Reader’s Digest Rewatch: The You Saved Me, So The Charleses-es Are Feelin’ Good Arc Part 1

Apart from this [probably] being our longest title, it’s probably also our toughest one. 6 episodes, all from the highly volatile, endlessly contestable season 3:

Chuck Versus the Final Exam
Chuck Versus the American Hero
Chuck Versus the Other Guy
Chuck Versus the Honeymooners
Chuck Versus the Role Models
Chuck Versus the Tooth

So, you and I, we have a choice: take the red pill (and read on) or take the blue pill (and pass on the review this week). The choice is yours, after the jump.

I made no secret about how I felt about season 3. I hated it when it was happening, I hated Shaw and I blame him for all the world’s problems (really, just google #IBlameShaw), and most of all I hated what our favorite characters have become throughout the season. I hated the choices they’ve made, the people they’ve become and I struggled mightily in trying to forgive and understand them. But I also got it. Or rather, with some therapy—lots of therapy (or as I call it ChuckThisBlog) I’ve come to understand, if not accept the premise of it. So in this starter post*, I’ll try to give you the same wisdom I’ve been given, provide I don’t fall down the rabbit hole of despair and contempt, like a nerdy Alice in CHUCKLand and regress. That wouldn’t be pretty, so let’s all hope for the best. I’ve come a long way from those days of despair, and hopefully some things have changed for you guys as well. Thankfully as these are arcs, with an eye towards the full story and the full journey, there needn’t be rehashing of minutia so it should be more tolerable if not more succinct (though I wouldn’t put it past Ernie to get wordy!).

So, we begin with Final Exam. Final Exam is one of those oh so lovely Kobayashi Maru situations. Kill or be expelled. I’ll save the *headdesk* for something bigger, but at its core, the episode’s message is simple: choice. They’re not only building towards Chuck having to make the ultimate decision (bang! Bang! Shaw), but also to reclaim the girl he gave up. That’s right, gave up.

Sarah: “Looks like you’re going to get everything you’ve always wanted.”

Chuck made the worst decision of his life in Prague (more on that later) and he’s paying for that choice. Or rather Sarah’s paying for that choice–uh oh there goes that dark side coming to get me, I must fight it! But Chuck did make his choice. Now he’s having to make another one: undo what he’s done and get his career and his life back on track. That tends to happen when one hits rock bottom, and Chuck’s butt hit beneath the pavement into the earth’s core. So he goes into the mission: woo the girl and ace the test. But there’s one problem, he can’t kill–because he’s still Chuck after all–though Sarah thinks otherwise. Still sizzling shrimp, “Private Eyes” and “In My Sleep” were nice touches.

What surprised me most of all in rewatch, was how much Sarah believed she was no longer whom Chuck wanted. She’s not unaffected, but she really did think he’s changed and that he no longer wanted her. She’s been there before (with her father) so she knows better than most the pain of cutting ties. It’s up to Chuck to convince her otherwise, which he does, in American Hero.

It’s hard to think about that episode without remembering how I felt when it was shown live. Specifically this:

There are times when the brilliance of this team just amazes me. Just amazing. We have now gone full circle…the journey has been hard and bumpy, we have taken some unnecessary turns if I may say so…but boy this feels good. It feels good because I get it. It feels good because they got it. Chuck loves Sarah. That’s it. They belong together, they’ve had misunderstandings, they’ve had challenges but in the end love prevails. Love triumphs. What Sarah felt and feels for Chuck overcame even her doubts, even her fears. Because SHE LOVES HIM. She’s leaving Burbank, leaving DC and she’s going to Mexico. There isn’t a doubt in my mind that is the case… That’s love. I’ve talked all week about the NEED for her to accept Chuck as a killer, she gave it to me. She accepts him as is, because they FINALLY HAD THAT ONE IMPORTANT CONVERSATION!…This conversation has been a long time coming. So long, but it was so worth it. Because even though she didn’t say much in the end it’s obvious to me that the people they were has returned, for the better in Chuck’s case (still waiting to see it in Sarah’s case frankly).. Because their priorities are set, their feelings exposed. Finally.

American Hero was the first episode that gave me my faith back. (Side note: when I grow up I want to be a secretary, complete with bun working for General Beckman). It gave me proof that the characters that I loved were coming back. More importantly, it tied together what was a tough journey into the bottom:

Chuck: “I know you think I’m not that same guy you met the first day at the Buy More and you’re right. That guy in the buy more hated himself. For not knowing what he wanted to do and how he wanted to spend his life. Finally now I know. I want to be a spy, and I want to be with you.”

It goes back to choices again. Chuck made the wrong choice in Prague but right or wrong it was an important step for him. Think back to Ring: when asked what he wanted to do with his life, his answer was a tepid: “dance with my date.” Beyond that, he maybe wanted to travel. The Chuck that needed to choose a font for his 5-year plan still hasn’t progressed beyond the question. He doesn’t know what he wants to be; he doesn’t know himself enough to know who to be. He’s still unwilling to fight, really fight for what he wants: her. And so he was seduced. He was seduced by the glamour, the façade of spying and he made the wrong choice. Beyond that he’s changed as a person too, more overtly heroic, less selfish. Sarah has always had to struggle between balancing the fate of the world versus Chuck but Chuck’s never really had to make that decision because she’s always had to, so it’s his turn.

So throughout the “dark” season, we saw Chuck live with his choice [in Prague]. He learned of the allure of the game, its dangers. He became someone else, someone he himself and everyone around him hated but in doing so, he learned finally what he wanted, who he wanted to be. Did he have to hit rock bottom to know who he is? Perhaps not but they say challenges are what shapes us, and Chuck was certainly challenged. He came out stronger for it; they came out stronger for it. That path has led Chuck to a fork in the road, a decision; this time the right one.

Ellie illustrated it best in Tic Tac: “I know, I know. But dreams change. And if there’s one thing I know is I want to be with Devon. It may require some sacrifice for us but one thing I know, he’s the best decision I’ve ever made.”

How could Chuck do anything else? Yes, he still needed to prove to Sarah–for actions speak louder than words–that he was still the same man, her Chuck, and so he will/did. Even if it meant putting his own life at risk to save someone she cares about, he’s Chuck Bartowski and he’d do it for her. And when all else failed, Chuck Bartowski pleaded his case with perhaps one of the finest and sweetest scenes in all of Chuck:

Sarah, helpless, full of love, cannot refuse. Love always wins out in the end.

As an aside in Pink Slip when Sarah was asking Chuck to run away with her the song that was playing was, “Wait it Out” by Imogene Heap. Wait it out, and Sarah’s “run away with me.” Fast forward to American Hero and “Down River,” Chuck asks her to run away with him, “go don’t stop.” Full circle and right where we belong.

Other Guy: Kobayashi Maru rears its ugly head once more. Other Guy has less to do with the journey of the season, as it is the consequences of it. We learned of course that Sarah killed Eve Shaw, and Shaw is out for revenge. Mostly I was made into a big ball of fluff with all the kissing and the promises of them finally being together that I barely remember what happened within the episode. I kid, but not by much so I send this over to Ernie.

~ Ernie ~

While wishing to avoid the rabbit hole (that’s another post that still may happen) it is sometimes helpful to peer over the edge, especially since the themes of the season and the choices our heroes made back then will be revisited, and hopefully resolved. In deference to Faith and others who still struggle with the start of the season I’ll be brief. Prague was the first Kobayashi Maru, and while I’d agree that Chuck is coming to the conclusion that it was the worst decision in his life, both he and Sarah are lucky he made it, because as we will finally see in Honeymooners these two crap communicators just might get the life that suits them both because of it.

Chuck needed to prove himself to himself, and he wanted to get out of Burbank, out of the comfort zone he’d built for himself where after a catastrophic blow to his self-confidence and his future plans he became the unchallenged big fish in the small pond. Nothing tested Chuck, or pushed him, or gave him a goal or a feeling that he mattered, until the intersect, and Sarah Walker came into his life.

Sarah needed to slow down and see that the world had more to offer than the spy life and the abstract “greater good” she served. The greater good was people. Real people with real lives and friends and families they loved and cherished. A mission was just a mission, but the people she protected became real to Sarah, and the mission took on meaning. In learning that Sarah realized that a life without something to lose isn’t a life worth living, and so she needs to stay in Burbank and learn how to live life other than for the next mission.

While they are pulled towards each other, each as the others guide in the strange new world they’ve entered, their trajectories almost converge, but then lead them on different paths for a while. They each need to discover things about themselves and each other before their paths cross again. And here is where their paths finally cross again.

One last word about the season opener, and it also includes the last arc. We were fooled in that last arc. They kept telling us there was time, but our heroes were on a ticking time bomb, just like in Hard Salami, and just like in Hard Salami it would lead to some rash decisions, and some repercussions.

When Sarah sauntered into Buy More with an Obama Guava for Chuck, perhaps in a good mood after beating the 49B and admitting to herself she was in love, we thought there was time. Chuck knew better. It was only a matter of time till Fulcrum got their intersect, and he was obsolete. It’s only a matter of time till the bunker becomes a better option.

When Chuck and Sarah woke in each others’ embrace in a Barstow hotel room, we thought there was time. Time for them to come to an understanding, time to plan, or to talk, but even then the outside world was closing in on them.

When the intersect was out of Chuck’s head, and when he and Sarah stood in the courtyard, reveling in what was real, even they thought there was now time. But she was still a spy, and his handler, and when he turned down the offer to enter Sarah’s world, the clock was already ticking.

The government wanted their intersect because even though Fulcrum was defeated, there was a new bigger threat on the horizon, the Ring (just go with the premise that they were far scarier). Sarah was off to the next mission, and she’d run out of time. Time she needed to come to grips with how Chuck had changed her, and how she’d changed Chuck. In those last arcs we’d seen Chuck break away from Sarah’s control more and more. He wasn’t the same nerd who simultaneously loved, feared, and sought her approval constantly. He was a man with his own dreams, which included her, granted, but with a desire to make a life on his own terms.

