This is exactly the sort of thing that gets me all sentimental and sappy. Curse you all!

Chuck opted to open and close it final hour with this old school Chuck logo rather than their usual fare, one of many nods to the show's history.

 

Chuck versus Sarah:

 

TiVo Logline: Sarah returns from a mission with a big secret; Ellie and Awesome get a life-altering opportunity.

 

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After Quinn, the man obsessed with every facet of the intersect, administers a unique brand of head trauma on Sarah, she has a pretty severe case of amnesia, allowing him to trick her into thinking he’s her CIA handler and giving her a self-serving mission: to kill Chuck. While I’m doing my best to avoid major spoilers, I think it’s worth mentioning because it’s an important fact towards understanding the tone of the episode.

 

While amnesia plots are generally beyond clichéd and often quite lazily handled, it’s actually fairly motivated here. I would explain why, but I don’t want to spoil too much for anyone on the fence about watching these episodes who hates spoilers as much as I do. Suffice it to say that in the past they’ve set a precedent for how this type of amnesia might happen, and it doesn’t feel manufactured as an amnesia story frequently tends to. More to the point this idea really reinforces that the writers have remembered what this show is about.

 

The series finale certainly wasn't what I was expecting, but considering my attitude towards the show this year, that's definitely a good thing!

Will there be a happy ending for these lovebirds and their friends? Will everyone make it out alive? No way I'm spoiling this, because they genuinely caught me off guard.

When you really boil things down the show does in fact center around the titular character, but not in his capacity as a super spy. No, the show has always been about a charming nerd who lacked the confidence in himself to make something of his life and become an adult with his own life and responsibilities. Chuck and Sarah’s relationship has been a very big part of that process since day one, so if you really think about it, there’s no greater challenge for our hero than to have his greatest source of strength not only taken away, but turned against him. And if you think I’m talking about the intersect you deserve a smack upside the head.

 

But the relationship between Chuck and Sarah, and its significance, isn’t the only retrospective in store for this two hour finale. Casey and Morgan make acknowledgements to Morgan’s rise to…competence and Casey’s heart which has grown three seasons in five years. Not quite as impressive as the Grinch’s transformation, but still remarkable. Casey finds this truth difficult to swallow and thus goes off on his own to try and overcompensate by being the big bad lone wolf.

 

As I suggested at the end of my last entry, the stakes and drama remain high throughout this episode, but the emotions also stay real, which does help to keep the show feeling like Chuck. It does retain one of the hallmarks of the more dramatic Chuck episodes, however, the disintegrated B story. The side story with Chuck’s sister and her husband is tangentially related to the rest of the action at best, which does cut the fun out of the episode, as I’ve complained about at length. However in this case the high stakes (without a doubt higher than they’ve ever been) do seem to compensate for what usually causes such a problem. The action draws you in and the characters keep you involved.

 

It may be jokes like these that keep me from getting jobs as a writer. Worth it.

Aw man, not the Wienerlicious again! This place is the wurst!

Of course if you hadn’t already guessed an amnesia storyline entwined with a series finale is license for an abundant use of flashbacks and clip show behavior, but to be honest they’ve done a good job (at least so far) of playing it close to the vest. The amnesia isn’t immediately cured by the power of love or friendship, and flashbacks are only used for really critical moments in their history. In fact, they even found a clever way to recap a lot of the important moments using new footage. I very rarely have patience for clip shows, but I actually respect what they did here quite a bit, I’m definitely impressed.

 

For those of you keeping score at home, this episode manages to respectably handle two very difficult TV tropes: the clip show and the amnesia plot and rarely loses its stride. It’s a pretty impressive feat, perhaps there’s really a diamond in the rough of Chuck’s fifth season.

 

Three down, one to go.

 

 

Chuck versus the Goodbye:

 

TiVo Logline: Chuck gets his family and friends to help stop Nicholas Quinn from destroying what he has built.

 

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This is it, the home stretch. Go big or go home. Just like the series as a whole, this final final episode (as opposed to the penultimate final episode I just discussed) is sending mixed signals. We open with a sub-par and fairly implausible action sequence, but then cut to Jeff and Lester who must now use their super stalking powers for great justice. In a way it’s a good sign; mediocre drama combined with great comedy is a mixture this show has had great success with in the past. I refuse to go any further without at least one grain of salt, though.

