As you may or may not know, I recently wrote about Chuck and how disappointing it has become in recent history. At the end of my examination, however, I suggested that things had been improving over the last few episodes and I had held out some hope that the show might finad a way to end on a high note. Well, my TiVo currently holds the final four episodes of Chuck, as it concluded just this past weekend. Will I be disappointed yet again, like a bad boy’s girlfriend, constantly surprised that he hasn’t changed? Let’s find out!

 

It's been a while since the show saw a really good twist with the intersect. Season four's finale does not count as a GOOD twist. Clearly you haven't been watching season 5.

Have you been watching Chuck? Because it's been watching you!

 

 

Episode Title:

 

Chuck versus Bo

 

TiVo Logline:

 

Chuck and Sarah must go to Vail on one last mission, where they get some help from Bo Derek; Jeff and Lester Continue their mission.

 

Reactions:

 

Well we’re off to a bad start for my finale marathon. Sarah and Chuck pitch converting their security firm into a cyber security firm, so they can cut the gunplay out of their lives and settle down for real. That’s not the problem, the problem is that less than five minutes into the episode Casey suggests that they get rid of the Buy More. Honestly, it’s like NBC doesn’t even read my ranting blogs!

 

The tone of most of the show’s humor seems to be back where it belongs, which is reassuring, but there’s three more episodes to go, and plenty of time to ruin things. Besides, there are still a few lingering off-color jokes staining the script. For one, the word “rainbow” may never cease to creep me out. Still we’ve got plenty of fun moments like Morgan’s connection to Bo Derek that outweigh the weird moments and are reminiscent of the fun from the first two seasons, when the show was at its strongest.

 

I love that Jeff and Lester end up using a plot device from Doctor Who's battle against the Silence in order to "continue their mission"

"What did we do last night?" "I don't know, last thing I remember is being written almost completely out of this show for nearly two years"

The episode focuses on Morgan, the character who probably best embodies the fun that this show once captured with every episode, and puts him in the line of fire in a way that’s very similar to classic Chuck. Making matters even more hilarious, Jeff and Lester (the comedy relief duo) are trying to play spy at the same time. There’s a Hangover subtheme playing throughout the episode, and surprisingly it doesn’t seem clichéd.

 

I’m excited to report that this may actually be one of my favorite Chuck episodes of all time, and trust me, I don’t say this lightly. I had to work hard to get myself to start watching this marathon, and even when I did I expected to want to gauge my eyes out by the end of the first episode. The humor was right on, there was action, but not an unnecessarily convoluted or dramatic spy story behind it, plus there were some nice references to earlier episodes sprinkled in for the fans. My main concern is that this sense I have after part 1 of 4 is a false hope. The only way to know is to carry on…

 

 

Episode Title:

 

Chuck versus the Bullet Train:

 

TiVo Logline:

 

Sarah and Chuck face Nicholas Quinn on a Japanese bullet train; Casey faces a difficult decision.

 

Reactions:

 

Well it’s good to have the intersect back on the show, but I do find it slightly annoying that they’ve blatantly ignored some of the rules they established early on. First off, when someone’s brain downloads all the information of an intersect computer, it has traditionally required a shutdown and reboot. That means that the user faints, though sometimes briefly, and it doesn’t work instantaneously. Secondly, I was pretty sure there was some clause suggesting that only certain people’s brains were wired in such a way as to accept that amount of data. That was the reason Chuck was originally sent the intersect, despite being alarmingly underqualified to be a spy in all other ways.

 

Don't answer that, somehow I feel like any answer to that question is going to make me aware of some horrible part of myself.

Not actually from this episode, but with Chuck completed as a series, how else am I supposed to justify posting my favorite bizarre lingerie moment from Chuck?

In order to get to the end of the series, though I’m going to have to strain my suspension of disbelief and soldier on. I suppose they have Sarah constantly wearing preposterous lingerie under her mission attire to help distract from these suspension of disbelief issues, by bending them back in the other direction. I’m not going to complain about that, but I’m still cross about the intersect thing, since intersect lore is like the core mythology of the show!

