Chuck: Chuck versus the Ring, Part 2

“Your brother does have a knack for getting into trouble. You’re going to have to protect Chuck, be there for him no matter what, because you’re his big sister. Can you do that for me?”

Part Deux started off with a flashback that we didn’t entirely need: Ellie’s care and concern for her little brother was not a mystifying part of her character. It’s the natural role of any big sister, and I’ll bet all the big sisters who saw this episode got just as choked up as I did. It does make her concern more complex, though: she’s not just watching out for Chuck, she’s honoring her father.

Chuck and Ellie had different experiences of their dad. She balanced the checkbook and looked out for her baby brother. Chuck got to know his father and his father’s world, albeit obliquely. But when Chuck said that his dad was a hero: well, sort of. But there’s nothing heroic about abandoning your children. Lots of people can be spies, even great spies. But parents aren’t really replaceable.

Chuck had a hard time taking care of himself, though--and wound up relying on a dad ex machina to save his day. His flashes got increasingly painful, and just when it seemed like this episode would regain its sense of whimsy (courtesy of Morgan and Casey, mostly), things turned dark again. Those flashes...if I knew more about Superman, I would make some sort of kryptonite comparison. Or craft some cute phrase like “what makes you stronger also kills you.”

Shaw said that his plan to detonate the BuyMore—and take over the world—didn’t have anything to do with Sarah. If you feel like you have to say it, it’s probably not true. Why was his motivation so personal? I have no idea. He betrayed them. The inner thought processes of beautiful people are always a bit beyond me, though. And he wanted their last stand-off to be all poetic, with him in black and Chuck in white. Strobe lights, Jeffster: it was so staged, which was both funny and weird. It would have been so much more effective to just shoot Chuck. Oh, well. That wouldn’t have worked for the renewal.

And what will that renewal bring? Some of it comes courtesy of dad: turns out Chuck downloaded the IIe version of the Intersect back when he was a kid, and he managed to use that knowledge to take down Shaw and gain the Governor. That wasn’t the last gift from Papa B, though: now Chuck has access to a Raiders of the Lost Ark meets The X-Files cavernous warehouse of information, and a clue that his mother has something to do with it.

I’m not entirely sure how I feel about that. The sudden introduction of Chuck’s possibly failing mental health still feels sudden. The “surprise, secret room full of info!” just feels like a new Intersect download, albeit an external one. On the other hand, now that the whole family—including Alex—is in on the game, the contours of the show might feel different. I hope Mama B shows some remorse for abandoning her children, but given Chuck’s history with villains, I doubt it. I also hope we get more Ellie; her emotions felt a little short-shrifted to me tonight: everyone came together at the end so it felt happy, but these kiddos are still mourning their dad, right?

I’ve pretty much completely ignored the BuyMore in my recent reviews. It has felt like un-attached comic relief, and while I love a good Jeffster joke, I never really saw the relevance, especially now that Morgan is part of the spy team. I’m glad it got a fitting burial-by-explosion, and I hope Lester and Jeff manage to evade the law long enough to cut a record.

This episode was odd. I feel like I can't quite pin it down. It started off so dark, and the lightness of the all-together-now scene felt off. The cliffhanger of the previous episode was wrapped up a bit too neatly, I think: just a click of a button, by mistake, did it. But I guess it got us where we needed to go, and I certainly enjoyed it along the way.

Bytes:

• Morgan: “Reach for the sky, dirtbags!” This reminded me of Serena’s Glee reviews.

• Shaw: “You’re right. I don’t want to kill all these people. However, I do want to kill Chuck. And I wouldn’t mind killing you, too.”

• Chuck: “He’s gonna drop it.”

And Pieces:

• That flash of the Ring operatives made it look like there were only about 20 people involved.

• Disguises! We got disguises!

• The iPhone. Perfect for all handcuffing situations. I can’t believe Morgan broke his own thumbs.

• Chuck was wearing a Superman t-shirt in his flashback.

Thoughts on the Season:

This was definitely Chuck’s most adventurous season, as the writers tried out a variety of different arcs. It was pretty uneven, though, and plausibility is still not the show’s greatest strength: why all the will-they-or-won’t-they, if the CIA is just fine with spy couples? Why have Sarah briefly date Shaw? Looking back, I see how out of character that was, especially now that we’ve seen her and Chuck together. Oh, and remember that patch of episodes where everyone kept telling Chuck he’d gone dark? I’m so glad that’s over. Ditto the brief Spike-style head-grabbing thing, now that Chuck has the Ring of Amara—I mean the Governor.

In a way, the Shaw storyline was the best played of them all. We got to spend some time getting to know him, and even if the details of his plan in this episode seemed to be more geared towards putting on a good show than any actual evil plan would be… well, that’s Chuck. It’s got heart. And it’s also got a fourth season.

3.5 out of four reboots.

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

3 comments:

Dimitri A.C. Ly said...

Yeah, that sums up the season perfectly, doesn't it?

One thing: I interpreted Chuck's second-wind flashback a bit differently. I thought Chuck suddenly remembered that his mind had proven particularly resistant to large info-dumps even in his youger years and that gave him the confidence to push through the pain, the implication being that Chuck isn't just some schmuck who lucked out with the super-powers but someone truly special who was destined to house the Intersect in his brain.

Okay, two things: I think the final revelation marks Chuck's transition from super-spy to super-hero. I suspected they were going in that direction earlier in the season, what with almost all the intrigue this year centered on general CIA incompetence and cruelty. Chuck doesn't want to kill people; he wants to save them, so super-hero is a much better career choice for him.

It would also allow them to place Chuck back in a position of rookie. Next year promises the story of a man striking out on his own for the first time, which will keep the character relatable.

Thanks for the great reviews, and I hope next season is more to your liking. Actually, I mostly hope it's more to my liking. I'm selfish that way.

Billie Doux said...

Ditto to what Dimitri said -- thanks so much for the terrific reviewing job you did this season, Josie. I actually got into Chuck because of you.

I agree that the season was a bit uneven, but it was still fun and I think this was a really good (if not great) season finale. Brandon Routh was wonderfully creepy, wasn't he? And they didn't kill him off, so he can come back and be wonderfully creepy again! I loved what they did with the General, even if it didn't make complete sense. Was sad about Scott Bakula, but felt it coming. And the new direction should be interesting, although all I could think of was spy family/secret archive -- are we becoming a cross between Alias and Warehouse 13? And hey, at least they didn't artificially break up Chuck and Sarah at the end of the episode, which is what I was expecting and not wanting.

ChrisB said...

I watched this episode earlier today and have been thinking about it. I can't really put my finger on what didn't work for me, but it left me mildly unsettled.

Too many things seemed forced, especially, as you point out, that final scene. Mr. B's death was sad, but I would have liked a bit more angst because of it. I'm not sure anyone would recover that quickly from watching his father be shot in front of him.

But, I am willing to go along with the reset to see where they go with it. I'm especially interested to see who next year's Big Bad will be.