 

This episode also proves that the best spies in the world are no match for the best creepers in the world!

This episode treats us to a bittersweet callback to Chuck and Sarah’s first meeting. Dawww.

As Chuck hitches a ride on Sarah’s mission, it starts to unfurl as a third first date, in a way that’s surprisingly endearing. Sarah and Chuck first dated as a cover for their spywork, then they started dating seriously and now they’re dating again after she’s lost any memory of the past several years. This sequence really taps into the heart of this show: unlikely yet wacky occurrences backed up by an ill-conceived plan and intertwined with life-threatening spy work. It’s just like old times with another batch of fan-rewarding nods and references.

 

It’s really hard to talk about an episode like this without spoiling the fun, and I sure do hate spoilers, so for your sake I’ll do what I can without them. Every character who you could want to see again makes an appearance (well, unless they’re dead or otherwise written out of the show). This episode represents every element that ever fell bay the wayside when this show was down and more. Everything good about this show all merged together to create a love poem dedicated to this series. Is it sappy? Yes. Am I being sappy about it? Yes, but I can’t help it!

 

I’m actually not sure if I’ve mentioned this before on Cove of Solitude, but one of my biggest weaknesses are series finales. You know how it’s a cliché to cry at weddings? Well the closest experience I have to that are series finales. I’ve seen series finales for shows I’ve barely or never watched before and still been emotionally affected by them. Heck, even BAD series finales will usually get to me at least a little. Television is one of the things in this world that I truly have passion for, so is it any wonder that they have one of the greatest emotional impacts on me? Maybe it’s not healthy, I have no idea, but if you’ve read any of my blog so far and thought that I was a normal, well-adjusted human being, then I don’t think you’re reading hard enough.

 

The best thing I can say in praise of this sendoff for one of the shows of the least consistent quality that I can remember is this: I haven’t been this satisfied by a series finale since Arrested Development. Possibly not since Futurama’s first series finale, which is perhaps my favorite of all time. Futurama’s sendoff addressed the characters and relationships you were familiar with, had a great mixture of emotional highs and lows and it managed to close by wrapping things up nicely while still leaving them open ended. I’m impressed and excited to say that Chuck exceeded my wildest expectations and managed to fulfill all of these same criteria for success.

 

I am truly glad that I stuck through this show and all of its many pitfalls and shortcomings in order to experience this finale. It just goes to show that sometimes bad TV still has value, even if it gets tarnished somewhere along the way.

 

 

Ultimately:

 

While I’m sure I’m romanticizing and exaggerating the success of some of Chuck’s earlier episodes (I refuse to believe that Chuck’s second season was anything short of a masterpiece), I do genuinely believe it’s been a great show in the past, and while it definitely stumbled a lot over the past two years, it’s quite difficult for a show to survive for five years without having some bad stories and episodes. Based on some of the precedents set earlier in this last season, I was worried that the show had been irrevocably damaged by writers who had lost sight of what made the show so relatable, charming and fun. While I am now more confused than ever as to why things went so wrong, I am definitely pleased with the finale and it restores my good will to the show overall.

 

It reminds me of the way they used Tom Sawyer in that Missile Command episode, another great moment.

This is probably the only show that could make an orchestral version of Take Me On by A-Ha into a major plot point, and I love it.

It’s easy to focus on the bad things in life sometimes, especially when people start trifling with something that’s very close to you. It may seem silly to be so emotionally attached to a television show, but as the saying goes, “some people juggle geese”. The bottom line is that this show does have at least a fair share of problems, and yes it’s last season as a hole isn’t terribly strong, but I think I let myself get emotionally invested and speak a little more harshly about the series than it really deserved the last time I wrote about it.

 

Chuck will go down in history as a show that I love and appreciate, despite its shortcomings. If it sounds at all interesting to you I recommend that you check out at least seasons 1 and 2. If you find that you like those and you get too discouraged by the seasons that follow, you can always skip ahead to these final four episodes and see a worthy sendoff for a show that was probably underappreciated.

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