 

While this episode is much more serious in tone than the previous one (Bo Derek), it’s still showing some of the strengths of earlier episodes. For example, just like the Bo Derek episode, the B story is tied into the A story in a way that’s both relevant and funny. This was one of the show’s strongest aspects early on, story and characters aside. It was something I respected about the series, especially because I’m so poor at writing B stories myself.

 

I love that a PSP and Virtual Reality Goggles are required to save a life. Do Japanese businessmen really just carry VR goggles around?

"We have something better than a Buy More, we have a train full of Japanese people." This is the kind of Chuck logic I’ve missed since the first season.

This episode does take an extremely dark turn near the end, but there are two things I can say in defense of that. For starters, Chuck has always had a tradition of dialing up its drama factor for its season finales in the past. Sometimes this has actually worked to its advantage, because when they did it in season two it blew my mind, and it was pretty amazing. Secondly, they’ve finally taken the opportunity to address an aspect of the intersect that I’ve wondered about since its very inception. This wasn’t exactly the answer I expected, but it does make sense. Plus, it all lead to a nice touch of continuity that proves to me that they do still remember their past.

 

The Halfway Point:

 

As I said, I’ve been marathoning the conclusion to chuck, but there’s enough to talk about for two updates, easily. I’m going to take a break here to reflect a little and my next update will conclude my experiences with Chuck.

 

I said before that Chuck vs Bo ranked highly in comparison to most other episodes, and while Chuck vs the Bullet Train was also pretty good, it doesn’t live up to that level of praise. I’d grade Bo Derek a solid A, bordering on A+ as an episode, whereas Bullet Train gets an A- bordering on a B+. Considering what I thought of most of season 5 to date this is a huge step up, and it’s really starting to feel like the show I once loved above all other currently airing shows.

 

The last time I wrote about Chuck for the Cove of Solitude, I complained primarily about how the show lost the sense of its core, both in regards to the comedic tone of the series and the increased focus on its weaker dramatic aspects. Taking a look at these episodes we have one which is much more heavily weighted by comedy, and one which is certainly more dramatic, which provides an excellent point to compare these episodes to the rest of the series as a whole.

 

The comedic side of Chuck has made a very strong showing to get this party started. Throughout the run of the series it’s been pretty typical for each episode to fall mostly on one side of the dramady divide. Since season three, most of the episodes have been either dramatic or a type of comedic whose style and tone haven’t really meshed with the world that Chuck had already established. Here we see an episode whose spy plot is pretty heavily rooted in comedy, plus a more traditional style of Chuck B story. It’s been a while since I’ve gotten this much enjoyment out of one of their B stories…like since season 1 a while.

 

Overall the greatest strength of the comedy here is that it seems to remember its seasonal lineage in more ways than one. Not only do we see a return to form that calls back to a while ago for the series, but we get our first glimpse of self-awareness at how truly awful one of season 5’s major plotlines was. This episode plays off the continuation of that story, but ruthlessly pokes fun at it as well. It’s another of the many signs that the showrunner and the writers have got their priorities straightened out.

 

It's a nice little physical representation of how things have changed, and yet how they've stayed the same, considering his Nerd Herd uniform.

This image represents the happy ending that Chuck, as a character, has been seeking for five years. Will the ending be happy for them? Will it be entertaining for us?

So far things are looking good for the shift back to drama as well, even though it still has logistical issues as is often the case for the series, it is at least doing some things right that have been ignored in the past. For one, they’re clearly building towards a serious emotional conflict between our chief cast of characters by raising the stakes to the stratosphere. As I’ve said before, Chuck has managed to make good use of intense story arcs in the past, but the series also managed to make a mess of a few as well. This is potentially a high risk high reward situation, but there’s always a danger of failure when the risk is high.

 

Generally speaking, these episodes show huge improvement out of the season 5 that has elicited many groans and much rage from me thus far. Hopefully they’ll continue to channel all the momentum they’ve gathered over these episodes into an exciting and entertaining conclusion worthy of the greatness the series once held. However the two-part conclusion that aired just this past weekend will have to wait until next time. Stay tuned!

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