Time for another round of “what if” and “might have been”. Even for a satisfying period of the show there’s a lot we can consider that could have been done differently. As before, I don’t intend this to always be criticism of the show itself, sometimes its just about different ideas.
So after the jump, we’ll look again at alternative stories.
I’m sure you can all tell from my comments in the last few reviews what sort of things I’d like to have seen different in the show. The couple of things that remain pretty big complaints for me are Chuck lying, both to Sarah and his Dad; and Chuck abandoning Sarah. even if only briefly, in Subway. The lying just needed to end sooner. Chuck looked like a fool for both sets of lies he was telling. The only one I likely wouldn’t have changed would be with his sister. I’m fine with the dual life set-up going back to the Pilot, and even if I think the lying was not needed for the last half season or so, I like the way it played out with Ellie.
If Chuck had come clean with Sarah at the end of Tooth, or maybe in Living Dead, it really wouldn’t have changed much. There still could have been plenty of drama involving Chuck’s degrading health. It would have cost us Sarah’s excellent reaction moment in Subway, but Chuck would have looked like less of an idiot for three episodes. That’s a trade off I’m happy to make. Not lying to Dad would have cost us one knife thrown at the face, but again, Chuck would have looked like less of an idiot…
I likely would have also tweaked Chuck running off with Dad. I’m thinking the best solution might have been to put Sarah’s face off with Shaw before Chuck ran off, so maybe then she’s already under arrest when Chuck runs off, and Chuck is clear with dad the whole point in running is to get Sarah out. Another alternative (an alternate alternative!) is just to have Sarah run off with the Bartowski boys. This would change very little of the episode flow, except that Sarah would be with Chuck when they’re arrested, instead of with Casey.
Obviously one other thing I would change is the interrogation scene from Living Dead just a little. Maybe just inserting a line from Sarah to the effect of “Shaw sure was trying hard to get into my pants, but he never succeeded.” You know, that might have even made much of the whole misery arc more re-watchable for me (but not Mask or Fake Name, those are beyond help!). Throw in a line about the awesome ear rings she scammed from Shaw and I’d be pretty pleased! (And she still can get rid of them when she sees Chuck’s reaction to them).
For those who were reading comments last week, we did have a nice discussion about our views of the show, and how they varied from the show runners’ that I think really sums up a lot of what matters to me in looking at these alternates. I can broadly say that I like all the various elements that made Chuck such a unique and fun show. (With a few well documented exceptions!) But how we rank some of those elements in importance shapes our reactions to many things. I am quite certain that Chris Fedak’s favorite parts of the show were Chuck, and Chuck’s Hero’s Journey. Many fans who most liked that same exact element best were mostly or completely happy with the show as delivered. But for so very many of us, Sarah and the romance were our favorite part of the show. Again, I don’t mean to say Sarah and the romance did not matter to CF, but I don’t believe they were ever the most important issues to him. So the major arcs, and Chris Fedak penned episodes in general, tend to have Sarah and the romance a little more in the background than many of us would prefer. I don’t want to make too big a deal of this; CF did write or co-write some very good episodes for viewers like me; First Date, Other Guy and Seduction Impossible stand out. But he’s also responsible for some major turkeys from my perspective; and even more to the point, several of his possible finales (I’m assuming as show runner he is primarily responsible for major story issues, even if he isn’t credited as episode writer) involve Sarah being absent or incapacitated at key moments (Ring, Other Guy, Ring II, Push Mix, Cliffhanger). With Sarah and romance as my favorite parts of the show, I would have preferred Sarah playing a key role with Chuck, instead of being reduced to damsel in distress or bystander at those moments. I get that those viewers who consider Chuck and his journey to be their favorite part of the show do not relate to this complaint. But for so many of us, more Sarah is what we always wanted. S4 and S5 are much better than than the first three seasons in this regard, but we still had Chuck doing all the heavy lifting himself. Too bad.
So one of my alternate ideas doubtless relates to those above thoughts. I had always imagined Ellie’s introduction to the spy world coming through Sarah instead of Chuck. This just appeals to me on so many levels; I love how Ellie has mostly been a big supporter of Sarah’s, she seems to see her as shy, sweet and a bit aloof. And of course Ellie is frustrated since early S1 with “it’s complicated”. So let Ellie see a “complication” first hand. Maybe a family outing is interrupted by a threat to Chuck, and Sarah has no choice but to take decisive action in front of Ellie. That could be soooo much fun. It would both answer and bring up questions in abundance. Several fan fiction writers have played around with this idea, especially those set early in the series, when Sarah was still protector to Chuck the civilian. One particularly fun variation on this is by BillAtWork in “The Cost of Love, Remastered”. For the record, (and Bill knows this…. or he does now!) the overall story isn’t really my kind of thing; but Chapter 7 has one of my favorite spy world reveals ever for Ellie. Very fun stuff. Another really outstanding variation on Sarah spilling the beans is by NinjaVanish in “Chuck and Sarah vs Themselves”. In Chapter 30 Chuck and Sarah have to run to avoid her reassignment. It falls to Sarah to break the news to Ellie, which is also Ellie’s introduction to the spy life. Many other writers have explored similar themes, it is always a favorite thing of mine to see writers play around with.
Moving into the break between seasons, we all spent a lot of time kicking ideas around, as we always did! One common issue was that almost no one wanted to see Chuck lying or keeping secrets from Sarah going into the new season. This is an issue I’ve always felt very good about TPTB (I suspect CF deserves a lot of credit for this) responding to strong fan sentiment that we didn’t want to see Chuck the liar, or Chuck keeping secrets; because it sure looked like we might see more of it at the end of S3. But it was dealt with quickly in S4, and mostly never came up again.
One fan fiction writer did a pretty awesome job of exploring the issues that were important to so many of us after Season Three. That is aRegularJo, who wrote four connected one-shots between the seasons. They really do a nice job of exploring the lying, secrets and trust issues while pondering what the new season, and new reality may look like. In some ways, this sort of AU seems more like S5 than S4, so the writer was well ahead of their time. The first story is “The Heart of the Matter“, followed by “Do the Right Thing“, “To Bear the Weight” and finally “Push into the Sky“.
Funny how when I started this post I wasn’t entirely sure if I had much worth saying. Well some of you may still be wondering, but I managed to say plenty anyway. Funny.
I always look forward to the discussions on these posts. So I’m sure I’ll do another before long, but right now I’m not sure when.