So they ran out of time. We thought there was time at the second wedding, but larger forces were already moving the great game forward, and both our heroes were caught up in it again. There just wasn’t time.

Sarah never got to tell Chuck what she wanted, Chuck needed to be the guy she told him he could be, and so re-intersected Chuck was whisked off to spy school, with Sarah making a rash decision, take what she wants because she’s about to lose everything, just like in front of the bomb in Hard Salami, or the helipad in Marlin.

In Prague time catches up with them. When they come back together in Pink Slip and Three Words, when there was time, feelings were too raw, wounds too fresh. Now they are ready to talk, but once again they’re running out of time.

We start Chuck Versus The Final Exam with a new ticking clock. Chuck will be off to Rome, Sarah and Shaw off to DC, as soon as Chuck proves his mettle. But Chuck, seeing the end of his time with Sarah, and having tasted the spy life firsthand, is starting to have his doubts. Yes, it’s nastier than he thought when he was just Sarah’s asset. Burning assets and lying to people you care about, preparing to leave them behind, or seeing there can be no future with that sweet girl who seems perfect for you, that starts to wear on you. And when the compensation, seeing the world, means that you never even get off the plane on that trip to Paris, that the mission always comes first, that abstract “greater good” seems a bit hollow. It mattered more when he could share it with his team, but his team is gone and being a spy no longer fills the hole in his life where he used to have a family and friends like he thought it would.

For Sarah, that greater good is gone. She’s losing it all. She’s seen her relationship with Chuck’s family, and with Chuck waste away before her eyes, and she’s left with the one thing she thought she could make real, Shaw. Perhaps she thought she’d find a bit of normal in her world, maybe it was her second chance at finding love and something worth having in her life. He seems perfect. She doesn’t have to lie to him, he already knows all her secrets, she doesn’t have to explain to him the way things are, or wory about how he sees her when she has to lie or kill or manipulate a mark. But its different than with Chuck, all he does is remind her she’s a spy.

Chuck and Sarah finally are ready to talk, but to them it seems time has already run out. They’ve made their choices. So it is with a sense of nostalgia, and comfort in each others presence, that Sarah gives Chuck his mission, and tips the hour-glass on their time together.

But a few things have changed for our heroes. Chuck has decided that he loves Sarah and always will, no matter the future or his choice to be a spy, not loving her isn’t an option. Sarah has admitted to herself that she loves Chuck, and no matter how much his heartbreaking refusal to run away hurts, still, she understands why he did it. She also understands that nothing will ever replace what she had with Chuck, however limited and fleeting that was.

It is an amazing scene, the stake-date. Suddenly a season of confusion falls into place. We see why Sarah pulled away from Chuck and kept Shaw constantly by her side. She has no resistance when it comes to Chuck, and she doesn’t even try to deny it when it’s just the two of them. We see Chuck, confident in his worth and in Sarah’s genuine feelings for him, and his remorse for making the tough call that he still seems to think might work out for both of them, and we see Sarah acknowledging openly to Chuck that only he could break her heart the way he did, but that she still loved him in a way nobody else could ever match.

This is not over.

But for both Chuck and Sarah, it’s Kobayashi Maru, Part 2.

Don’t let them Change you. That was Jill’s cautionary tale from that final arc of season 2. She’d taken the easy path. When Fulcrum gave her everything, they could take it away, and that changed her. The government is about to offer Chuck everything he’s ever wanted, except Sarah, though in one final heart-wrenching twist, Shaw even manages to convince Sarah to dangle that possibility as the final carrot. Wealth, travel, excitement, and a sense of worth, a feeling that you matter, maybe even the girl. And all you have to do is compromise everything you believe in, and kill a man in cold blood.

The conflict in Chuck Versus The Final Exam worked for me, even if the resolution was a bit forced. You felt the despair of both our heroes, the sense that to move on they needed to destroy something of themselves, and something precious to the love of their life. Chuck needed to become a cold-blooded killer, and Sarah had to betray Chuck finally and completely. Don’t let them change you. Though both thought themselves frauds, Chuck for not passing his test, Sarah for ordering Chuck to kill someone, all the while telling knowing she never wanted him to face that choice, they both stayed true as much as they could. Chuck decided he wasn’t like the Ring or the CIA agents who killed on orders and never would be, indecision or hesitation when faced with a self-defense situation doesn’t change that, and Sarah, well she tried to take herself out of the equation. “You’ll be Chuck, and there’s nothing wrong with that”.

Chuck is a spy

You practically hear Sarah’s heart-break as she says those words. Suddenly, Chuck is the same as Shaw, Bryce, Cole, her. Suddenly, he’s just as compromised, as changed, as any of them, and any thought that she’d saved him, protected him, is gone. She burned him. She was the government’s weapon, the one thing that could destroy the man she loved, and she let it happen.

Do you still love him Sarah? Not anymore, she tells herself, because what she did to him can’t happen in a world where she loves him. She can’t possibly love a man and do what she did to Chuck. More to the point, she can’t be worthy of love after doing that. See Joe’s marvelous post Saving Agent Walker for a contemporaneous take.

American Hero was a tough one for me. After the stake-date epiphanies, I wanted to see how differently the drama would play out, but instead that growth seemed to be tossed on the bonfire of CRM for the sake of delaying, for one more week, any resolution to the WT/WT. After Sarah’s open admissions to the special place Chuck held in her heart I hoped for a better reaction. At least a little sense of remorse displayed, even if not to Chuck. I’d accept the ripping off the band-aid aspect of her anger at Chuck. I just wanted her to be a little more self-aware. Still love is rarely rational, and in a sense Chuck has left Sarah all over again. True, she put him in another impossible Kobayashi Maru situation, but once again he seems to have failed to be the man she wanted, or needed him to be.

But one of the things I’ve learned, and learned to love about our heroes is that self-awareness and rational thought rarely enter the equation when it comes to their love story.

Still, it was frustrating to see Sarah pull back from that openness she’d finally found. It was maddening to see Chuck include Sarah in the category of people who he couldn’t share the truth with and it was beyond tired to see Shaw pushed forward as the hero Chuck should be and who Sarah loved. We should have been past that after what we saw in Final Exam.

Eventually though something clicked for me. Where others have always given Sarah orders, or decided her fate, or their own, absent any consideration of how it would affect her, Chuck has always given Sarah choices, the opportunity to be who she wants and decide her future.

Chuck rescued Shaw so Sarah would have a choice. Chuck didn’t go with Sarah in Prague so Sarah would have a choice. Chuck didn’t tell Sarah about Casey and his red test so Sarah would have a choice. Chuck constantly took himself out of the equation, letting Sarah choose the life she wanted. Finally, Chuck put it out there, choose me, or don’t. But the one thing Chuck never did was tell Sarah who to be.

I’ll peek over the edge of the rabbit hole for a second to observe that Sarah seems to have sought external validation for a lot of her life. For a time Chuck provided that. When it seemed to a lot of us that Sarah was lost, and Chuck had abandoned her, I think what we really saw was that Sarah was learning that what she got from Chuck wasn’t the same thing she’d come to depend on from others. It was more of a challenge. Be yourself, and accept that I love you for who you are. Accept that who you are is someone worthy of love. For too long both Chuck and Sarah have sought to remake themselves to fit into each others world, thinking they had to be someone else to be with each other. In the end they just had to decide to be together.

Chuck feels like he has the chance to make right the worst decision of his life. Sarah understood what this life did to people. It breaks trust. Love becomes impossible, or a liability. Sarah is the most important thing in the world to Chuck. The greater good is an abstraction without Sarah. being a hero is nothing if Sarah sees him as just another spy.

The spy life will never allow them the time and space they need to be together, really together, so Chuck makes what he sees as the only rational decision available. Get out, just like Sarah said. But time is not on their side. Chuck now sees the cost of being a spy, and how it drives them apart, and would continue to do so, so he makes the best decision of his life. He wants to be with Sarah. The rest is details, but for both of them the baggage and the pain they’ve shared seems to come from the spy life, so Chuck offers, and Sarah accepts that this time they will run, together.

But time is not on their side, and neither is Shaw.

In an ending that echoes Chuck Versus The Ex to me, Sarah is off the grid and off with Shaw, out of contact, for what could be that dreaded “one last mission.”

Finally, after failing to kill Shaw, the Ring has decided to turn him, and once again we see the cost of love in the spy world.

An assignment Sarah just talked about at the end of Final Exam, her red test and the worst day of her life (till Chuck’s red test) cost Sarah her innocence, and Shaw his wife. We don’t know if Eve Shaw had turned, or if the CIA simply thought she did, or if the Ring used the CIA and Sarah to get rid of a troublesome double agent, but Sarah was the weapon they used, and it seems that’s all that matters to Shaw.

Chuck’s timely arrival and a fortuitous reflection on a monitor manage to save Sarah, for now. As Sarah sees Shaw advance on her, gun still raised, pointed at her, she knows something is wrong, something is off. And then Shaw lowers his gun, and explains. And lies. They used you Sarah, it wasn’t your fault. And Sarah wants to believe that she can be forgiven for taking the woman he loved from Shaw. Shaw is happy to let her believe it, for now. Chuck just sees the woman he loves in danger, and as usual responds appropriately. What girl doesn’t appreciate air support and a tank.

While we may know that Chuck and Sarah have made that fateful decision to be together, they are having a hard time letting each other know. Even for crap communicators like them the precious looks and whimsical makeups aren’t getting the point across.

