It WAS Epic!
I have not been able to re-watch Chuck vs. The Subway and Chuck vs. The Ring pt. 2 for lack of time. But my memories of the first viewing are vivid! And I see by the number of comments in the “first-impressions” thread that yours are too. It’s getting long! For the sake of readability, please continue here.
There were a few things that didn’t work for me in the finale, but they are truly secondary. The Ring Elders being captured essentially defenseless in the conference doesn’t mesh well at all with, say, The Director being able to assemble a minor army with one word to his assistant from an elevator. But, Okay. We’ll accept that the Elders are paper tigers for now. The implosion of the Buy More was, technically, a tag cheezy (yeah, that’s the technical term). But I’m going to forgive them anything that is budget related just so I can blame NBC and the economy in general. Spend the money on the cast and crew with my blessings! We’ll ignore less-than-perfect special effects.
The things that work – wow! My opinion is that Shaw is a great villain! I hate him passionately, for the very reasons we were supposed to think he was a hero (like, intentionally taking a wound to the shoulder, again). Sarah Lancaster was amazing. Ellie was amazing throughout. She made me realize that the entirety of season 3 needed more Ellie. Bonita Friedericy plays General Beckman in a whole new light when she’s incarcerated, frazzled and forced to ask Morgan, of all people, for help. “You are are only hope…” was a coke-spewing-out-my-nose moment! And to paraphrase Morgan from season 2, Jeffster good! Buy More corporate hierarchy, wrong!
And as I’ve mentioned in comments, there was Sarah’s sucker-punch to the back of Shaw’s head. Ah, sweet closure!
I noticed something that I missed before, too. Chuck was unable to beat Shaw in The Other Guy after he flashed. But did that flash fizzle the way they have been without The Governor? I think so. It wasn’t Chuck’s emotions about Sarah being threatened that brought him down in that battle. It was the overheating circuit.
But I’d like to talk about colors.
Remember season 1? If there is one word that comes unbidden to my lips when I think of it, or hear the music from that year, it’s “sweet”. No, not in the sardonic, too-cool-for-school “schweet” sense that the young set use too much these days, but in the sense of a spring day. It was Chuck and Sarah bumping shoulders, and trying to communicate without saying too much, and trying to understand what they must do.
Season 2 wasn’t like that. Season 2 was intense. It started with being dropped six stories from a building, continued with pineapples, bracelets, assassinations, and nightmares. Even the most tender an innocent of scenes, Chuck and Sarah holding hands when they realize they care for each other, is marked by an intensity that could be heard. “What do we do now???” are the words I heard as Sarah looked down at their entwined fingers and Jeffster sings It’s gonna take a lot to drag me away from you.
And that wasn’t even the beginning of the intense part of the season.
Color S1 sweet, and color S2 intense. We’ve been describing S3 as dark all season, and so it was.
The darkness started, not on the train tracks in Prague, but in Chuck’s eyes when he tells Yuri that he should give him the case – “Please.” Levi’s eyes flash, he is deadly serious. Shaw was dark, dark, dark from the first. I can easily believe that Brandon Routh was asked to never smile throughout the season, just to maintain the dark. But none of that compares with Chuck’s murderous rage in Tic Tac when he’s under the influence of Laudanol. It’s black because we know that it’s not caused by the drug – it’s within him. The Laudanol only lets it out. Thank God for Sarah.
Yes, we got some relief from the darkness, especially in The Honeymooners and The Role Models, but the nightmares, fritzing flashes and Shaw all return with a vengence to maintain the season’s color.
But it didn’t end that way, did it? We’ve heard Stephen’s warnings that the CIA was “bad business”, and we heard Chuck’s promise to Ellie that he was going to quit the spy world. Sarah heard it; General Beckman accepted his resignation. Once Chuck found Orion’s lair, he’s no longer on a mission in the service of others. Now he has his own calling. Sarah doesn’t mind that he’s resigned, because the CIA is as superfluous to him now as the Buy More has been. Oh yes, it’s not so much that things will change any more. Things have changed all season long, right before our eyes.
Chuck has his Orion lair, immediately reminding us of Batman’s Bat-cave or Superman’s Fortress of Solitude. But that’s where the superhero’s go do brood, darkly. The color of S3 is not completely gone.
I can’t say that I know what all the changes mean – I can’t even make a good guess about the meaning of Identity: Hydra, Corvus: Phase Two, The Aries Papers, The Triangulum (Captured), Operation: Cygnus and The Fornax Group. I don’t know what it means for us that Mary Elizabeth Bartowski is labeled as missing, except that all of this is coming. There’s the intensity! It’s not gone either.
Chuck and Sarah are not going to be challenged as a couple any longer, except in the most minor ways, played for humor, I suppose. They are strong, and she is family. My knee-jerk reactions to what we used to call s-angst can be safely ignored. Morgan and Alex McHugh played by Mekenna Melvin – ah, there’s the sweetness. With Morgan, Alex extends the Bartowski clan as much as Sarah.With the introduction of Mary Elizabeth, family comes to the forefront. Perhaps that’s the new color for season 4.
Chuck lost much of it’s creative talent in the last few weeks; Scott Rosenbaum, Matt Miller, Phil Klemmer and of course, Ali Adler. That makes me wince a bit. Immediately, I think of two things, however. The additions of Rafe Judkins and Lauren LeFranc have already brightened our collective hearts. They were the writers of some of S3’s strongest episodes, Chuck vs. the Tic Tac and Chuck vs. the Honeymooners. They obviously came with a love of the show we fell in love with, way back when, and a desire to preserve some of that.
And like I said, the show has already changed. New writers inject fresh ideas that are not limited by the past, even as they respect it the way Judkins and LeFranc have. It’s true that there are risks, and shows falter. But the truth is that changing this way is probably the only way Chuck survives past the next 13 episodes.
For 13 episodes doesn’t seem to be enough anymore.