Once there was television… And then there was Jack Bauer. Simply described, badass – the biggest, baddest and best television has ever seen.
Stubbornly pursed lips bent on serving out justice, grim eyes that defiantly stare death in its face, brazen boldness both in stride and word coupled with unequalled brilliance of scheme, weapons in skilled hands that miss no mark no fraction of a second too late – the irrepressible federal agent controlled only by self-will and determination, know for his unmatched courage, resilience and resolve despite losing everything to gain nothing for self – so surreal, yet very real even if only on reel is Jack Bauer (played by Kiefer Sutherland).
For me, and I believe many more across the world, Bauer and “24” have redefined television forever. Never has a character or TV series been so compelling or convincing, thanks to the ingenious concept, script, direction, performances and cut that went into its making. We, the captive audience, couldn’t help but join Bauer in the longest days of his life by spending the longest days of our lives watching every episode of every series back-to-back if we could help it. What was it that mesmerized us so and still holds us in its grip? The heart-thumping action, no doubt… and like it or not, the dissatisfaction – of never getting enough of Jack Bauer. I, for one, can honestly say that 24 was my “twelve” and I struggle with withdrawal symptoms, now that the series has concluded. Seth Godin was right when he said that great brands (and I say, great TV series/characters) are built on dissatisfaction. You have a prime example of that in 24!
What drew me most to Bauer and what I will no doubt remember him most for, though, is his motto to “do whatever it takes to save them and I mean, whatever it takes.” (Dialogue between Jack Bauer and Renee Walker in my favourite season, Season 7) Sure, there has been a lot of controversy about the torture and violence implied and portrayed throughout the series as a means to the end. However, my fascination is with regards to Bauer’s commitment to protect his country and people no matter what the cost. As a federal agent forced to turn fugitive whose wife was killed, daughter estranged, and his own health seriously jeopardized on more than one occasion, he owed his country nothing, least of all after they abandoned him as prisoner to the Chinese and then decided to sacrifice him in order to meet terrorist demands – all of that despite the great service he had rendered his country. Wouldn’t some recognition be in order? A medal of honour, perhaps? Or a bravery award? At least, a chance at a decent life? But, no!
I find it hard to fathom such unquestioned allegiance and dedication to a cause, harder still to implement it in my own life. Season 7 forced me to think hard and question my own commitment to mission accomplishment. Was I willing to do whatever it took? Or would I turn chicken when the going got tough? Worse still, would I turn into a Tony Almeida, agent turned traitor, disillusioned, distraught? Would my losses, failures, fears and regrets rule me or I would I overrule them?
I learned that the name Jack Bauer is believed to allude to the highest card in the game of Euchre, the “bower” being the jack of the trump suit and the most powerful card in any particular round (via Wikipedia). I sincerely pray that in my mission and commission I will come out the “Jack Bauer” in every trial, know that I have been given a spirit of power, believe that I am more than a conqueror with greater strength in me than is in the world. So help me, God!