Sarah is ready to run with Chuck, but it’s a bit tough to do when your boyfriend (who just forgave you for killing his wife) is bent on finding those responsible for his wife’s death and wants your help for that “one last mission.” I’m not so sure Sarah doesn’t feel she owes Shaw that much, given she pulled the trigger.

Chuck, he sees a man who must be in turmoil and a woman, his woman though he doesn’t know it yet, still in danger, and nobody is listening to him. Sarah meanwhile has seen that Chuck is indeed the man she grew to love, and more. He is the man she needs him to be, the one who can save her.

As in the start of the season we see Chuck take it badly. Whiskey now takes the place of the cheese-balls. But this time around he remembers to ask the important questions, eventually.


Sarah finally said yes, and that’s all it took. Sarah finally saw that her silence was costing them both the love and the life they yearned for, so when Chuck asked, she said yes.

Unfortunately there’s the issue of that “one last mission” that keeps cropping up before they can run away together. I don’t know if Sarah is looking for closure with Shaw, that she feels she can’t leave him with the debt she owes him without helping him get his closure by taking down the Ring, but she is unfortunately drawn back into his evil plan for revenge.

So Sarah finds herself back in Paris, where it all started, about to repay a debt to a man she once thought she could possibly love, or at least trust. And now the real question is brought to the front. Why does Sarah deserve the happy ending? Shaw also had love and a family, and she took it from him. Why does Sarah deserve Chuck after all the pain she’s inflicted, first as a career criminal by the time she was 10, then as an assasin for the CIA. Why does Sarah get the happy ending that will elude Shaw. Simple, Chuck shows up.

Chuck is in no small part the man Sarah helped him be, and so Chuck saves Sarah because Sarah saved Chuck from an aimless meaningless life, absent goals, ambition, or someone to share it with. Sarah’s road to redemption has always been her selfless love for Chuck and her willingness to do anything she could to give him the life she knows he deserves. And so on a bridge in Paris Chuck repays his debt to Sarah and saves her by selflessly giving up a small piece of himself and being who Sarah needs at that moment.

In a hotel room in Paris, Sarah awakes to her new life, and Chuck is there waiting for her.

Originally written as a series finale, Chuck Versus The Other Guy was the episode that would wrap it all up and give us closure. Until it wasn’t. We can argue over whether it would have been enough, the yes and that hotel room in Paris, but luckily, we don’t have to.

~ Faith ~

Ernie and I will probably never agree when it comes to Shaw. While he tends to see it as Sarah believing that she’s found something (something to make real), I tend to see it as Sarah hiding. Shaw wasn’t ever a chance at finding love, it was a chance to continue being who she’s been throughout her life: unaffected, unhurt, unloved. A spy. She said it herself, “it’s different, than with you.” Shaw was a friend, a confidant, maybe a lover but he would never get close enough to really hurt her, or love her or really make a difference in her life the way Chuck did and ever could. The way her Dad did. Shaw was like Bryce, someone she had a complicated relationship with that only touched the surface. Someone who allowed her to live half a life, and no more. In the end Shaw and Sarah are the same detached chameleons and had she chosen him over Chuck, she would have found herself bitter, confused and approaching old age having nothing to cherish or dream about. Much less love.

Though we do agree that Other Guy’s DYLM (Do You Love Me) scene is one of Chuck’s more important milestones. It’s amazing to think that though we’ve known it all this time, it wasn’t until that moment, 48 episodes later that it became undeniably clear: Sarah loves Chuck. No backsies, no evasions, just “Yes.”

There was a certain amount of idealism and naiveté in their relationship before this, so maybe they weren’t ready. They were two people playing at love, rather than living it. It was fun to sit side by side at the fountain and dream, but only until reality intervened. It was fun to dream about running away together, being intersect-less but what of life after the fact? The consequences? What they’ve accomplished in 13-hitting-bottom episodes were more than just growth, it was strength. The strength to face each other, without evasions, without lies.

Chuck: Sarah, do you love me?
Sarah: Yes.

A far cry from all of Chuck’s cute but indirect, “go out on a date,” “go on vacation with me,” “I will get this thing out of my head and I will live the life that I want with the girl that I love.” The latter of which marked its own milestone, but an incomplete one.

A far cry from Sarah’s non-answer to “but that’s just a lie, we will never really be together;” evasive answer to “our thing, under the under cover thing, is this ever going to happen?” And incomplete “Chuck, I don’t want to save the world, I want…”

For Chuck and Sarah it was easier to dream they were loved rather than ask the right question. It wasn’t until that moment, when they braved heartbreak could they ever really be together. No covers, no lies.

Now the question becomes, what of the life after happily ever after?

~ Ernie ~

We will never agree on Shaw, perhaps that is true, but to clarify, in the words of a wise poster on ChuckThisBlog, Sarah is pretty good at lying to herself, and I was only trying to highlight that.

ATCDave has graciously offered to take up part of the burden of this super-sized-arc, so now that Faith has cracked the whip and got me moving (thanks Faith!) I’ll leave it to Dave to see where that new dawn on that new day takes our heroes.

*Starter post because this has gotten especially lengthy. So stay tuned for Honeymooners, Role Models and Tooth in the coming days.

About Faith

Eternally faith-ful at least as it relates to my beloved Los Angeles Lakers. Yes that's where the username comes from. Other than that self-professed Chuckaholic, Laker blogger and part time internet addict. Ok, full time.
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107 Responses to Reader’s Digest Rewatch: The You Saved Me, So The Charleses-es Are Feelin’ Good Arc Part 1

  1. authorguy says:

    He had to go down before he could go up. He had to experience life in the shadows to crave the light. And perhaps lead others out of their own shadowy lives with him.

    • joe says:

      Hi, Authorguy. First time here? Welcome to the discussion.

      I used to point out a lot that I was seeing Christian themes throughout the show, enough so I decided that it was deliberate. I didn’t want to become a “one-note Charlie” on the subject, so I stopped bring it up so much.

      Your choice of words tells me that you saw the same thing, and I find that gratifying! But even if that wasn’t exactly the intent, those themes you noticed are pretty deep for a “mere” TV show.

      Now if only we could get more of that thoughtfulness from the networks.

      • jam says:

        Aren’t such themes pretty standard in any fiction? I never viewed them as Christian, but then again I’m an atheist so…

      • joe says:

        Well, Jam, I’ve heard it said that there are only 7 great themes in literature, so I suppose it could be a more general standard. Not to make too much of it, the idea of sinking to the bottom before rising up is a common secularization of the resurrection metaphor, which is explicitly Christian. For us believers, it’s pretty central (and yes, I’m understating it).

        But any way you cut it, it’s still more thoughtful than the usual “bad guy of the week” show (like CSI or even NCIS) or laugh-riot sit-com (like TBBT). They have their place too, but I appreciate the depth I saw in Chuck for 5 seasons.

      • atcDave says:

        The redemption themes we saw played out in Stephen, Mary, and to a lesser extent even Jill and Vivian is very much Judeo-Christian in origin. Such things are not valued in a lot of the world, or even in our (culturally “our”, meaning western philosophy) own pagan origins. The ancient Greeks in particular believed guilt was purely a matter of actions; intent, remorse and atonement were alien concepts.

      • authorguy says:

        It’s not just a Christian theme. The Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice came to mind. I also saw a movie about the life of Andre Rublev, the Russian iconographer, and a similar scene takes place there. Lots of stories with saintly heroes have them fall so they can rise. But it’s more than that. I look at it this way: In the beginning Sarah views Chuck as an unattainable ideal, the purely good man she doesn’t deserve. In S3 she sees herself as being instrumental in tainting him, making him impure. It also allows her to identify with him, so that when he achieves redemption so does she.
        I wonder what the feelings about S3 would have been if the episodes were released close together. Watching the DVDs close together makes the story much more obvious.

      • atcDave says:

        Of course Orpheus and Eurdike is pointedly not about sin or moral failing, until the end when Orpheus “must” look and he looses everything. Not a shred of forgiveness or redemption in the end, its about an inescapable destiny.

        Your other examples are Christian themed stories that are about redemption.

        I still do not believe the timing of the episodes would have helped S3 to be received any better than it was. The mood after S2 was overwhelming that most fans were completely ready for wt/wt to end. I would say in April of 2009 less than 30% of the fan base was accepting of the idea of drawing it out any further, and discontent when the S3 story line was first revealed at Comic Con in July of 2009 was overwhelming disappointment and outrage (easily 80+% of comments were negative). I think the idea was doomed at conception. Many of the themes explored in S3 do have some merit, no doubt Chuck’s growth into the spy life should have been loaded with drama, tension, and even some ugliness. But using love triangles and idiotic miscommunications as a means of accomplishing that is insulting and trite. It makes issues like lying, killing and betraying friends into secondary elements. What a great story could have been told if Chuck had dealt with real spy issues while Sarah helped him navigate the moral minefield. Instead the season’s drama came from Hannah and Shaw. Now I’m really getting my S3 “dislike” fired up again…

      • atcDave says:

        Very funny scene Jeff, Thanks! But of course its from the period of the show I try to block from my memory….

      • That was the point. It didn’t work for Awesome either.

      • atcDave says:

        Good point, I guess I’m in good company!

      • authorguy says:

        atcDave, I was thinking of Orpheus as simply a man who went into the darkness to lead his love out into the light, not as a morality story, since it wasn’t one. The element of salvation is a much later addition to that idea. Your point is very well-taken, that the story would have been better with her as Chuck’s guide in the moral morass of the spy life. (I said pretty much the same thing in chapter 10 of Not This Time, in perhaps my best Morgan rant.)
        Hannah is a more difficult problem. I’m not sure she could have been the dilemma for Chuck that she was without being an alternative love interest (I wrote a story about her, too). At the very least it would have been harder and subtler to do, and they didn’t have time for subtle. Shaw was a great villain, and quite clearly psychotic from the get-go, but both he and Sarah were very OOC to have any kind of a relationship, especially him. He could still have been the villain he was without it.
        While I still can’t watch all of S3 (I skipped half of ep1 on rewatch), I do think it’s a much better season than it seemed at the time, and I think a lot of that is being able to watch the episodes closer together. If they had done the story in the same more dramatic way, without the comedy but with the romance resolved, would the audience have stayed?

