Time Definitely Running Out on ’24’

If you haven’t watched the latest “24” and want to, don’t read this. In other words, SPOILER ALERT.

The customary midseason blues hit “24” harder than usual on Monday, which underscores why the series — after nearly eight seasons of remarkable twists and hairpin turns — has so clearly run its course and deserves to tick down to zero.

24-Ep812_Sc1243_0057 In just the latest episode, there was a convenient and timely heart attack, a rogue general countermanding orders from a sitting U.S. president, a foreign head of state participating in a shootout, and a nuclear bomb armed to go off in Manhattan.

Fortunately, we have nearly 15 minutes to defuse it next week.

Last season “24” enjoyed a resurgence (after a longer writers strike-fueled layoff) with a clever villain-by-committee approach, in which plot arcs were resolved and the baton was passed to new bad guys to give the episodes a burst of momentum.

This year, too many of the twists feel recycled from seasons past, which is perhaps inevitable, but still robs the show of its big “wow” moments.

On the plus side, at least nobody has been chased by a cougar. Yet.

The real hope is that the producers can bring the show to a satisfying conclusion and leave the long-suffering Jack Bauer in a relatively satisfying position — until, perhaps, duty calls in the form of a theatrical engagement. In an interview with Variety’s Michael Schneider, star Kiefer Sutherland says that the show will end “in a really strong place,” but I suspect achieving that would require more closure than the prospect of a movie will allow.

Besides, if Jack thinks that the government is a bit like the mob in “The Godfather Part III” — as in just when you think you’re out, they pull you back in — just wait till he deals with the honchos at News Corp. as long as they think there’s still life in the franchise.

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