Song Of A Lonely Man
Chuck vs. The Kept Man showed us another view of John Casey, but it wasn’t one that we hadn’t seen before. Face it; ever since Alex and Kathleen arrived on the scene, we knew that John had a heart. Really, we knew a long time ago that the same guy who shot down Bryce Larkin and then advised him “Don’t Move!” wasn’t quite the killer we (or Sarah Walker) we led to believe. We suspected it even in the first season when he balked at taking out Chuck Bartowski on orders from General Beckman.
That’s not right. He didn’t balk. He just let us know that he really, really wanted to, almost as much as he wanted to carry out his orders.
Here’s to John Casey dodging another bullet. It’s not like I want the wife and kids and the Little League practice and the minivan and the Costco runs.
For me, it was that session we saw in Undercover Lover, the one that culminates with a Hot Pocket, a Johnny Walker (Black) and “a little Neil” that told me the most about John Casey. After that, his speech from The Beard where he listed his “favorite” (scare quotes intended) types of people surprised me not at all.
[T]he only thing I hate more than hippies and neo-liberal fascists and anarchists are the hypocrite fat-cat suits they eventually grow up to become.
John’s been a lonely man. Now we have Gertrude Verbanski, his vocational equal and intellectual soul-mate to bring out the best in him. Or, at least, it brings out something. Can Casey be a fighter and a lover? Sure. He’s quite capable of appreciating Downton Abby – or is it Alex he appreciates?
Or perhaps, Morgan? Of course, there’s also Ilsa, Kathleen and now Gertrude. We’ve had John Casey in front of us the whole time and barely saw him.
And I don’t want the world to see me
‘Cause I don’t think that they’d understand
When everything’s meant to be broken
I just want you to know who I am
Casey is always the man we’ll know the least, but it’s not because he hasn’t told us. He’s been screaming it out at us from the first This is who I am! No lies, no hiding, covers that barely cover.
That song, Iris by the Goo Goo Dolls, is almost an anthem from the ’90s. That’s an odd thing to say – “anthems” are supposed to be uplifting and inspirational (think Melanie’s Lay Down (Candles in the Rain) as an anthem for the Baby Boomers and Nirvana’s Nevermind as an anthem for Gen-Xers). Iris is not like that. It’s painfully truthful and mysterious at the same time, and that’s why it carries weight. The lyrics tell us nothing except the singer’s state of mind. Today, as it has in the past, the song has become an anthem for the first three seasons of Chuck, at least, in my mind.
So I’m going to segue. This is not so much about John Casey as it is about the lonely people we’ve seen and watched on this show. You almost want Sarah to hear this verse:
And you can’t fight the tears that ain’t coming
Or the moment of truth in your lies
When everything feels like the movies
Yeah you bleed just to know you’re alive
… and Chuck singing the first.
And I’d give up forever to touch you
‘Cause I know that you feel me somehow
You’re the closest to heaven that I’ll ever be
And I don’t want to go home right now
Maybe that’s just the romantic in me, letting one song speak for those characters at their lowest moment. The truth is, all these characters are created by many talented people who have led successful lives and careers. They are magicians showing us a wonderful illusion. It’s the story, which has taken it’s shortcuts and used it’s tropes and cliches, that often speaks a soft truth to us, a very personal and intimate one. That’s been the real magic. I would guess that’s the reason so many got caught up in the story.
I’m certain that this part of the story comes from one person. I’ll credit Chris Fedak, of course, the way John Rzeznik is credited with writing the song. Like Iris comes alive with the rest of the band, Chuck comes alive with the Adam, Sarah, Ryan, Josh, Yvonne and Zac, along with the rest of the cast and crew. Still, it was Fedak who built that solitude into those characters. John Casey is only the last to come out of it.
He also built them a way out and that, to me, is the amazing thing. They were miserable, lonely people. Yet, almost five years into the story, we can point to a character and say “Hey! That’s like something I did!” It may be something small, like studying just the right page for an exam in college, or writing just the right report for work. It may be something larger, like coming up with the right diagnosis for someone who needed it.
And it may be something as small as saying or doing just the right thing when your spouse needed it. Getting out of the loneliness Chuck had at his birthday party over four years ago was impossible without two things – friends and family. TPTB gave John Casey only that one thing to say, and he said it well.