Here we have the most downbeat finale of "24" yet, for one because the President of the United States is kidnapped. I hate politics, but you'd have to whack me in the head with a shovel multiple times to make me believe that the subject matter of this episode isn't seriously bleak. Compare Jack's actions in previous finales to threatening to kill the President; it's quite different, I say.
Something else that sets this finale apart is the absence of a big set piece. We've had shootouts and chase scenes galore in the past, but nothing here really qualifies as an action sequence. There aren't even any deaths; a few people are rendered unconscious, Jack included, but nobody kicks it. My favorite episode—let alone finale—remains "Day One: 11pm - 12am," partly because S1 had relatively few action scenes up to that point. S5 is the opposite; episodes WITHOUT action are somewhat sparse. So the finale's focus on high-end drama and suspense, albeit with a big climactic shocker, makes it a special one.
And here's something else: this is probably the best that I've seen Jon Cassar. Would the great Stephen Hopkins have done a better job? Possibly. However, this is the only finale that I found myself not wishing to see how Hopkins would've directed (ignoring the one that Hopkins actually did direct, of course).
You know that reticent sense of foreboding I mentioned in my "Day Five: 7pm - 8pm" review, as well as the dark, gritty, paranoid, claustrophobic feeling in my "Day Two: 2am - 3am" review? Well, they both come back for the final scene of S5, with the chill factor increased about tenfold. This last scene (and even the last shot, I'd say) provides a stark contrast to its S4 counterpart. There had to be some sort of surprise ending; Jack and Audrey were just too damn happy, and it was only the fourth act. And I'm glad there was, because a reunion with Audrey AND with Kim via phone would've been way too much. I'm also glad we got the surprise that we did; that plotline wasn't wrapped up very well at all last time we saw it.
Admittedly, S5 rips S2 off, with the main villain accidentally confessing to a hidden transmitter, and the mysterious villain above him remaining at large, but it's such a damn great way to end the season! Chloe, Karen, Buchanan, and Martha all get their due closure, and the sight of Logan being brought to justice juxtaposed with that of Palmer's casket being carried onto the plane brings the season full circle. It began with Palmer's death and a eulogy by Logan, and it ends with another eulogy followed by Logan's downfall. The first finale since S1's that, to me, feels planned from season's beginning, and you know what that means? The writers are back in form. But do they stay in form throughout S6? Well…to each his own.
The sight of Logan being brought to justice and whatever else I said up there. Tom Clancy couldn't have done better.