      • authorguy says:

        MyNameIsJeffNImLost, my biggest problem with the whole Devon storyline is that they had to send them to Africa to realize what anyone could have told them in their living room. There is no safety. Fleeing one set of dangers doesn’t get you safety, it gets you a different set of dangers, one you know less about.That scene was a perfect opportunity for Casey to say something really useful (another case of the experienced spies guiding others through the minefield), and he shrugged it off. E.g., “Yes, now you know the danger you’re in”, or “No less than you were last month, except for the panic.” So often the difference between mediocre writing and good or great writing is a single word, or a line. Something very small and hard to see.
        That was a waste.
        But I really love this thread.

      • @authorguy: “my biggest problem with the whole Devon storyline is that they had to send them to Africa to realize what anyone could have told them in their living room. There is no safety.”
        I agree there is no safety. It was how TPTB tried to spin the DWB adventure into a plot device. However I have a different take on why the Woodcombs really went to Africa. Originally TPTB thought Other Guy was going to be the series finale. They sent the Woodcombs to Africa for the same reason they sent them to Chicago in Goodbye. They wanted Chuck standing on his own without Ellie as a crutch. I liked the Woodcombs’ motivation in S3 better than S5. In S3, they believed Chuck was moving, so he was leaving them anyway. Also, Devon was seriously freaked out. In S5, they were bribed when they already had a good life. The reason for the Woodcombs coming back in S3.5 is the same as it was would have been in a mythical S6: “Oops, we didn’t mean to write them out of the show. Time to bring them back.”

        “So often the difference between mediocre writing and good or great writing is a single word, or a line.”
        Sometimes,you’re right–the writing wasn’t what it could be. A lot of the time I think there are other reasons. I’m constantly thinking of extra lines for all of the TV shows I watch (especially Castle). Sometimes I think the problem is every episode is not written by the same person. They might all be in the writer’s room, but they don’t always see the continuity possibilities that viewers who watch episodes multiple times from outside the room see.

        Sometimes I think it is the 42 minute format. If the show length was flexible, we’d get those extra lines.

        For some shows, I think it is intentional. When less is said now, it can be said later in a future plot line, two or three seasons later. Stargate left a lot of plot lines unresolved, and not fully explained, which let them use these dangling threads for future stories. It’s part of what helped them have 17 seasons across three series.

        Other times those extra lines are wish fulfillment that the writers didn’t want. As much as I wanted Casey to regularly call out Shaw for his stupid mistakes as a spy, we didn’t get it. The deleted scenes had the conversation about Casey and Sarah investigating Shaw. It might have been removed for time, or it might have been removed because the writing team changed their minds. I really liked the idea (even spread out over multiple episodes), but it’s not canon. Oh well.

      • atcDave says:

        Jeff I do agree that time is a huge issue/problem for television story telling. It is often interesting to watch deleted scenes and try to figure WHY a particular scene was cut. Casey and Sarah investigating Shaw would have made a lot of the whole season more palatable for me, but it’s obvious the writers intended to steal away from that. Too bad, Casey delivering scorn and insults on Shaw also could have greatly improved the season for me.

        WriterGuy I can see some value in compressing the S3 schedule, and no doubt the Olympic break was very unfortunately timed; many of us were stewing and unhappy for that entire break. But I still don’t see any scenario where I would have actually liked the major arc.
        You are right that Orpheus and Eurydike was not intended as a morality play, but it is indicative of the time and culture. Classic Greek myths are very often tragic and fatalistic, which is a reflection of a pretty bleak world view. Many of those stories were given endings that modern readers would find more appealing much later by Roman-Christian or Medieval writers. I love the way Thomas Bulfinch broke down the myths with the original form, and later changes or additions (I particularly like the one where Iphigenia was whisked away prior to sacrifice to become a priestess in North Aftica). But those changes often reflect different attitudes/understanding of forgiveness and redemption.
        Much of modern television/entertainment is becoming darker and more cynical in this post-Christian era. But a big part of what I liked about Chuck was its take on redemption, forgiveness, and generally good outcomes for doing good things. Undoubtably these are among the issues that led to me not liking S3 as much.

      • atcDave says:

        I guess I could add, that if by compressed you mean telling that story in say six episodes, I do agree that could have worked better. Especially if they did away with the triangles and just dealt with Chuck dealing with the issues of becoming a spy!

      • Dave, I had a fanfic idea over a year ago I’ll probably never write. It was for Casey’s mission reports. The premise was that sometime in the past he had to go through anger management training because he told off a superior who was making a stupid mistake. They taught him a technique of writing what he really thought in a first draft of a mission require, before writing a completely sanitized version to submit. The first part of each chapter would be what Casey really thought, quips about Shaw’s incompetence and Charah’s ladyfeelings included. The second part would be very terse and make him look like a good little marine following orders. The idea never got off the ground.

      • atcDave says:

        That could have been really fun Jeff. Although at this point I mostly prefer to just leave S3 behind (believe it or not…). But Casey in First Class “proves you’re an idiot…” may have been my favorite part of the whole misery arc. I REALLY wish Casey had been more free with those comments, especially if Sarah had joined in!

  2. CaptMediocre says:

    S3 stuff. This should be good.

    You know what struck me in reading the above posts, which I have no doubt was very difficult to write based on the material you were given to write about – there are 6 episodes in the arc, yet you really only discussed / justified / rationalized   the end of the misery arc.

    For me, the misery arc is a case of “the destination was not worth the trip.” The depressing and “suicidal” story was simply to long for the “hand waved” payoff at the end. And the best part, there was NEVER any redemption or “ah ha” moment for Sarah. 

    Much like the series finale, simply too much of the story they were trying to tell remains in TPTB’s head and never translated properly on screen. Certainly waiting to make any sense out of Sarah until Final Exam certainly didn’t help.

    I will also always be in the camp that the Sh** character (TPTB’s obsession with this useless character still escapes me to this day),  if not nearly ruined the show, certainly overburdened, and muddied Sarah’s supposed journey to the point of incomprehension. (BTW, Hannah was useless too, because her only purpose was to make Sham “OK”). 

    Our favorite characters and their relationship never regained the “epicness” they had prior to S3 because (as Marlowe said) TPTB had to “exhaust” the WT/WT part of the story. And, IMO, that part wasn’t necessary in the least to show the supposed journeys.

    As far as DYLM. I agree it’s a nice scene. Unfortunately that’s all it is for me. For DYLM to be an important in Chuckdom there needed to be some form of reconciliation before it. As presented, it’s simply the showrunners knowing they were running out of time and “throwing” C&S together.

    I found this the other day and still tend to agree.

    Now back to the rest of the arc. Honeymooners is the only S3 episode I’ve seen more than once. 

    • Faith says:

      We had every intention of completing the arc (with all 6 episodes before posting) but it just got really long. Doing so would have made it way too much to read, much less digest in one sitting.

      And you have no idea how hard, for me anyway 😉

    • Ernie Davis says:

      Season 3 and Shaw are still sore points to a lot of people, but what surprised me was how well these episodes did in the polls we ran to pick the arcs. One reason for the monster arc was that we had 3 choices on how to move from the front 13 to the back 6 of season 3 and they all tied, even the one without Honeymooners (the episodes in this part of the review essentially).

      I agree with a lot of Frea’s comments too. My take however was that they wanted to show us, and Chuck, a side of Sarah she’d previously hidden, the insecure, emotionally stunted daughter of a con man with daddy issues. A lot of people didn’t want that to be a part of Sarah’s character, but it is precisely those weaknesses that make her growth in subsequent seasons so wonderful to see.

      I thought Shaw a decent, then pretty good villain, but he was too much a part of the plot to fit into their larger story. As a team member, a mentor for Chuck and romantic interest for Sarah he never quite worked, but I can still see the intent and try to appreciate that there was a purpose for the misery arc. Sort of.

      Could it have been better executed, better scripted, had a better male lead for Sarah? Absolutely, but it could have been worse. The series might have ended in that Paris hotel room with that last episode and the one kiss as the only payoff to the Charah shippers.

      • Mel says:

        I find it kinda funny that you say “it could have been worse”, the reasoning being that the show could have ended right there. If the show getting cancelled is the only thing worse than what we got, it says a lot about how bad the first part of season 3 was.

        I understand that you want to focus on the positive with these reviews, try to explain the writers incompetence for the better, but I was disappointed to see you ignoring the horribly sexist scene where Chuck acts very un-Chuck-like, locks up Sarah and rushes off to rescue Shaw.

      • atcDave says:

        Mel we’ve beaten the writers up a thousand times here over things that happened in S3, and I still don’t feel too charitable about a lot of it. But that doesn’t mean we can’t try to understand the story that was intended. I really have no interest in ever re-watching six (maybe seven) episodes from S3, which is part of why I begged off doing part of this arc; but it is a part of canon, and part of the background of characters I do still care about a lot.

      • Rob says:

        I actually think that Shaw was a pretty good character. I always felt that Brandon Routh could play the good guy turned bad. So, except for the rather substantial aspect of Sarah getting seriously involved with Shaw, I think that the character worked. S3 would have worked for me if their relationship would have been purely platonic.

        Mel — I don’t find the scene to which you refer is sexist at all. The scene before that makes it clear that Shaw’s mission is likely a suicide mission. Chuck would not have been able to live with himself if Sarah had gone to save Shaw, and both were killed in the process. Plus, I think that his actions were consistent with his prior selfless acts to protect the ones he loves.

