The Third Time Around.
Sorry folks. Here we go again. It is real. That’s the simplest explanation. It also isn’t out of character, for either Chuck or Sarah, it just means the things we didn’t like about the characters are there after all, and being highlighted. What it is, unfortunately is another re-play of the same story we’ve seen, again and again, and again. You may not like it, and I don’t blame you if you don’t, but this isn’t new damage. The damage is pre-existing. I’ve had the chance to re-watch Chuck Versus The Mask, and I’m afraid that a lot of the reactions we’re seeing are again due to something I’ve posted about, watching for the show you want to see, not the show they’re showing. Taken at face value The Mask was a darn good episode, maybe the best yet, if you let it be. Get a cold compress for your forehead, grab a glass of your favorite adult beverage, lie back and relax. Dr. Ernie is here to help the pain go away, after the jump.
I thought they’d pushed it one try too many in the Ring. Sarah withdraws, Chuck misreads, angst ensues. Double down in Pink Slip. Twice. And again in Three Words. That is where the damage was done, not Monday night. What we are feeling is a bit of a hangover from one too many samplings of that old friend angst. I keep hoping they have something better to offer, that some backwards reveals and retcon might fix some of this, but again, I am starting to think that is us reading too many of our desires into a TV show. And here I think it is important to understand something. We aren’t watching the same TV show we watched in season 2. Liz had some great thoughts on this, but we need to understand that this is literally the case. Season 2 Chuck was a well funded 22 episode critical favorite that had unfortunately had a long hiatus due to the writers strike. A few bad breaks led to poor numbers and a show on the bubble lead to what we have now. What was picked up was not season 2 Chuck, but a new Chuck. Not nearly as well funded, only 13 episodes, a much tighter production schedule, and episodes that had to be stripped of a lot of the richness and depth we were used to seeing. That is the new Chuck. And after a rough start, due to the aforementioned angst, I like it. I’m about to really give some people whiplash here. I really like it. But I understand why you don’t if you don’t. I’ll try to cover both aspects, and maybe we can all get back to just enjoying what I still consider to be one of the best TV shows ever made.
I know I’m often identified as a shipper, and to an extent I am. Watching season 2 of Chuck I thought they were doing something totally new and unique to the WTWT dance. This wasn’t two people jousting like Moonlighting, or the unrequited love/move on with your life we got on Friends, this was something different. Two people who really cared about each other, and who really connected, and both wanted to be together, and knew they wanted to be together, but were stuck in an impossible situation. One that tested their trust and loyalty to each other constantly, and one that showed them both that despite everything that might keep them from the lives they wanted, with each other they had something real. I thought the writers got that. The 49B in Broken Heart seemed to directly address that. They both knew what they had, and that they had to treasure and guard what they had, because any alternative was far worse for both of them. I’ve written and commented that I think they could have carried this line forward into something more, and something unique, but they chose another path, one that I’ve been rather critical of, repeatedly. But I’ve also examined season 3 on its own terms, what I think are the writers terms, and while it isn’t what I’d prefer or what I consider well executed at certain points, I’m willing to go with it. I’ll even rationalize it to an extent. So let’s get started.
Chuck Told Sarah He Loved Her, She Beat Him With A Stick and Told Him To Get Over It, ‘Cause She Was.
