Ken Tucker
May 24, 2010 AT 12:00 PM EDT

Spoiler alert! Don’t read any further if you haven’t seen tonight’s two-hour 24 series finale! I’m warning you — try to imagine me speaking to you in a patented Jack Bauer hoarse growl — stay away until you’ve watched. Numerous spoilers ahead.

Unlike the massive tapestry unfurled by Lost last night, the 24 finale was presented with what I thought was fitting modesty: Two regular hours of the show, broadcast back-to-back. Just by doing that,  a good signal was sent that this wasn’t going to be a big-event, game-changing series-ender, and bravo to the producers for that decision. If 24 had broken with any trace of its formula in its final hours, it would have been a massive cheat for the fans.

So we got Jack still on his revenge-rampage, but not so blood-lusty that he wasn’t crafty. Tapping into conversations between Presidents Taylor and Logan enabled Jack to deduce their complicity in the multiple layers of cover-up. He also confirmed that the order to kill his beloved Renee Walker went all the way up to the Russian president. Now, setting up Bauer to assassinate the president of another country — that was a big move, morally speaking, a big risk for the credibility of our hero’s character.

Which raises a significant point: Did the public knowledge that there’s a 24 feature film being planned remove the suspense around what could have been a very logical conclusion to the series — Jack shot dead, by CTU orders, for his numerous, heinous killings this season? Was this a case of a business decision trumping a creative one?

You and I can kick around the season’s central political football — President Taylor’s insistence on signing that peace treaty no matter what. Taylor said she’d tender her resignation, and, to Jack: “Unfortunately, you will have to do the same.” This could be another way to leave things open for a jumping-off point to the planned 24 movie.

But for 24, the entire TV series narrowed to a more emotional drama: bringing Jack’s out-of-control behavior down to a confrontation with Chloe’s tightly-controlled behavior. How about that final conversation, in which Jack told Chloe she was the only one who, in the end, really “covered my back”? Given the scores of characters who’ve passed through Jack Bauer’s life, was it satisfying for so much of the emotional resonance to settle, in the end, on Chloe?

I’ll be back early tomorrow with a complete review. Please feel free to start your own debates and conversations about how 24 ended, below.

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