        I was one of the ones who voted for this arc, specifically the one that included Other Guy and Honeymooners. It was my favorite because after 3 seasons of wt/wt, it was a relief to see the resolution to that aspect of the show. I loved Chuck and Sarah as a couple, and those last two episodes were the beginning of that journey.

  3. joe says:

    Wow! Faith, Ernie, great post. I’ve been working on my next review (essentially the finale for S3) so I’ve been thinking about the rest of S3 also. There’s so much here that generates strong emotions and you guys touched them again. It’s always amazing to me that this show could do that.

    Is it too late for me to vote for S3 as “most underrated season?”

    • oldresorter says:

      Joe, there was so really good stuff in season 3, for many of us, the dark feel of the Sarah falling deeply in love with Shaw and choosing to move off to DC with him in a manner of weeks, ‘masked’ most of it. Other than not liking the Sarah story for the entire first 12 eps, I can’t ever get over the simple execution of Stephen, like some hobo on the side of the curb, rather than in some epic, game changing, life lesson teaching, heroic gesture, what a remarkable waste. Plus, the insistence of bringing back Shaw, for that season, then again is season 5. Again, ‘masking’ what goodness or even greatness might have been appreciated by a pretty large portion of the fan base. Why fail on purpose? I will never get it? Ever?

      • jam says:

        “..the dark feel of the Sarah falling deeply in love with Shaw .”

        I must have succeeded in repressing my memories of S3 better than I thought, since I can’t remember that at all.

      • oldresorter says:

        Jam, after one or two weeks of denial, and smoking hot sexual tension, and after a handful of cups of coffee to start the day (eat your heart out Rick Castle), Shaw got Sarah to sleep with him. After he bagged her, in the next ep, she told him her real name, trust that even might have led to Molly and Emma’s demise. That night, after Shaw brutally beat the living tar out of Chuck, who was defenseless, while Sarah admired her man pounding the hapless nerd, she slept with Shaw, seduced him in most regards, he seemed to care less, almost seemed annoyed that she came back to him. Then, essentially for the rest of the time she was Shaw’s love slave, until Shaw gave Sarah back to Chuck in hero. Even then, Sarah did not want Chuck, as she was anguished over the sacrifice that her Daniel was making. And, Sarah, after spending a month in Shaw’s bed, Sarah at least contemplated moving in with him in DC, and was going to move to DC to be his partner either way. Oh, did I mention the couple;s message and diamonds? That seems like a smoking hot love affair to me? Most of the while on screen, Shaw appeared annoyed by Sarah’s presence, which made the entire thing, game changing and epic, didn’t it?

      • joe says:

        That’s quite an imagination you have going for you there, OldResorter. Different from mine, though. 😉

      • oldresorter says:

        Joe – I am stunned. I pretty much recanted the facts of what was shown on screen and told to us as dialogue by the ACTUAL actors while filming.

      • Rob says:

        Enough already. My big problem with S3 is Sarah shacking up with Shaw. Let’s not make it any worse than it already is.

      • Faith says:

        The dark place is calling my name. Faiiithhhhh….or my real name anyway.

      • As I’ve mentioned before, I really like the shows Farscape andStargate SG-1. Both shows have the concept of alternate realities. In Farscape “Unrealized Realities” are accessible through wormholes (sort of like Sliders, but it wasn’t what the show was about). Crichton says, “Somewhere the Cubs are winning the World Series.” Stargate SG-1 featured alternate realities in 4 episodes. What’s nice about Stargate SG-1 fanfiction is every story could be in one of an infinite number of parallel realities, meaning every story is canon, in a way.

        So in alternate Chuck realities, Jason’s and Rob’s perceptions are true. I’m just glad I didn’t see the show in that reality like they somehow did. It would be fun to get a hold of the technology, because in some reality Shaw and Hannah were never in the show. That might have lead to an earlier cancellation, so I’d have to find the season 3 DVDs in a store. In another reality, the show was picked up for a sixth season. Just be careful not to watch the show in a reality where Chuck ended up with Kayla and Bryce ended up with Sarah.

      • oldresorter says:

        Season 3 was so disgusting to me, that I am making fun of it, rather than complain. But yet, Sarah slept with Shaw within hours of rejecting him. And she told him her real name after he bedded her just once, something she vehemently refused to do for Chuck, which theoretically exposed her mother and step sister. Once Shaw beat the hell out of Chuck, it appeared Sarah slept with Shaw within hours of that, and it was 100% her idea, she appeared to repeat those acts until he gave her back to Chuck in the hero ep. Sarah had no interest in Chuck in the hero ep castle scene, she cried for her hero, Daniel. Later, when she saw him, even after she was with Chuck, she gasped for her Daniel, and still wore his precious diamonds. I think that all is factual based on what we saw, isn’t it? Plus, didn’t Chuck ask her if she was moving in with Shaw, and she didn’t say no, did she? That pretty much is what happened, no alternate reality required.

      • atcDave says:

        Jeff I just wish I could find the reality where the show got 20 seasons that we’re mostly Chuck and Sarah as the 21st century version of Nick and Nora Charles.

  4. oldresorter says:

    I found this of interest, an interview by Yvonne, I am sure we posted it once at the time, but it was right around the time of the “other Guy’ and I think adds perspective, that time sometimes has a way of doing. This was pre-twitter Yvonne, and to a certain extent, pre-fan sensitive Yvonne, I think she gives a very candid view of Shaw and Sarah, and of Sarah, from the ‘show’s’ POV.

    In many ways, this topic has very much become ‘it is what it is’ in nature to me. Season 5’s beat the crap out of Sarah escapades and failure to pay off the season long teases in a joyful manner, wiped out my disgust for season 3, if that makes any sense, something about fool me once vs fool me twice.

    Anyhow, I think this adds to what Faith and Ernie wrote. Kudo’s by the way to both, writing that many words about those episodes would have me looking over my back, I thought both treated the topic fairly and consistently with each of their own POV’s!

    • Gord says:

      Thanks for the link oldresorter. I do remember reading that at the time, but it was interesting to go back and revisit it.

      I found it somewhat amusing that they did end up using her fashion week in Milan idea, and it was an episode I really enjoyed.

      Chuck fans will always argue over which episodes/seasons they really messed up and its easy to blame the writers for what we personally think were horrible mistakes, but in the end it was those same writers that gave us a show for 5 seasons that we loved in spite of the odd screw-up episodes (which we can never agree on – hey I do know a few people that even liked Mask).

  5. Sam Carter says:

    @Joe:”That’s quite an imagination you have going for you there, OldResorter. Different from mine, though.”

    And mine. Loved season 3 and Shaw. Don’t have any major problems with the story/plot. Very happy with it overall.

  6. thinkling says:

    Faith and Ernie, great post. I’m glad I took the red pill. I thought your analyses were great. Just a few random thoughts.

    I love Faith’s introductory emotional capsule of S3. I agree with most of that. There’s a pall of sadness over the misery arc that no amount of understanding can erase. Understanding helps how I think about it but doesn’t change how I feel about it.

    I thought your Shaw takes were interesting. I tend to agree with Faith. I think Shaw was a place to hide and shrink back to the spy she had always been … a place to numb her pain and deny her desires. Shaw would never be more than that. But I think we saw Sarah try to pretend he might be. But it never worked, even for her. She had a fake relationship with Shaw, and she was trying to pretend it was real. The opposite of Chuck. She had a real relationship with him, but she was trying to pretend it was fake.

    Ernie, I liked your analysis of the darkness of the spy world and how it tore people apart and destroyed them and made them betray each other. And how devastated Sarah was that instead of saving Chuck, she helped destroy him. And how in Chuck’s trying to become the man he thought she wanted, he became the antithesis of that. It really is insidiously dark. In the end love won out. Chuck’s love for Sarah (and hers for him) brought him back from the brink. His love for her and hers for him pulled her out of the drink. In this mutual love and redemption they find a way to be who they are meant to be individually and with each other … and still be spies. Chuck didn’t lose himself, because of the love of Sarah. And because of the love of Chuck Sarah found herself.

    Fast forward to S5. The darkness isn’t between them anymore. They have a happy, beautiful marriage. They are building a life and a dream together. Between them all is light. Around them the darkness of the spy world swirls and threatens to take them down. However subtly it was shown, their love saved them. Chuck’s love was the most obvious, the most active. But Sarah’s love was there keeping her in Chuck’s orbit and responding to his love on the beach. The darkness couldn’t extinguish the light.

    • Faith says:

      “The darkness couldn’t extinguish the light.”

      Well said. Love triumphs, especially their love. There was a reason why I repeated the mantra: trust the love, trust the show before the finale. Granted it didn’t work for many, I think Uplink even went as far as to say I was right, but he couldn’t trust the show but for me, my trust in that love was part of what made season 3.0 something I can get past. Something I can eventually live with. We all remember how painful it was (for some of us during), but we never lost hope, never lost our trust in that love. And we were rewarded quite handsomely for it with Honeymooners.

      • thinkling says:

        Honeymooners … *sigh*

      • Faith says:

        I like to imagine there’s another Honeymooners right after Chuck vs. Goodbye’s version of Other Guy. 🙂

      • thinkling says:

        There is in my story! Well it’s in chapter 6, but still.

      • Shepperd of Lost Sheep says:

        “ … We all remember how painful it was (for some of us during), but we never lost hope, never lost our trust in that love. …”

        Maybe not. But unfortunately, if even for a moment (12.5 episodes) either Chuck and / or Sarah did.

        I’m starting to see that it was never Chuck or Sarah that had the other on a pedestal. It was me. A pedestal that the showrunners have shown very adept at destroying, and not so much at rebuilding (twice now).

