So here's here's one longtime watcher's dream/nightmare scenario for what happens to Jack Bauer and friends in next Monday's eagerly awaited (by fan and foe alike) finale of 24: Live Another Day.

POSSIBLE SPOILERS BELOW

The China-America conflict spirals out of control (President Heller's physical infirmities and the generals' bellicosity make a bad combination) and ends in a full-scale, globe-shattering thermonuclear exchange. Sorry Jack. The clock will jump ahead 12 hours, to the end of the "day," and we find that all civilization is lost, fire followed by permanent darkness.

Any concept, any construct of time — its very existence — gone.

No time, no 24. The last thing we see and hear is a black screen with the iconic digital clock — stuck at all zeroes — fading into nothingness, as that damnable beeping winds down, stutters, chirps one last sour broken note, and finally, thankfully, stops.

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