Despite his numerous violations of the Geneva Convention and other human rights standards, Jack Bauer has always been about justice. Any torturing and maiming he’s conducted has been in pursuit of the greater good (to borrow a phrase from Charles Logan) of keeping America safe. Even the killings he’s committed, such as those of Ryan Chappelle and Curtis Manning, were motivated by that end result. But in this final season, 24 has not only muddied the waters between justice and revenge, they’ve dived head-first into the deep end.

This week Jack became a murderer, shooting Dana Walsh point-blank after she had turned over the evidence he wanted from her. His impetus shifted from pursuing threats to the U.S. to avenging personal losses, namely Renee’s death. And from the previews, it looks like Dana’s prediction is correct: he won’t stop until he deals with everyone he holds responsible for the day’s events.

Actually, there is a precedent for Jack killing in cold blood, and under similar circumstances. In Day Five he forced former mentor Christopher Henderson to help subdue a Russian threat, promising him freedom in return. But Jack couldn’t get past the fact that Henderson had been responsible for the deaths of David Palmer, Tony Almeida, and Michelle Dessler. As soon as the mission was over Bauer killed him, telling then-CTU director Bill Buchanan it was self-defense. There was a witness, which implied that there could be future consequences, but the show never pursued that storyline.

Despite the parallels in the two incidents, this latest one feels vastly different. Part of it is gender-based. Even though Dana has proven to be a total Cruella deVille with no visible redeeming values, she’s still a woman, and male-on-female violence is a hot button in our culture.

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The most troubling aspect of Dana’s killing is the queasy feeling that it won’t end there. Jack’s dispatch of Henderson was a surgical strike, an isolated incident aimed at a one-time friend and co-worker who had deeply betrayed Bauer and his country. Dana feels like the lead domino in a chain that leads all the way to Moscow, and Jack seems determined to follow it all the way to the end.

Could this really be the end of heroic Jack? After all these years, is he being turned into an anti-hero? With the 24 movie becoming closer to reality, the producers and writers no doubt have an eye toward dovetailing the end of the series to that project, and these last four hours should give us a hint of what’s in store for Jack on the big screen.

(Images courtesy of FOX)

 

-Beth Kostecki, BuddyTV Fan Columnist