As an aside, in case you didn’t know what “reader’s digest” rewatch means…in the past, Reader’s Digest (the magazine) would print abridged versions of bestselling books in a collection called “Reader’s Digest Bestsellers.” I admit I’ve read one or two of them. No clue as to whether or not they still print them but here at Chuckthis we will be revisiting another bestseller (in our hearts): Chuck. Albeit in an abridged rewatch.
So it begins, The Intro Arc. If you haven’t had a moment to rewatch from the beginning, I definitely recommend it. Obviously the purpose of this whole venture is for all of us to rewatch and in the process re-examine the arcs and the story lines as they were. We placed these pieces on Mondays, during Chuck’s original timeslot not just for nostalgia, but also to give all of us plenty of time during the week to rewatch the episodes. We probably won’t be doing recaps on these weekly written blogs, just impressions, thematic reviews and how an arc ties into the whole so it’s a good idea to pop in the DVDs and watch. Especially the often underrated episodes like Tango.
This being the “intro arc” it’ll be very difficult for me to not talk about the finale, and if you’re still sensitive about it, I ask that you give it and this rewatch a chance. The two are just so tightly connected, almost parallel that there’s no escaping it, but in deference to POVs I won’t get into the subjective specifics, just the thematic parallels. And me being me, I’ll probably put in some songs here and there both found through Chuck, and inspired by Chuck. For this one I picked Specks by Matt Pond P.A. So, let’s rewatch Pilot, Helicopter and Tango together, after the jump.
If you haven’t seen season 1, and the pilot specifically for a while, your first thought would be that they looked so much younger. Almost babies in a sense, just completely different. It’s more than just the animal shapes hair (which I miss), but overall. They were, as difficult as it was, still innocent, naive, unknowing, exploring uncharted territories with dangers and hardships lurking just beyond the shadows. For Chuck, that danger is to his family and his health; for Sarah, it’s her heart and a way of life.
♪ “Up above I see specks of silver in the evening sky
Specks of gold in the river running from the deep moonlight
See us shake in the wild distortion of the water’s waves
Still I know you’re in the darkness shining from a mile away” ♫
As I watched Bryce break out of the intersect room, remembering just how kick ass it was, and how Sarah did the same, I’m reminded all the more how different the two worlds are and have always been (but we tend to forget that). Sarah Walker was a world-class spy. She was even better than the best, she was….Agent Walker. She lived in a world of danger, excitement and she was good at telling lies. A direct contrast to Chuck’s mundane, Buy-More existence and almost heartbreaking vulnerability and honesty.
Chuck Bartowski was not a noob per say, but certainly innocent. Though he was a born hero and leader–we see this as he leads the team of nerds through the Irene Demova outbreak–he was innocent, protected. First by Ellie, and in the coming episodes, by Sarah. As this is Chuck’s Hero’s Journey, it–as all heroes journeys do–started innocently. As the seasons traverse, Chuck became less naive, and more knowledgeable but he (through the ups and downs) retained his heart. And his heart, from the first “Vicky Vale” belonged to Sarah.
In the pilot, we felt the flash, they felt the flash and it is a heat, a burn, and a love that grew and spread throughout the next 5 years. First from a look that turned into that flash, into an infatuation, to love and then to happily ever after. But first that flash. It’s a pilot’s (and 2nd and 3rd episode’s) purpose to introduce, to flesh out characters. It is the rest of the story’s responsibility to plot and show growth but the beauty of Chuck’s introduction is that it did more than most. It gave us that flash. It made us fall in love with the characters from the get go, got us invested into the relationships, the emotions and their growth at first watch. We learn that Sarah is the agent, that Chuck is the secret, but more importantly we come to imagine what they’ll mean to each other, to all of us.
The flash didn’t come without its challenges. Chuck was going through an identity crisis. Remember the “5 year plan, just looking for a font”? It wasn’t until American Hero that he figured that out: all caps, SARAH. But in the beginning it was a question, an evasion, a lie. And for us, a source of frustration (heh).
Morgan: Why wouldn’t you call this girl?
Chuck: Because I live on planet earth.
In some ways, meeting Sarah, falling in love with her and she with him was its very own heaven. But he didn’t yet believe. He had no confidence, and it showed. Ellie’s “You don’t know Chuck. He freaks out when he likes a girl,” said it best. Even when Sarah went so far as to tell him, “I like you,” in perhaps the first genuine expression she has ever given anyone, he still didn’t believe. Sarah Walker was the unattainable girl that he couldn’t fall for, much less dream about. So Chuck had to learn, not just to trust her but himself.
Chuck: You know if we were really dating, this would be the part where I’d be forced to kiss you good night.
Sarah: Forced? Would it be so bad?
Chuck: I’m sure I can suffer through it.
Sarah: Me too.
Which leads me to one of the thematic elements of the show: Trust. One of our most favorite scenes in the entire series here at Chuckthis is the beach bump–as illustrated by the banner above–but more than that, it’s what it means. It was an important and beautiful moment for Chuck and Sarah, but mostly for Chuck. Just like the ending beach scene, was mostly for Sarah.
In Helicopter, in midst of beating him up in the bathroom in what Devon calls, “make up sex,” Sarah said it best: “Chuck, do you really think that my name is Sarah? I never asked you to believe me. I asked you to trust me.” We forget sometimes that she’s a spy; a cold-blooded, though never cold-hearted but nonetheless, superspy. And she asked for his trust. She asked him to trust her with his life, his family’s lives and she asked him to trust her to ably navigate through this world (her world of spies) and keep him safe. Part of the devastation of season 3 was just that–that she couldn’t, or she felt like she couldn’t protect him from what she feared most and that trust was broken. More, she trusted him and he let her down. They healed from that (thank god) but more importantly for our purpose here, all of that came after began here. Trust obviously came back into relevance in the end in Goodbye when Sarah herself had to trust him to help her navigate through “their” world, a world of normalcy, trust and love. But it started here.
Sarah: I need you to do one more thing for me.
Sarah: Trust me, Chuck.
Sarah: This place is important, isn’t it?
Chuck: Yeah, yeah, very much. This is actually where you told me I was going to be okay. That I could trust you. And that’s exactly what I’m doing now. I’m asking you to trust me…Trust me, Sarah. I’m here for you always.
So the journey begins, and with it, our Chuck story. For Chuck and Sarah, it’s the beginning of the rest of their lives.