Finale Time

A week that brought us the epic series finale to LOST also had another series finale, a season finale, and a season finale to a 99% canceled series(that 1% is wishful thinking on my part). They were all entertaining, some more than others, and though they lacked the emotional impact of LOST, they still affected me in various ways.

24 was a noble experiment when it began in 2001. Keifer Sutherland played Jack Bauer, a counter-terrorist government agent who played by his own rules. Who knew then that his character would become more of a household name than himself, or that the concept could last beyond one season. The idea was that the show depicted one 24-hour day in real time, with each of the 24 episodes dealing with one hour of that day. Terrorists were out to assassinate the president on the day of his inauguration. There was a mole in Jack's own organization. His wife and daughter would be kidnapped, and the day would be the last for one member of the clan. We saw a man on edge, a man pushed to his limits by his job, threats to his family, and an obvious lack of sleep. It was like watching this tense action movie every week, and it felt like a success at the end. Big name stars like Lou Diamond Phillips and Dennis Hopper even showed up before the day was done. No way could they repeat this formula beyond one season, though. How could anyone have 24 consecutive hours that were so eventful?

8 seasons later, some hours were stronger than others, with some filler subplots and forgotten threads along the way(Behrouz?) But each season on the whole crafted a more resilient action hero Jack, and Kiefer perfected the switch between a raspy whisper and an angry shout, both equally terrifying to those on the receiving end. The man seemed indestructible, surviving heart failure, nuclear bombs, toxic agents, and two stabbings over the course of the final day alone. The decision to make this the last season came midway through, so for the most part the final episode felt like another season finale rather than a series finale. All the major plot threads of the season were wrapped up, with just enough things left open for a planned theatrical film(one likely a bit shorter than 24 hours). There was a nice moment of dialogue at the end when Jack bids his closest ally, and by extension the audience, farewell. Chloe was this obnoxious computer technician introduced in the third season, who sneered at everyone and brought her baby to work. Jack basically acknowledges how the character grew on him as well as fans, and thanks her for being his ally all these years. There were one or two surviving members of the original cast that I would like to have seen at the end, but the show has to function within the confines of a given day and have people show up under realistic circumstances. I enjoyed it while it ran, and I'm looking forward to the movie, but I'm glad to have more time on my Monday nights.

Chuck is a big reason why I'm glad there are fewer shows on Monday. In danger of cancellation last year, the comedy/drama about a computer nerd who becomes a spy after his brain absorbs a government database was renewed for a limited number of episodes, with more added. Every finale manages to reinvent the premise of the show, and this one was no different. The title hero suffered a telegraphed but still impactful emotional loss, and over the course of the season we finally saw his secret identity exposed to those closest to him. This show has a lot of great geek references, a lot of heart, and a great blend of action and humor. I can't wait to see where they take it next season now that the status quo has been shaken up again. And sometimes, the episodes are just worth watching to see two of the geek supporting background characters cover popular music:

I'd post the clip from the episode with that video in the background, but it contains spoilers about Chuck's final awesome fight against a new and improved old ally and adversary. After LOST, this was easily my favorite finale this week.

And then there was FlashForward, a show that held a lot of promise, but ultimately succumbed to bad ratings. When the entire planet blacks out and catches a glimpse of themselves several months into the future, chaos ensues. Every single man, woman, and child on the planet went down, no matter what, which was especially disastrous for those flying aircraft or driving cars. As the show progressed, “What did you see?” became a common conversation topic. Questions of fate and destiny arose, about whether the future could in fact be changed, and if seeing events would cause you to make them happen, or choose to prevent them. It was fate versus free will, against the backdrop of an FBI task force trying to get to the bottom of things, especially “suspect zero”, the one man on Earth caught on blurry camera footage awake while everyone else was unconscious. Courtney B. Vance rocked as the no-nonsense FBI director, while Joseph Fiennes was surprisingly awesome as a brooding agent with a short temper and an alcoholic past. “Because I was LOADED, okay?!” became an internet meme after he shouted out the falling-off-the-wagon aspect of his own glimpse of the future, an important glimpse because it contained a board in his office full of evidence he had yet to collect. John Cho did pretty well with a dramatic role as his partner, a man who saw nothing when he blacked out. For most people, that meant they wouldn't still be alive on the date everyone had glimpsed. After that, the rest of the cast seemed to be there for less interesting subplots to fill out the hour. A male nurse dying of cancer opts not to kill himself when he sees himself meeting the love of his life. A babysitter is certain someone is drowning her, and that she deserves it for some reason. A lesbian sees herself pregnant and getting an ultrasound. An electrician sees himself by the side of a daughter he thought dead. And Fiennes' wife on the show, played by LOST's Sonya Walger, sees herself cheating on her husband in their bedroom with another man.

In the beginning, you wondered how some people would get from where they were in October to where they'd be in April. As the show moved on, you could see how things were out of their control. You could see where people consciously changed their own fate and the fate of others; the first person to do so did it in a dramatic and shocking fashion. Sometimes it was baffling when people consciously chose a course of action they probably would never have done without glimpsing the future in the first place. In the end, we finally do catch up to the big day, with the weeks leading up to it adding “There's gonna be another blackout!” to the catchphrase cache of Fiennes' Mark Benford. Overall I enjoyed the cast, especially the addition of Dominic Monaghan. He was a pretty serious little dude, dark and brilliant, although the show worked in some subtle jokes, including him with nine fingers pondering a ring. In the end, the show does end on something of a huge cliffhanger, yet the nature of the cliffhanger does allow room for us to see what might have happened if the show ran the full five seasons producers originally planned for. The season as many outstanding moments and great characters as it had head-scratching moments. Everybody wants to be the new LOST, but maybe they should plan these shows to have one-season arcs, with seeds planted for potential future seasons rather than whole trees. Ironically, the show's creators didn't see as far into the future as their characters did.

I think I'm officially done with network television for the Summer. I'm sure there will be a lot of crappy reality shows I won't miss, and I'll enjoy the break until the new season starts occupying my weeknights once more.


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