It’s taken me a week to get around to this. What’s up with that?
There’s this TV show called Chuck. I love this show. I’ve loved this show ever since I rented the first disk of the season 1 DVD on Netflix on a recommendation. I watched the entire first disk in one night. By Chuck Versus The Tango I was hooked. On my way home from work the next day I bought the Season 1 DVD because I didn’t want to wait for overnight shipping from Amazon. I watched the next disk that night, and so on until I finished season 1. Then on to iTunes for a season pass and season 2. I was blown away. This show was just plain fun, it had everything. Top notch performances from some virtual unknowns, some of my favorites from past doomed series (Adam Baldwin from Firefly and Sarah Lancaster from What About Brian), action, comedy, drama and a love story, I just couldn’t get enough. When I finished I went online to find out more about this great show and found a whole community nearly as obsessed as I was. I then did something I’d never done before. I started over at the beginning and watched every episode again. Oh, I’ve re-watched TV shows on DVD before, but never so soon. I’m presently on my annual re-watch of Veronica Mars having already completed Firefly. Next up will be Action, and after that Wonderfalls, but mixed in I’m still watching Chuck season 1 and season 2. I haven’t stopped watching and rewatching this show since I discovered it just last August. You could say I’m a bit Chuck obsessed and I wouldn’t argue, till recently. Last week, watching Chuck Versus the Fake Name a weird feeling came over me. Impatience. What’s up with that? After the jump.
So here we are over halfway through the original season, and I’m starting to ask myself why I care? I’m still enjoying the show on the basis of just another entertaining show, but it feels like what drew me in and gripped me last summer is missing. If my memory serves in past seasons I never had to wait this long for something to happen. I understand, show Chuck grow as a spy. You could have checked off that one by Operation Awesome, or Nacho Sampler at the latest. Reset Chuck and Sarah back to the beginning? Check. Sarah was back to Carina’s MO and Chuck lived on cheeseballs for a few weeks. Now with the new Chuck and Sarah we’ve covered the same territory all over again to see how they react differently. Chuck doesn’t have nearly the problem with lying to his friends and family he used to, but we already saw that one coming late last season, and Sarah seems to want something more out of life than to be a spy, but we’ve been beaten with that particular stick since mid-season 1. The only thing they are doing this season that is even moderately different from what we’ve seen before is there is no cover relationship, and no excuse for them to be together all the time. Well, now they aren’t, and even when they are that chemistry we saw before doesn’t seem to be there. Shaw manages to mess even that up. It also means that this time around when Chuck decides it’s time to move on there is nothing Sarah can do to stop him, and other than spy training, which we are told is quickly coming to an end, no way she can justify remaining part of his life. Unless, you know, she actually loves him and wants to be with him.
Where’s the love?
Cause I’m not seeing it on the screen. If the writers are counting on our memories of these characters from season 2 to keep us rooting for them they’re playing a dangerous, and some have opined dishonest game. Are these two supposed to be destined for each other? I don’t see why. This season all I’ve seen is Sarah sad over something she lost and Chuck realizing that he made a choice that cost him, well, something. So if this character reset was necessary to bring them together again, lets look at those characters, based on what we’ve seen this season, because some anti-shippers and TPTB have clearly told us that Chuck and Sarah weren’t ready to be together at the end of last season. They needed to grow and mature. So let’s find the growth and the new maturity.
Let’s deal with Chuck first. I’m not sure what he is supposed to regret. Not running away with Sarah? Well I guess if he wanted to lose all his friends and family and spend a lifetime on the run for a longshot at some sort of relationship with an emotionally unavailable woman who seemed ready to walk out of his life once her job of protecting him was over, then decided she needed to run away with him to keep him from becoming a spy, well yeah, he blew his shot at that. Chuck tried to make things right, but Sarah was having none of it, so now she’s training him to be a spy, and they’re at least back to friendly, but there’s no indication she’s interested in anything else. To the contrary, it seems that as he learns more about being a spy he’s learning more and more that much of what he thought he had with Sarah may not have been as special as he thought. She’s basically told him that she came into his life as a means to control him and the information he had, and that while they may have connected at some point, she did manipulate him. Now in addition he finds out she doesn’t care for him now that he’s becoming the guy she always pushed him to be.
