My son Mac and I are devotees of the TV show “24.” We don’t have an actual television, so we rent the show on Netflix and we’ve watched it for the last year, one season at a time. Somewhere around the third season, we realized that the show was not, as we had assumed, a guilty pleasure, but a compelling show chock-full of moral nuance and complexity. Occasionally the writing can be a little bit lazy, but the acting is really good, and Jack Bauer, the antihero (who is, I feel compelled to add, played by Canadian actor Keifer Sutherland), reflects the evolving zeitgeist of America for the last eight or nine years. All the questions we’ve asked ourselves after 9/11 about due process, civil liberties, and that delicate balance between protecting our citizens and honoring the law are interesting questions to ask. As a result, Mac and I have been thoroughly hooked.
So last night, we were on the final disk of Season 7. It’s not outside the realm of possibility that I will die before Netflix releases Season 8. And so this is probably our last season of watching the show. Mac had mentioned to me earlier that this was our final season and we both did our best not to cry. So there we were, watching the second to the last episode, and Jack Bauer’s daughter Kim was now a mother and she’d named her first-born daughter Terry, after her dead mother who was killed in Season 1. And Maclen says, “What an idiot. Why’d she name her kid after her mom? She needs to move on, It’s been six seasons already.” I responded in a calm, measured way, as any mother would. I said, “You are totally full of shit. What the fuck are you talking about? That’s a wonderful gesture.” And Mac says, “She needs to move on. She can’t spend her whole life grieving her mother.” And I said, “Naming the kid after the mother is a way for her to move on.” We left it at that, but I could tell he was utterly unconvinced.
Finally, we were about to begin the final episode. Episode 24 of Season 7. Before we began I told Mac to pause the DVD player and I said to him, “Sir, it has been an honor to serve with you these past seven seasons. I’m proud to have watched this show with you.” And Mac responded, “As am I, sir. As am I.” And we smiled at each other and watched our very last “24” episode. I know, I know, it's a FOX show with lots of explosions, but this was a heavy event for me.
Much to my disappointment, despite all promises implied ( SPOILER ALERT. DO NOT CONTINUE READING IF YOU WANT TO BE SURPRISED BY THE ENDING. ALSO DO NOT CONTINUE READING THIS SENTENCE IF YOU DON’T WANT TO KNOW THAT TONY SOPRANO IS DEAD. . . . WHOOPS!) Jack Bauer was not killed off at the very end of the season, even though he had a fatal and incurable illness. At the end of the season, his daughter volunteered her body for an experimental and never-been-proven-successful stem cell procedure. So you know he’s going to come back for the final season. I was really disappointed in this plot cop-out, and Mac said to me, “What do you have against last-minute experimental stem cells saving the day and making the main character survive a fatal and incurable illness?” And I had to admit he had a point.
So as I was getting ready for bed, he was helping me as he always does, pulling the blankets over me, putting my breathing machine on for me and right before I said goodnight to him I looked him in the eye and I said, “Mac, after I’m dead, if you have a daughter, it would mean so much to me if you would call her . . . Terry.” And this big grin and one sort of staccato guffaw burst out of Mac and he leaned over himself and slapped his thigh. His eyes beam when he laughs hard, just like they did when he was 3. And he said, “Wow, that will be a tough one to explain to my wife. We have to call her Terry for my mom…Carla”
As I told Edith later, making Mac laugh is like ringing the bell with a giant hammer at the state fair.