This is the final episode from the big Season Three kick off NBC gave us. This is easily my favorite of the season until Other Guy, and I think many viewers felt all was well after a rocky start to the season. Angel of Death is fun and entertaining in an almost Season Two sort of way, and Premier Goya is my favorite guest character of the entire season. But of course, the big issue here is the overall backdrop of the season story. So let’s look at the third episode of Season Three, and consider again how things could have been.
There really is a lot to like in this episode. Starting with Armand Assante as Premier Goya. This is the sort of wacky over the top performance we often saw on Chuck, and works as well here as ever. Goya is generous and magnanimous in an almost dangerous way (refusing his hospitality seems unwise!). He is indebted to Devon and determined to show his gratitude. He is also enamored of Ellie (good thing Hortencia wasn’t along for this trip! The revolution might have started a year earlier) and trying to reform his country; all with no sense of shame while curiously oblivious to the world around him. So… fun character. It pleases me a lot that he will return a year later when the show actually is in a more fun place. This episode also works great for Devon and Casey; and shows what seems to be more healing for Chuck and Sarah, including a “friends” moment that’s a little too warm to be taken literally.
My criticisms here have more to do with the big picture than anything in the episode itself. As I’ve said from the start, Pink Slip was an ugly episode that caused long term damage for my enjoyment of the show (and you all will likely hear that a few more times in the weeks ahead!). Ideally, we would have had something like a real talk between our leads in this episode; but given that TPTB were determined to give us false hope instead, we get a few encouraging scenes towards the end that ultimately amount to nothing. This is another situation that makes me angry if I give it enough thought. Given that Chuck just told Sarah he loved her for the first time, they have discussed cleaning up messes, and Chuck will later claim (in American Hero) the goal of him becoming a spy was so he and Sarah could be together; he will show little initiative in making anything happen here. Of course nothing “wrong” really happens here either, we’re just idling before the abyss of First Class. So in some ways, Angel of Death is sort a pregnant pause episode. I can still enjoy it (and I did enjoy it greatly on my recent re-watch), as long as I don’t dwell on what’s happening in the big picture.
So what would I have liked to see different from here? A little healing is the obvious thing. Sarah does some coaching in the gala part of the mission and again before “surgery”, that is something I like to see and we will get some over the course of the season. But maybe Chuck and Sarah actually doing a friend activity towards the end would have been nice. Like instead of “we’re not ready for that yet” how about “let’s grab some dinner”. It’s a small thing, but I think we needed some small things at this point to get back to a fun place. And again, I understand perfectly that returning to a fun place was not the TPTB objective. But to me, it should have been. Even better than making fixes, had we avoided Pink Slip entirely this could have been a dynamite, fun episode. I can imagine some actual heat and flirting to accompany the big dance scene; THAT would have improved an already excellent episode and dreadful season quite a lot. Or even better, if we had a “secret” relationship story going, I can imagine Chuck and Sarah trying not to get carried away during the dance. And imagine Sarah trying to field Ellie’s “you still have feelings for my brother” query if they really were the couple they weren’t supposed to be, but with Casey listening in it could get interesting…
Obviously we didn’t get the season three I was hoping for. But this episode has inspired little fan fiction revisionism. We heard from NinjaVanish last week who mentioned several scenes from Angel of Death that fueled his delusion, I think many of us were in that place when this episode first ran. So maybe we all hadn’t realized yet how much of a “fix” we’d all be needing soon. Kate McK did work her magic here however in Chapter 2 of “Chuck vs The Fight“. This fairly short chapter adds two new scenes to this episode that would have the effect of skipping all the ugliness that lies ahead; if only…
Let me take advantage of a shorter main post this week to bring up yet another complete S3 AU. “Chuck vs The Virus” by OOHiMBLiND starts in the Intersect room at the end of Ring, so it will be a complete AU. The first few chapters are far more bleak than I typically would recommend, but be patient, this is an exciting and rewarding story as it plays out. It is also quite long, but this is one of those times when that’s good. There may be some angst and heartache along the way, but no love triangles! Our main characters never look like total idiots, and they will work through challenges together. Good story.
Next week, even though I think the episode itself is still a lot of fun, Operation Awesome will introduce us to Daniel Shaw. We will also look a little more at the Ring. Is that something to look forward to? Well, come back anyway!