You can’t watch vs. The Colonel in isolation. You must see the run-up, from at least Lethal Weapon and possibly from earlier, or it’s like drinking Dom Perignon alone, from a paper cup. Tastes good, but you’ve missed the experience.
Starting from the re-cap, which servers to quickly gets the three new viewers who hadn’t seen previous episodes up to speed, the incredible velocity and momentum of events, the passion of the characters, the darkness of the threat and the hero’s desperate run is matched by almost nothing I’ve seen on TV. Only parts of season 4 of Babylon 5 come close, in my estimation. Nothing has so effectively added comedy and pathos to all that while still showing a clear vision of the strength of family bonds, friendship and loyalty. Verses The Colonel relates all this with tenderness and even grace while bombs (and other fireworks) are exploding. Don’t ask me how. I just want to sit back and watch it unfold without taking it apart. The trick behind the magic should never be revealed.
This is the end of Chuck as we have know it, the highpoint. It’s all over, as they say, but for the shouting (never fear – plenty of that to come). And there are so many changes! Allow me to mention just one – the Buy More. As much as I enjoyed C.S. Lee as Harry Tang in season 1, I am truly going to miss Tony Hale as Emmett Milbarge if we don’t have Emmett in Season 3. Nope – no understated comedic acting here. Just straight-ahead funny, acting as the foil for the Buy Morons, especially Morgan. Between Colonel and Preditor (where he took a shot from Casey’s elbow), he became unforgettable. I only regret that we may never meet his girlfriend from corporate, Henrietta.
Ryan McPartlin as Devon comes into a new phase of his relationship with Chuck, even as Awesome enters married life with Ellie. Not bad for a frat boy. The extended scene where he faces down a “cold school” Casey, followed by Chuck’s revelations showed that he is going to change as much as anybody in the coming season. He’s ready for it. He will protect Ellie the way that Sarah has been protecting Chuck, the way Chuck has been protective of Sarah, and the way Stephen has been protecting them all because now he is family.
Josh Gomez as Morgan makes the decision to leave the Buy More before Chuck does. Have we noticed his maturation? No, of course not. But Anna’s speech to him shows us that he’s been on that path all along. He’s been the glue that holds the Buy More together, and now there are bigger things to be concerned about. Ah! If there’s a character we should worry will revert to type, it’s Morgan. Can the little bearded man-boy move ahead as Chuck has? Much to my surprise, I really hope so. I start to care for this character too, even though his loyalty and attachment have been one of the biggest things holding Chuck back.
Bonita Friedericy lets General Beckman be a menace, one that’s been growing. Up until the point where she called in “the 49B”, Diane has been more of a school teacher and mother figure, and it’s hard to know with a character who trusts nobody if she’s really, finally, on Team B’s side. The same person who can have Cosmos with Condoleezza, and clearly has a “thing” for Roan Montgomery, doesn’t always have Chuck’s best interest at heart. Of course, she has far bigger things to worry about, so putting Chuck in a deep, dark bunker (or a cozy little two bath, two bed cell) may be a kindness from her point of view. How much can we expect her to evolve? Chuck does trust her, after a fashion, but only so far. Should we?
Of all the characters who have evolved in the past 35 episodes, it is Adam Baldwin’s Casey who is the most surprising. He goes from “cold-school” to – yeah, “cold school”. When it comes to obeying orders or helping Sarah, he will. obey. orders. When it’s time to shoot Chuck in the head, he will shoot. And when he hunts down Chuck and Sarah, it feels deadly. And never does Casey seem more enraged then when Chuck accuses him of betraying his team. He’s not wrong when he shouts back that he “…would NEVER! betray his team.” They have betrayed him. But oh yes, everybody has made three crucial mistakes. We didn’t know that he was tailing Chuck for the past 30 minutes, we didn’t bring enough fire-power, and we didn’t ask him to help. Surprise! He is the Colonel of the title. I don’t know about you, but when Casey lowers the gun that was pointed at Chuck’s ear, my relief was palpable. Baldwin had convinced me. By the time Sarah asks “Was that a yes???” we the audience were looking at the light at the end of the tunnel and Team B. was together again. And don’t you forget that! This hero doesn’t evolve. He was born that way.
Yvonne Strahovski plays Sarah perfectly. Duh! We expect that now. Who else could convince us that Agent Walker can take out Agent Casey not once, but twice in a single episode? How can Agent Walker can do that, take out half a dozen Fulcrum agents, but still convince us that Sarah is a woman in love? It’s not her words. When Chuck wants to know why she’s chosen to help him, and wants to know what it means for them, she has no answer.
Sarah: You don’t have to thank me. It’s my job to protect you.
Chuck: And what about when it’s not your job? What happens to us then?
Sarah: (pause) One mission at a time, Chuck.
Sarah can’t – or won’t – make promises about the future, certainly not when their situation is most desperate. The lyrics echoing in the minds of “old-timers” come from Johnny River’s Secret Agent Man. The odds are you won’t live to see tomorrow. No, Sarah convinces us wordlessly, by the gentle touch of a hand and entwining fingers.
Speaking of which, I defy you to listen or think about Bon Iver’s Creature Fear and not recall the famous scene in the motel. I defy you to not be moved. Seldom has music been so sensuous, indeed sensual, while still remaining innocent and honest. The lyrics (see the link) are obscure, almost a tone-poem, where the sound matters at least as much as the words. But those are the words we hear when we hold lovers in our arms in the early morning, before the cares of the day come to stake their claim on us.
When the lovers (there’s no other word for Chuck and Sarah now) are captured and taken to the cell, Sarah finally answers Chuck’s question with only two words.
Chuck: For whatever it’s worth, if I have to spent the rest of my days in a dark, windowless room, I can’t think of a better person to spend it with.
Sarah: That’s not really how this works.
Chuck: Well – we can’t request a cozy little two-bed, two-bath cell?
Sarah: (smiles) Two bed?
She’s made up her mind, and just like that, Sarah Walker has entered into a new phase of her relationship with Chuck. The old phase is over and done with. Forget “will they/won’t they”, my friends. You might as well say “they already have.”
I started by saying This is the end of Chuck as we have know it. It’s not, however, the end of Chuck as we’ve known him. Despite all his been through, all the changes and growth, Chuck is still the character who delivers lines like You can’t kill me with that radiator. It is far to confined in this car for to get the appropriate torque.
[Chuck pours Devon a glass of whiskey.]
Devon: You’re a spy, Chuck?
Chuck: Yeah – more or less – yeah.
[Chuck downs the glass of whiskey.]
Only Chuck could bumble his way around Casey, and still be awesome with Awesome, selfless with Sarah and face down Fulcrum agents, all while being a hero to Ellie. Only Chuck could find the right way to mock and skewer Casey with his own words – “I don’t care.”
Every character has changed from season one. And yes, Zachary Levi’s Chuck is so much more now than he was. But when he brings Stephen home, Chuck is still the same guy who saved the ballerina’s day. That much survives.
There is an epilogue. Sarah looks gorgeous in her blue dress.
Sarah: So how does it feel?
Chuck: It feels great, actually. Like everything is finally real.
Sarah: It is real.
But that tinge of – what? Sadness? Regret? Uncertainty? – is still there in his voice. In the car, when Chuck recovers from losing the intersect and both he and Sarah discover it’s finally gone (just as he’s always said he wanted) what is it that we see in his eyes? And what is it that we see in Sarah’s? What ever it is that the actors and writers are trying to convey, it certainly isn’t joy and relief.
But it is real.