Sorry if you missed that, but despite the backwards reveal at the end that is what happened in Three Words, and when Sarah filled in the blanks, she did nothing. That is the new normal. Chuck had his chance and he blew it when he decided to become a spy so far as he knows. Sarah has never given him any indication that she is willing to do anything more than train him and re-establish a friendship. We may see more, but that is the pre-established SOP of this show. Chuck sees some, Sarah sees some, only we know the whole story. That was the season 1 and season 2 pattern. As far as Chuck knows his decision to become a spy was a deal breaker for Sarah, running was a one time offer for both of them, and he blew it. Chuck is starting to see the costs, and how much Sarah did and was willing to do for him, and as that unfolds more and more he realizes what he turned down. He also starts to see, as he gathers assets (Devon, Manoosh, Hannah) exactly how much Sarah handled him, worse than he’d imagined. This was nearly, but not quite explicitly stated in Nacho Sampler, again using that same annoying interrupted conversation crap so Sarah can’t explain and Chuck can draw his own conclusions. (sigh, bored now) So I’ll be brief. Sarah is uncommunicative, Chuck draws his own conclusions, as he always does, and thinking things are over, he does the healthy thing and moves on. Sarah says nothing, of course, and lets him move on. We can speculate on her reasons ad nauseam in comments, but none of this is out of character. It is treading water IMHO, but it is the new real. We can argue about how it was done, what it does to the characters, the story, or us, but it’s done. Again.
So there it is folks, Chuck, once again moved on, and Sarah encouraged that. The twist was that Sarah played up the fact that she’d moved on. She hasn’t. Are they still in love? Of course. Are they still immature and in need of some adult supervision? Yep. Can they actually manage a conversation? Nope. I had a chance, with the recent snowstorm, to re-watch just about all of seasons one and two. They have never gone very deep into an understory, for lack of a better word. Want to know what they are doing, look at what they’ve done. This is the replay that I thought for sure they wouldn’t try again, but that is exactly what’s going on. This time Sarah has decided that without Chuck needing her protection or support she can move on too. If she can’t have something real, maybe she can have something. Give the girl a break. Sister Sarah pureheart has been chaste for Chuck for three years now. True, she could have Chuck any time she wanted just for the asking, but as we know Sarah doesn’t put her heart out there to get stomped on, especially again. She realizes that she put Chuck in an impossible situation with her impulsive decision to run, and he did what he had to do, make the tough but right decision for both of them. With that perhaps Sarah has grown up a bit and realized Chuck isn’t her puppy, but a fully grown man with a calling.
Now we know where we stand. I know it’s annoying, and what is coming will probably be worse, if you let it get to you. Either Shaw or Hannah will turn out to be a betrayer. Maybe both. We’ll see some resolution on the Hannah front first. She’s either Lou, the innocent civilian that Chuck realizes he can’t have because of his spy life, or Jill, the betrayer, but maybe a different sort of Jill this time. I’m leaning toward Lou. Shaw may or may not be a schemer with an evil plan. My money is now on not. The understories usually don’t last this many episodes, so my guess is that Beckman’s concern was over using Awesome to infiltrate the Ring. Now Shaw will be used as the final barrier to Chuck and Sarah. Chuck will be free of Hannah soon and want to re-start things with Sarah, but Shaw will be in the way. Once again the new mature Chuck will display the emotional maturity of a 13 year old. This is where they’re doing the damage. Chuck won’t seem to have grown up much at all, but now without his everyman qualities he’s even less sympathetic, and that great love Sarah had for Chuck in season 2, well I guess that was just an infatuation. Sarah really does fall for every guy she works with after all. Yep, she’s now that flakey. I’m looking for the backward reveal about the affair she and Casey had while Chuck was growing a beard on the couch.
So all the plot holes, they’re plot holes. All the inconsistencies? They are real inconsistencies. The dropped plot-lines? They’re dropped. We’ll probably see a few big reveals and twists, but nothing on the level we’ve been speculating about. I’m as guilty as the next person of indulging in re-writing the show to meet my preferences, and I thought a lot of it was a reach, but I’ve decided not to let it spoil things for me. If I’m surprised, it’ll be pleasantly surprised. It is a shame in a way, I’ve had to lower my expectations to be able to enjoy the show. They’ve really muffed on the relationship IMHO, but it is still a lot of fun to watch. The back 6 look like a big shipper love letter, so if we’re lucky they’ll end things on an up note this time. Who knows, TPTB may even learn something and give us something new and unique in season 4, but for now I’ll just try to enjoy season 2 version 2 and hope they don’t do too much more damage to the characters.
It’s just a TV show after all, and still a darn good one taken on it’s own terms.