      • uplink2 says:

        Faith, sorry it took me so long to respond to this. Yes I did say that and still believe it to be true. I felt the same way in season 3 and it was that trust in the love that got me to stay with the show when a very very large part of me wanted to leave for good after Fake Name. I have to believe that true selfless love like we saw for 2 seasons prior would finally triumph in the end. It’s like breathing to me. Without that trust not much in life really matters. So that is why I struggled but finally decided to watch Beard when it aired. Even though I probably dislike Sarah more in that episode and find her more OOC as well at that point it was Chuck’s epiphany that made me realize I had been right, trust the love.

        Now we come to the second part of your mantra, trust the show. That is what for me at least was truly lost by season 3.0. I no longer trust TPTB to tell a compelling honest, driven by characters story because they failed so miserably here. As we have talked about many times on this blog, Chuck is a show full of plot holes etc that you have to simply accept to find the great enjoyment in the show. Someone once said here that if you like the story they are telling then its a lot easier to overlook the failings. This part of the arc is a great example of that. Because I hated the story they were telling the flaws are so incredibly obvious they make much of it unwatchable for me. Perfect example is Routh’s abominable performance in the cafe scene in particular in Other Guy. While I appreciate what you and Ernie are trying to do here I think you made a conscious decision to look beyond what was actually on screen and into what you believe their intent was. To me to ignore the actual failings on screen is not the way I would approach things. It gives TPTB more credit than they deserve. We see no real evidence of their true intent because it simply was done so poorly in many instances. Sarah’s flip flop from not trusting Chuck for the first time ever, especially when he needed her to most at the beginning of AH to intending to leave with him and run away 30 minutes of screen time later for example. We are without any a ha moment or apology or self discovery other than a smile as she sees Chuck carry his supposed competition for her affection from a burning building and it simply wasn’t enough. As was stated above by the Captain, it was “Oh shoot we need to get them together in 12 minutes no matter what crap is left not resolved.”

        This is where I lost the trust in the show. Because there was such a great unique story to be told following Ring 1 and the one they chose was a poor TV Troupe filled bit of standard TV fair, written poorly, executed poorly and cast poorly. The show lost much of what made it so special from the showrunner standpoint. The lead actors gave it their all but the mismash of contrived angst couldn’t be rescued.

        While I give you credit for writing a thoughtful and well articulated review of this arc I think you left out much of why it failed for so many and gave TPTB too much leeway in focusing so much on intent rather than true performance. I will always trust the love but season 3.0 ended my trusting the show.

    • joe says:

      I just realized that I would have been much more comfortable with S3 (and understand it much better) if that had been Bryce gumming up the works, not Shaw. Not for everything. Bryce was not a character who could have turned on Chuck, Sarah and the CIA the way Shaw did. But he could have been tapped as the one to make Chuck a real spy and to break the bond between Chuck and Sarah.

      It would have been a whole ‘nother story with those same themes in common.

      Has anyone done that in FF?

      • Joe, I know of a few stories left Bryce alive, but they had different takes. “Kill Bryce” was a good start, but it was never finished. I have not read Lipton Lee’s “Bryce Vs Buymoria” yet. It covers seasons 1-3, and I assume by the title Bryce survives into season 3.

        I agree with most of Ernie’s take on season three, although I liked it a bit less than he and Sam did. However, I’ve always looked at Sarah/Shaw the was Faith does. That’s why I think I would’ve preferred Shaw to Bryce. Sarah/Bryce would have been a bigger threat of being real.

        Ernie and Faith, great write-up. I finally got through it. Think’s new chapter is almost twice as long, though.

      • atcDave says:

        I can see where Bryce might have been a bigger threat to Charah, but I think he would have done less lasting damage to Sarah. At least in terms of my esteem for her.
        Lipton Lee’s (Leigh on this site) story does keep Bryce alive into S3, but I don’t recall him being any sort of threat to Chuck and Sarah in that story (he actually supports them as a couple to some extent). Quite a few writers have turned Bryce into a major villain (but they normally kill him off well before the S3 time frame); he seems to inspire passions one way of the other, and few writers portray him as complicated as canon. Shaw on the other hand is almost always portrayed as a total baddie.

      • thinkling says:

        I see how Bryce might have done less damage to Sarah, but by then any OLIs were unwelcome. I think I’m with Jeff. I don’t think I could’ve handled another round of Bryce.

        The LIs really muddied the water of the story to me and made me really not like Chuck and Sarah, especially Chuck. The LIs only existed to drive the wt/wt that was driving (and ruining) the story. I could have found the theme of spy world darkness and what it does to people, plus the whole danger of the Intersect theme, more interesting without the LI angle. It’s a valid theme and story, but the LIs just didn’t fit. Without the LIs, they could have fixed the pacing and ended the misery sooner.

        I think Shaw would have worked much better as a positive member of TeamB: a good spy and leader, a true mentor to Chuck, and a friend to Sarah without hitting on her. Had he been a good guy that worked well with the team, it would have been fun to watch, and he would have made a tragic villain, instead of a creepy, pathetic one. As it was, when he turned bad, I just didn’t feel guilty hating him any more. OK I never really felt guilty hating him, but he was so poorly drawn that it was hard to know what the writers wanted us to feel about him.

        Black box.

      • Thinkling, I’m glad you agree with me, but I’m not sure I believe you. You tipped your hand with your last chapter. If your hypothetical out-of-the-black-box FF story, you would have been nice to Bryce. I probably would have still turned him into a Ring agent, had him shot on the bridge, and then eaten by fish. Jill didn’t actually kill anyone. Bryce killed a couple federal agents when stealing the Intersect. He’d deserve it. Fortunately, neither of us had to deal with him.

      • thinkling says:

        Jeff, I had sort of forgotten about the agents. I’ll have to rewatch. That’s a pretty good twist I hadn’t considered if Bryce had stayed … turn him into the traitor they thought he was. I like it. Too bad Shaw wasn’t eaten by fish.

      • I just double checked ( ). Ignoring the blood on his shirt at the beginning (which could be his own or from victims), he assaulted 6 agents in the first hall, two of which fell under the door from the explosion. They don’t show anyone explicitly die, but at 4:32, he kicks a guy down the stairwell. In the real world, Bourne Identity, or Casino Royale, that guard would be dead. In Chuck world, I guess he could have survived.

      • ArmySFC says:

        jeff i chuck he would live. if taking three rounds to the chest inside 10 feet, falling off a bridge into a river face down can’t someone well you get the idea.

      • authorguy says:

        But remember Shaw had character shielding, the nameless guard in the stairwell didn’t.

      • That’s why I’m not sure, Army. Casey can survive falls. Shaw can be shot, drowned, and come back from the dead. Sarah can shrug off poison from a magical DNA liquid device. They were all in the credits, though. That guard was wearing black, but I think he was wearing a red shirt underneath.

      • ArmySFC says:

        so true about the red shirt!

      • atcDave says:

        But I’m pretty sure Bryce knew which guards were actually Fulcrum double agents and made sure they were the only ones he possibly seriously killed.

      • thinkling says:

        @Dave: … and those double agents were issued red shirts?

        @Jeff: I’m smarter now. I thought red shirts were Garibaldi’s men. I’m glad you included the link, because I was having a hard time making the connection.

      • atcDave says:

        Thinkling we are officially revoking your nerd card. You have been on double secret probation for some time anyway, but it is now official, we can’t call you a nerd.

      • Galaxy Quest has a great parody about red shirts: We never learned Hannah’s last name, which is part of the reason I kept expecting her to die when I was watching season 3 the first time. Lou Palone Sarah was always safe because we found out about a bunch of last names: Burton, Anderson, O’Donell, Franco, Walker, Bartowski, Charles, and Carmichael.

      • thinkling says:

        ROTFL … But I have the t-shirt. Doesn’t that count?

      • I just realized possibly the worst missed opportunity in season 5 of Chuck. At the beginning of Frosted Tips, Morgan should have shaved the sides of his beard to make a goatee. He wouldn’t even know why he was doing it, but it would be the ultimate tip-off that Morgan had become evil!Morgan. It’s #35 on the The Top 100 Things I’d Do If I Ever Became An Evil Overlord

        (Links provided to help a de-nerd carded Thinkling)

      • atcDave says:

        Ohhhh, that would have been funny! Talk about a missed opportunity!

        And Jeff Galaxy Quest is one of the funniest movies ever made. The “crewman #6″ bit makes me laugh every time. Almost as good as the Gilligan’s Island/”those poor people” moment!

      • joe says:

        Thinkling – an official Zac Levi “Nerd” tee shirt? Okay. By the power invested in me by the Galactic Federation United Federation of Planets (Let’s get this right, now), I dub thee a nerd. Dave can’t take away your card now.

      • Ernie Davis says:

        Good lord, how could Fedak have missed that opportunity! Evil Morgan with a goatee would have been great.

        But true nerds can never turn truly evil since they actually live by some of the evil overlord tropes:

        I will make sure that my doomsday device is up to code and properly grounded.

  7. Sandra says:

    According to Magnus on Chuckgasmic Yvonne’s reaction upon reading the script for the finale was very negative. Somehow i trust her opinion on the finale more than the Fedak apologists who seem to live on this blog.

    • jam says:

      Yvonne not liking the script doesn’t surprise me, it was her character that got horribly destroyed, but in the end you should care about what *you* thought.. not Yvonne, Fedak, or anyone else.

      And this blog has mixed (mostly negative) opinions about the finale, if you want to find Fedak apologists, got to 🙂

    • atcDave says:

      Actually Sandra of the six principals at this blog only two were mostly enthusiastic about the series finale; the rest of us have, I believe, found varying levels of peace with it. But it’s never the finale I would have wanted for this show and these characters; way too vague and woefully inadequate as payoff for five seasons with these characters.

      I’d also point out only one of the six of us has consistently been enthusiastic about the S3 main arc. I don’t think calling us “Fedak apologists” is accurate, complete, or fair.

