Having just watched the latest episode of 24 Season 8 (Hour 21) I can safely say that this is the best sustained run of episodes the series has had in absolutely ages, possibly even since it began. Since around the fifteenth hour, it’s been blisteringly-paced drama punctuated by genuinely shocking (and occasionally moving) moments with some terrific performances, particularly from Kiefer Sutherland as Jack Bauer, a character plumbing ever darker depths as he seeks revenge for…well, something I won’t spoil for those who are waiting for the DVD or Blu-Ray boxset.
It’s strange how the impending demise of a show so often sees the writers pull out all the stops, and you begin to wonder whether success breeds complacency or even laziness among scriptwriters. No longer does 24 feel like it’s cruising in a lower gear, relying on increasingly tired plot devices. Perhaps the biggest shocks have only been made possible by the announcement of a definite finish for the show, but you do start to think that maybe there’s something to be said for working towards a definite conclusion. After all, it’s only since Lost’s end date was confirmed that the show stopped meandering and started showing a real sense of purpose.
I’m not saying that shows should be under constant threat of cancellation, and certainly new shows need and deserve the time to bed in. But long-running series that need freshening up should perhaps look at how Lost and 24 have noticeable upped their game of late, and should perhaps start treating every season or every story arc as if it could potentially be the last. Because on this form, 24 is going from a show that was ready to die to one that will be very sadly missed.