What is it with the Charleses-es or the Bartowski’s and trains? As I watched Bullet Train, I couldn’t help thinking of a different time … a different train.
Two outstanding episodes, Honeymooners and Bullet Train, bookend the greatest journey ever. I’ve found no other characters so compelling, no other journey so gratifying, no other love story so heartwarming.
Ride the rails with me and enjoy the journey from the slow train to the Bullet Train … the final ride.
Their Journey Begins
That first train was verrry different from the last one. For starters it was a lot slower … the slowest train ride in history if meal trays are any indication. I prefer to think of it as a moment out of time when Chuck and Sarah are lost in each other and oblivious as time and the rest of the world pass by.
Ultimately, they have to come up with a plan, because the world is knocking — or calling — and they must answer. Or not. The priority of being together is absolute. So they throw caution and iphones to the wind and decide to run away together.
One last mission (I knew that sounded familiar) draws them back into the spy game and changes their course. At the end of the day, after thinking and rethinking their decision, they return to Burbank to carve out a space between two worlds and pursue the ultimate dream … being spies together.
Amidst the all the revision of plans and second guessing, one constant was established:
Whatever else they want in life, they want each other more; and nothing else matters as long as they are together.
That constant is the north star that guides their journey.
Journey for Two
From the very beginning, one of the laws of the Chuckverse is that the spy world invariably intrudes on Chuck’s real world. Its corollary is that operating in both worlds, while trying to keep them separate, is a constant source of tension and often a source of danger.
So why not leave spying behind and pursue that normal life? Besides the obvious, that there would be no more Chuck, Chuck and Sarah want both. This is their dream. Not only do they want both, but for now they need both. It’s in the balance of their worlds that they help each other grow. Chuck and Sarah come from polar worlds. Each needs the home world to help stabilize the transition and the other world to catalyze growth.
That’s the journey from Honeymooners through Cliffhanger … Chuck and Sarah living their dream and rounding out their personal growth as they grow together toward marriage. Though Sarah’s journey to an emotionally transparent woman-in-love is nothing less than stunning, Chuck’s growth in confidence as a man and a hero is cheer-worthy.
Journey As One
I have loved Chuck’s and Sarah’s journeys. More than that, I have loved their journey, but perhaps most of all I have loved this leg of their journey. It’s the same people on the same journey, but since they’re married, it’s different somehow. Different/good. Different/great. Different … fantastic. It’s what I’ve wanted for them all along, and I am so grateful we got a S5 to see it.
They are still living the dream, albeit a slightly different version. The CIA kicked them to the curb, but Hartley tossed them a fortune, so they started their own spies-for-hire biz … and they own the Buymore.
Almost immediately we notice a new dynamic in their relationship. The role reversal is beginning to shift or rather Chuck and Sarah are beginning to mesh in new and wonderful ways. Chuck has taken the reigns of the professional, spy side of things. He is the leader that makes Carmichael Industries work. Sarah is his first mate and partner in every way. They are the consummate power spy-couple.
Sarah, who only last year was more comfortable in the spy world and applied her spy brain and spy talents to solve every-day, real-world problems, is now very comfortable in the normal/relationship/communication area. These were always Chuck’s forte, where he did all the heavy lifting. Now Sarah carries her own weight and gradually takes the lead more and more.
They have rubbed off one each other, and it’s stunning. We see it in Chuck tagging the Viper and thinking like a spy in Business Trip and in Sarah giving Casey, then Verbanski relationship advice. In Frosted Tips, Sarah is sensitive to Chuck’s friendship with Morgan, while Chuck worries more about CI’s bottom line. This new dynamic adds fun and balance and beauty to their marriage.
As clients and missions come and go, their dream begins to change. They find a dream house and begin to think about having real friends, more taco nights and fewer evil cabals.
As their dream changes, though, one thing doesn’t change — the threat of the spy world hanging over their normal world. How much longer can they defeat the dangers and avert disaster?
Chuck views the invitation to rejoin the CIA through his new business-colored glasses. Sarah knows that going back means never having control over their own lives. So they kick the CIA to the curb and take charge of their future.
A possible pregnancy turns their thoughts toward babies, and their dream expands. The expanded dream brings the certain conviction that parenting and spying don’t go together.
This journey is about to end. Two years ago they chose to be spies together rather than run away together. It was the right choice. Now, though, is the right time to quit the spy-life and pursue a new dream. And that’s exactly what they are about to do, but the same thing that kept them from running away before, delays their pursuit of new dreams.
One last mission.
The one last mission turns into the mission that just won’t end, and its latest chapter lands them on a bullet train in Japan.
