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Could ’24′ live on with more Kate Morgan, less Jack Bauer?

Last week was the final episode of Fox’s 24: Live Another Day, a limited 12-episode run of the popular series that reunites us with agent Jack Bauer four years after the ending of its eighth season. (If you haven’t watched it yet or plan to do so later, you might want to come back to this, as I do include some spoilers.)

Several other familiar characters rejoin Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) as he attempts to prevent the assassination of the President of the United States and a terrorist attack on London.

James Heller (William Devane) is now the president, after serving as the U.S. Secretary of Defense during most of the original series run. Heller’s daughter Audrey (Kim Raver) is married to the president’s chief of staff, and was previously an agency liaison and analyst who had a romance with Jack through several seasons. And, of course, Chloe O’Brien (Mary Lynn Rajskub), an agency systems analyst and tech expert who is Jack’s most trusted confidant.

But this isn’t all about getting the 24 band back together. The limited series gives us some new characters to enjoy (or despise) as well.

Benjamin Bratt plays CIA head Steve Navarro, who’s hunting Bauer (initially believed to be targeting President Heller) and may or may not have his own agenda. Mark Boudreau (Tate Donovan) is President Heller’s chief of staff and not too happy about Bauer being back. Adrian Cross (Michael Wincott) is a Julian Assange-like hacker and cyber-terrorist in charge of a group called Open Cell, which counts Chloe among its members.

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Then there’s agent Kate Morgan (Yvonne Strahovski), who may have been the most interesting of the new characters created for Live Another Day. When she’s introduced in the first episode, Morgan is being transferred back to the U.S. We soon find out it’s because her husband, a fellow agent, had turned and sold classified secrets to China, and eventually commits suicide in prison. There’s some suspicion over her being a double-agent as well, but Morgan mostly shares in her husband’s disgrace. How was she not aware of what he was doing?

Looking sad and hopeless while wearing a frumpy sweater, Morgan appears to be anything but heroic. And she’s being pushed out the door. But when Navarro and the CIA discover Bauer in London and attempt to arrest him, Morgan comes back to life. Though Navarro tries to keep her at arm’s length away from the operation, she’s the only agent who quickly figures out that Bauer’s attempt to flee from the agents in pursuit doesn’t make sense. Rather than take a rooftop route that would help his escape, Bauer keeps to the streets.

As it turns out, Morgan was right. Bauer wanted to be caught so that he could get into the CIA’s London headquarters and rescue Chloe, who was being interrogated and tortured. Bauer busts Chloe out, and since Morgan seems to be the only one capable of getting a step ahead of him, the CIA has no choice but to put her back in the field.

While following Morgan in her pursuit of Bauer, it becomes apparent that she’s a female equivalent of our favorite CTU agent. Given her position with the agency, it’s likely that she was really good at her job anyway. But with nothing to lose in terms of her career, and some serious anger to work out, Morgan becomes perhaps a bit more ruthless and much less patient with agency protocol and politics.

Eventually, Morgan figures out that Bauer isn’t going after President Heller but is trying to protect him. Once she gains Bauer’s trust, she also learns of the bigger scheme here: Terrorist Margot Al-Harazi wants revenge on Heller for her husband’s death, but has stolen technology that allows her to control U.S. drones and thus has the weapons of mass destruction that can launch attacks on any person, any city. Bauer and Morgan team up to thwart those plans.

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Though 24 is always going to be Bauer’s story, it was surprising how much he was part of an ensemble in this limited series. He’s still the driving force because Heller trusts him, Audrey loves him and he’s smart enough and obsessed enough to do whatever necessary to stop Al-Harazi (and the other villains of the piece we eventually discover). But without Morgan as his partner, Bauer doesn’t get any of this done. She’s the only other agent with the right instincts and edge for the job — along with the toughness to withstand torture — and Bauer knows it.

In the final couple of episodes, we also learn that Morgan is carrying some serious pathos as a character. She holds intense guilt for her husband’s suicide. He insisted all along that he was framed, but when he realizes that his wife doesn’t believe him anymore, he kills himself. Morgan later finds out that her husband was indeed framed — by Navarro, whom she considered a friend. That is one hell of a burden to carry on one’s conscience.

Unfortunately, Morgan doesn’t get to exact vengeance against Navarro, who’s arrested by Bauer and taken into custody. Later on, she’s charged with protecting Audrey from another terrorist who seeks the technology that can not only control drones but also hack into U.S. defense systems.

Though Morgan initially rescues Audrey from a sniper, she can’t prevent another gunman from finishing the job. Bauer trusted Morgan to protect the woman he loves and failed. She eventually has to tell him that Audrey is dead, which pretty much takes away Bauer’s reason for living. It’s another death on her conscience.

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The story ends with Bauer stopping the terrorist and preventing war between the U.S. and China in the process. But there’s a bitter twist to the resolution. The Russians behind this scheme have captured Chloe and will only give her up if Bauer turns himself over to answer for killing their foreign minister (along with several other diplomats) and kidnapping their president in an earlier season. He does so willingly, and the series ends with Bauer flying off with the Russians in a helicopter to a likely future in a Moscow prison.

Is that where Bauer’s story ends, destined to live out the rest of his days imprisoned and probably tortured? We don’t know if there will be another 24 series. In an interview with Vulture, showrunner Manny Coto said that he’d love for the next story to be Bauer working for the Russians as their agent. But I have a different idea.

Morgan ends up as a woman who’s basically lost everything. Her name has been cleared, but her husband is dead, her boss betrayed her and she faces an uncertain role with the CIA. But what if she was tasked with rescuing Bauer in the next 24 series? Let the female Jack Bauer be Jack Bauer as she tries to bust him out of Russia? Strahovski was practically a co-lead in Live Another Day and also showed she could carry the action when she co-starred on NBC’s Chuck years ago.

With shows like ABC’s Alias and female-driven action franchises like The Hunger Games and Divergent becoming hugely popular, the question of whether or not a woman can lead a series like this shouldn’t be asked anymore. Would 24 fans buy into a story that — at least initially — isn’t driven by Bauer? There’s only one way to find out. Besides, Bauer could still be a big part of the story’s end.

If people want more 24, this is a way to continue the series with a creatively fresh direction. Fox would still have its popular franchise, but also a potentially exciting new drama for its schedule that hasn’t produced a recent hit. Putting Kate Morgan back in the field could change that.

Ian Casselberry

About Ian Casselberry

Ian is a columnist for The Outside Corner and the editor of The AP Party. He has written for Yahoo! Sports, MLive.com, Bleacher Report and SB Nation, and provides analysis for several sports talk radio shows each week. He currently lives in Asheville, NC.

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