24’s Howard Gordon on killing off characters

Howard Gordon joined joined fellow showrunners Vince Gilligan (Breaking Bad), Glen Mazzara (The Walking Dead), Veena Sud (The Killing), Shonda Rhimes (Grey’s Anatomy), and Terence Winter (Boardwalk Empire) for The Hollywood Reporter’s Emmys roundtable, where they were asked about killing off characters. Here’s what Howard had to say:

Homeland‘s still new enough where we actually have a pretty low bodycount. But 24 is littered, there’s a graveyard of dozens of characters. I was talked out of a couple of deaths believe it or not. By the actors!

But more often than not, it was taking them out on the walk. And honestly, sometimes it would take [actors] by surprise. I guess what’s always stunning to me is that actors don’t always know when — some actually have a great sense that their story is coming to an end (or have been told), and others are totally not [aware].

I didn’t save characters lives because they’ve necessarily been convincing. They came and actually pitched, “Why don’t I kill him?”. It was actually a better idea!

Source: THR

9 Comments

the reason why season 6-8 IMO(especially 8) were not as good was because they kept killing off all of the fans favorite characters. By the time season 8 came around I didnt care about any character besides Jack, Chloe and Renee and they killed her off to. Killing off main characters became so cliche for 24 it ruined the so called “shock” value after season 5.

Anyone else agree ?

MarauderShield
June 17, 2012 at 7:44 pm
@24fan

Although I like season 7 a lot (personal preference), I totally agreed with you on killing fan favorites. The writers had overdone it after season 5 It really got to the point where they just killing fan favorites for the sake of killing fan favorite (like in Renee’s case).

Personally, I still think Mr. Gordon made the wrong call killing Renee Walker. Some might say that it needs to be done in order to advance the plot. However, narrative wise, there are always alternative ways to advance the pilot without killing her (For instance, the failed attempt on her life would be enough to motivate Jack to look into the matter). Plus, the initial emotional shock from Renee’s demise quickly wears off in the subsequent episodes as the show becomes something like a collection of derivative corridor shooting sequences that can be found in most of modern First Person Shooters, as oppose to the intelligent espionage/political thriller the show was also known for. Despite there are some standout scenes like Jack torturing Renee’s killer and the Logan’s extraction, those scenes, along with most of the episodes concerning the final arc of the show, ultimately felt empty (especially in the case of subsequent viewings) because there is no substance or human dramas other than a case of seeing how much carnage and mayhem Jack Bauer can dish out. This makes me really wonder why writers decided to go with such go-for-broke decision of trading a well-developed character like Renee for a such hallow pilot line.

It’s true that the ’24’ writer’s became somewhat a victim of their own tactics, meaning that they basically outdid themselves with the killings of major characters at the start of Season 5, and how could you have topped that, the answer is they neither did nor could, which is one reason why I believe Season 6 should have been the final season, should have dealt primarily with the aftermath of both the conspiracy in the fifth season and Jack’s incarceration and torture in China, should have had some MAJOR character deaths (maybe even Chloe, which would undoubtedly have been the most unexpected and emotionally devastating death in the series since Terri Bauer’s demise) as well as setting up the storyline for the inevitable movie released the following summer…

… woops, posted that before I was finished, what I was going to say further was although I personally would have preferred ’24’ to end after a sixth and final season, then move on straight away to the movie, that’s not to say I didn’t enjoy the seventh and eighth seasons, or that I think they overdid it with deaths in those seasons, because I DID enjoy them, and I think they were quite restrained in killing characters off – they could have went further just for sheer shock value – and I disagree with the opinions that Renee’s death was the wrong call, HoGo said they had always planned her and Jack to get together then have her snatched away from him in a cruel twist of fate, it was set up that way in order to have Jack finally go haywire, a narrative turn that wouldn’t have worked as effectively had Jack not suffered such a devastating loss, just my opinion anyway…

MarauderShield
June 19, 2012 at 7:21 pm
“it was set up that way in order to have Jack finally go haywire, a narrative turn that wouldn’t have worked as effectively had Jack not suffered such a devastating loss”

I think that’s one of the primary issues with season 8. Why not have a more meaningful/well-thought out storyline as oppose to the whole obsession with “Jack goes into a killing spree”? Yes we all knew Jack had nothing to lose at that point, but truth to be told, it still felt very hallow since it’s just one mindless killing after another. (And it doesn’t help that writers rigged the whole arc in Jack’s favor. The Russians and Logan only sent the “C-team” to stop Jack as oppose to using hardened operators like Henderson). Yes, seeing Jack owning someone is entertaining, but after seeing it so many times it just gets tired, particularly when he just effortlessly walked over some random bad guys.

