Season finale: Chuck (Season two)

Chuck off?

Chuck in Chuck vs The Ring

For me, Chuck‘s been an “if there’s nothing else on, I’ll watch it” kind of show. I watched the first few episodes of season one and thought that while it was okay – the idea of a nerd being accidentally turned into a spy not exactly being a new one (eg Jake 2.0) – it wasn’t really for me and gave up on it. Then lovely wife started watching it on Virgin 1 and before you know it, we’re watching it every week.

Season two has been okay. With Chuck, there’s a hell of a lot of water being tread – it’s always reasonably good, just never excellent. Chuck never leaves his job at the Buy More to get a new life, or if he does, he’s back within an episode. He and Sarah, his secret agent handler, never get together, except if they do, they have to return to a platonic status quo within an episode. The ‘top’ spies, even the guest ones, are never that good and would get turned into mincemeat by the guys of The Unit, Michael Westen on Burn Notice or Daniel Craig as James Bond without too much of a problem. And even the few revelatory bad things in Chuck or Sarah’s past (Stanford, Jill, his father, her father, Bryce) turn out to be not as bad as previously though, depriving the show of any true edge.

Okay, so there’s a place for “not too much thinking after a hard day at work” escapist television and to a certain extent, this is more of a show about camaraderie, family and disappointment in life than about spies, but it’s not without reason that even lovely wife is saying things like “something had better happen soon”.

Whether Chuck will get that option, since it still hasn’t been picked up for a third season, is a tricky question. But although it looks like there’s a real risk of a return to something like the status quo if it does come back, the season finale – really a two-parter in disguise if you include the preceding episode – is something of a game-changer, at least in some ways.

Spoilers ahoy.

The two-part finale takes place during Chuck’s sister’s wedding, the build-up to which has been the background to most of the second season. After rescuing Chuck’s dad, who’s turned out to be the man who built the Intersect that turned Chuck into a secret agent in the first place, and having said Intersect finally removed from Chuck’s head in the penultimate episode, where might the final episode take things except back to the status quo, you might think.

You’d be right, because while that penultimate episode would have been a great finale in and of itself or even a great way to end the show, the finale itself feels a bit lightweight and silly. But by the end of it, at least, there are promises that season three could at least be a little bit different, even if the Sarah/Chuck relationship isn’t going to change, with Sarah making continuous hurt looks at every opportunity rather than growing a pair and doing something about it; Chuck’s inevitably going to return to the Buy More; and none of his friends are going to find out about his sideline.

But we do have a new breed of villains, now that Fulcrum’s been given the heave-ho, even if they are poorly defined (“we’re spies”) at the moment; Captain Awesome, who really was awesome in these two episodes, now knows Chuck’s secret; and Chuck, rather than be continually inept, looks like he’s going to have the chance to be a ‘proper’ (at least in Chuck-world) spy, now that the Intersect upgrade appears to be able to give him whatever spy skills he needs with a single ‘flash’.

I’m hoping they use that judiciously, because it runs the risk of opening a whole box full of dei ex machina if every time Chuck needs to get out of trouble, he just flashes and gets an appropriate special skill; the hint from Bryce that there’s some things in the new Intersect that might be kind of scary might mean it’s a double-edged sword though.

I’m also worried that they might do more fights scenes with Chuck. No matter how good the stunt artists throwing themselves all round the place, Zac Levi just doesn’t know kung fu (nice Matrix ref there) or even movie kung fu, so unless he gets trained up by next season to the point where he has at least some flexibility, I’m going to have to close my eyes whenever he tries it – or learn to suspend my disbelief even further.

With ratings at an all time low (nothing new for most NBC shows), whether Chuck will get that third season is still something that’s up in the air. I can’t see Chuck ever really blowing the ratings through the roof as long as it lacks edge or a more driving narrative. But on the strength of the finale, there could be more to enjoy in that potential third season than before.

Here are some interviews with Yvonne Strahovski and Zac Levi about the finale, as well as that kung fu fight set to an obvious soundtrack – see if you agree with me about its plausability.

  • The episode before – “Chuck vs. The Colonel” is now the one to beat for the Toobits as best episode of the year, any genre. I enjoyed this episode, sorry we had to lose one of the recurring players, and am hopeful that it will get a third season. But if not, so be it; it was still an amazing two seasons full of fun 80s references (especially with the obscure sports names for characters) and all of the indies music for a soundtrack.

  • MediumRob

    Sorry we had to lose one of the recurring players, and am hopeful that it will get a third season. ”
    One of the more fun things about the finale was the way it mirrored the first episode of the show, except with Chuck doing the Bryce things (and how cool was it to have the Intersect running on an original 1984 Apple Mac?). And if it mirrored the first episode, the fact that Bryce gets dragged away, apparently dead after being shot, suggests that he might be back. I’d be less confident of that if they’d simply left him on the floor of the room during the fight.
    The official Chuck web site was reporting the show had been cancelled, but it’s now retracted that, so Chuck might still be in with a chance.

  • MediumRob

    Sorry we had to lose one of the recurring players, and am hopeful that it will get a third season. ”
    One of the more fun things about the finale was the way it mirrored the first episode of the show, except with Chuck doing the Bryce things (and how cool was it to have the Intersect running on an original 1984 Apple Mac?). And if it mirrored the first episode, the fact that Bryce gets dragged away, apparently dead after being shot, suggests that he might be back. I’d be less confident of that if they’d simply left him on the floor of the room during the fight.
    The official Chuck web site was reporting the show had been cancelled, but it’s now retracted that, so Chuck might still be in with a chance.

  • Andrea

    “always reasonably good, just never excellent.”
    This is pretty much what I thought of the first few episodes too and I checked out round about then also (too many better things on to make the effort for an average show). But I’ve been really surprised lately by all the fan support online against the cancellation, including from several people who normally share my tastes, so I was wondering if it had got radically better. From what you say, it doesn’t sound like it, though I’m sure it’s still entertaining enough. I wonder what it is about the show that has grabbed so many people?

  • I’d recommend people – at least those who’ve seen the episodes – check out Alan Sepinwall’s blog for his reviews and interviews with Schwartz, Fedak and others behind the scenes. He demonstrates the enthusiasm for the show much better than I could talk about it (especially for the last two episodes).
    Here you’ll find all of his Season 2 posts:
    http://sepinwall.blogspot.com/search/label/Chuck%20(season%202)

  • graeme

    Chuck was always good, but formulaic. Spy nonsense + hot girl + another hot girl (generally) + casey being surly + idiot friends.
    Thought that fight scene was laughable, 5 guys with guns immediately disarmed and not one thinks to pick one back up. It was just too stupid. Could of at least had casey/sarah kicking them away, rather than just staring idiotically.
    Can’t help but feel this new intersect will ruin it. The whole point of chuck was his ineptness at being a spy, with casey and sarah protecting him. Now it seems there’s no need. I reckon it will soon be taken away from him, see: Peter in heroes.

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