Subway is the first part of the season three two part finale. Things are coming to a climax as Ellie learns about Chuck and the CIA, Orion provides a fix for Chuck’s Intersect problems, Casey’s daughter gets dragged into the spy world, and the return of Daniel Shaw is finally exposed.
After the jump we’ll look at the first part of the Season Three finale.
Most of our polls have shown that Subway and Ring II are both very popular episodes. No doubt the excitement, fun and humor are ramped up to a high level here. I think these episodes are a lot of fun and still hold up well on re-watch, mostly. But as is true for most of S3.5, some of the problems I have remain serious. At this point Chuck’s lying comes to a head; it will now play out both with Sarah and Ellie, but I like the way both stories are resolved. Sarah will be shocked to learn of Chuck’s health issues, but she continues to show patience and forgiveness towards such things, and the scene is so well played its hard to dislike it much. And I do enjoy Ellie’s introduction to Chuck’s spy life. From first seeing Chuck in action, to trying to get details from Devon and Morgan. The scene with Devon is particularly strong and funny (“Chuck’s been with the CIA for years!” oops).
My main problem here, has to do with way too much stupid stick for Chuck. He really is played as a moron throughout most of this episode. An excitable and annoying moron. I could live with most of it; but the whole scenario that leads to Chuck running off with dad while Sarah is left on the sidewalk really ticks me off. I know we all love Scott Bakula for the warmth and earnestness he brings to the part of Stephen Bartowski. The performance almost masks that the reasoning for running away is really idiotic. Does it not occur to him that leaving loved ones behind leaves them wide open and unprotected sources of leverage against them? Oh and that he’s now taking advice from the man who caused so much pain by abandoning him and his sister for 20 years?
Maybe Chuck and Ellie were safe when he and Mary disappeared twenty years ago, because he apparently kept his identity secret. But now, everyone knows exactly who Sarah is to Chuck, and who Ellie is to both of them. Running away provides exactly zero protection for anyone. It is pure pointless tragedy; Chuck should know better, and I actually find his maddening stupidity even harder to watch now than when the episode first ran three years ago. It also strikes me as quite out of character that Sarah stays standing on the sidewalk as the Bartowski boys run off together. This sequence of events comes close to ruining the entire episode for me. It is so utterly stupid, I find it offensive that anyone would have even considered such a scheme reasonable. Now to be fair, Chuck immediately changes his mind about running off the moment he realizes that Sarah is threatened in his absence. So now that the Homer Simpson moment is over, he will convince his dad to turn around and fix this problem. Much better…
With a major part of the plot for this episode annoying me greatly, I’m not quite as enthusiastic as many fans are. BUT, I see great value and enjoyment from the strength of several scenes. So even if I find the whole somewhat lacking, the individual parts are mostly wonderful. In fact, apart from that one stupid plot device, I think this episode is really a lot of fun. A few specific things jump out; like the previously mentioned big reveal for Ellie. Devon may be the one who really makes this sequence special, this is easily the funniest he’s been since last week (I’m a big Devon fan!)
We also get a few really sweet Sarah moments, including the previously mentioned realization she’d been lied to about Chuck’s health; but even better are her statement of commitment to Chuck (err, right before he decides to abandon her…), punching Shaw, and getting Casey’s “blessing”.
The end, that is, the last 15 minutes or so, of this episode really are extraordinary. Obviously Stephen’s death is dramatic and powerful. This will raise the stakes considerably going into Ring II. Even better is Morgan and Devon as General Beckman’s only hope. Such a fun scene, leading right to a second act we didn’t have to wait a whole week for when it first aired.
But this time, you all get to wait… (hey, we’re not actually in a hurry to finish this re-watch!)
Tired and Defeated
No, not Chuck… ME! I’ve been performing a hard-drive transplant on Mrs. Joe’s PC all day, and I finally got the system re-installed and (mostly) back together. I am, however, behind and tired, so this will be mercifully short (and delivered with apologies).
First of all and foremost, if you haven’t re-watched Chuck vs. The Subway you must be a communist you should! It just became my second favorite episode of all time, second only to The Colonel, and yeah, it’s that good.
The action is fast paced, the comedy, especially Beckman frantically begging Morgan and Devon for help a la Princess Leia, is perfect. And the acting! Scott Bakula has always been my favorite guest star on Chuck, and Stephen the character with whom I most identify. Can’t get enough of him. And of course I love the whole idea of Chuck&Sarah tasting strawberries at a farmer’s market – how completely normal! The seen is done beautifully. Is that really Sarah? Is that really Chuck with her? You bet it is.
