24: Silence and Solemnity

After my post yesterday, I’ve been thinking a lot about 24 and some of the best moments of the show. Sadly, many of these are horrible, horrible moment when beloved characters are killed off.

Now, one of the signature devices of 24 is the iconic clock that displays the time and ominously ticks leading in and out of commercial breaks and ending each episode. I’m sure you’ve seen it, or at the very least, i’m sure you’ve seen a parody of it.

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The clock is usually shown over another of the shows tropes, the split screen. There are always at least 3 or 4 stories going on at any given time in an episode, and this effect just reminds you what these characters are doing in case you haven’t seen them in a bit.

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Every so often, something very horrific happens in the show. Sometimes it’s tragic, sometimes it’s sad. There have only been 11 of these instances, and they’ve all been given the silent countdown. All but two of these take place at the end of an episode.

A quick recap of these events:

Season 1: The last shot of the episode. Jack returns to CTU headquarters and finds his wife and unborn child dead at the hands of Nina. The first and one of the most tragic.

Season 2: George Mason leaves CTU after being exposed to Plutonium. This was more of a dignified silent countdown.

Season 2: The last shot of the episode. President David Palmer is seen on the ground after an assassination attempt. You are unsure of his fate, and it left me enraged.

Season 3: A lot of fans consider this to be one of the most heartbreaking things that ever happened in the show. Jack has to kill Ryan Chappelle (regional division director of CTU), or the terrorist will release a deadly virus into heavily populated areas. It’s a very somber moment as Jack makes Ryan get on his knees and executes him. “I’m sorry we let you down, Ryan”. *BANG* and then the silent countdown as the episode ends.

Season 5: A truly sad death of a very likeable character. When CTU is flooded with Sentox nerve gas, the staff seals themselves in various rooms that are controlled to not let the gas in. Chloe locks the door and when things seem fine, Edgar Stiles comes around the corner. There is a moment of panic on everyone’s part and Chloe is forced to see her friend die in front of her.

Season 6: Jack says goodbye to Audrey at her father’s house. He walks over to a cliff and stares off into the distance, unsure of the future. Given what Jack and Audrey had gone through up to that point, this was a very poignant and emotionally driven moment. The first real time since Jack lost Terri that he had been happy, and he was forced to do this.

24: Redemption: In this movie that fills the gaps between Seasons 6 and 7, Jack helps a group of school children escape the horrors of a local warlord, and as he is being evacuated, he looks back and sees the US embassy being overrun and realizes the horror that he just barely escaped from, but the people still there have to deal with it.

Season 7: Jack is once again ordered to murder a fellow agent (Renee Walker), but he figures a way to save her. He shoots her close to the neck and she falls into the ditch they were at the edge of. Jack walks away, but is ordered to bury her. She pulls a sheet of plastic over her face as Jack and Tony bury her. The last shot of the episode is Jack throwing dirt over a horrified Renee’s plastic covered face, seemingly burying her alive.

Season 7: In order to save the president, Bill Buchanan sacrifices himself to alert the president of an attempt on her life. Jack is seen kneeling over Bill’s lifeless body only 12 minutes into the episode. A noble sacrifice by a good man that steels Jack’s resolve even more than it already was.

Season 8: I think of all of them, this one got to me the most. Jack had been tracking down President Omar Hassan before he was executed by a rebel faction. CTU had traced the livestream of Hassan’s execution to the exact location, and Jack closed in to save Hassan. In a extremely tense moment, Jack opens the door to the room where the broadcast was coming from only to see Hassan’s lifeless body and the recording playing, having been filmed mere moments before and broadcast on a delay. The countdown comes when Omar’s wife and daughter are informed of his execution. Omar Hassan had become such a fantastic character and was very likeable. He was everything a political leader should have been. To see Jack finally able to rescue him after many episodes of near misses made me giddy. FINALLY…something good was going to happen. When Jack opened that door and saw Omar’s body, I wept. The death of a good man, the mockery of the recording, and the complete and utter unfairness that is Jack Bauer’s life were all just reinforced in that one scene.

Season 8: The final silent countdown is when Jack has rushed Renee Walker to a hospital after she is shot by a Russian sniper. He gets her into the ER, but the doctors cannot save her. Jack goes over to her lifeless body, begins to cry and kisses her on the forehead. This was yet another person that Jack has seen killed in his efforts to make things right. This was doubly bad because of what had happened with President Hassan in the previous episode. Jack just lost two people he had sworn to keep safe in the span of an hour.

Here’s a video of the highlights of all of these moments:

What prompted me to write this article was the most recent episode of 24: Live Another Day. In the last shot, it would appear that President Heller is murdered by Margot Al-Harazi via drone in the middle of Wembley Stadium. This was a great man and a great character. If he is truly dead, then he deserved the silent clock. He sacrificed his life to save countless lives in the city of London. I was ENRAGED when this didn’t happen. I flipped my shit on Facebook: Image

But, now that I think about it…there was a reason we didn’t get a silent countdown for President Heller: he’s not dead.

Just before he walked out onto the pitch of Wembley, Chloe was working on getting access to the systems of the drones under Margot’s control. She had access to two of the three systems, but not the directional. My theory is that she managed to gain control of the camera on the drone. They did a close up and verified that it was indeed Heller, then Margot pulled the trigger and launched a missile at Heller, seemingly killing him. What I think happened is a sort of Speed effect. I think Chloe managed to make a loop of Heller standing there, and in that 20 seconds or so, Jack got him out of there. 
I could be wrong. Maybe they just felt Heller didn’t deserve the silent countdown. Maybe he did die. They promised that this season would take place over 24 hours, and so far…it’s been 8 straight hours. I think that between this episode and the next, we’re going to skip some time. Maybe 12 hours or so. That would put it just after sunrise, Margot will have dumped the drones and cleanup can happen. We’ll see Jack with Heller after they hid somewhere overnight. The, the last 4 episodes will be Jack mercilessly hunting down Al-Harazi. Again…just a theory. Feel free to comment and leave your ideas and thoughts!
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