Share your own 24 memories in the comments!
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