      • thinkling says:

        Ditto that, Dave. I wouldn’t call any of us Fedak apologists. I do think we want to be fair and respectful to him and not flame him or impugn his motives, but I don’t consider that an apologist. That’s just respect and courtesy. We’ve all been willing to objectively discuss his story decisions and how well they worked or didn’t. We’ve also talked about his understanding (or lack thereof) of his fans, but we don’t think he intentionally set out to sabotage his own show or tell a bad story or alienate the fans. He took some risks that may not have paid off as well as he hoped (the finale), but some of them did (like putting CS together and keeping them together).

      • Ernie Davis says:

        I wouldn’t say I am (or was) consistently enthusiastic about the season 3 front 13, I’m just not consistently negative about it and enjoyed it overall, even though I had some problems with its execution. I guess that makes me the resident Fedak apologist.

        As for the finale, I enjoyed it mostly because I saw what I think Fedak’s intent was, to re-live who the characters were and reprise their journey, then on the beach to strip the entire series down to one scene that gets to the very core of the love story, Chuck learning to love selflessly and be the one supporting those who need support (rather than relying on Sarah or Ellie to support him) and Sarah learning to go with her heart and trust someone with it so she could find love. But that said I absolutely understand where the disappointment is coming from, especially for the hard core Sarah fans. I thought Yvonne did a great job selling a season 1 Sarah with a season 5 Sarah-center bubbling just under the surface, but I get it that it looked like a very different Sarah than we’d come to expect, so a lot of people didn’t see or like it.

      • authorguy says:

        I can agree with that statement. Pretty much the whole point of this post.

      • atcDave says:

        Or at least the closest we’ve got to one Ernie!

        Although I still remember well a certain post about how Shaw is Poochie!

      • Ernie Davis says:

        Shaw was definitely one of my bigger problems with the execution. First to give a guest star and an outsider to the team so central a role in the season’s plot was something I considered risky before the season, then to so poorly develop his character, motivations and history was just a huge problem that screamed “plot device” at every turn. There wasn’t nearly enough return on The Rule of Cool for Shaw to work for me. But I guess I tend to accept that it didn’t work and try to go with their premise rather than dwell on it.

        And yes, I still stand by my contention that Shaw is Poochie.

    • thinkling says:

      Yvonne’s sadness over the finale did come out in her interviews, I think Jam is right about the character aspect of it for her. In one interview she commented that she wouldn’t really be playing her character i.e. the one she had developed over 5 years. I think it had to be sad for her, just like it was sad for us. That’s got to be a huge part of it, maybe the biggest part (not that I have any inside info, just observing and thinking about it) of her less than enthusiastic response. Imagine developing a character like Yvonne did Sarah with stunning growth and then not be able to finish the journey with that character. So sad. I’ve thought several times during Chuck that it must be hard to be an actor and have to give your all to a story line you disagree with or that does things to your character that you don’t really like. But that’s their job.

      But I also think Yvonne was more sensitive to the relationship/romance and the fans investment in that, so she had a feel for what some fans would feel. I thought it was interesting that she was the only one who gave the heads up about how hard it would be. Even in the past she has shown sensitivity and empathy to the fans’ investment in the relationship

      Yvonne wanted a happy ending for Chuck and Sarah and for her character. That came out in interviews way before the finale script was done. When all the guys were talking (in that four person interview) about wanting their character to die, she didn’t want her character to die. I think she thinks more like a regular person and not just about the artistic side of the episode. All three guys were over the moon with the full-circle/meta-narrative aspect of the episode, and Yvonne reminded them that what was going on between Chuck and Sarah was dramatic and very hard. And they were all oh yeah, that, right of course, but it came across to me that the relationship tragedy was secondary to the guys and primary to Yvonne and to us. Zac was surprised by the negative finale blow back, but he at least admitted that, after thinking about it from the fans’ perspective, he got it. I haven’t heard of any such acknowledgment from anyone else.

      I guess this really doesn’t go with the S3 discussion, but the finale is the new S3. It ultimately infiltrates every thread. 😀

      • atcDave says:

        Going back to Comic Con Yvonne had talked about her idea of a “perfect” ending being for Chuck and Sarah to be away from the violence and raising a family. It seems her idea of perfection was similar to a very large part of the audience, and I think we all felt the same disappointment; maybe even to say some of us were disappointed not only for Chuck and Sarah, but Yvonne too. But I think she made peace with it just like most of us have since then. In later interviews she has voiced an opinion the ending was a happy one, as well as saying she want to work with this group and even play Sarah again. So I think any disappointment or perceived ill-will may be very much inflated by some.

      • thinkling says:

        I never sensed any ill will from Yvonne on the finale … or anything else, and I’m sure she did make peace with it. I didn’t mean to imply otherwise. If I did I apologize. I just think she was more in touch with the emotional aspect of it, and the guys seemed more in touch with the creative side of it.

      • atcDave says:

        Sorry Thinkling I never meant to imply you had suggested any such thing. But we have seen others make that suggestion, and I think it’s mostly wrong. Whatever disappointment she may have had I believe she worked through long ago.

      • thinkling says:

        Yeah, Dave, I agree, and she gave such a fantastic performance … WOW.

    • joe says:

      What Dave and Thinkling said, Sandra.

      We can be pretty eloquent here. You’ll find many more subtle and cutting criticisms in the posts than blatant verbal punches (that’s our style) and more praise than criticism because we call ’em as we see ’em (and for the most part, we liked what we saw on the screen).

      I have no idea if I’d like Chris Fedak as a person – never met the man.

      – As opposed to Bonita Friederecy. Never met her either, but I know I’d love to have dinner with her and her husband John Billingsley any time!

    • Faith says:

      We are horrible people that doesn’t deserve your and others’ patronage. Joe, I think it’s time to reduce our gruel.

      For the record, the audio commentary from Zac Levi specifically, seemed to indicate otherwise. They are actors. They like the challenge and the versatility that not just Chuck offered, but the finale as well. Apart from that, people will make of it what they will. But extras and commentary are credible to me.

      • Faith, back with the poll for this Reader’s Digest Rewatch, I gave Thinking a recipe for gruel. If it makes too much, you could half the ingredients, but I think you are being too hard on yourself. I’m not sure it would work anyway. Cutting your gruel rations is the Republican approach. Less energy leading to shorter write-ups. Throwing more gruel at the problem would be the Democrats’ approach. You’d be eating too much to have time to do a write-up. Either way, it’s still gruel.

        Just like some posters here have had their views evolve over time, it’s even more likely that that some actors’ views have changed. The same question asked during emotional filming of the last episodes would get a different answer from an unemployed or nostalgic actor who has a little bit of time and perspective.

      • Faith says:

        I feel I must apologize for the sarcasm, that’s not called for no matter how frustrating it is to be labeled without due cause, or for that matter without reading and understanding our wide-ranging perspectives.

        Anyway, Jeff, with the economy the way it is, everyone’s had to make cuts. But Joe, he just keeps on spending and spending. Our word for gruel rate hasn’t changed since the hey day of the Clinton administration. As you can tell from our Atlas Shrugged like write-up up above.

        I also don’t dispute that views can change, I’m just saying of all the speculation from both sides the only concrete evidence in the matter has come from those extras and audio so really, objectively, they’re the only ones that can’t be disputed. That doesn’t make them truth, it just makes it “a” truth.

  8. Sam Carter says:

    Did you check The-Numbers site? 60, 000 units sold the first week (re: Chuck season 5 DVDs). Is that enough for a movie? Or Syndication? Buy the DVDs!

    • atcDave says:

      Amen to that Sam! And buy an extra set just because you can…
      Vote with your wallet.

      • Sam Carter says:

        Looking at the numbers (both DVD/Bluray), it’s either the fanbase is too small or people don’t care anymore. Sad. I really wanted to see the show syndicated in a good spot. Forget about a ‘Chuck movie.’ Not that I thought it’d had a real chance any way.

    • garnet says:

      Do you have a link for us please?


        Chuck is #13 by unit sales (60K), #4 by revenue ($1.6mil) in a list which is dominated by movies. The other ranked TV shows have been out a while. Overall, the revenue is not overwhelming. A Chuck movie might sell better because it is cheaper and would be a premiere. Assuming the producers’ cut is only $5 of a $10-15 movie price, they would need maybe 6-8 times those sales.

        For comparison, Chuck season 4 sold 40K in the first week, 15K in the second. Chuck season 3 sold 76K in the first week, 26K in the second. Chuck season 2 sold 99K in the first week (out of the top 25, <44K in the second). Chuck season 1 sold 38K in the first week.

        A link to BluRay list is on the left, but I didn't see Chuck listed. That probably means it was < 36K, outside of the top 10.

      • atcDave says:

        Chuck is also ranked at number 21 among iTunes full season sales. Not very impressive, but it does look to me like the second best canceled/ending series.
        The one bit of good news would be that at least sales are up compared to last season, we finally broke the downward slide that started after S2 (the clear champion for disc sales). But I think the reality is, Chuck is a niche show that will never have broad appeal. That doesn’t mean we won’t be able to make something happen at some point via something like Kickstarter, but that does mean there will likely be a greater financial burden on those of us who are fans than for other shows with a deeper fan base.

    • Ernie Davis says:

      You can see the numbers posted here. I can’t vouch for their accuracy or the accuracy of their source, but it seems a legitimate enterprise.

      What it means is beyond my knowledge of these things.

      • Gord says:

        I wonder if sales are not great because without having episodes available for streaming or purchase during the season, a lot of people who would have watched purchased the episodes ended up pirating them instead and now can’t be bothered buying the discs.

        I have purchased all of the seasons in both DVD and blu ray.
        As for being a niche program, I recently ran into someone I know who thought the show went off the air after S1, and I still run into people that have never heard of it. Yet if they watch an episode they fall in love with the show.