Sarah: It’s just really difficult to see Chuck become a different person.
Shaw: That’s the mission, Walker.
Sarah: No, it’s not the mission. It’s… Everything.
Sarah: It’s how he pulled out Casey’s tooth, and how he burnt that asset a couple of weeks ago, and the way he lies to Hannah. I mean,it’s so easy for him.
Shaw: Chuck’s changing. He’s becoming a spy.
Sarah: I know. I know. But lives are being affected here.
So let’s get this straight. She pushed him to step up for two years, with the implied promise that some day, when the intersect was out of the picture, maybe they could be together. He does everything she asks for two years, alienating friends and family and adapting to a new way of life he never asked for or wanted. In return she does everything she can to help him and to help him achieve his goal. He does achieve it, finally. He asks Sarah to be a part of his life, starting with a little vacation. She says no. OK, no Intersect, no Sarah. Well, she’s a spy, he gets it. Much as he loves her she’s chosen her path and it isn’t his. Then through a twist of fate he gets the chance to reconsider. He decides this time to step up, all the way. If she’s willing to step up and sacrifice everything for duty, maybe he should be too. She’s been telling him for years he not only can be, but is that guy. He saves the day, again.
Chuck is excited, he finally has the chance to do something important with his life. To get out of the five year funk after Stanford and then the two year enforced holding pattern with the first intersect. Now he can finally move forward with his life. But Sarah doesn’t want him to. She wants him to run away. Leave everything important to him, other than her, and spend a lifetime on the run with her as his protector again. The apparent bonus is that what almost happened in Barstow might be a regular feature of his new life on the run. So she doesn’t want to be a spy anymore, and she doesn’t want him to be one either, and she gives him a chance to re-consider the choice he just made to become a man who can make a difference. He trusts Sarah and says OK.
A few weeks apart from her and he re-considers his reconsideration. He can’t do it. He’s the only intersect and he made his choice to try to make a difference. He knows that choice will cost him a lot, but he’ll accept that. A few detours and bumps in the road, but it turns out Sarah is back in his life, at least professionally, and he is nearing his goal of becoming a spy. Now it turns out that she doesn’t much care for him anymore. Worse it now seems that emotional wall he lived with for two years, and lives with again now other than a few quick conversations when she asked him to run isn’t something she does with everyone, just him.
Shaw: Sounds like he’s not the only one who’s changing.
Sarah: It’s like I’m watching Chuck disappear,and the further he gets from who he is, Well, the more I want to remember who I am- who I was before all of this-
Shaw: Well, if this is you, I like you. I want more.
Sarah: I’ve been on this assignment for almost three years, and I’ve never told anybody my real name.
Shaw: Not even Chuck?
Sarah: No. Not even Chuck.
So where is Chuck, emotionally, given all that? If he’s remotely healthy, over Sarah. She can’t or won’t open up to him, ever, and even when she disapproves of his actions, like with Hannah, she won’t tell him. He asked her directly just days before if she was OK with the whole Hannah thing, and she apparently lied to his face and then went to vent to someone she trusts enough to open up to. He can’t count on her to tell him anything real about herself or what she thinks of him, and the only time he ever heard she loves him was through another spy. There seemed to be a few minutes, in two rushed conversations where she was almost willing to admit some feelings, but that’s long passed. Based on what they have shown us there is no scenario where an emotionally healthy Chuck should ever pursue a relationship with Sarah again or even trust her motivations were she to try to rekindle one.
