'24: Live Another Day' Review: "10:00 P.M. -- 11:00 A.M."

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Fox

The season finale (and possible series finale) of '24: Live Another Day' has a lot on its plate. A war with China. A lover in peril. A Russian who died before he could spill the necessary secrets. An old nemesis getting ready to escape the country. A hacker stranded in the countryside. Can it wrap all of that up in one little hour? You bet it can.

OUR RECAP:

Audrey is still sitting on the park bench when she notices that her contact is still alive. She stands to help her but her phone rings. It's Cheng and he tells her to stay where she is. A shot rings out and her contact is dead.

At the Russian compound, Jack, Kate and Mark tear apart the deputy minister's office until they find a well-hidden smartphone with details about a shipment at a nearby harbor. They deduce that this must be Cheng. Then Mark receives a message on his phone: an image of Audrey in crosshairs! Cheng calls Jack and tells him to stop tracking him or Audrey dies. Jack and Kate devise a plan: she'll find a way to rescue Audrey while Jack tracks down Cheng.

Heller arrives at the CIA station and they begin to monitor the war from their new home base. No one has heard from Jack or Audrey, but the Chinese fleet is still advancing. Heller orders his military leaders to prepare the nukes.

Chloe meets up with two friendly motorists, who let her use their phone. She calls Jack and they update each other on what's going down. Chloe apologizes for everything that happened with Cross and insists that she help him to make things right. Jack heads to pick her up.

Heller speaks with the Chinese president, who still refuses to stand down. Heller promises armed conflict if his ships don't turn around.

Cheng and his men arrive at the harbor, where the ship's Russian captain tells them that they will leave in 15 minutes. Cheng orders his men to get into defensive positions.

Jack picks Chloe up and they head for the harbor. Chloe reiterates her plans for redemption, telling Jack she's the only friend he has left. Jack lays out their mission: capture Cheng alive to stop the war ... and they won't have back-up because they don't want to risk Audrey's life.

In the park, Kate watches Audrey from nearby bushes. She searches the windows of the nearby building for a sniper, but everything is dark. Kate calls Audrey, who slyly puts the phone on speaker so it won't look like she's speaking to anyone. Kate asks her to make a sudden movement to draw the sniper's fire. She does and the resulting muzzle flash from the warning shot gives away the sniper's position.

Jack arrives at the harbor and Belcheck is waiting for him with some heavy weaponry. Chloe locates a nearby satellite dish and heads out to plug in, but not before Jack thanks her for everything. Jack and Belcheck, now armed with silenced assault rifles, move out.

Kate gets into position with her small team. She calls Audrey and tells her to get into cover behind a tree the moment she hears gunfire.

Chloe uses her laptop to watch infrared satellite footage of the harbor. She guides Jack and Belcheck toward the ship, telling them where every guard is so they can quietly kill them. After killing a whole bunch of people and boarding the ship, Jack asks Chloe for an update on Audrey, but she hasn't heard anything.

On the ship, Cheng's computer expert warns him that someone has hacked into a satellite and is watching them. Cheng attempts to contact his guards and is met with silence. Cheng orders his computer guy to block Chloe's signal and kill whoever is on the ship.

Chloe tells jack that Cheng knows they're there. Chloe calls Kate: she has to do it now!

The sniper prepares to fire and Kate and her team leap into action, killing the sniper in a hail of gunfire. Audrey is alive and okay. Kate calls Eric and updates him, asking him to send back-up to Jack at the docks.

Chloe warns Jack and Belcheck that Cheng is on to them, but her signal is cut. They're on their own.

On the bridge, Cheng holds a gun on the captain and orders him to depart the dock now. The engines rumble to life and Jack orders Belcheck to go to the engine room and shut it down while he finds Cheng.

Kate and her team escort Audrey from the park when another gunman leaps out of nowhere and opens fire. Several of Kate's men fall and the assassin gets away ... and then Kate notices that Audrey has been hit. Kate attempts to patch her up, but it's no use. Audrey is dead.

As Heller deals with the crisis brewing with the Chinese, his aide is called away. The look on his face tells us everything: he knows about Audrey.