        I really believe the show could do quite well in syndication. After all I remember another niche program – a little thing called Star Trek that seemed to do quite well in syndication and spawned a whole series of movies and TV shows.

      • atcDave says:

        I do think the decreased visibility of the show for S5; both new night and no iTunes, really hurt badly.

  9. Sam Carter says:

    Season 3 sold really well the second week. It stayed on the top page. It easily sold as well as season 2 overall. Season 4’s second week was terrible. I think it didn’t even make it to $2 mill..

    Hope season 5’s second week stays strong.. we’ll see.

    • Each of season 3->5 probably had a higher percentage of BluRay sales too, because more people have BluRay Players. Economic conditions and the timing of releases are probably also factors. For example, S2 might have benefited from people spending Christmas gift cards in January. S5 has the benefit of a lull in TV show releases, with most coming out in the fall.

      Stargate Season 9 had 63K the first week. Season 10 had 108K the first week. The direct-to-stores movies had 241K and 278K in sales the first week (536K, 465K totals). So movie premieres will do better than seasons. All of these benefited from advertising during Stargate SG-1 and/or Stargate Atlantis episodes.

      DVD sales are probably just as hard to analyze as Nielsen ratings.

      • ArmySFC says:

        jeff, one thing that could have driven sales up was the lockout of hulu/itunes type sites.

      • atcDave says:

        Thanks Jeff, some interesting stuff there. I’d also add that disc sales in general seem to be lower now than they were 5+ years ago (more download options, and overall shrinking/fragmenting audiences).

  10. garnet says:

    I may have posted this before, but with the Idea of a Kickstart campaign being mentioned above, I thought I should post this link. It is currently over 31K which isn’t that high, but I have heard it suggested that for this type of campaign it isn’t that bad.

  11. Gord says:

    Wow what a thorough review – great job Team Chuck This – you are definitely the A Team even if you do end up spending a lot of time playing board games.

    I understand what they were trying to accomplish in early S3, but for me it felt so drawn out. I grew very tired of flip-flop Sarah. In just about every episode she seemed to be going from – I’m in love with Chuck again to pulling away by the end of the episode.

    Also for the early part of S3 we see Sarah stating she doesn’t want to be with Chuck because he turned into a spy, but feels its perfectly fine to be with Shaw who is a spy – talk about a mixed message. I personally think it would have had more traction if they had introduced a normal-guy hero type as a PLI for Sarah. Maybe a school teacher, paramedic or just about anything else but another spy. Maybe as a twist of irony they could have had her fall in love with an accountant, since Bryce was introduced in the pilot as “not an accountant”.

    With respect to Final Exam – it was the last time we saw an episode end with flip-flop Sarah, and it really bothered me. At the end of American Hero, I understood why Sarah had to have her red test conversation with Shaw, but at the time I felt that at the very least she should have returned Chuck’s phone call, and knowing how horrible the red test was for her, she should have gone to Chuck. Yet even before American Hero aired, I began to realize that she couldn’t go to Chuck and she denied her love for Chuck because she was riddled with guilt over her part in Chuck’s red test. Her red test had been the most horrible day of her life and now she had given Chuck that same nightmare, forever scarring the man she loved.

    I agree that American Hero was the turning point of not only this season but of the entire series with respect to the Chuck / Sarah relationship. Sure there was still a lot of relationship growth to come, but it was when Sarah finally realized that she needed to be with Chuck – even if he had killed someone – because regardless he was special. Then when Casey showed up and told her the truth about the red test, it made her realize even more just how special he was. It also relieved her of the guilt she was feeling over her part in Chuck’s red test.

    Then in Other Guy, it looked like Chuck did have to kill someone in order to save her. When that happened, it didn’t give her any grief because she realized the great sacrifice he had made in order to protect someone he loved. If this had turned out to be the season or even series finale, I think it would have been a terrific ender – “shut up and kiss me” would have been a perfect closing line. Come to think of it the final line of the series was pretty close to that. The circumstances in the series finale were very different yet to me oddly similar. In spite of the fact that the memories of her life with Chuck were stolen from her, sitting on that beach with him she realized that she needed to be with Chuck, because regardless he was special.

    It was most satisfying that after Other Guy we still had 2.5 more seasons to go – including the super-sized 24 episodes of S4.

  12. Amrit says:

    The problem with network shows (big 4 network shows) is that every episode has to have a structure and they can never change that. So for Chuck every episode has to have a bad guy, every episode has to have a win where the bad guy is defeated every episode has to have buy more, every episode has to have other characters that are not the main 3 etc. If 3.01 just had Chuck and Sarah sit down and have a proper conversation for 30 minutes then we would not have this problem. If they had just rested the whole cast for an episode and had an extended flashback to shaws time with his wife and done away with the love interest bs the shaw would have mattered his love for his wife would have mattered, the sacrifices and loss he suffered would have mattered, the fact that his life was a huge lesson for what could go wrong for chuck and Sarah would have mattered, etc. The network episodic format killed the arc for the show which is sad because there was good material to use.

    From what I have gathered from insiders is that certain actors were not happy with this arc or with the season 5 final 2 episodes and it is what it is and it is fedak getting it wrong sadly. Too bad but whatever .

  13. garnet says:

    In some ways I think you describe every TV show ever written. I think there was a writer/producer, or something like that, for Star Trek who, regarding writing for TV, said “In the first act you send your hero up a tree, in the second you throw rocks at him, in the third you throw more rocks, and in the fourth get him down.” All TV drama suffers from the fact that they don’t hire actors that they don’t need, and don’t pay extras to speak. As a result, the conflict almost always comes from something a guest star brings to the mix. It also means that certain shows become predictable (Castle for example, the first (and usually second) person brought in for questioning is NEVER the murderer—ok I think they might have twisted this once or twice in 4 seasons).

    • Gord says:

      TV shows being predictable? When does that ever happen?
      I mean just because you see a guy that’s not part of the regular cast beaming down to the surface in a red shirt on a star trek episode, it doesn’t mean he’s going to die.

      Oh wait, maybe it does. LOL

    • atcDave says:

      Well obviously there’s a formula followed for much television, and all of us here have grown up with television and the formula. But the thing is, it HAS changed some over the years; and SOME writers do a better job than others at keeping you guessing. I like when a writer is able to achieve some sort of fun surprise; and not every guest star is a villain, and sometimes even the extra gets a line (Fernando in 5.13!). I think in the end, how a writer manages to manipulate the medium and standard tropes is a part (but only a part!) of how enjoyable I find a show. I think liking the characters and setting, lots of good laughs, and exciting stunt-work all rate more heavily for me than being surprised.

      • garnet says:

        I’ll agree that there has been some growth, All you have to do is look at shows from the 60’s and compare them to now.

        As an aside, I know Shatner still takes a lot of flack for his acting in Star Trek, but I think it fit with the acting in many other programs at the time, and may have been a bit ahead of the pack. Ask yourself, was he the same character in Boston Legal? Overall “Wooden” was coined to describe most actors of the 50’s and 60’s, and plots seemed to be more vaudvillian than dramatic.

        Having said that, I think CHUCK managed to blend comedy/action/drama/adventure in a way that we have seldom, if ever, seen on Network TV. I salute them for a show that I truely loved each week Even the worst episode of CHUCK was,IMO, better than most other shows out there.

      • atcDave says:

        I might not agree about the worst of Chuck, I mean Chuck did occasionally make me angry in ways no other show ever has (not so surprising with such a high level of investment); but no doubt, the average and better episodes were the highlight of any week.
        I love a lot of the classic show from the 60s and 70s, but the style sure has changed. Especially in the 1960s, TV was still a new thing. In some ways, it was close to its theatrical roots. At the same time, there was a lot of experimenting with how to make movie production affordable and simple for a weekly show. Some performances and productions were minimalist or understated, while others were unbelievably over the top and larger than life. Like actors and directors still weren’t entirely sure how dialogue and emoting would play best on the small screen. William Shatner is a great example because he’s played several characters across a huge chunk of television history. But I think to modern audiences he comes across as too much, too often. I think the 1970s is when more natural and realistic performances became standard (compare Wild, Wild West or Dragnet to Rockford Files. Wow!).
        I really like the more natural performances that have become standard. But other changes not so much. The season ending cliffhanger became common in the 1980s. I think I’ve been sick to death of them since the 1990s! I mean geez, finish the story in May please! I’ll never remember your stupid story in September anyway! I mostly liked the way Chuck dealt with season finales, of course teetering on the brink of cancellation helps. They at least resolved the major story lines and gave only a tease of what was to come. Although its safe to say if Ring, Other Guy or Ring II had become a series finale I would have been pretty grumpy about it.
        Other changes are more culturally and less industry specific. Mainly I mean the fascination with darker themes. I’ve quit watching a number of shows because I couldn’t find a single character I could respect or relate to. And even if I do find a character I can root for, if the world or story is too dark I will also quickly loose interest (I not only need a character I care about, but I need to care about their story and struggle too). Chuck came dangerously close to this line in S3. In fact, if I weren’t up enough on Chuck news to know what was coming, I probably would have left at the Olympic break that season.

      • garnet says:

        Sadly, you don’t appear to be alone with the Season 3 “issues”. I know several people my sons got interested in CHUCK who loved season 1+2 but drifted off in season 3.
        I will second the issue with style changes over time. Virtually all the dramatic actors from the early days of TV came from the ranks of theatre actors, and there is a world of difference between the two media. The comedic actors came from the vaudiville circuit (or occasionally radio) and again it took time to them to find themselves on TV. I’m not sure I could watch some of the old shows anymore, but the episode of Star Trek where the fried eggs were plastering themselves to everyone’s backs gave me nightmares for weeks (of course I was about 6 and wasn’t supposed to be watching in the first place).

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