Now Sarah. Yes, Sarah doesn’t talk, she’s bad at relationships, Chuck hurt her adding to her trust issues with men, I’ve got that. The first time she opened up to Chuck she got crushed. But why did she get crushed? Not because Chuck doesn’t love her. She knows he does, or did, and at the beginning of this season both we and Sarah saw Chuck going to extraordinary lengths to clear the air and make her understand that he never wanted to hurt her, ever. Past, present, and future tense. As late as Angel of Death he was trying to patch things up and let her know that he understood he hurt her. He did it for the greater good, but he hurt her and understood if she needed time and distance, but he was still there for her. Sarah, if she is in any way a sentient being knows that Chuck made a choice, and she put him in an impossible position. She knows because she saw him tell her. She knows he loves her and he’d never intentionally hurt her because he has said so to her face. Sarah doubting where Chuck is emotionally does not play unless we are to believe that after two years with Chuck, emotionally open and honest Chuck has suddenly become some sort of pod person who lies to her face. So why the distance? Well the intersect working could be part of it, but to date we’ve seen nothing to indicate that they know Sarah affects Chuck’s ability to flash. He’s flashed with Sarah present and not present, and he’s been unable to flash both with Sarah present and not present. There has been no clear pattern, so that does not play. So why the distance? Worse yet, this new softer more emotional Sarah feels a part of her life is vanishing and needs to form some sort of connection and to have someone to trust and open up to. But she decides that the guy who has apologized for every unkind remark he has ever made, gone to extraordinary lengths to be honest with her, and who when he hurt her deeply tried everything in his power to make her understand why he was doing what he was doing, putting aside his personal feelings for the greater good is just too risky to open up to. How is this new changing Chuck somehow now less safe? How exactly is it that Sarah, the new softer Sarah who needs to open up ignores everything Chuck has done and tried to do for her, and goes to a guy she barely knows, other than the fact that he does lie to her and he does manipulate people, she goes to him for some sort of emotional connection? There is only one possible conclusion. She has decided she can never open up to Chuck again, she’s decided they are over, no matter what.
So there we have the growth and development of Chuck and Sarah this season. We were told they needed to grow and develop in order to be able to be together. Every bit of character development has served to not only completely sever any emotional connection between them, but to also diminish who the characters were and the connection they had in season 2. Sarah really does fall for just about every guy she works with, and so when Chuck finally becomes a super spy she’ll fall for him too. Won’t that be special. Chuck really does trust and love Sarah, if he’s a complete idiot. If Chuck is indeed growing and maturing there is no way he should ever allow himself to get emotionally involved with Sarah again. She’s never been open with him, and worse, when Chuck asked Sarah directly if she was OK with the whole Hannah thing, after Sarah basically hints that he should be moving on emotionally since she’ll be leaving soon, she apparently lied to his face. What Chuck overheard Sarah talking about was what a jerk Chuck is becoming for doing what she keeps pushing him to do and for what she told him to his face was OK to her new boyfriend. Then she talked about how much she wanted to be rid of Chuck and get back to who she was before “all this”, her three year assignment started. To top it off Sarah showed more trust and openness to her new boyfriend of a few weeks than she ever showed Chuck in three years. So there we are. If these are the new more human and realistic characters, they’re done. Even a long heartfelt conversation between the two would not patch things up. Chuck can’t trust Sarah to tell him anything true about her feelings, and why on earth would Sarah want such a conversation suddenly when she has so vehemently avoided them in the past?
Now we’re told to hold on, it’s all part of the story they’re telling. Well watching two people who loved each other being pulled apart isn’t a great story. Ahhh you say, but they will be together in the end. This had to happen, because they weren’t ready for each other. Season 2 was not real enough to last or withstand the pressures of what their life would be like together. They had to grow and mature to be able to reconnect, and that part of the story has yet to be told. So now we have about 5 episodes to tell that part of the story and two characters who if you are paying attention to the story have both decided to move on and have no business establishing or re-establishing any kind of emotional connection in any world other than angsty soap operas with contrived higher highs and lower lows, super emotions not possessed by mortal men.
OK, but we keep hearing they’ve had this planned from the beginning, and the way they’ll do it will restore our trust. Seen in a new light it will all make sense of how they managed to come back together. My theory of how they’ll pull it off? What they had together in season 2 was so real, so true, so lasting and so special that nothing could ever tear them apart.
Great plan. Great story. Would you please just get it on with it?