We were born in the desert,
We were reared in the cave,
We conquered in the sun,
Yeah we lived in the shade.
Oh baby we were savage,
We existed to kill,
Our history is damaged,
At least it was a thrill.
Listen to this – the triumphal sounds of Now We Can See by The Thermals. It’s full of arrogant, youthful bravado and energy. You remember that, don’t you? It’s from the time when you first believe you’ve lost your naivete. It’s from that time in your life when you feel strong, stronger than the challenges you will face. When Chuck and Casey strut into the Buy More to that music, you can feel that something is coming to a conclusion, even if it’s only childhood.
Chuck: Emmett! You don’t understand. I quit! No more Buy More, no more you. You can take your flag and your job and shove it.
Emmett: (shouting) What do you think you’re going to do WITH THE REST OF YOUR LIFE???
Chuck: (under his breath) Anything I want.
Oh yeah, Chuck? Is that so? Prove it.
Who is this guy? This is not the same Chuck we saw in the pilot, is it? That guy was goofing with Morgan, busy hiding from his own party, from women, and from life. This guy seems self-directed, determined that he can do anything. Chuck’s been handed a large sum of money, he’s found an amazing woman who loves him and his personal quest has been accomplished. There’s only one problem.
What do you want to do next, Chuck?
Emmett asks, Ellie asks, the General asks. And when General Beckman offers Chuck an opportunity, he turns it down. Whoa! Did that surprise Sarah as much as it surprised me? Perhaps. After all they’ve been through, it disappoints her. His only explanation is “I’m just Chuck Bartowski – not a spy.” After all they’ve accomplished together, he’s still the same guy.
There’s one other surprise awaiting Sarah – she’s to be in charge of the new intersect project, with Bryce, who’s to be the new intersect.
Bryce: Walker and Larkin, together again.
What is Sarah thinking, do you suppose, when she seems to acquiesce to this? I think we can’t be sure. But I do know this. The only way to understand Sarah’s reaction to Chuck’s easy dismissal of their shared experiences is to examine your own reaction. I know mine was “You’re not a hero Chuck? – but what about Sarah???” When Chuck turns down the CIA analyst job, is she thinking “What about me?”
Exactly how much has Chuck changed anyway? If you look at it, he’s still avoiding the pains of living and avoiding responsibilities. He’s come full circle. Chuck still wants his normal life back, and now he can actually have it. He may find peace there and he may find contentment. He may not. But what he will find, will be – ordinary. There’s one thing Chuck knows is true about Sarah. She is not ordinary. Neither is life with her.
But first, before we consider all that, one more mission. Chuck has to get Ellie married. The song we hear is a lovely little ballad done in a folk-music style, called Looking at the Sun by Gramercy Arms. It’s perfect for Ellie on her wedding day.
This day is the perfect day
There’s nothing in our way
This is our time
Honey Woodcomb (all praise to Morgan Fairchild, who never gets enough credit for her role as Devon’s mother) is busy conducting the wedding like a maestro. “Where the hell is my blonde?!” Sarah is avoiding Chuck, even avoiding eye contact, and we know why. But he catches her. Brave man that he is, Chuck proposes that Sarah join him in not-so-holy vacationing. Sigh. “This is so wrong. What is Chuck doing?” I heard myself ask.
Now I confess, I was sooooo confused the first time I saw that scene. Why has Sarah chosen to go off with Bryce – to leave Chuck? Did she really decide that? Yes, she has. HOW COULD THE WRITERS DO THAT??? (Now calm, down, Joe). But I think now that I understand. Sarah gives a clue; She had her own dreams for Chuck, and they did not go the way she would have it when Chuck declined Gen. Beckman’s offer. In The Colonel, in the motel room, Chuck asked her what happens when protecting him is no longer her job, and Sarah had no answer – only “One mission at a time, Chuck.” It’s time. And reluctantly, Sarah is making her decision. In fact, it appears she’s made it, and Chuck’s express desire to lead a normal life helps Sarah make hers.
In her own way Sarah tells us what she was hoping he’d say.
Sarah: You look like a real spy.
Chuck: You look like a real bridesmaid.
Chuck looks like a spy, but Sarah was hoping he wanted to be one, (not demanding it, however). Still, she’s Agent Walker, and she has things to do, like quelling revolutions in South America with a fork. It’s heartbreaking when Sarah tells him she’s leaving with Bryce in the morning, and Chuck’s words, “Thank you for coming to the wedding. Good for the cover.” are the most awful, bitter words I’ve heard come from his mouth. But make no mistake – Sarah is every bit as heartbroken as Chuck, and so is the audience. This is not the way things were supposed to turn out, but Chuck’s life has come full circle; no intersect, no spying, and no Sarah. Chuck is as we found him, and season 2 has come to an end.
