Readers know how I like to step back and look at the big picture. It’s easy with a show like Chuck because when you get right down to it, it’s a big-themed show that’s changed a lot over the years. Makes it a fruitful topic! The moods and colors of each season have continually evolved, and thinking about that helps to give me a sense of where we’re going.
If I had to choose one word to describe season 1 of Chuck, I think it would be – poignant. More than just “deeply affecting,” the word speaks of a sadly-sweet and even painful touch of emotions, like you’d have watching your children have their first crush. You just know what’s coming, there’s no way to stop it, and you don’t really want to. That’s what season 1 did to many of us.
Likewise, for season 2, I would choose the word “desperate.”
Chuck’s terribly desperate race to find his father happened on a track parallel to Sarah’s equally frantic attempts to come to terms with having true feelings for someone, perhaps for the first time in her life. And even that was overshadowed by their even more desperate struggles to touch – not just anyone, but to touch each other while groping through the darkness of the spy-maze they were in. The heart-beat thumping of Luisa’s Bones underscores the point.
S3 is easy. The word for season 3 is “bitter.” Like Casey’s coffee, it’s the taste of campaigns waged and bungled, projects failed due to ignorance and stupidity, love frustrated and lessons learned the hard way. Yes, of course the outcome of all of this is experience, maturity and even wisdom, sometimes. I can’t say that the end result is happiness, though. “Bitter” isn’t the price Chuck and Sarah have to pay to be happy later either, like there’s some universal scale that has to be brought into balance. In a world where happiness is not guaranteed like that, what Chuck and Sarah learned is that happiness is a choice to be made.
After only three episodes of season 4, it would be less than smart to try to reduce it to one word. But so far, I’ve been continually surprised and impressed by the strength of the bond between Chuck & Sarah. Therefore confidence, in the sense of secure trust, is the word I’d choose to describe the tenor. This sense of confidence is not exhibiting itself in any manner that I expected, though. The best analogy I can think of, is that we watched Chuck and Sarah stumbling for the first two seasons over hazardous, rocky terrain. Back then they only partially succeeded in supporting each other when they lost their footing. In S3, the path became downright dangerous and they had to do more than support each other. They had to save each other. Now, Chuck and Sarah are much more sure-footed as they walk through this semi-familiar world, and they seem to be doing it arm in arm with much more confidence in themselves and in each other than we had a right to expect. You can sense it with every new adventure and in every conversation they have. Now try putting *that* into one word!
This confidence showed when Chuck and Sarah spent weeks and months apart with nothing coming between them. It showed when a calm and collected Agent Bartowski came to the defense of a flustered Agent Walker: Tell me. Why are we saving your life, again?. It showed when Sarah defines herself to an antagonistic nemesis.
Heather: Oh! You’re acting awful bitchy, Burton. – or whatever it is you go by.
Sarah: Sarah Walker. And don’t forget it.
That was a revealing statement in light of her history; not about the name with which she chose to identify, but in the easy way she chose it. That’s who she is. If there was any question left, it showed when Sarah decided to give Heather the boot, literally, for dissing Chuck in her presence.
Change, Change, Change!
Chuck is becoming more confident in his identity, too. Well, the guy had a pretty good idea before, but Chuck just didn’t like the unmotivated, undirected person he was. Now Morgan wonders what has happened to his buddy’s “relationship neurosis!” They even take a moment to savor its absence. “Smells like victory!”
I mentioned in comments the significance of Chuck taking the gun from Casey to go after Hugo Panzer. Chuck? A gun? I barely noticed that, right from the beginning, when the two hooded prisoners are brought into Castle, Sarah also hands Chuck a gun saying “Lock and load!”. No nervousness, no neuroses. No, he did not use the gun, but Chuck was calmly prepared to use it. He may have compromised his principles in some way, but that’s the kind of compromise that many people in the real, adult world have to make daily, if only on a smaller and less dramatic scale. The inner struggles that once paralyzed Chuck are simply not stopping him now.
They’ve changed dramatically, and I’m glad. But really, it’s no surprise that Sarah’s changed Chuck. When I think about it, I’m much more surprised about her!
Sarah made an interesting decision on the roof of the Buy More; she gave Heather a very big gun with which to defend herself. BC (that’s Before Chuck) that’s not at all what Agent Walker would have done; I’m sure she would have gotten out of harm’s way by handing over the prisoner, the way she poisoned the French diplomats before they killed her. But not now. Sarah’s decision has Chuck’s signature all over it, and it’s obvious now that his fingerprints are on her heart. In the middle of Chuck’s Red Test, it wasn’t clear to me that she had changed at all, forcing Chuck to make the hard decisions like she had. Sarah was distraught then, because Chuck was changing. I missed that it was because she was changing too.
Chuck & Sarah have grown to accept, understand and even incorporate the strengths that the other has to offer. I like that word, “incorporate!” Chuck and Sarah have done more than recognized the best in each other. They’ve made that an integral part of themselves. Try separating them now. You’d have better luck un-mixing a cake.
Then, the whining schoolboy with his satchel
And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Unwillingly to school.
And then the lover,
Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
Made to his mistress’ eyebrow.
Then a soldier,
Full of strange oaths, and bearded like the pard,
Jealous in honour, sudden, and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the cannon’s mouth.
And then the justice
In fair round belly, with good capon lin’d,
With eyes severe, and beard of formal cut,
Full of wise saws, and modern instances,
And so he plays his part.
If Chuck was singing a woeful ballad through seasons one and two, I heard it. The jealous soldier seeking his reputation and fortune was the person we saw when Chuck began the search for his father and re-intersected. “…Even in the cannon’s mouth.” is an apt description of the death struggle with Shaw, I think.
What comes next? We’re not at the “fair round belly” stage of middle age yet, but already we’ve seen those severe eyes on occasion. Justice, wise sayings, and Chuck “playing his part” – I see that beginning now too. Do you think Chuck & Sarah are headed for a life together? Of course they are; that was built into the story from the very start. We don’t have to wonder about it any more – we only have to enjoy them getting there.