The Season Three finale arc is now well underway, and Chuck’s dual life is heading to an inevitable end. With Chuck worried Shaw may be feeling better, Ellie being completely duped, and Dad dropping by for a visit; things are getting intense!
After the jump, we’ll talk over Chuck vs The Living Dead.
For me, this episode continues everything that’s good about Tooth, while it makes some of what was wrong much worse. Overall, I would rate this as another very good episode, with high replay value. But a few of the bothersome issues are very bothersome. So I’ll get those complaints out of the way first. First is the obvious, I can’t really laugh along with Sarah’s interrogation scene. It’s too much of a sore spot for me. I did not enjoy the misery arc much at all, and I’m really in no mood to laugh about it. Now that said, Chuck and Sarah are fine. It doesn’t seem to re-open old wounds for them as much as it did for many viewers. It is purely played for laughs. So even if I don’t feel like laughing along, I’m willing to let it go (well, apart from observing I didn’t like the scene!)
The second gripe is a bigger deal to me. Chuck’s lying rises to disturbing levels in this episode. It is really a pet peeve of mine when protagonists are written in contemptible fashion, and that is exactly what happens here. Lying is one of those things; its wrong, and good intentions don’t really help. Chuck starts by lying to Sarah. Sarah catches him on it pretty quickly thanks to Morgan. And perhaps Sarah’s good attitude about it comes from understanding she is involved with a professional spy. I do like the way the issue will play out in the next few episodes, but I dislike that it is allowed to play out so long. Chuck lying to his dad is even worse. There is no good reason for it, he looks even stupider when he tries to explain himself. And he denies his father the chance to understand and help, but of course, that is the nature of lies. And once again, Sarah is shown as the wiser partner. It amuses me how instrumental Sarah will be from now through Anniversary in getting Chuck to stop lying.
Now I’ve already wasted a lot of time on complaints. I felt I had to because my complaints with this episode are serious. BUT, what is good here is wonderful. From Sarah’s confrontation of Morgan, to Ellie being made a Ring dupe (because of Chuck’s lies of omission…), to Chuck’s big scene with dad at the cabin and Sarah’s timely intervention. Really some great stuff. I really am a big fan of the Ellie story here. I think it is the perfect resolution to keeping her in the dark for three seasons. Because Ellie doesn’t know anything about the family business, she’s ripe for a bit of social engineering. Her last scene here with Casey is perfect, tragic and a bit funny.
I love when Chuck visits his dad’s cabin. This is the explanation Orion was due at the very start; and doing what Chuck does so well, we get a visual aid. I think this is a good fight sequence for Chuck; Sarah saving the day in the end was fun, as was Chuck’s obviously very proud quip. Makes me a little sad though we never get enough Chuck/Sarah/Orion bonding time.
I would have enjoyed seeing dad come to understand and accept the amazing woman who will be his daughter-in-law.
As the episode ends, we get an amazing sequence of events and montage that sets the stage for the big finale (remember Subway and Ring II originally ran on the same night). Starting with another really sweet Chuck/Sarah scene, that sets up Chuck’s own thoughts for his spy will. All mixed with Ellie/Casey/Justin playing out and the big reveal of the return of Shaw.
There a couple of minor plots playing that are worth mentioning briefly. Morgan and Devon have one of the all time funniest scenes of the entire series. Even as Morgan has been posturing for so long to be Ellie’s hero and pick up the pieces when that no good Devon finally leaves her; he finds himself completely seduced by the pure awesome perfection of The Captain. I think this was the funniest Chuck scene since we heard about the decapitated bear…
The other minor (very minor) story going on is Jeff(?). Not to be rude, but what a waste. This was just not a good use of screen time. Fortunately, I think we’re only talking about maybe two minutes total. But for all those who claim the Buy More has lost its relevance, Living Dead provides the proof. There will be a few good Buy More laughs in the future, but I sure wish they could just cut the sub-plot entirely when they have nothing better than this to do with it.
What He Said!
Dave, you and I are almost completely in sync with with our opinions about Chuck vs. The Living Dead. Maybe I’m just sensitized to it now, but I too was much more disturbed this time by Chuck’s lying than I have been up to now.
I’ve been minimizing this forever by considering that Chuck’s lies are almost (but not quite) entirely of the white variety and “sins of omission,” meant to avoid hurting someone, especially Sarah. They were less about a lack of trust than about his insecurities; to my mind, a much smaller character flaw. Of course, it’s probably a character flaw that I should admit to, because it’s too easy to see myself in his shoes.
Regardless, his sins seemed a little less glaring in the past because it’s been apparent that Chuck has been surrounded by lies – not only Sarah’s and the CIA’s but Ellie’s (hiding her communications from Devon) and even Devon’s (about Casey), comical as those were.
Also, the worst of his lies (especially, like you said, when he lies directly to Stephen) lead right up to one of my all time favorite scenes by one of my all time favorite actors – Scott Bakula. For my money, there’s nothing that explains Chuck’s family history and Stephen’s motivations better than Stephen dressing down his son the moment he discovers Chuck is still a spy.
