Chuck: Chuck versus the Other Guy

“I’m still the same guy. I’m still Chuck. I promise.”

It’s been a rough season. Chuck failed his Red Test. Sarah seemed destined for Shaw: either as his girlfriend, or as a victim of his great wrath and terrible vengeance. Casey had been BuyMored, and the sidekicks were so irrelevant that entire episodes could pass without mention or glimpse of Ellie and Awesome. In the middle of it all, many of us were feeling confused by Chuck’s motives, Sarah’s choices, and the general emotional and mythological direction of the show.

But tonight, Chuck finally passed his Red Test. Actually, he passed two of them: he killed Shaw (the CIA version of a Red Test), and he saved the girl in the Symbolic Red Coat (the Love Patrol version of a Red Test). Thanks to Shaw’s treason and betrayal, Chuck managed to get the girl and become a real spy, all while staying true to himself—and now he doesn’t have to choose between spy life and love life.

This episode was incredibly satisfying. Shaw is a traitor. It's not the most original plot device, but I’m impressed that they waited this long to reveal it. Casey has been reinstated and is lookin’ super-fine. Morgan has a spy job and a BuyMore cover. Chuck got to see the Eiffel Tower. Oh, yeah: and Sarah and Chuck finally get to have sex.

The plotting was tight. All this season’s threads were tied up (except Ellie and Awesome), and each scene was effective and pithy. Chuck episodes usually die a small death about two-thirds of the way through, but this one didn’t. The dialogue was hilarious: not just the one-liners, but the rhythm of the conversations that are too long to reproduce below. Mark Sheppard’s character was darn funny and well-played. Even Morgan’s mini-plot about working for the CIA was interesting. Major props to Chris Fedak.

Mark Sheppard is just awesome, and not just because he pronounced Barcelona with a Castilian accent (although, don’t they speak Catalan in Barcelona? Does Catalan do that thing to sibilants?). He was wry and low-key and just brought great energy to the screen, as I think people in the industry say. Watching him play against Brandon Routh, I realized why Brandon Routh will never make it big, and why Mark Sheppard really should: Routh just doesn’t have much charisma. He doesn’t have that unknowable something that makes me care, no matter how pretty he is. Sure, I’d love to keep him in my cage. But I’d rather have a dinner date with Mark Sheppard.

This would have been a very effective season finale. Heck, it would have been an effective series finale. I’m happy that we’re getting three weeks before the next episode, so that this episode feels important. Will Chuck live up to its promise to retain its true self? We’ll find out soon.

Megabytes:

• Chuck: “And the tank—the tank! Cancel the tank!”

• General Beckman: “Do you want to see the bill for the rescue mission? It’s longer than my copy of Atlas Shrugged.”

• Morgan: “Enjoy my old life.”
Casey: “You too.”

• Morgan: “You’ll start quoting liberally from the works of John Hughes, and then things will go really dark.”

• Morgan: “You are misquoting a line, and you are ruining Pretty in Pink for me.”

• Mark Sheppard: “You can all die here today. Personally, I have dinner reservations.”

• Mark Sheppard: “Your partner here is a very different story. Not much of a spy…with a tranq pistol. Real gun too dangerous for you?”

• Morgan: “I gave up a management position in a down economy.”

• Morgan: “You’re going to go willy-nilly, tie me up again, and drink yourself into oblivion.”

• Morgan: “He’s a stud, and 99 times out of 10, he gets the girl.”

• Morgan: “You’ll find yourself on Friday night in Jeff and Lester’s crew, hanging out in Woodland Hills.”

• Mark Sheppard: “Do you want us to [makes throat-slitting motion]?”

• [sounds of machine-gun fire off-screen] Shaw: “I see you brought Casey.”

• General Beckman: “No. We don’t do pranks.”

And Pieces:

• Morgan tied up with gaming devices.

• Sarah saying she loved Chuck.

• General Beckman’s hair curlers and clapper.

• Casey’s destroyed bonsai tree is now a small cutting on his dining room table.

• Casey, Chuck, and the sleeping guy were just too big for those airplane seats.

• Sarah, crying and immobile, was touching. For a minute, I actually worried that she would go into the Seine with Shaw, and the rest of the season would be Chuck’s attempts to find her.

• That score that I’ve found so intrusive all season—both the Muse-theme and the Terminator-theme—were used more effectively in this episode as they finally came to some resolution.

Four out of four red coats.

Josie Kafka is a full-time cat servant and part-time rogue demon hunter. (What's a rogue demon?)

6 comments:

GreenHornet said...

I agree completely, Josie!

I only just started watching Chuck -- grateful for the reviews BTW to catch me up -- but was sad to see that a couple of episodes ago I didn't really need any help to 'get' the ep. Always a bad sign if you can dive in cold and follow everything, and not be very engaged. But that was a couple of weeks back; tonight's show was very satisfying and crisp. It didn't sink to cliche or leave you hanging. One example: it believably revealed the fake fight being played to the camera, and made several visual references beforehand without hitting us on the head about it. It was emotionally resonant across the hour; and also had CHUCK save the day, rather than his deus ex machina programmed abilities.

I also really appreciated Mr. Sheppard's contributions, and it's nice to see great actors continue across series, as Adam Baldwin etc. And the general's clapper moment was lovely!

One question: did I have a brain freeze, or does Casey's apt look a lot like Giles' in Buffy? There was a rather delightful moment of dissociation for me there, with the stairs leading up on the right, maybe that's a common motif in LA...

