24: Season 8 review (DVD)

I can hardly believe that it's been almost a decade since 24 first graced the small screen with its electric debut season. To think that I was 11 when I first laid eyes on the gripping, heart-stopping drama and action of that inaugural season is quite unbelievable. I really grew up with 24: it was with me for five months of the year, every year throughout my time as a teenager, and now the journey with my favourite television show has come to an end. That is until the film, of course.

The series' eighth and final season takes a departure from the norm in that it doesn't kick-off with a high-octane pace and instead has a story that progressively simmers for just over half of the episodes, before erupting into what can only be described as vintage 24. This new direction is both a gift and a curse for the story, as for once the show is more subdued in its drama leading up to the aforementioned midway point, but most of the twists, turns and key plot points are recycled from previous seasons. Unfortunately, the rehashing makes for a starkly less original season than we've seen before, with only the new environment keeping the story somewhat fresh, and the reuse of successful plots does little to make 24's curtain call the ultimate season. However, even with the recycled ideas, the quality of 24's writing makes it as spectacularly unmissable as before. The pace may take some getting used to, but the show never once loses its intensity, all the way from the first time Kiefer Sutherland utters the words “events occur in real time”, to the tear-jerking finale that ends with a clock counting down to 00:00:00. But as has always been true, even 24's worst season was still the best thing on television.

Having began to rebuild his life in the interim year after surviving the events of season 7's conclusion, Jack Bauer (Sutherland) has relocated to New York City. Enjoying peace and quiet as a grandfather with his daughter Kim (Cuthbert), Bauer soon finds himself back in the saddle again for yet another day of absolute hell. Omar Hassan (Kapoor), President of the fictitious Islamic Republic of Kamistan, meets with US President Allison Taylor (Jones) at the United Nations in NYC in order to finalise the discussions for the signing of a peace treaty between the two nations and Russia. It's a monumental agreement, but there are terrorists who wish to sabotage it. Terrorists in the unlikeliest of places. With an assassination attempt made on Hassan's life, Bauer is thrown right back into the action working alongside the sparkling New York City branch of CTU, an establishment with far superior technology than the decommissioned building in Los Angeles from seasons previous.

Old favourites like the ever-moody but increasingly loveable Chloe O'Brian return to take their final bow, while bold new characters such as CTU data analyst Dana Walsh, played by Robot Chicken and Battlestar Gallactica's Katee Sachhoff, and her fiancée Agent Cole Ortiz (Prinze Jr), make their first and last appearances on the TV show.

I do think it was time to put 24 to rest so that they can concentrate on taking the show to the big screen, and I'm incredibly glad beyond words that Fox decided to call it a day before the season had finished production so it doesn't just end abruptly. I would never forgive them if they had pulled the plug after it had aired. It's a truly emotional ending, too: a fitting conclusion to my all-time favourite show and what genuinely feels like the closing of a chapter in my life.

Shut it down.

EXTRAS ??? This six-disc set contains SceneMaker featurettes that deconstruct the production of key scenes from certain episodes; extended cuts of a few episodes; The Ultimate CTU: a look at designing the set of the New York City Counter Terrorist Unit building; Virtually New York: a look at the incredible visual effects that made the LA-shot season look like New York City; Chloe's Arrest: a never-before-seen scene set after the final day that features the return of a character from past seasons; delete scenes; and a bonus seventh disc that includes the San Diego Comic-Con 2009 panel and Eight Days, a four-part retrospective of all of 24's seasons.

Stuart O'Connor is the Managing Editor of Screenjabber, the movie review website he co-founded with Neil Davey far too many years ago. He likes all genres, as long as the film is good (although he does enjoy the occasional bad "guilty pleasure"), and drinks way too much coffee.

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