This day is the perfect day
There’s nothing in our way
This is our time
This is eight minutes into the episode, and so much has transpired. Let us begin season 3. Chuck knows he’s blown it, and does the only sensible thing; he grabs a bottle of champagne and chugs away. That’s when reality intervenes in the guise of Roark, that little bit of a monster, who’s come to spoil the party. We barely have time to comprehend the meaning of Sarah’s last words, when Chuck has to face a bigger truth again. Only this time, even without the intersect in his head, Chuck is not hiding from anything. “What the hell do you want?” he growls at Roark. He may have gotten his old life back, but despite himself, this isn’t exactly the same the old Chuck.
Ellie – everyone – is in danger, and Chuck is no longer the intersect. Look at the list of people who line up to help him (some at great personal sacrifice); first Morgan, then Sarah, Bryce, Stephen, Devon, Lester and Jeff, and even Casey and his special forces unit. Pretty substantial list for putz who gets paid to wear a pocket protector.
Bolonia: What’s going on?
Big Mike: I don’t know, but this wedding just got good!
Dr. W. Woodcomb: Why are you letting Sam Kinison and an Indian lesbian ruin your wedding?
Ellie looks for her calm, Honey Woodcomb chugs from her flask, Jeffster plays Mr. Roboto and Sarah, Bryce, Stephen and Casey’s special forces team all fight Roark’s men at the wedding. To call it chaos is to understate it. There are survivors, but the wedding itself isn’t one of them (Well, that’s Jeffster’s fault, actually). Those 3 minutes as Jeffster plays, where guns are blazing and knives are thrown, are a television tour-de-force, combining raw adventure, good music and high (and low!) comedy with terror in a way I’m not sure I’ve seen before. And it’s not even the climax of this episode!
Chuck still has to face the awful truth that his spy life has wrecked his real life, again. Even Stephen can’t console him. One last time, he complains that he just wanted to help Ellie in normal ways, like a normal guy.
But just as he’s done ever since a distraught father walked into the Buy More with a ballerina and a non-functioning camera, Chuck has the inspired idea. The solution requires him to use his newly found windfall, and Sarah realizes right away that this is “…not what a normal guy would do.” Did I say earlier that Sarah is not ordinary? Neither is Chuck – he is not a normal guy at all, with or without the intersect. After Chuck apologizes to Ellie, what we see after is more remarkable than the previous fight scene. In measured, understated motion and cutaways, with almost no dialogue and another perfectly chosen folk song (Christmas TV – Slow Club), we see Chuck, with a little help from Casey, save Ellie’s wedding.
It’s okay, that I pray,
You will miss your flight,
and have to stay with me another night.
So much happens while that music is playing, it’s hard to write in words. And every time I see it, I feel as if I’ve never viewed that scene before. Chuck and Sarah and Casey (and his special team forces) give Ellie her dream, Bryce realizes that Sarah’s not coming with him, Stephen and Chuck give Ellie away, Stephen cries, Roark smiles, Miles (Tug Coker) assassinates Roark, Ellie and Devon are married, and Sarah realizes that she’s not going with Bryce, but wants to stay with Chuck, and the wedding party applauds.
Just come on home, just come on home.
Just come on home, just come on home.
The Ring has apparently decided that Fulcrum is not up to the job of securing the intersect, and has decided to do something about that. And what this means for season 3 is not yet clear. But it is ominous. Casey is spared only because of some event in the past, where he saved Miles’ life. I’ll hazard a guess that we’ll find out more about that event.
Ellie’s dream has come true. But what about Chuck’s dream?
Morgan: This whole “making your dreams come true” thing is hard. And the bigger the dream, the harder it gets. On the one side is the girl you love and then on the other, life as you know it.
I’m over-thinking this. Aren’t I?
Chuck: Go with your heart, buddy. Our brains only screw things up.
We hear you, Chuck. It’s time you thought about normal life in another way. Sarah will listen to him say one last time that he wants to be normal, but she’s not having it.
Chuck: Where’s Bryce?
Sarah: Gone. They’re uploading him with the new computer tonight.
Chuck: He’s out to save the world. I guess both of you are.
You belong out there, saving the world. I’m just – I’m just not that guy.
Sarah: How many times do you have to be a hero to realize that you are “that guy”?
Can Chuck hear it any more plainly? He’s almost there. Chuck still needs to know one more thing – What does Sarah want? She starts to tell him.
It was a flash the first time I saw this episode, but just then I realized that I had no clue as to what Sarah wanted. I knew she saw herself only as a spy, but every so often we saw otherwise. To Casey, she asked in Crown Vic “Did you ever want a normal life? – a wife and a family?” In Suburbs Sarah was “versatile” enough to be a contented suburban homemaker. She starts to tell Chuck directly what she wants is not to save the world but to… and she (and we) are cruelly interrupted. We do learn one last thing. After Stephen’s surprise flash as Bryce’s escort leads him away, Chuck finally admits to Stephen that he loves Sarah. Good. We knew that, and so did he. But then Chuck takes off after her – to be on a mission, as a spy. He’s changed his mind about that. Finally.
