Chuck: “Do you want to go out on a date sometime?”
Sarah: “Chuck I’m still a CIA Agent, and there are a hundred reasons why I shouldn’t do that.”
Chuck: “What do you have to lose, in a week you’re going to be undercover in some place like Jakarta in a knife fight with some evil doer and in that moment you’re going to wish you spent one last night of fun with me.”
Watching Muuurder felt just like Chuck put it: a night of fun with Chuck (show, not character). Fun so outrageous it should have been murder (ok, I had to go there, it was a given)!
Murder mysteries have been done before. You put the characters in inescapable situations, add some violence and you find out what they’re made of. The reason why it’s done so often is because it’s entertaining. For some, it is a literary cop-out–borrowing heavily from something that’s been done so you as a writer don’t have to deviate from–but for others, like last night’s Chuck, it’s an opportunity. An opportunity to showcase strength in character development, writing and oddly, creativity. This wasn’t just any murder mystery but one that showcases how far the characters have come and just how entertaining they are as an entity.
We start of with Brody. The OC reference aside it’s essentially Chuck’s doppleganger. One that makes a person take a second, third and if you’re Sarah, gasp an “oh my god” with that look. No, I don’t think she was really attracted, she has her nerd and he’s the genuine article, Brody was like Ernie put it, an AU Chuck and that’s never quite as good isn’t it? Which he proved by dying first. Though as Katsumaro pointed out to me, Chuck was crushing harder–a veritable hilarity in its own form. Still I’m quite intrigued at what would have been Brody’s future. Does he meet his own GBSM or does he end up with Jill?
We move on to psy-ops master Josie with a sense of intuition. If she doesn’t remind you of Sarah from the get-go, have another look. Apart from the nerdy assumption and the non-statuesque form, she’s Sarah. Though we never did see Sarah turn on the waterworks, we have on occasion seen her use her intuition (“I don’t know about this guy Graham” –Pilot) and powers of manipulation (“the sooner you do this the sooner you can get back to the life you choose with whomever you choose” –Seduction). The twist with Josie was that she was emotional and understandably so being pregnant. I did not initially see the parallel between Sarah post Chuck and Josie without a Chuck but it’s absolutely superb. It’s not hard to imagine Sarah finding herself in a similar situation, not having someone real in her life and living with the consequences of manipulation but then again that’s what makes Josie, Bizarro Sarah.
Third we have Damien. Damien is a burnout, also very familiar but a bit more bizarre. John Casey would never take a kill order from a villain but it’s not hard to imagine him turning quite as anti-social after months being stuck on walls. He’s also proficient at weaponry-in this case explosives, John Casey also takes the art seriously.
Fourth, Lewis. Now this one’s a bit of a reach but it works. Morgan Grimes once boasted he’s a master of languages, menu items mostly and here we have someone who took on the accent in 4 months of studying abroad. Genuine articles (read: Chuck) they really aren’t but they’re simpletons and are supportive characters.
So are we just about getting the picture? Brilliant on paper, even better on film. We assumed these are Chucks but really they’re Team Bartowski, only weirder.
Now comes the real parallels. The episode was about growth. I know I tend to say that a lot but in this one we had several clearly shown to us while a murder mystery is entertaining us. Chuck’s been a leader since long before Sarah walked into the Buy More. We see him taking command long before he became a full spy but he never took command from a director. Think back to Predator; Casey, Sarah and Chuck has been tasked to retrieve the Roark 7 and Chuck’s in charge. Similar but not quite, because in this one he’s got a lot more to lose (namely his life, and his teams’ lives). The test of a true leader isn’t how he leads but how he takes responsibility for the lives he has become responsible for (especially when it involves lives lost). Chuck used his Chuck-ness to lead and it was, for lack of a better phrase, awesome. The hand-wringing and mishegas was still present, but when it came to, he owned up to his role. I assume the new intersect wasn’t responsible for the flashback like montage but if it was, wicked cool but I digress. Assertive, confident Chuck is not one we see often but it’s always within.
I have to retract one of my earlier statements, namely one from the FOD write up. I said then that when a premise of a story doesn’t work, the story doesn’t work. In this one, in theory, the premise shouldn’t work:
1. Chuck has been a leader, more he’s shown capabilities of it before defusing a bomb with fruit juice and yet we’re being reintroduced to his strength as a leader. Shouldn’t work and yet does.
2. Intersecting another “Chuck” after we’re told several times that that’s not what PapaB wanted and that intersecting has its pitfalls. And yet neither of these took away from the story. Instead it was overwhelmed by the laughs, the mystery, fun and strength in writing.
Back to leadership. Someone else was leading in this parallel and it was Morgan. Morgan has found himself on a role he’s not exactly suited for but one he’s committing to 100%: leading the Buy Morons. A valiant feat equal to Chuck’s “fate of the world” responsibilities because we’re talking about Jeffster, after all. The Buy Morons are often hit and miss but this one was a hit. Kevin Bacon was a laugh riot. I expected to see the real Kevin Bacon inside the closet and am not disappointed to find it was in fact a pig. I also expected the Pig Bacon to turn into bacon after the explosion but it was as is an already gruesome Chuck, they couldn’t go any darker. The BM jokes, as stated escaped me but it didn’t take away from the Buy More antics.
As a bonus we had old-school Sarah who encourages Chuck and coaches him. Supportive and yet firm. Casey, is back as Team Bartowski’s fat kid, somewhat quite literally (nom nom nom on cookies). The last scene with Team B, lounging was familiar and yet novel. If these new set of writers have never seen earlier seasons, they’re doing a great job of faking it. Time was Chuck was Bryce’s nemesis (well it’s the other way around) and this time around the idea that Chuck (the spy) has his own nemesis: “I’m someone’s nemesis?” “For real, this time,” was interesting to say the least. Time will tell whether or not the presumed nemesis is in fact Vivian or if it’s Volkoff.
And with these comparisons there’s also the reiteration of Chuck’s role in changing people’s lives. Redemption at play, even for devious, back-stabbing Bentley. I can’t believe that they got me to be sympathetic with her suicidal heroics. She softened up towards Chuck towards the end and even gave him some very valuable advice. Which leads me to the crowning glory of this episode: the way it moved the story along. Ellie finding Agent X’s files via scanned protection and stepping into her own destiny is simply brilliant. We’re reminded once more that this isn’t your typical family. I can still hear PapaB telling Ellie, “There’s nothing in this whole world that the two of you can’t fix…I know your brother does have a knack for getting into trouble, but you, you’re going to have to protect Chuck. Be there for him no matter what because you’re his big sister. Can you do that for me?” Ellie finding her own mission in life through these files and this computer is shades of pilot Chuck (with great power comes great responsibility) but it’s also a continuation of the role that which PapaB gave her, them. This dramatic twist is one that is well done and absolutely, positively welcome.
By far the only negatives I could think of was some of the camera work, a bit of Robin Givens’ acting and the lack of time particularly with Yvonne Strahovski. But I fully admit those are just me nitpicking and when pressured would probably retract, ok maybe not. Oh and the lack of downloadable and replayable songs.
All in all a rousing good fun. 4 Chucks out of 5.