And further more. why insist the whole “having Jack suffering a devastating loss” in the very first place? Haven’t the writers grew out of the whole nihilist angst-makes-everything-cool phase? Let’s face it, nihilism and dark do not automatically equate to good story telling. In fact, sometimes those elements devolves the character. In case of season 8, by killing Renee, the writers forcefully devolve Jack Bauer, a 3-dimensional character whose character had well and meaningful developed throughout the past 7 seasons, into a one-dimensional character who’s sore purpose is dedicated to mowing down nameless Russians. If one has to guess, the plan for the feature film (if it’s being made) would have a world-weary and cynical Jack who thinks nothing else matters and wanting to die. Such de-evlution) of the character doesn’t make the character compelling.

In short, killing Renee is a wrong call because not only the move denied characters (both Jack and Renee) meaningful storylines, it also devolves the character of Jack Bauer in general and the show that also famously know for smart, well-though out political/action thrillers.

I think we’ll have to agree to disagree on this one, MarauderShield dude, I thought the last quarter of Season 8 was the show at it’s very best, going out not only on a high note but the highest of high notes, we just see things differently, that’s cool, hope you’re still looking forward to the movie…

Seasons 6, 7, and 8 were phenomenal. All seasons were. But season 5 I think is at the bottom of the list. You had Super Bauer taking on the army and the only time I felt the killing of major characters felt a bit off all in that first episode, which I felt was rushed. Yet, Jon Cassar said that was his most proud episode. It baffles me. Just because you were able to cram that much stuff in one hour (Jack being at work, then right back home, having breakfast, watching news and seeing Palmer dead, then taking a chopper to visit Chloe, then finding Palmer’s killer, and sending the killer to hell.) It just feels too Rambo-ish to me.

I adore season 5, as all other seasons. But I disagree with the majority in that I appreciate slower, more emotional, darker themes with symbolism abound. Season 6 is a perfect summation of that. People are too daft to understand it. They focus on one misstep (Graem being Jack’s brother) and blow things out of proportion instead of going along for the ride and thinking about why and thematically what is happening. Season 6 was a deep dive into Jack’s psyche which was fucking amazing.

As for the topic of Renee’s death, it was totally warranted and it was emotionally charged which was the final fuse in lighting the explosion that was the grand finale of the series. Season 8 blew me the fuck away and I feel like its the best since the early superior seasons. It took the feel of those early seasons and the perfected fluidity of the later seasons and really nailed it.

MarauderShield
June 27, 2012 at 5:58 pm
“As for the topic of Renee’s death, it was totally warranted and it was emotionally charged which was the final fuse in lighting the explosion that was the grand finale of the series.”

“I feel like its the best since the early superior seasons. It took the feel of those early seasons and the perfected fluidity of the later seasons and really nailed it.”

Have to disagree with the above. The remaining episodes after Renee’s demise is a lot more hallow, narrative wise. Yes, it does brought the emotions out of the audience, but the anger was directed at the writers/creative teams who made the decision as oppose to the antagonists (I doubt they even care about some random Russians at that point). What follows the unfortunate event is just a string of cartoon violence. There’s no well-developed multi-threaded story lines like the earlier seasons like 2 and 3. One of reasons earlier seasons are good is because writers/creative teams didn’t have this go-for-broke trigger happy attitude. There’s a lot more story lines they could do with Renee Walker as oppose to stuffing her into the refrigerator considering they already established the connection between her and the Russians. It really baffled me that they completely ignored the opportunity and proceed with such cliche writing.

***Season 6 is a perfect summation of that. People are too daft to understand it. They focus on one misstep (Graem being Jack’s brother) and blow things out of proportion instead of going along for the ride and thinking about why and thematically what is happening. Season 6 was a deep dive into Jack’s psyche which was fucking amazing.***

I wholeheartedly agree there, X dude, Season 6 was much better than it’s given credit for, but the whole acceleration of the plot about Jack’s family – Graem being his brother, Philip Bauer kidnapping Josh, etc. – was a mistake on the writers’ part, and Howard Gordon has stated clearly he believed that to be a serious misstep that hurt them for the rest of the season, it makes you wonder how that season would have played out had they not made that mistake, maybe more of Darren McCarthy, and making him a main villain alongside Abu Fayed…

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