The one thing that frustrates me, and it's not Chuck especially but hey, fair game: is how freaking often we're back to women as helpless and needing to be saved, the ones who stay behind on a mission, or or or... doesn't that seem to happen a little too frequently here for capable spies? Maybe I'm wrong, being a casual surfer here, but it seemed so the past few weeks, and reminds me of so much in tv that currently reverts to that wrong, tired, and worse BORING knee-jerk. Probably just a tie to the culture at large, but you think there'll be headway after Joss and BG and some others and then voom! Back to the 1950's...

But still: I did enjoy the hour!

Billie Doux said...

I loved this one. It was a worthy season finale. It was even a worthy series finale. Sort of odd that it's neither, but that's okay with me, too.

Casey rocks. I knew he'd be a spy again, but getting him back to that point was fun. It'll be interesting to see Morgan as a spy; I don't think they'll go with total comedy, since Morgan's quickness was what saved the day this time. I think I like Brandon Routh more than you do, Josie, and I bet the fact that he went into the Seine means that he might not be dead. I want him back.

Did they actually go to Paris or was it just a remarkable simulation?

Terrific review, Josie.

Jess Lynde said...

Hmmm ... good review, Josie, but I disagree on your overall assessment of the ep as "incredibly satisfying." There were things I really liked, but there were too many things I didn't enjoy for me to rate it as satisfying (much less "incredibly" satisfying).

I really didn't enjoy the constant Shaw's a bad guy, no wait he's a good guy, check that, he *is* a bad guy stuff. I kept expecting it to turn out to all be some really elaborate test to get Chuck on the path to real spydom. Remember back at the beginning of the season when General Beckman was talking ominously to an off-screen Shaw about "is this really necessary?" She seemed worried. Did I just forget that this was addressed? It was foremost in my mind throughout the whole end sequence, and I kept expecting that everyone (even the supposed Ring operatives) were all part of some elaborate sting (thinking maybe Sarah's Red Test victim wasn't really dead or really Shaw's wife).

So anyway, I was once again a bit disappointed with the whole resolution to the Shaw storyline. And Sarah's "You saved me" line just made me groan and long for Sarah of old. I can understand being grateful, but I just didn't like the way they made it seem like she was suddenly all doe-eyed and gooey over Chuck killing someone because he *saved* her. He's done it before after all. Ugh.

OK. With that venting aside, I did like the Morgan and Casey stuff (SO glad that Casey is back), and I really enjoyed the scene in the apartment when Sarah finally told Chuck that she loved him. Understated and simple, and I was really feeling the chemistry between them in that moment.

And, of course, the stuff with Mark Sheppard was great fun. I particularly liked the seeming shout out to The Princess Bride when he said something like "What Ring phone?" and Sarah puts a gun on him and he says "Oh, you mean this phone" while pulling it out of his jacket. (We've been getting a lot of unintentional Princess Bride vibes from shows lately, but I think this one was intentional).

Overall, I'm glad that the band is back together (with new member Morgan) and that the will they/won't they thing is done. Can't wait to see how they make it work in the next bunch of eps. Lots of potential for things to get really fun again. Yea!

Mark Greig said...

An abandoned and atmospheric warehouse. Daniel Shaw meets with the director of the Ring.

Romo Lampkin: Join us, Daniel.

Superman: I’ll never join you.

Romo Lampkin: Daniel, the CIA never told you what happened to your wife.

Superman: They told me enough. They told me you killed her.

Romo Lampkin: No, Daniel, Sarah killed your wife.

Superman: No. That’s not true. That’s impossible.

Romo Lampkin: I know, it is a rather contrived and hackneyed plot twist.

Superman: Bit too Heroes, isn’t it?

Romo Lampkin: What can I say, obviously the writers hope the audience will be too distracted by my scene stealing charm and your Kryptonian good looks to notice.

Superman: I am distractingly hunky.

Romo Lampkin: Only thing stopping me from completely blowing you off the screen.

Superman: But the fans will never tolerate this kind of sloppy writing. They know the show is better than that. Remember last season’s finale? That was awesome.

Romo Lampkin: Those days are gone, Daniel. The writers will simply slap on a happy ending to appease disgruntled fan, in which Chuck and Sarah finally getting together.

Superman: Shit, I’m dead meat then.

Romo Lampkin: Relax, NBC has ordered additional episodes.

Superman: Phew, I was really worried for a minute there. I really need this job.

Romo Lampkin: I know. So what do you say, want to team-up and do bad stuff together?

Superman: Ummm, okay.

Romo Lampkin: Boy, that was quick. What happened to your patriotism, Captain America?

Superman: Nah, I just put that on to score hot chicks. Or flip flopping leading ladies.

Romo Lampkin: Nice.

Superman: By the way if, say, you should get napped by the CIA and I, hypothetically, got pumped full of lead, fall into the river and mysteriously vanish, you don’t mind if I go into hiding, take over the Ring, possibly team-up with Chuck and Ellie’s mom and show up as the new big bad in the other season finale?

Romo Lampkin: Sure, no problem. I’ll be busy doing Supernatural that week anyway.

Superman: Great. And to think they said my stiff acting would hold me back. Bwwahahahahahha!!!!

Romo Lampkin: Don’t do that.

Superman: Sorry.

Josie Kafka said...

Romo Lampkin?! What craziness. Everyone knows he's really Badger!

ChrisB said...

I'm glad we've come to the end of this arc. I am glad that Casey is back, that Morgan is part of the team and that our duo are finally together.

Looking forward to what comes next.