The end is in sight. In an hour and a half, at the next station, they can turn the bad guy over to the authorities (where have I heard that before), get the Intersect out of Sarah’s head, and get on with their new dream.
The Journey Ends
Chuck and Sarah’s journey draws to a close in the same way it began … on a train. The last train is a LOT different from the first. Just the visual of the bullet train snaking around the curves and eating up track at 200 mph is a shocking contrast from that of the first train rocking through the French countryside. How about that modern sleeper compartment (how cool was that) compared to its Victorian counterpart on the first train. Finally, the dining car is not nearly as friendly a place on the bullet train, and the bad guys on this train are very real.
With Chuck and Sarah, like the train, a lot of things are different, but some things are still the same. They are still very much in love and haven’t forgotten how to take advantage of their private compartment, although their time is considerably more rushed. (It is a bullet train, after all.)
As happy as I was to see Chuck and Sarah as a new couple, crazy in love; as much as it made me smile to watch real happiness blossom in Sarah for the first time, I have a deeper contentment and satisfaction as I observe them two years later. Their love is stronger, deeper, more mature. It has been tested and has triumphed again and again. And again. Sarah’s happiness isn’t new and giddy, but normal and comfortable. It has settled into her heart and her features, making her even more beautiful than before.
This time they board their train under very different circumstances from their first train trip. The same constant guides their journey, but now they have well formed dreams and a plan for their future.
Our favorite couple are not only in love, but also in big trouble. If the bad guys onboard weren’t enough, Sarah has the Intersect … and not the good version, but the mind melting one. Chuck doesn’t take the news very well. All he wants is to be rid of the Intersect, and now his wife has it in her head.
Once Sarah explains, all is forgiven. What follows is one of the most romantic sequences of the series. The initial awkwardness from the Intersect situation, gives way to increasingly intimate moments between Chuck and Sarah as friends, as a couple, as lovers.
Their bonding over the Intersect was fun, humorous, and oddly heartwarming. All this time he couldn’t really explain the Intersect to the person he was closest to, because all this time she couldn’t really understand what he went through when he flashed or what it felt like to use the Intersect. Their candor about the Intersect leads them to verify their dream one last time:
C: You ready to say goodbye to all of it — the guns, the bullets, the hard core?
S: I don’t want to live my life in danger any more. I’m ready to retire and start a family. Our future is exciting enough.
All that tender couple talk about starting a family leads to suggestive talk about needing practice, which leads the Bartowski’s to try out some other options of their sleeper compartment (minus the sleep part). Later we find them blissfully huddled together, quietly talking and sketcing their dream. I rate this as one of the most intimate Chuck and Sarah moments of the series.
Savour the moment.
It will have to satisfy them and us for a while, because moments later, Bullet Train goes south and never changes course.
Why did I say Chuck and Sarah’s journey ends on the bullet train? Two reasons.
First of all, the end is so near they can taste it. They want that house and dog and baby. Obviously there will be another journey, but this one is only meters from its destination. Chuck and Sarah no longer need the spy life. They are ready for the normal life they have always wanted and deserved. It’s all over but signing the mortgage and painting the nursery. Oh, and lots of practice.
So close they can taste it. Getting the house and the dog and the baby … that’s how this journey was supposed to end.
The journey does end, just not in the way we wanted.
In a few short minutes my assessment of Nicolas Quinn goes from scuzzy-loser-bad-guy to Chuck’s most evil villain ever. What he does to Sarah (and by extension, to Chuck) is the cruelest, most gut wrenching scene of Chuck … ever. (Wow, kudos to Yvonne.)
Here we bid a crushing farewell to the Bartowski’s.
Chuck is left to journey alone, because Quinn stole his wife by stealing her memories. The Sarah Walker that we have grown to know and love over the past 5 years, the Sarah Bartowski we have delighted in this year is suppressed somewhere in the head of a Sarah Walker we don’t know.
Well, as the saying goes, it ain’t over ’til the Jeffster sings.
I believe we’ll see the Bartowski’s again, but I will really miss them until we get them back (only to say goodbye again *snif*).
What is my hope that we will see them again and that they will finish the journey together?
The love of family and friends who will do whatever it takes to help Chuck and Sarah. Friends who will fight to stop the bad-guy. A sister-in-law neurologist who will work on the Intersect/memory problem.
The unrelenting love of a husband, who will do anything to save his wife … and the unquenchable love, somewhere inside his wife, that only he can stir.
With Chuck, it’s never just a matter of gray matter. It’s a matter of the heart.