A Guest Post By Liz James
To borrow a line from A Comet Appears, The Shins tune that appeared in the pilot and predicted everything that’s followed in Chuck, Season Three was marked by a host of individual sins. And there is a startling sin even in the “happy ending” that Chuck Versus the Other Guy was meant to be.
After a dozen tortured episodes, Chuck doesn’t complete the hero’s journey so carefully delineated by our friend Ernie Davis. Time after time in Other Guy, Sarah had to ride to Chuck’s emotional and romantic rescue. After a dozen painful hours, Chuck doesn’t end up as the confident Charles in Charge that your humble scribe outlined back in January. Again and again in Other Guy, Chuck finds himself in a relationship totally driven and completely controlled by Sarah. Worst of all, at least from the point of view of TPTB, the season-long effort to reset the show and make Chuck a superhero fails because, whenever it mattered in Other Guy, Chuck didn’t “believe in me.”
Chuck brought the big guns at the beginning of Other Guy. But why should that surprise anyone? Chuck has done whatever he could to protect Sarah since the moment he fixed her phone. And Chuck fired his gun at the end of Other Guy. But why should that surprise anyone? The love-struck fool has thrown himself off roofs and into the path of bunker-busting missiles for her since before he began defusing bombs with computer viruses.
Yet at every emotional moment that mattered in Other Guy, it was Sarah who saved Chuck. It’s just another one of those individual sins that makes the alleged “journey” of Season Three so profoundly unsatisfying.
When Chuck’s big-gun moment turn out to be for naught, a humiliated Chuck can’t bear to do more than inquire after Sarah’s health. She’s the one who moves events forward. “Thank you for saving me,” she volunteers. “I appreciated the tank.”
As usual, Chuck doesn’t get Sarah’s infuriatingly obscure code. He even abandons the rare moment of emotional courage that propelled him to order Sarah to be with him at the end of American Hero. He retreats to his man cave for massive doses of cheap whiskey, silly games, fat-free dairy and appalling self-pity.
Sarah comes to his emotional rescue by seeking him out. What, exactly, Sarah planned to say is unknown because Chuck, as always, buries her in a torrent of self-absorbed babble. And when, more in despair than hope, he finally remembers to inquire about her feelings, Sarah saves the day. Not easily or even all that willingly, of course, it’s Sarah who drives the moment and lets us know that we have finally reached the point of emotional no return. “Yes … yes … yes … yes,” comes gushing from Sarah, the one-time Sphinx of Burbank.
It doesn’t take long for Chuck to lose hope again after Beckman sends Shaw and Sarah off to Paris. And again it is Sarah to the rescue. In the most electrifying and emotionally aggressive moment TPTB have ever given Sarah, she lays out their future. “Once I get back, it’s all gonna happen. You and me,” she informs Chuck. She seals it with a kiss. And since he doesn’t seem to comprehend, she delivers her clincher. “Don’t worry,” she says, kissing him again. “Just one more mission.”
After Chuck’s heroics on the bridge, we arrive at the “destination.” And even in her drug-hangover confusion, Sarah rescues Chuck. Thanks to one more bit of artificial angst, Chuck is panicked about her feelings. “You saved me,” Sarah says unambiguously to cover a multitude of rescues. Only then does Chuck get it.
But, wait, there’s more…
Beckman’s interruption leaves Sarah in charge not once more, but twice. Chuck may initiate the sequence, but it is Sarah who literally and figuratively shuts down Beckman. She’s never done that before. Ever. Three years of Sarah’s bent-knee, prim-little-girl deference is wiped out as she effortlessly shuts the laptop lid on the imposing little general.
And when Chuck is about to fret about the wisdom of her defiance, it is Sarah who gives the command: “Shut up and kiss me!” We can only hope that she gave Chuck time to unlace his Chuck Taylors. And that Morgan made good on his IOU from Colonel.
Am I bothered that Sarah remains the girl-on-top, at least as far as the romance goes? Yes and no. I am certainly happy TPTB left her something in the ham-fisted, PLI-laden reset. But it does ruin the hero’s journey and destroys the Charles in Charge aspect of the show.
And it proves that the host of individual sins TPTB committed this year didn’t need to happen. Chuck and Sarah now are right where they were at the end of Colonel. Chuck is that guy. Sarah has her Chuck. They might even talk to each other.
And, to quote A Comet Appears, Season Three was pie in the sky and chock full of lies. — Liz James