William Devane and Kiefer Sutherland
[WARNING: The following story contains spoilers from Monday's 24: Live Another Day. Read at your own risk.]
Talk about taking one for the team.
On Monday's 24: Live Another Day — the franchise's 200th episode — President James Heller (William Devane) agreed to hand himself over to terrorist Margot Al-Harazi (Michelle Fairley) in order to stop Margot's continued bloodshed via drone attacks on London. And although Jack (Kiefer Sutherland) warned Heller not to negotiate with Margot, when Jack, Kate (Yvonne Strahovski) and Chloe (Mary Lynn Rajskub) were unable to find Margot themselves, Heller moved forward with his plan.
24 celebrates 200 episodes: Will Heller actually turn himself over?
After saying goodbye to his daughter Audrey (Kim Raver) and convincing Jack to sneak him out the building, Heller marched himself to the middle of Wembley Stadium just as Margot had instructed. And then the unthinkable happened. That's right, no last-minute rescue would be had. Instead, Margot aimed one of her drone missiles at the leader of the free world and pulled the trigger.
How will Heller's death impact the remainder of the season? And will Margot stick to her promise to end her attacks on London? TVGuide.com chatted with executive producers Evan Katz and Manny Coto about Heller's moving sacrifice and what comes next. Plus: How much more 24 is in our future?
You killed the president! Unless you want us to believe he might have survived that missile exploding...
Manny Coto: No, it's pretty cut and dry.
Why did Heller decide to give himself over to Margot despite Jack's insistence not to?
Coto: When Heller invokes the fact that he is ill, that he has Alzheimer's and he is fading away, that makes Jack stop. Heller's reasoning is actually not a bad one in the sense that, "I only have a certain amount of time left. And if I live, more people will die. ... If I could prevent that, what am I really giving up? I'm giving up a couple years — maybe one more year of lucidity." [In Heller's mind] it's worth the trade.
Evan Katz: It is a very strong statement of heroism and nobility and sacrifice. How many of our presidents would do that? We loaded the dice in our 24 way, where he knows he doesn't have that much time left, and he thinks this woman will keep her word.
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Does Heller feel like he deserves to be punished the same way Margot believes he does?
Coto: He does this right after... watching the devastation at the hospital in Episode 7. That informs his decision. A lot of people presumably died.
Jack was very concerned with the president negotiating with terrorists.
Katz: Heller wants to get out of that on a technicality, which is resignation. And that was something that [co-creator] Bob Cochran latched onto as something that made it make sense to him. Of course, the other side of that coin is of course we negotiate with terrorists. We do it all the time.
So what is the fallout of President Heller's death?
Katz: It informs the Audrey-Jack relationship in a big way, and the Audrey-Boudreau relationship. Because in Audrey's mind, Jack and Boudreau led her father to his death — they let him give himself up. That's going to be a huge emotional blow to have to get through.
Do you think knowing how Audrey would feel also led to Jack's initial hesitation?
Coto: Jack believes that this is the right thing to do. He agrees with Heller that there are no other options. Jack's not just doing this for the sake of doing it. There are lives to be saved, and they've made a calculation. If Margot can be trusted — which is what they're taking a chance on — then they will have saved thousands of lives.
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Can Margot be trusted?
Katz: In her own twisted way, Margot is a person of honor. I think Heller sees that, or he would not have made his proposal. Otherwise, he's a complete moron. So, there's something inside of Heller that can look in her eyes, see who she is and make a qualified decision that, "If I allow myself to be given up, there is a reasonable chance that she will keep her word."
But we still have four more episodes to go. So even if Margot does honor her word, we should expect a new wrinkle, right?
Katz: There's always a wrinkle on this show, but it doesn't necessarily mean that Margot is not around. Let's just say that there are more surprises to come, and that things are not going to play out as you might expect, regarding Margo and the drones.
I imagine Heller pardoning Jack also adds new wrinkles to Boudreau's plan with the Russians.
Katz: Yes, there is another element to the entire thing with the Russians and Jack and Boudreau that plays out in quite a fascinating and ultimately emotionally devastating way.
When this season was announced, the idea was that the show would still cover 24 hours despite only doing 12 episodes. But so far everything has been in real-time. Are you still planning to cover the full 24 hours? Should we expect some sort of major time jump?
Katz: Yes and yes. When we first started thinking about the series, we told ourselves we would do jumps whenever we wanted to. But the series works so intensely that finding a moment where all the running story lines could pause for an hour just seemed very false. So, we have figured out a way to do it where we are covering the time, but we're doing it in a way that allows us some dramatic advantage. To give away more would make you sad.
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Jack has mentioned at least once this season that he might not come through all this alive. Have you guys flirted with killing Jack off?
Coto: The true mark of a hero, and you see that in Episode 8, is the willingness to sacrifice oneself to save the lives of others. And no matter what terrible things Jack has done, no matter what dark places he's been in, that's still deeply who he is.
Katz: Jack never does things for himself. Probably the only exception is at the end of Season 8, when he took revenge on the people that killed Renee. But those actions sent him into a period of exile that he doesn't want to be forgiven for. Jack is always very willing to accept responsibility for his own actions.
So, are you holding out the possibility for more?
Katz: We are holding open the possibility that we do this again, but right now there's no plans for a future event series. Whatever we do, we want to truly qualify as an event, which means not rushing back until we have another special circumstance to tell.
24: Live Another Day airs Mondays at 9/8c on Fox. (Watch previous episodes here.) What did you think of Heller's send-off?