This is the first of our re-watch arcs that gets into season four. No doubt the mood and feel of the show changes a lot here from season three. Even compared to the back six episodes of season three, season four has a lighter, almost romantic-comedy feel to it. I know some like to consider this a wholly new show. But it doesn’t quite read that way to me, this seems more like the logical next step for the characters we’ve been following all along. Sure there’s still plenty that’s dark and scary about the professional world the characters inhabit; but at least for Chuck and Sarah, a huge weight has been lifted. Their personal lives are coming together faster than they can even imagine. The four episodes we look at here are major steps as Chuck and Sarah decide to make their life together official.
Join me for “Our Life as Spies” after the jump.
To me this completely rings true, even in the far less dangerous world I live in, life became a far more happy and satisfying experience as I grew more stable in my own “primary relationship”. So I find it happy and satisfying to see the same thing happen for Chuck and Sarah. Back when these episodes first ran, and again with our various re-watches, we’ve discussed the story and major issues of each of these episodes. So I think what I’ll do is just look at overall impressions, and how those may have changed in the context of a series now complete.
Chuck vs The Fear of Death
When it first ran this was a very controversial episode. Some viewers took exception to Agent Rye being a complete moron, or Chuck being in panic mode, or Sarah’s harsh words late in the episode. While I would never call this a favorite, I think I was always less troubled by most of those issues than some. I still find Rye to be quite funny.
And none of Chuck’s panic moments really bother me here; in fact, I think with time I like more than ever how Chuck is trying to be smart and be a good agent without the help of the Intersect. He rises to every challenge (even when its a bit reckless, more on that later) and he actually studies up on gemology when it seems relevant to the case. I like that!
Sarah’s line towards the end (“no you’re not!”) is still the most dramatic and shocking moment of the episode. In time, she will become more confident in Chuck’s ability to be safe even without the Intersect, but here its clearly new territory for her and she doesn’t like it. I love how she immediately knows she said something she shouldn’t have (was that a Homer moment? “did I say that or think that?”). This triggers the panic/guilt that will stay with her until Chuck opens his eyes in Thailand. That is long time in television to regret three words, and we see in the immediate aftermath her drive to make things right, and fear that she won’t get the chance. I guess I’m in a minority here for loving that moment. I wish so much they used more of this sort of angst that is based on a mix of professional and personal issues instead of the purely romantic sort. This strikes me as legitimate and interesting. Sarah is worried for Chuck’s well being, and fails to treat him with the level of respect he needs as a result.
But of course Sarah’s fears are well based. Chuck is taking reckless chances to try and prove himself, and regain control of the Intersect. He’s letting a lunatic advise him instead of his partner and girlfriend. And Sarah’s anxieties only make him more insecure which leads to further risk taking…
But at least Rye gives us among the best last lines in television history, “have I been shot?”
Chuck vs Phase Three
The hardest part about this episode will be keeping the write up brief. This was my favorite S4 episode, only Wedding Planner even comes close. So my first comment must be that I think it has held up very well. The action and excitement hold up very well, and I think some of the drama here is the best of the series. And of course that means Sarah. Yvonne gives a nearly perfect performance in a couple key scenes;
first in her bedroom with Morgan, then in Castle with Casey, and finally in a unique dual performance as she tries to break Chuck from his dream-like state. Wow! That just never gets old.
One thing that jumps out at me though having just watched Fear of Death again. Sarah carries a lot of guilt here that she doesn’t need to. Chuck does know that he is more important to Sarah than being a spy or having the Intersect. She really did tell him, a couple of times, in the previous episode that she loved him without the Intersect. But those last ill-conceived words hang heavy, and Sarah blames herself for Chuck’s trouble. And those words will provide the motive force for much of this episode.
Its easy to forget this episode includes a fun b-plot as well. This episode will remain a favorite for as long as I remember Chuck.
Chuck vs The Balcony
Out of all these episodes, I think time has been the kindest to Balcony. I doubt I’ll ever like Gobbler so much, but the end of Balcony that irked me so much on first run, does not seem such a big deal in the big picture. Balcony can best be described as a fluff episode, apart from that very end; but its the sort of fun and sweet fluff that Chuck has always done so well. We get a fitting Danny Kaye homage with “…the stork on the cork…” and a dizzy, drunken Sarah annihilating baddies in the first France mission.
Then after a return home where Sarah takes over the “sub-mission”, we’re treated to, what really amounts to the “formal proposal scene” for this series. From Morgan dealing with Sarah’s butterflies, to Casey saving the actual ring (!), to Chuck’s rambling but very sweet proposal this is pretty much a perfect moment. Pity the CIA has no sense of timing.
At least it leads to a very good dramatic scene at the end; in case we needed reminding that Zach and Yvonne are capable dramatic actors too!
Chuck vs The Last Details
This episode is quite a jump in time later from the others. And it will be discussed again in a later season arc. But its included here mainly because of its significance in Chuck and Sarah’s growth. Specifically, we see a mature loving couple on the eve of their wedding. So much has changed since early in the season when the mention of marriage and family will cause a little panic in Agent Walker. We are rewarded with some really nice scenes showing their maturity. Funny they mainly involve first Sarah, then Chuck, standing up for each other to Mary.
Not that Mary is really a villain…
But no doubt Mary’s acceptance of her soon to be daughter-in-law is a major pay-off of sorts as this season winds down.
And we get one the best and sweetest family and friends scenes ever for the ending; right up until the Cliffhanger…
I know not every fan was as enthused as I; but season four represents a sort of second golden age of Chuck for me. As the show went from strong episode to strong episode much of the bad taste of the previous season left me. I fell in love with these characters all over again. This is appointment television!