Howard Gordon interviewed on 24’s final season

Kiefer Sutherland Cherry Jones and Howard Gordon at Emmys 2009

24 showrunner Howard Gordon was interviewed by Den of Geek about writing the final season of the show, the return of former President Charles Logan, Jack’s armor suit, President Taylor’s fall, the last scene between Jack and Chloe, and more.

How pleased were you with the way you managed to finish off the series eventually?
I was, frankly, thrilled. I was very, very satisfied with the way we ended it… it, er… how do I describe it…? I almost let myself off the hook I would say. I revised my expectations way early on this – I came to terms with the fact that this is going to be disappointing to some people, pleasing to some people and the best thing to others. I just wanted an ending that had some emotional integrity and honesty to it.

In terms of the drama that plays out at the end of this season, what was the thinking behind pulling it back to rather claustrophobic personal encounters, and, presumably, ignoring the temptation to go for some sort of big set piece finish?
That was very much so. We just needed the characters that we cared the most about. From the moment we started talking about the series finale, the conversation was about deciding who are the characters that we care the most about, how do we get them on stage together and what’s the dynamic amongst them?

It was also about Chloe not just being on the end of the phone doing Jack’s bidding, or for Jack to not to be ‘just’ trying to stop a bomb or President Taylor – but how do you take those characters about whom you’ve learned and who you’ve come to understand, and create a new dynamic amongst them that’s actually interesting?

So the idea of Jack being oppositional to President Taylor, and Chloe being put in a position between them in some sort triangle – and having them work against each other, with Chloe finding a ‘third way’, felt like the right geometry for the end.

What was Cherry Jones’ reaction – as an actress – to finding out about President Taylor’s ‘fall’? Did she appreciate it as drama, or was she worried that it was the wrong thing to do?
No, no. She was concerned, and in a polite and professional way asked me: “are you sure about this?”

I said I was – even though I wasn’t – but Cherry is so terrific, because she is so game. She’s really game for trying stuff and she’ll make it work, that’s what’s so wonderful about her.

I think she understood it, and I think the real secret there was defining for the actor why the ‘peace’, or the idea of ‘peace’, was so important to her that she would sacrifice these very long-held beliefs about following the law and not being above the law. She [President Taylor] ended up falling for certain, very human, reasons; she fell into the traps that people with a lot of power fall into. She is, after all, human – as heroic as she is, she’s human.

The secret for Cherry – and I think for us – was that Taylor resurrected herself, that she righted herself. Not before it was too late, but in time to save Jack and in time to stop this corrupt peace from being consummated. So the damage had already occurred in this several-hour lapse, but she righted herself and that saved her character from being just trashed…

Some of the drama that plays out in this series is – for my money – some of the darkest stuff you’ve done in the whole run of 24. How much fun was it to get your teeth in to that side of things?
It was actually a lot of fun! It’s interesting that you should use that word, because it was a lot of fun. I think it was a lot of fun for Kiefer as well. Y’know, we were all very aware that, because it was the end of the show, that we wanted to try something new, to take the characters to a place they’d never been before – but what that meant, and what that looked like wasn’t always entirely clear. But I think we found some iconic moments, even though they were tricky to navigate.

For instance, when Kiefer puts on the ‘RoboCop’ suit, which could have been the worst part of the series or the best moment – that to me was like a metaphoric thing, Jack is donning this suit like some kind of Samurai, and becoming The Shadow. Y’know, I hate to sound too affected, but in a way that was kinda what was going on.

Some people saw it as absurd, but we just really decided to go for it and indulge in the operatic aspect of it. I think that once you resign yourself to the fact that not everyone is going to love it – that you’re going to just have to please yourself – you just have to be as sure-footed as you can. So we did it and I was very, very pleased with where we wound up – and ultimately, I think the audience was too. Also, the critics came to appreciate the ending…

They’re very perilous things, endings. They always are. And, by and large, they’re… disappointing, frankly. I think most people are disappointed with endings, but I think that – by and large – ours was appreciated.

The final shot of Season 8, the drone shot… When was that idea locked as the final shot of the entire series? Was it the final shooting done on the show, did the schedules fall like that?
It happened about two weeks before we shot it. I’d been in search of an image and, to me, this big screen – which is sort of laying there in front of us for the entire season – was just one of those happy gifts. It’s right there, you just don’t know it.
But it was our relationship, the audience’s relationship to Jack, on the screen – in that it was Chloe’s point of view, who really is our point of view on Jack. She’s saying goodbye to him.

And I just love the line – in concert with this grainy image of Jack, vulnerable and beaten-up and exiled for good – where Chloe says “Shut it down.” That line, in concert with the image on screen, to me… I knew it… I knew it was the cornerstone of the ending. That was the flag, and I think we planted the flag in the right place so the rest really came very, very naturally.

It was not shot in order, and Mary Lynn [Rajskub, who plays Chloe O’Brian] wasn’t shown Jack’s footage, so she didn’t know what she was going to see, so all of that footage is her really just reacting to the image of Jack. And she played that moment so beautifully.

If you were ever to come back to 24 again, would you insist on moving away from the real-time aspect and doing it differently?
24 is about the power of real-time; but it’s about the power of Jack Bauer in real-time. I think Jack’s a strong enough character that he could lead something that’s not restricted by the real-time narrative… I think. I don’t know, and I may be wrong but I think Jack’s character is powerful, at least sufficiently strong that you could see him in a narrative that’s not real time.

Check out the full interview at Den of Geek.