Stephen: What happened?
Chuck: The mission’s over, dad.
Stephen: It’s never over. There will always be another one and another and… The reason a spy has to have one of those is because any mission they go on could be their last. For every spy, there’s someone who cares about him, someone who has to open that box, read that message and mourn their loss. This is a bad business. And I don’t want my family to have any part of it.
Details? No. But it’s certainly more than just good fatherly advice. It’s a warning and expression of regret that shouts one thing – he’s been down this path. Stephen doesn’t care about Chuck’s lies so much as he knows what’s coming and he doesn’t want his son to go through that (and boy, do I love the way Stephen expresses the sentiment). Using Chuck’s character flaw this way, to bring out something essential, was pretty effective and efficient.
But I agree; this time around Chuck’s lies seem less like tools of spy craft and more tools of convenience – his convenience. It makes him look weak and untrustworthy. Sarah is hardly better; she goes so far as to aid and abet, which makes her seem a bit foolish. And then Ellie and Devon get in on the lying act too, so yes, by the time I re-watch this episode, the point is hammered home, hard. Maybe too much so.
I keep forgiving Chuck and Sarah, though. Sarah uses Chuck’s hiding of the truth to show that he can trust her even more than he does. Even the first time I saw this episode, this was the point I started to believe Chuck&Sarah were “real”; we were not going to see any more WT/WT, no more Ross and Rachel, and I could finally breathe easy about them as a couple.
Sure! If Sarah can stand by Chuck when she knows he’s told a white lie, lie of omission or outright whopper with little more than a scolding, they can survive the hard stuff. Face it – that is the hard stuff. For his part, if Chuck can accept what happened on March 22…
Oh yeah. The interrogation. As a group, we’ve had comments measured in metric tonnes about that interrogation, and more broadly about how the characters of Chuck and Sarah were tarnished and diminished. I keep seeing the word “destroyed” used here, but I’m not going to go that far because, like I said, I forgive them. They were never meant to be paragons, I suspect. Really, haven’t you ever wondered if those two had been seeing each other through rose-colored glasses, especially Chuck? Well if they were, worry no longer ’bout that. They know who they’re dealing with – an insecure nerd and an emotional cripple. They’re very much in love, and very much working on their relationship in spite of their understanding of each others flaws. That’s known technically as a good thing, and explains why I come away from The Living Dead feeling good every time.
But, as they say in cheap cable TV commercials, “Wait! There’s more!” Re-watching, I found much more cleverness than I had remembered in Living Dead. Did you notice that, when Chuck was first confronted by Stephen about still working with that NSA person and with his handler, Chuck told his dad that he and Sarah were boyfriend and girlfriend now? The cover that became reality becomes a cover again. Weird. Funny. Clever. Chubby!
In fact, the whole episode is clever enough to do double duty. It stands alone (well, maybe barely well enough) as an adventure with Chuck&Sarah, as a team, chasing down clues that lead from Shaw’s penthouse to Stephen’s cabin (with a very Castle-like leap between buildings included), Casey spying on Ellie as she spies on him (man, does he get beat up by women a lot, or what?!) with the ring skulking in the background. The amazing thing is that the episode also serves to re-introduces us to Stephen (man, I miss him) and as a segway to the season finale with Justin, The Ring, and most ominously, Shaw. The set-up alone is a lot of work for one episode.
I almost got this far without once using the dreaded 4-letter word – Shaw. That’s funny since he’s obviously the character after whom the episode is named. There is a cleverness hidden here too that shows up in Chuck’s final soliloquy.
Chuck: My name is Chuck Bartowski, and if you’re reading this, it means I’m already dead. I don’t know what will end up killing me, but I’ve chosen to be a spy and there are consequences to that. It may be my emotions that end up doing me in, or a slip-up trying to protect my friends, or my family, who never wanted me to be a part of this. Or it could be the thing I never saw coming.
No, it’s not Shaw. One way or another, Chuck has seen him coming. What he hasn’t seen is that there is a new Intersect. That is the zombie – the living dead – and Shaw is more dangerous than ever. Despite the miserable hokeyness of that spy-will, I like it as a device that shows both this fear and the trust growing in Chuck and Sarah.
So let them come like an army against us
I know you won’t be afraid
Because I am the armor upon you now
And we are never betrayed
There is no ending between you and me
I absolutely agree that Morgan and Devon are at the top of their game here. But Dave, there’s one place where I disagree with you most vehemently. The Jeffster stuff is hilarious! Earth, Wind, Fire and Rain? Love it! Big Mike is their savior, the man who puts the “ster” back in Jeffster. Oh that’s not easy to do, and Lester protests, all right.
Lester: How many times to I have to tell you? Art: good. Commercialism: bad, evil, weird, chubby.
But they work through their differences and try to merge their two worlds, just like another couple I know.