Thanks to frequent (and appreciated!) commenter JC, we’ve been able to see these very thrilling, spoilerish clips. Please don’t view them if you want to remain spoiler free.
I won’t speak to anything specific in those clips, but I can’t help but get verbose about my reaction to them, and to most everything that’s gone on since the end of 3.12, Chuck vs. The American Hero. The best one-sentence description I can muster is that every week, the promos and story-line have made me excited for what’s coming against my will.
That makes no sense. Why should I be resisting that feeling of excitement, especially when exciting finishes are de rigueur for shows like Chuck?
It’s because – I’m going to say it outright – there ARE no shows like Chuck.
I have a suspicion that most of the fans tuned in a second time because the first time, they happened to get a glimpse of two things: They saw Yvonne Strahovski and then they either saw something that made them laugh (Zac Levi, or Harry Tang or Jeff & Lester or Buy More antics) or they saw adventure-fireworks. Perhaps it was Chuck flying sideways in his seat out of a Nerd-Herder in Sandworm, or the bomb that didn’t explode (and the kiss that did) in Imported Hard Salami. Or maybe it was Chuck being dropped from about six stories up, and Casey being there to catch him when he falls (it’s touching, really). Don’t underestimate the thrills generated by Sarah fighting Pita Girl Lizzie or Smooth Lau, or Chuck saving Sarah from a lobotomizing Fulcrum Intersect in Suburbs.
Alternately, the two things they saw may have been Yvonne Strahovski and romance; Chuck gently but confidently telling Sarah “Yeah, you do.” when she admits that she never really had anyone who cared for her before, or Sarah barely able to hold back a flood of emotions when Chuck tells her that “As amazing as you are, Sarah Walker, we both know that you will never be normal.” I fell in love with her barely heard whisper “My middle name is Lisa.”, and cheered when Chuck first got up the courage to ask Sarah out on a “real” date. “There’s a hundred reasons why we shouldn’t do this.” she says. Of course. And there’s only one good reason to say yes, Sarah. Everyone whose initial exposure to Chuck consisted of a scene like that said “Those two must get together. I want to see that.” We really didn’t have to wait so long for that, did we? Just seems that way.
Assume that on one glimpse you’ll see an attractive character, and then pick any one of those three remaining qualities – Humor, adventure, romance. You’ll be back to get the other two, I’d wager.
The Buy More antics, the real comedy in the show, is now a diversion to me. It’s nice that way, and helps to pace the adventure. Sometimes it even makes a point about friendships and loyalty and even love that compares and contrasts nicely with the main point of any given episode. It works, but as leavening. If the Buy More blows up and is gone for season 4, I will shed a metaphorical tear and move on. In fact, some of us debated that this scenario should have been considered even early in season 3.
But I’ve been made shy, in the sense of someone who flinches from a punch to the arm because of a bruise. It’s the romance that I’m shy about. For weeks now I’ve been more than half expecting Chuck and Sarah to have a major split over some ridiculous misunderstanding, and worrying about those not so ridiculous issues which have not come between them. Yet. I’ll admit I’ve replayed the ‘shipper scenes over and over again; Chuck and Sarah cuddling, touching, exchanging “I Love You”s and trying to show confidence for the sake of the other. I replay them to bolster my confidence in their relationship. Most of all, I replay Chuck and Sarah acting in unison, like partners. Nothing could strengthen their bond more.
So why should I be afraid that this will not last? Oh, it’s because of their history. Time and time again, Chuck and Sarah have gotten close, only to have the rug pulled out from under them (evil TPTB!) or because they’ve reconsidered their future, often for very good reasons. But that shouldn’t make me so fearful that their relationship won’t last. Chuck and Sarah have stuck with it for three seasons now, they’ve seen the worst, and not only has every barrier been overcome, their own internal obstacles proved to be very small. Chuck was never so much of a loser that he couldn’t get away from the Buy More and past Jill. Sarah was never so disconnected from her emotions or so willing to accept her own deceits that she could wear her armor forever. That was present for us to see from the beginning. Objects in the rear view mirror appear much smaller than they are.
Naw. They’re good.
It’s because I like it – where they are – so much. Don’t let this honeymoon end. More, please (and don’t make me beg)! That’s not the reaction I had a year ago, at the end of season 2, when I wasn’t sure at all that I wanted to see the end of Chuck and Sarah finding each other, groping in the dark, thrilling us with each touch of their finger tips. Silly me. They’ve done that enough, and it’s better now than I ever expected. It’s not been easy to relax about those two and their relationship, but now I can almost let myself breath again.
Ah, so the humor is almost superfluous, and the romance is resolved. The attractive characters are there so long and Ms. Strahovski, Mr. Levi, Mr. Baldwin and yes, even Mr. Gomez remain on set. (Opinion: Lose Adam Baldwin or Josh Gomez and the show instantly drops a notch or two in the attractiveness category. Not deadly, but damaging. Very damaging.)
That leaves the thrilling adventures. Like season two, season three has shifted the tensions away from Chuck and Sarah to the spy story for the last half dozen episodes. I love it that when that shift happens their relationship only seems stronger. The promos linked above bear that out.
Therein lies the reason I feel a resistance to this thrill. It’s just like season two. I recognize that one villain seems like the next, and every PLI seem fungible. But here’s my dark secret. Despite myself, I LIKE IT. The detested Shaw character morphed in an unusual way to be the best villain of the season, and we now love to hate him precisely because of the thing we detested most – his relationship with Sarah. Justin is no worse than Mauser, and we’ve already had our Agent Imhotep rising from the dead. We’ve seen these things before, and there is nothing new under the sun.
Oh, I’m getting soft in my old age. I recognize that it’s merely a device: Justin is attacking with Shaw. I can allow it to work for me as an “Oh Nooooossssssss!!!” moment, even though I know exactly how it works. We have the same things in new combination, generating new thrills. I resist, but only a little, because it’s fun.
I say that as someone who’s spent much more time than he should ruminating and being much too serious about the show. It’s just fun. The show has generated enough good will with me to let me forget the plot holes, laugh at the Tiffany ear rings, and trust that Chuck’s honest lies aren’t too much for Sarah. I’ll let the roller coaster take me to where it will come Monday. Watching the lovers simply smiling at each other and saying “Hi, honey.” (just like I do when I get home from work) makes me smile.
Things are going to change for season 4, and that makes me simultaneously nervous and relieved. Their smiles are the only way I could tolerate this in something that I expect to be merely entertaining. Despite the ridiculous antics and theater, they are real. Just like Sarah said, they are real.
Did I say there ARE no shows like Chuck? Yes. A few have come close, and more than a few have kept me engaged for an hour at a time. Some even keep me engaged for a couple of weeks in a good arc.
But nothing has entertained me quite the same as this.