By now the parallel between Mary Bartowski and Sarah Walker has become crystal clear. Not just in the path they walk, or the men they fell for but also the kind of person they are, were, has had to be.
After Balcony, and all the subtle goodness I had to revisit some scenes from the past that I just couldn’t get out of my head. We enter the story with the pilot: Sarah walks into the Buy More on search for a mark. A guy that initially seems an easy mark for Sarah Walker, superspy. She does her vamp thing, gets him interested in her and pretty soon they’re sitting down for dinner. Interesting dynamic that dinner, full of helpless reveals. “I did just come out of a long relationship, and I may come with baggage.” Of course initially the audience was enamored by the charm of Chuck and so was Sarah, “I could be your very own baggage handler.” But things beneath the surface are equally alluring. Sarah Walker, superspy was charmed, straight to her very heart. The smile she gives right after that line was worth a 1000 words. Suffice it to say she was hooked but she was still Agent Walker at this point, and she managed (albeit with some changes to protect the innocent) to reveal only so much and yet draw intel from Chuck. That’s her job after all, but consider the reveals. “…DC, after I realized that all my friends were his friends, and everything in Washington reminded me of…Bruce (Bryce!) I needed a change.” And she did, and change it was. Little does she realize that from this moment on nothing will ever be the same.
Mary Bartowski had a similar moment. Two of them. One begun a life, one ended one (all metaphorical of course). “It all begun with a scientist whose code name was Orion, but his real name was Stephen Bartowski.” Sounds familiar? Both Sarah and Mary’s lives were changed meeting the one, a Bartowski. Their path from that moment on changed. But it’s not a change to regret, for Mary she gained a family, for Sarah a home, but for both, a love. “Watching you (Ellie) sleep curled up on that seat, was one of my favorite things.” But with love comes responsibility. “I wished telling you I did this all for you and Chuck made a difference, but I know it doesn’t.” And so we enter the second moment, the one that brings Volkoff into the picture, the one that ended the only thing in her life she cared about. Sarah: “Chuck, I was lucky, I was assigned to you…your mother was assigned to Volkoff.” Fate is a funny thing, and yet free choice is equally fickle. Mary chose to take the assignment, more, she chose to enmesh herself fully into this assignment. Yet again we have a vamp superspy out to seduce a mark except this time the mark isn’t the charmer that Chuck is but a shark. How does the saying go? When you swim in rough waters you end up with sharks and Mary most assuredly went into the deep end. Volkoff is in love with her, much like Chuck was initially infatuated with Sarah but there’s a painful distinction: one gives, the other takes. She lost everything that ever mattered to her and yet one thing remains, she loves. Is it any wonder that Sarah Walker, superspy feels a kinship for one Mary Bartowski?
Returning to the comparison for a moment, it’s interesting to note that at their core both are good guys, heroes. They manipulate,
Sarah: “I’m saying you could have everything you’ve ever wanted” (Seduction)
Mary: “Alexei, we’ve had our dinner, you’ve met the family, we’re leaving…you should know I could never love a man who would do anything to my son” (Leftovers).
Strength and manipulation apparent in both. But more than that they protect those they care about. From:
Sarah: “Chuck’s my guy, he’s my asset, just please give us more time” while she feels for the gun to do whatever is necessary to keep him with her, to
Mary: “Alexei you know that I am loyal to you but I will not return with you until you promise me that my family and their friends will remain safe. If you don’t, I will end you.”
And yes they often sully themselves in the name of the mission/greater good–often at the risks of their own soul. Neither likes this aspect of the spy life but both accepts it.
Sarah: “I need to go back to being the old me just for a little while longer, if I’m going to survive this.”
Mary: “Chuck, I’m sorry for everything, I hope someday you’ll trust me.”
They’re also both as honest as they could be, often leaving large gaping holes in their explanations but they try. Sarah talked about “Bruce,” she didn’t have to. Mary repeatedly tried to be honest with her children, “they don’t know you’re my son, no one does.”
So where does that leave us? It leaves us into the fork on the road. The one that can either lead to Mary or lead to Chuck. It’s one of the most painful similarities…this issue of abandonment. Sure there are reasons! When you love you want to protect and give as much to that person (more even) as you’ve been given.
Sarah: “Chuck, we have so much together, we have a real life and a future, but I need to get back to the old me just for a little while longer….I’m doing this for you, I’m doing it for us.”
Mary: “Protecting him (Chuck) has always been my number one priority!”
But on the surface what it comes down to is that they’re leaving those they care about to do things on their own.
Sarah: “It has to be me, I’m sorry.”
Why do I get the feeling that Mary once uttered those exact same words to Stephen Bartowski? The threat is serious, the separation all the more so. The conviction is admirable, “I’m not coming back without your mom,” but this path is painful and full of pitfalls. Going down this path led Mary to a life in which she has had to abandon her family for a 20 year mission. She missed every birthday, holiday, Ellie’s marriage and now possibly Chuck’s engagement. What will Sarah miss? Lose? It’s been asked repeatedly, how is Sarah different? How will this be different from Mary attempting to take down Volkoff and his organization as a lone, rogue agent? Well that’s where the story gets interesting and why it is we have to stay tuned.
My 2 cents? In the end the choices they (plural) make will determine their fate. Remember the story? “And the king was freed, and the Castle was restored and the Frost Queen returned once more and the Frost Queen promised her children that she will never ever leave them again.” So long as Sarah’s got Chuck, nothing can stop them. Similarly Mary’s not alone anymore, none of them are.