In an interview posted to TV Guide Online shortly after this episode aired, Howard Gordon admitted what many fans already knew: that the writers were back to their old ways, making things up as they went along. It's the tactic that satisfied the ennui of the writers' room by keeping things frantic and exciting, but it's also the tactic that led them, time and again, to rely on the same old tropes.
So it was with the revelation that Dana had always been a mole for the Russians. Gordon gleefully explains how they knew it didn't fit what had been revealed, but that it would be all the more fun to make it work. As Dana's journey comes to an end with this episode, it's clear that the writers didn't try hard enough, since her character's story makes no sense at all.
So Gordon and his hack writing staff want the devoted fans to believe that a juvenile convict in the middle of the rural South would be chosen by the Russians to become a mole in the latest iteration of the nation's premier counter-terrorism organization as part of a worldwide conspiracy? How does that make the slightest bit of sense? Sure, it may explain how Dana managed to get her expertise and credentials, but it doesn't even begin to explain why she was selected!
Nor does it explain, at all, why Kevin and his psychopathic partner would be allowed to interfere with Dana's activities in CTU on the day that the Russians' plan came to fruition. Instead of all those secret phone calls and meetings that only made her activities more conspicuous, she could have easily had her Russian handlers take out Kevin and anyone who came looking for him. This was never a good subplot, but this ending makes it completely ludicrous.
Of course, this is the same executive producer who continues to think that sending Jack on the path of vengeance at all costs is a great idea. Others have defended this notion since Renee's murder, claiming that Jack was never meant to have a happy ending. However, it's not about Jack having a happy ending or even complete peace. Obviously, Jack Bauer will always have one foot in the counter-terrorism world, even if he's living in Kim' house with his granddaughter on his knee (especially with a film franchise on the horizon).
The problem is that the seventh season was about demonstrating how Jack Bauer, a man with principle willing to take extreme measures for the greater good, had found the perfect balance between person regret, nihilistic amorality, and patriotism. Nearly every other character in the seventh season was closer to some extreme. Jack, over the course of his various trials and tribulations, had come out of self-imposed exile to a newfound personal clarity.
Instrumental to that end was the contrast provided by Tony Almeida's descent. Tony, much like Jack, had lost everything. This left him with nothing but a desire for vengeance against those who were behind his wife and unborn child's deaths. Nothing was sacred in the face of that goal. And as one would expect, this is ultimately what made him the villain of the seventh season.
By the end of this episode, Jack is right on the same kind of course. There's no telling how far he will go, if he's willing to gun down an unarmed woman in an act of vengeance. Jack's usual moral compass is shattered. In essence, everything about Jack that stood at the center of the seventh season's focus is rendered obsolete. Jack is no better than Tony was, and Tony had betrayed everything that Jack honored.
Unfortunately, this is what happens when writers abandon their plans and make things up as they go along, with no eye to consistency. All that matters is the current need for a plot. Hence the ongoing subplot of President Taylor violating her own ideals every time Charles Logan opens his mouth.
It's still possible that the writers intend for Jack and President Taylor to redeem themselves before the end. President Taylor can realize what Logan is trying to do, purge his influence, and then set Chloe free to talk some sense into Jack. The question is whether or not this will be a convincing enough resolution for this situation, the season, and the series.
Overall, this episode continues the ill-advised direction that began with Renee's murder. The writers admit to falling back into the bad habits that led to the lackluster sixth season, and don't seem to recognize how the current direction contradicts the entire point of the seventh season. It's becoming less and less likely that this final season will end on a high note.