Folding Jacks: Saying Good-Bye To LOST and 24

I’m no TV historian, but I can’t imagine there have been back-to-back nights like a week ago where two iconic TV shows came to a close like LOST and 24 did.

Within a span of 24 hours, two programs that combined for 313 hours of original content (13 days!) went into that celluloid good night, leaving some fans sad, some angry and others simply wondering what they’re going to do now.

Just like that, we don’t have Jack Shephard and Jack Bauer to kick around anymore.

Jack gets FOUND

I thought the finale was great, but leave it to the creators of LOST to split people down the middle, even turning those who didn’t even watch against the show. Call it the pack mentality, but for those who feel like they somehow got screwed over or “wasted their lives” because they didn’t get every single answer they were looking for, I’d say to take a deep breath and watch it again.

Finales of great shows are always up against an impossible standard: to satisfy everyone who came along for the ride. Unfortunately, this nearly never happens as everyone is looking for something different. With LOST, the expectation level for the close out got ratcheted up 100%.

A show this in-depth and this detailed could have never come to an end that would satisfy all the fans unless it was six hours long and even then, something like explaining that wacky Lighthouse would have been missed. And why did that statue only have four toes? I could go on and on, but you get the idea.

I’m not going to make you slog through more LOST finale conjecture and opinion as there’s enough on the interwebs to last a lifetime, but I will say this. The show’s character-driven story is really what I liked and is probably why I’m on Team I Like It when it came to the final 2.5 hours. Did it take some effort to understand? Of course. Was it a bit heady? Yes.

But another great line I heard was this, “To expect to be able to explain everything with a show like this an hour after it concluded was probably pretty unrealistic.”  It’s going to take time and another rewatch of everything to bring things full circle. God forbid the creators leave some threads up to imagination and interpretation…how dare they!

Regardless, I’m really going to miss Dr. Jack Shephard.

Out of all the characters on the show, I found myself gravitating most toward Shephard, the good doctor who finally found his redemption with the closing of an eye and our pal Vincent The Wonder Dog right next to him.

The thing I liked about him was that he was always trying to do right even if it came with pitfalls and mistakes along the way. To succeed, you need to fail and Jack definitely did a lot of both.

As the series evolved, Jack’s battles with Sawyer and Locke for alpha male of The Island were polarizing for some viewers who became drawn to Locke’s own spiritual evolution and those who preferred the bad guy persona of Sawyer. Jack became an easy guy to disregard and get annoyed with. Not for me. I always thought Jack was the man.

Maybe it was the on-again, off-again dance with eternal soulmate Kate, his search for introspection, his desire to lead and save people or maybe that cool-looking unexplained collage of tattoos on his left arm, but Jack and I? We connected, man. If he was real, I think he would be cool to hang out with, even in his giant beard, Scentless Apprentice-listening post-Island days. That was one of the great things about the show. With the ensemble that LOST put together, everyone had their favorites (except Sun and Jin…no one liked them).

But now, Jack’s long strange trip has concluded. He battled Smoke Monsters, his father’s memories, Others and most of the time, himself. The epic 120+ hour thrill ride that was LOST may be complete, but we met a lot of memorable friends along the way. I can’t think of a show ever being this good again or mean this much to so many.

Just don’t tell me that the finale completely invalidated the experience of watching the show.

The Clock Runs Out

Then, there was the 24 finale best described as “two-hour trailer for the 24 movie.” Spoiler alert: Jack is still alive and well, still running, still searching and still kicking ass after completing his eighth tour of duty in 24-hour format.

When 24 first started, it was a novel concept in looking at a full day’s worth of action spread out over the course of an entire season. Kiefer Sutherland’s playing of Bauer – a military-trained and honed bad ass that was a little bit Vic Mackie, a little bit Chuck Norris and a little bit Clint Eastwood – was spot on, the kind of guy you want to root for and watch because it’s just the American thing to do. Protect, serve, ask for nothing in return and then come back to do it again.

But as the series rolled on (especially starting with Season 5), the show really started to fall off. That once-fresh 24-hour format became stale. The things we used to overlook (no 5 o’clock shadow, no one eating or even with heavy bags under their eyes) became too much when combined with the following:

  • Jack always got the shaft: Seriously, how many times can a guy save the country before they stop questioning his every move? I think once would be enough for me, but after the fourth time, it became tougher to swallow.
  • Another CTU mole: Just me or would a simple background check have filtered out the annual CTU mole? I mean, once was good. But every season featured either a double-agent in CTU or the US government. It got to be an old and predictable gimmick, not an interesting turn.
  • Too many familiar characters killed off: I think the worm turned for me when Curtis Manning – one of Jack’s fellow CTU agents and friends – was killed by Bauer in Season 6. The next season, it was former CTU head Bill Buchanan. President David Palmer – played so awesomely by Dennis Haysbert – was assassinated at the beginning of season 5. Even Jack’s BFF Tony Almeida turned against him and got the bullet.With every character killed off, the show lost a bit of its soul and as a result, the human balance of Bauer.When it became a storyline in the final season that Renee Walker and Bauer were going to be a romantic item, I thought I saw the end of the show coming: the two riding off happily into the sunset after another successful day saving the world. A Russian sniper’s bullet changed that. The show really had an amazing cast of characters but more of them should had been around to see the end, not Freddie Prinze Jr.

The finale was good, but not great – fueled by the trap door that a movie deal had already been signed. Jack wasn’t going to die a fantastic hero-worthy death or allowed to be happy. No, he simply was born to run and until the 24 movie hits theaters, that’s exactly what he’s going to do.

While every TV season brings new shows that attract viewers and create buzzworthy talking points for millions, it’s going to be hard to top what LOST and 24 have been able to do for the better part of the past decade.

But like a photo album that brings back memories, that’s what DVD sets are for.

Josh Nason is a freelance journalist who has penned pieces for FIGHT! Magazine, Apollo (Australia) Magazine, Manchester Magazine and more. While he loves to write about mixed martial arts, blogging about music and observations on life are passions as well. Follow him at Twitter.