SPOILER ALERT: This story contains details of tonight’s 24: Live Another Day finale.
Amidst a near-war with China, a sword-induced beheading, a time shift and the loss of a longtime character, tonight’s finale on Fox of 24: Live Another Day could have seen the final curtain come down on Kiefer Sutherland’s anti-terrorism agent, says the series’ former showrunner. “We certainly tried out a lot of different endings and we rearranged the furniture every which way in the room,” reveals LAD EP Howard Gordon of the limited-event series and Jack Bauer’s fate. “So we knew what it looked like for other characters to have met with different ends and we tried them all on, up to and including Jack himself. This has always been a show that is really about the days and the life of this man and no day is probably as intense as a person’s last day. So killing Jack was something that was intriguing to us all but it had to be done just right. And that didn’t present itself to us,” the EP adds.
What ultimately did present itself for the one-hour finale was the death of Audrey Boudreau, a character on the show since its fourth season in 2005 played by Kim Raver. “This was a really challenging decision to make and a difficult one to make because she was a such a strong character,” notes the Emmy winner, who said the decision of who took the bullet (literally) was made by himself, Sutherland, fellow EPs and writers Manny Coto, Evan Katz and Bob Cochran, as well as Jon Cassar (who also directed six episodes including the finale).
“In a way it is because of that that we all decided this was the way to go with Audrey’s death. There was something about Audrey’s tragic life that it would have felt too saccharine not to go this way,” he says of the reboot that launched with a 2-hour premiere May 5. In LAD, Raver’s character was now the daughter of the President of the United States and the wife of James Heller’s scheming Chief of Staff. With Jack in exile during four years in real time after 24 went off the air in 2010, the return of her old love Bauer to her life during a terror-plagued visit to London set off old emotions and conflicts. “I will tell you, we even considered a happy ending. But 24 is ultimately a tragic story,” Gordon says on the phone from the Middle East.
Even with this reboot, Gordon says that the long-bandied about idea of a 24 movie or even another TV stint remains in the air. Which makes sense as the last scene in the finale is Bauer choppering out of London in the custody of the vengeful Russians, a perfect set-up for just such another kick at the can. “I would say ‘never say never’ about anything,” half-laughs Gordon about taking 24 to the big screen. “If I were to call up Kiefer tomorrow with a great idea or someone were to come to me with a great idea for a movie, I think we would jump on it in two seconds. And if we had a great idea for a TV show too. But right now, on the table there is not an idea or a script.” He adds of another 24 TV series, “I would say it’s in discussion but only in discussions everyone right now are having with themselves. We’re all too tired and bruised from the season, which we just wrapped a couple of weeks ago, to even consider it further.”
Now at the end of 24:LAD‘s run, Gordon says the ratings ride of the show week after week was not one of the things that bruised him. “I think it performed very respectably, that’s my understanding of the show’s ratings,” he says. While down from the last season’s debut on January 17, 2010, 24:LAD‘s premiere had 94% retention from the show’s Season 8 finale ratings result back on May 24, 2010, a very different time numbers-wise in the TV game. “It met my expectations,” Gordon adds circumspectly of the numbers that saw a strong jump for its debut in Live+7 ratings. “It didn’t exceed them and it didn’t fall too far below them.”
Bruises and ratings aside, its not like Gordon isn’t plenty busy still now that this show’s over. The veteran producer has the recently debuted Tyrant now on FX as well as the fourth season of Showtime’s Homeland and the upcoming TNT series, Legends, premiering next month. His time on 24 certainly has informed the more recent shows, he says. “They are all unique and all have different tones but the thing I took away from 24 to Homeland or Tyrant is a pared down and muscular storytelling,” Gordon reflects. “Also an appetite for surprise and for reversal and for reversal of expectations and really for a narrative rigor.”
To that end, the producer says he and the 24:LAD team took a very considered approach to the way they were going to bring Jack back. “Announcing ourselves four years later, we felt it had to be as fun, as big and as thrilling as it could be so we made a choice, and Evan and Manny really executed it really well, which was to make this more in the vein of a summer blockbuster,” Gordon reveals. “So we went into the left lane, punched the accelerator and never let up. That was a strategy we decided on very early in the game when the notion of Live Another Day started out.”