Then there is the drama. It’s not just Ellie having her world turned inside out by Devon, Morgan, Justin, Chuck and finally Stephen. It’s zombie Shaw too. Who better to play a man who’s walking dead than the character we’ve characterized as a piece of wood? For my money, Brandon Routh was born to play this role – not as Chuck’s boss and mentor, but as Sarah’s tormentor.
The music is superb. I was tempted to have youtube links to at four of those pieces (and maybe Roger Miller’s England Swings too, if only because I loved that tune from way back when…) but that’s over-kill. The Powers That Be chose one in particular that was meant to send a message to us, the fans, and that one I’ll leave for you to play as you read.
There is one thought I’d like you to consider as you re-watch or think about this episode in the future. It concerns “The Scene.” You know the one I mean – Chuck leaving Sarah behind to run with Stephen. It makes no sense. It’s been called aggravating, stupid and maddening. Heh. I think I was the one who called it maddening.
I’d like you to consider the argument Chuck and Stephen started when Stephen works on his son’s governor.
Stephen: What I — What I’m trying to say is – your courage makes me very proud. But there’s some battles you have to walk away from.
Chuck: Are you saying, run? Turn my back on everyone that I care about?
Stephen: There may come a time when, if you wanna protect them, you have to go.
That’s not just advice. That’s advice from dad. Remember that he’s never wrong.
Chuck doesn’t even consider it. In fact, when they find that Chuck had really seen Shaw in the Subway, taunting him, everyone’s first reaction is to go after Shaw – everyone’s but Stephen’s.
Sarah: We need to follow Shaw, take him down.
Stephen: Yeah, that’s one way of looking at it. The other option is that they’re leading you into a trap.
Casey: It’s not like we’re going in empty-handed. [Casey cocks his gun.]
Stephen: You know how I feel about this, Charles.
Chuck: Yeah, I do. But I don’t have a choice.
Stephen: That’s exactly what The Ring wants you to think. There’s always a choice.
Chuck: What choice would that be, Dad? To run away? I’m not you. I’m not gonna spend the rest of my life in hiding. I can’t leave the ones I love behind.
So the vote is 3 against 1 and off Team B goes to find Shaw without Stephen. Uh, maybe it’s just 2 against 2, actually. Casey, you’ll recall, changes his mind.
Casey: Mr. Washington is in that room. Shaw and The Ring have taken over the CIA. He’s got the whole chain of command eating out of his hands. Got knows how many Ring agents are on the inside. It’s only a matter of time before they burn us too.
Sarah: So what? You’re just gonna run?
Casey: It’s not just us they’re gonna come after. They’re gonna come after the people we care about.
That’s not a case of Casey getting soft or feeling defeated because Shaw has everyone he needs hoodwinked. No, it’s because he’s thinking of someone else – a 21 year old daughter named Alex.
Oh yeah – Alex. That’s another reason I love this episode. It’s different when you have someone you care about in danger because of you. You do everything you can to keep them out of harms way. So when Chuck is persuaded by Orion to keep Sarah and Ellie and Morgan (should the list continue?) safe by falling back, we should understand that he has been prepared his entire life to consider that option. It may not be quite so understandable to those of us who expect Chuck to be a hero (or superman or some such), but from his POV, it’s got some precedent. Orion is never wrong.
Chuck sticks to his decision for about two minutes before he changes his mind and tries to be exactly that hero we expect him to be. I can’t tell you the satisfaction I feel every time I realize Sarah and Casey know what Chuck has done.
Casey: Hmmm. Don’t know when it happened, but our boy became a man. Bartowski’s a spy. Picked a good one, Walker. Finally.
It matches the satisfaction we see on Sarah’s face right at that moment.
I used the verb “tries” because Chuck doesn’t succeed. Before the episode ends, Shaw has him, Sarah and Casey at his mercy (Mua-ha) and in fact, it looks like there is no one left to save them. Chuck is defeated and as desperate as I was when my wife’s power-supply failed on me after I re-installed the operating system.
I am going to wait a couple of days before re-watching the finale, but I am so glad that we didn’t have to wait the first time. A pen-ultimate episode is supposed to do this – leave you and the hero is despair, illogically worried that this time is the one time he won’t succeed and worried that this time the odds are too grate and that there is, indeed, no hope.
Foolish us. With Morgan and Devon on the loose, there’s always hope. 😉
When the law acts as though there is nothing to show
There is compassion and depth in a neighbor
Now if Bartles & Jaymes didn’t need no first names
We could live by our own laws in favor