Monday night in the US was the battle to end all battles. No, not “you know who” versus “you know who” on Heroes, although that was one of the main draws. The fight was the battle of the finales, with 24 facing off against Heroes. On Fox, there were not one but two Jack Bauer power hours, while newcomer Heroes, fighting with only one hour to its belt, still had a few tricks of its own.
24, however, is tired. It's given up, more or less, and is hoping we'll turn up for season seven while it gets this one out the way. Despite an initial promise that everything was going to be new and nerve-wracking again in a land where bad terrorists can prosper, this season failed to excite in the same way as seasons two and four did, for instance. We had the same torture scenarios, the same threat, the same unconvincing love stories. Even the writers got bored and did a repeat of the first season's “there's a second shooter” plot reboot around hour 16. And there are only so many times you can kill off favourite characters before you run out of favourite characters and just start killing people you don't care about randomly.
Optimally, a 24 finale needs to leave you going “Aahhhh....” like some adrenaline-sated Bisto kid. Instead, while it had its moments, we didn't really care enough about those in peril to worry if they were going to die and we all knew what was going to happen anyway. Even then, the wrap-up to the new plot didn't really convince.
Indeed, I wouldn't be surprised if none of the plot strands apparently finished in the last episode turn out to have life in them still. You see, the finale had all the hallmarks of a show desperately trying to fan enough embers of nascent characters, relationships and plot intrigues that they can start afresh next season with something to build on. While else did that character's brother mysteriously appear for all of a minute, for example? Why didn't Jack kill the chief villains except to give them a chance to escape and be menacing towards him again? And how often did we need to have hints about a certain pair's retirement home to know that Jack Bauer pizza deliveries will be making a call there next season?
Still, with a reboot of 24 planned for season seven that might take it away from CTU and even Los Angeles, there's the outside possibility that next year's odd-numbered season won't be about crazy Euro terrorists wanting to blow up/infect/poison/irradiate LA for a change, and might have an original plot for once.
Meanwhile, over on NBC, gorgeous upstart Heroes headed towards its prophesied conclusion. Was it satisfying? Almost. With so many expectations hoisted onto its back, it probably would have been impossible for the show to live up to promises.
We had some great moments, including one very nice with Richard Roundtree and one, as always, with Hiro. Many of the plotlines get finished, with varying degrees of success, and hints at new ones are suggested.
But with a show that had slowly been building momentum towards a battle of two titans, those titans did come across as a couple of blokes who were supposed to fight a duel but had only been given the instruction manuals for their guns a couple of minutes earlier. The grand hope of pyrotechnics, marvellous alliances, strategies and counter-strategies didn't really get its day.
The show ends on a cliffhanger of sorts - in fact, it ends with the first three minutes of the next season – and all sorts of cans of worms are already opened at that point, by the looks of it. So, UK viewers, I'd brace myself, if I were you, for a little disappointment, but not a huge amount. We know it can do better and we know it will.
- December 6, 2007: Season finale: Heroes
My review of the second season of Heroes' finale