Jack prepares his rifle for the final assault when Kate calls him with the bad news about Audrey. She apologizes profusely, but Jack doesn't even pay attention to her. He slumps over, eyes glazed over ... and he pulls out his pistol. Then he hears the sound of approaching guards and reconsiders taking the coward's way out.

Jack meets Cheng's men head on and proceeds to kill every last man in his way, screaming the entire time. When he runs out of bullets in his rifle, he continues the spree with his pistol. When the fight takes him to the kitchen, he kills a guard with a meat cleaver. It's one of '24's greatest bloodbaths.

In the engine room, Belcheck shuts down the engines. In the bridge, Jack knifes a guy to death and uses his corpse as a shield while he wipes out the last of Cheng's forces. Cheng tries to fight Jack in hand-to-hand combat, but Jack shatters his arm and beats him to a bloody pulp.

At the CIA station, Heller is just about ready to give the order to engage the Chinese fleet when Jack calls. They put him on video: he's holding the bloody and battered and alive body of Cheng. The CIA techies begin running facial recognition software, but it's taking too long, so Jack finds a nearby sword (!) and holds it to Cheng's throat, demanding that he identify himself. He does and they have vocal confirmation. The signal cuts off and Heller rushes to contact the Chinese president.

"This is for Audrey, you son of a bitch." And that's when Jack CUTS CHENG'S HEAD OFF WITH A SWORD.

Heller hands the proof over to the Chinese and war is averted. Hooray! And then his aide takes this moment to tell him that Audrey is dead. Heller collapses to the floor, shocked into total silence.

Emergency crews clean up the dozens of bodies littering the harbor. Jack and Belcheck search for Chloe, but she's missing, her equipment is trashed and there's blood on the ground. Jack gets a phone call and he arranges a meeting with whoever is on the other line. His face tells us everything we need to know: it's not good.

And then we jump forward 12 hours! This is a '24' first and it's surreal.

At the CIA station, Kate hands her final report to Eric. He tells her that Audrey's death isn't her fault and she says she knows that, but the guilt is killing her. She leaves her gun on her desk and leaves the building.

Mark sits in an interrogation room and is informed by Eric that he's being sent back to the United States for his trial. Of all of the people having a bad day, Mark looks the worst.

At the airport, Audrey's flag-draped coffin is loaded onto Air Force One. The British Prime Minister offers Heller his condolences. Heller says that his Alzheimer's is going to make him forget about his daughter, this day, and everything else in his life. He follows the coffin to the plane.

A helicopter lands in an abandoned lot outside of London. Snipers are perched everywhere. Jack and Belcheck arrive as men step out of the helicopter ... with Chloe. Jack yells for her to walk first and he meets her halfway. Chloe says Jack doesn't have to do this, but Jack says it's time for her to go home and she's his best friend. They clasp hands. He thanks her and asks her to look after his family.

Jack finishes the walk to the helicopter and tells the leader of the men that he will take their entire world apart if they harm Chloe or his family. The Russian-accented man responds that they only want him and that he is not going to enjoy his time in Moscow.

Jack takes one final look at Chloe as Belcheck hustles her into the car and they drive off. He gets in the helicopter and it rises into the air. Jack sits, stone-faced, as the chopper takes him a dark and uncertain future.

REVIEW:

If this is the final episode of '24' (and it may very well be), then it's one heck of a conclusion. Jack Bauer was never going to have a happy ending, but being sent to a Russian prison while the love of his life dies and his greatest ally forgets he even existed is dark stuff. You could read this as Jack either being punished for his multitude of crimes or being martyred for being America's greatest defender, but both readings put him in the same place: he's going to be in a lot of pain for a long time.

At least the episode let Jack go out at his Jack Bauer-iest, sending him on a literal suicide run that begins with automatic weapons fire and concludes with a good 'ol fashioned beheading. '24' has always been at its best when it truly unleashes Jack and this was one of the best and craziest action scenes in the show's nine seasons.

After season eight, it was difficult to imagine '24' being even remotely good again, but the four year break and the shorter season format has done wonders. The show is as good as it has ever been and it would be a genuine shame for it to vanish again. Come on, Fox. Bring on season 10.

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