(This review covers the first half of the sixth season finale; the second half will be covered under a separate review.)
Coming into this season finale, the writers left themselves quite a difficult task. Character motivations were all over the map, several lingering plot threads were left unresolved, and most fans were fed up with the lack of forethought. With so much sloppy storytelling this season, a strong ending was too much to hope for; it was a matter of letting things end with some measure of dignity.
Daniels has once again led the country to the brink of war, and this time, it comes down to Jack’s “replacement” Mike Doyle and his plan to recover Josh from Philip Bauer. Philip seems to want a way out of responsibility for his past actions, and that means relocating his business interests to China. How this meshes with what has come before is hard to reconcile, but it is what it is.
The writers may have understood their mistake with Bill Buchanan, as they bring him into the finale after a mishandled previous exit. One might wonder why the agents on site fail to monitor Bill’s phone calls when everything else is fair game, but at this point, it’s all about moving the plot along and delivering as much excitement as possible.
Much of the drama in this episode plods along, especially once Mike is left to decide where his conscience lies. The issues with Marilyn Bauer seem like a waste of time, especially once it becomes grist for the Chloe/Morris mill. The business with Milo’s brother is another such example. It’s designed, it seems, to make it sensible for Bill to have enough time to get to Jack. How he gets to the point where he can ambush Jack’s driver is impossible to accept, but that’s what the writers are reduced to this season.
More time is spent wallowing over Karen Hayes and her decision to help break Jack out of custody. It gives the audience more than enough time to consider how far the season has strayed from its origins. The issue of Fayed’s attacks on the nation seems rather far removed from the posturing of the possible hostilities with Russia and China. The terrorism was an immediate, clear and present danger; Daniels’ state of play is too remote and academic to have even a fraction of the impact.
Philip’s double-cross is hardly a shock, though it’s too bad that Doyle had to pay the price. Of course, with his replacement out of commission, Jack must either admit failure or fully commit to his own retrieval mission. There’s really no question. As poorly executed as it might have been, Jack’s personal journey back to his particular brand of heroism can end no other way.
With a single hour left to the sixth season, a final showdown between father and son is waiting in the wings. Of course, that’s not enough; there must also be a completely random issue with Chloe (knowing this season, probably the first signs of pregnancy). Rather than focus the final hour on providing some answers, the writers apparently feel the need to insert more needless CTU drama. Then again, given how the season has turned out, this is not much of a surprise.