I can’t say enough about Matt Bomer’s Bryce Larkin. I spent all of season 1 hating the character for what he did to Chuck, and season 2 detesting him for coming between Chuck and Sarah in The Break-Up.
Bryce: Did you see her? – Agent Walker? She’s amazing. Right?
Agent: Yes sir.
Bryce: She loves another guy. Bad day to be me.
Agent: You have no idea.
And in order, Bryce is shot, Team B. comes to the rescue, Chuck acts like a spy, even without the intersect, Bryce explains the situation with Sarah, and he dies. That’s redemption. I fully understand why Sarah screams in anguish when the Ring Agents drag Bryce’s lifeless body away. Chuck’s been told that Sarah was not going to go with Bryce after all, but stay with him. And in revealing this to Chuck, Bryce becomes a hero and martyr. Maybe you can tell that even after at least a dozen viewings, I’m still captured emotionally by the power of these scenes – not just Bryce’s death, but Chuck’s acceptance of his life’s mission. When he walks up to the intersect computer, it doesn’t say “press to continue”, but “Do you wish to activate?”. Your choice, Chuck.
For all the accolades Yvonne Strahovski gets for her expressiveness without dialogue, Zachary Levi equals her in these final scenes. Regular viewers were electrified by the ending. Intelligent viewers were amused at Chuck’s final words.
Is The Ring the best episode of Chuck? Probably nobody thinks so (ed. Ooops. Wrong about that!). It’s just too packed full of information, nuances and questions to equal the satisfaction we got from The Colonel or the joy from other episodes like, perhaps, Best Friends or Tom Sawyer. You can’t see it once and know half of what’s going on. At first, I was almost put off by the “super powers” imparted to Chuck by the intersect. I worried about all the unanswered questions: What did Sarah want? and where will Orion go? What is “The Ring?” What happens to the Buy More without Morgan, Anna, Casey and Chuck? Why does Chuck fall into the intersect room when he has to climb up to get there? Honestly, I thought, at the time, that the martial arts bordered on cheesy.
But that’s wrong. We’ve come to learn in the intervening months that the intersect is no “Deus ex-machina”. And every time I see the final fight scene, which starts with a sweep-move where Chuck disarms five (or six?) agents, I am more fascinated and amazed by the production. It is much better on the twelfth viewing than on the first, especially Chuck’s final, underhanded knuckle-punch to Miles’ sternum. (The side-kick is icing on the cake!) The fight choreography, and the acting, is superb. I came away this time realizing that I was still reacting strongly to the power of the scenes, and convinced, once again, that my favorite episode of all time is always the last episode of Chuck that I’ve seen.
Guest stars have been fabulous all season, but never more so than in The Ring. Not only do Chevy Chase as Roark and Scott Bakula as Steven Bartowski continue to amaze, amuse and endear us with world-class performances, so do Bruce Boxleitner as Dr. Woody Woodcomb and Morgan Fairchild. We don’t want this to be the last we see of them. And we don’t want to have seen the last of Jeffster!
The reaction I had in May when I first saw The Ring was more telling. I came away stunned as the words “Guys? … I know kung-fu.” were spoken, and literally rose out of my seat to cheer when the words “To Be Continued” flashed on the screen. I had been through an emotional whirlwind that lasted 60 minutes, but had started months earlier. No other episode, and indeed, nothing I had ever seen on TV had done that to me before. I’ve come to think that it’s wrong to separate this finale from the rest of season 2, because it’s not an ending at all, and it’s barely a beginning. It’s a transition. It also served a bigger purpose by preventing Chuck from becoming formulistic – each week a new spy to be thwarted (either from Fulcrum, or Triad or from the mid-east) coupled with side-long glances and knowing smiles between not-quite lovers (aka, Bones).
We – I – got so nervous about the direction the show was going to take in season 3, and the clues given to us by TPTB were not all that helpful. Why should they be? The stories weren’t written! The wait has been long and it wore down the nerves of loyal fans. As much as we wanted to trust the vision of Josh Schwartz and Chris Fedak, trust, as Chuck and Sarah would be quick to confirm, is not easy to earn, even harder to keep. It came down to an even more tenuous concept – faith. And from what I’ve been hearing about season 3 from the lucky reviewers who’ve seen the first five episodes, faith is going to be rewarded.
My hope for S3 was expressed, and my faith sustained, months ago by the sentiments I saw in videos – Darth Razorback’s Skinny Love in particular and it’s sequel, Signs of Fear too. Those are “‘shipper” vids. But there’s more to this than just my desire to see Chuck and Sarah together. After you’ve seen Darth Razorback’s video, watch crystalkid’s offering here to feel again what you must have felt during the season. Watch, and then tell me that these guys aren’t good. Then tell me we aren’t in for another season of the best stuff on TV. Ever.
They are, and we are. I can’t wait for the next season to begin.