Conscience and Conversion in the Last Episode of 24, Season Eight:
Getting Up to Speed on 24: Live Another Day
Dr. Mark S. Latkovic
May 5, 2014
For most of the eighth and last season of the Fox network’s 24, women have been what we might call the “conscience” of the show. From President Allison Taylor to CTU’s Chloe O’Brien, on down to Dallia Hassan, wife of the slain president of the Islamic Republic of Kamistan Omar Hassan, women, with some exceptions (the CTU mole Dana Walsh is a memorable one!) have been the moral center of the scripts on a show not known for explicit religious themes. The men, on the other hand, have not usually come off as well. In the last episode of 24’s season eight (5/24/2010), we witness just how much one of them, the fallen former president Charles Logan, stands in as an almost Satanic-like figure, tempting President Taylor over and over again to violate her sturdy conscience and employ Machiavellian means to achieve a peace treaty. Well, Logan gets to her – and gets to her quickly and often – even in previous episodes. He constantly whispers in her ear, like Satan whispering to Eve in the Garden of Eden. Logan is as slippery as a snake! Agent Jack Bauer accuses him in the closing moments – just before Logan turns a gun on himself to commit suicide – that he is the king of the liars, much like Jesus speaks of Satan as the father of lies (cf. John 8:44).
But it’s only when Taylor views a powerful video recording of what’s meant to be Jack’s final apologia for why he did what he did in his quest to uncover the plot behind President Hassan’s assassination, that she finally experiences a sudden “conversion” – walking away from the fraudulent peace process (stained as it is in blood, lies, and cover-ups), coming clean about her crimes, recovering her moral values, and trying to save Jack from an ambush that she had given tacit approval to. Jack’s words have hit her hard. Significantly, a recording originally meant for Jack’s daughter after his death, is, providentially, the means for Taylor’s moral about-face.
But Jack Bauer as well seems to have experienced a conversion of his own. Just listen to his words on that tape: peace can only be built on justice and fairness and truth. Jack’s ambiguous conscience really is on display in this last episode: there’s one part of Agent Bauer that sees violence and torture and whatever else it takes to achieve the so-called greater good as necessary methods to defeat the bad guys. The other part of him wants to move on to a normal life with his daughter and grandchild, putting all that bad stuff behind him. And Jack has done some really bad stuff.
The scene in the office building when Chloe talks him out of assassinating the Russian president (deserving though he is of Jack’s bullet!) is powerful: she wants Jack to work within the system to find justice, not outside its imperfect norms, where revenge remains a tempting dish. Jack might be coming to the realization that it’s not always about saving lives – important though that is – it’s also about what kind of person I am becoming through my freely chosen actions. If I torture, doesn’t that make me a torturer? Jack clearly might have to say yes to that question, but he also might have to say yes to the hope of being a repentant torturer. We’ll see.
Four years later, a revamped 24 is back – now in an abbreviated 12-hour format – with much of the same crew, but with some new cast members too. Jack shows up in London as a fugitive, along with Chloe. He has to stop a terrorist attack. But the CIA is on his trail, thinking him a traitor. What else is new? Well, besides drones, anti-government snooping groups, and Wikileaks-like characters (which now include Chloe), we’ll just have to wait and see. And wait and see what Jack’s conscience looks like.