I could have done without the scene last week where Jack Bauer disemboweled a Russian assassin to retrieve the SIM card the killer swallowed. But in a matter of a few episodes, 24 has gone from nearly losing me to having my complete attention as the series hurtles through its final three hours.
At the beginning of this eighth and final season, the point of the Fox thriller seemed to be to preserve a Middle East peace treaty that Russians and many in the fictional country of Kamistan were trying to scuttle. That all went up in smoke early in the morning when Kamistan's president, Omar Hassan, was assassinated.
Game over. What are you going to do the rest of the day, Jack?
Briefly, it looked like the answer would be turning his apartment into a little love nest with fellow spy Renee Walker. But then the sniper who swallows SIM cards shot her, fearing she would expose him and the entire Russian plot to kill Hassan.
Speaking of that Russian plot, disgraced former President Charles Logan waltzed back into the picture, convincing President Allison Taylor she can make her mark in history by blackmailing the Russians into signing the peace agreement with Hassan's widow, Dalia. Taylor, in a complete loss of her once-solid moral certitude, agreed to Logan's scheme, which involves a cover-up, murder and torture — Nixon, Logan ... Taylor?
Problem is, Jack knows what really happened, and Taylor's attempts to neutralize him failed.
Silly president. No one neutralizes Jack Bauer.
So now we have two characters once in tight alliance completely unhinged.
Jack is out there betrayed, heartbroken and hungry for revenge, hence that grisly torture scene with the sniper who killed Renee. He also wants to expose the cover-up.
Taylor, once so unwavering in following the law that she sent her daughter to prison for orchestrating an assassination, is now scalp-deep in corruption.
When she first started acquiescing to Logan's schemes, it was mind-blowing. But writers have brought out her desperation to get something out of her presidency, which has cost her a marriage and both her children.
With three hours left in the series, there's a lot to anticipate.
The trailer for next week leads us to think that at some point during the next two episodes, 9 p.m. Monday and a two-hour finale May 24, Jack gets close enough to Logan to kidnap him. So what will become of Logan?
Will the same Jack who executed turncoat Dana Walsh and tortured and killed the Russian exact mortal revenge on an ex-president?
Will the cover-up be exposed, and what will the fall-out be for Taylor?
Dalia Hassan seems poised for a dramatic moment if she discovers Taylor was setting her up to bargain with the same people who killed her husband.
And really, it would be a letdown if Jack and Taylor didn't have a final confrontation, or resolution of some sort.
One thing we have been told: It's not going to be a happy ending.
"This show is a tragedy," executive producer Howard Gordon told Reuters News Service. "To give Jack a happy ending wouldn't have felt authentic."
One of the questions for several years has been whether Jack will die at the end of the series. Since there is a 24 movie in the works, it would seem the answer is no.
Yes, the movies could be flashbacks. But 24 has too much of a ripped-from-the-headlines feel and dependence on current technology to suddenly become a period piece.
Gordon has said Jack will end "in a compromised place morally, ethically and emotionally," which would seem to indicate he will be alive.
The series most certainly is. The past few seasons, 24 had devolved into predictability and implausibility. But it appears poised to go out in a blaze, like its glory days.