I do love season four. I’ll always say this is when the show realized its potential and became what I was hoping for. But that never means it was perfect, there were certainly plot holes and continuity problems. Add in a few scenes that looked rushed or not completely thought through, and we can certainly find a few things that could have been better. Not only that, even a brilliant story may leave possibilities or stray threads that were never explored, or simply different paths taken.
So even in the most wonderful story we can still find things that could have been just a little bit different. After the jump, our first look at Season Four’s alternate possibilities.
We will try to confine this discussion to the earliest parts of the season, up through the end of First Fight. Obviously I don’t mean to be too dogmatic about that, if anyone wants to pursue an idea or thread further, feel free. But we’ll try this again, probably right after Push Mix.
I don’t feel any burning need to re-write major parts of this story, so my own treatment will be fairly brief. My single biggest complaint with this whole part of the show actually comes mostly from Anniversary. The things I would redo here involve Chuck quitting the CIA, keeping secrets from Sarah and lying to Ellie. I think Chuck looks like a child and an idiot for quitting at his sister’s behest. I would have much rather seen Chuck working with Sarah and Casey right from the start. If he’s gathering clues about his Mom as he goes, well that works fine. And when Volkoff leads to Mom, well gee, that works too. I didn’t like the couple months Chuck spent working separately from Sarah, especially as they apparently were completely out of touch during much of this time, and Chuck was lying about it. Both situations never should have happened.
Now to the show writers credit, this problem was addressed and fixed quickly in the first episode. I would have preferred the situation never happened, but fixed in 25 minutes is pretty good. And no doubt, the season premier delivered some outstanding scenes in getting a better scenario, so I don’t mean to complain too much. The second problem is a little bigger, that is, Chuck lying to his sister for most of the season. This really seems a waste to me. It reflects poorly on Chuck for doing it, Ellie for being sort of psycho for pushing him into it, Devon and Sarah for playing along… Pretty much everyone. That talk at the end of 4.01 would have been the perfect time for a simple “Ellie I’m going back to/never left the CIA” sort of talk. Chuck’s an adult, Sarah is his partner in multiple senses of the word; Chuck’s life decisions are between him and Sarah, not Ellie. Its funny that the fall out from Chuck deceiving his sister this season is pretty much nothing. Ellie doesn’t freak out or go ballistic when she finds out she’s been deceived. She isn’t tricked into revealing any deep family secrets. So what was the point? Maybe a little secretiveness involving the Orion laptop and Intersect technology. But I think this is such a trivial story issue, and it removes Ellie from any kind of meaningful role in Chuck and Sarah’s lives; I just have to consider it a mistake.
Going forward, I’m not terribly interested in re-working things until the end of First Fight. We discussed a lot of this in other threads, but my preferred direction here would just be for it to be clear Mary and Stephen were working together. The other possibility that leaps out at me is sort of the opposite; Mary really has been turned by Volkoff and gone rogue. This likely would have been the more dramatic story, tell it as sort of a Darth Vader story. Even being Volkoff’s agent, she might still feel some fondness for Chuck and not want to see him destroyed by this mission. She might even help Chuck (and Sarah) at least enough so they aren’t killed, all while trying to block them from actually taking down Alexei. Funny thing, this could work with no changes at all to the front arc, it would require more work later. Ultimately Mary can be doomed or redeemed, either way the story works. I wouldn’t ever want to see something as dark as Mary actively trying to get Chuck (or Sarah) killed, but actively opposing their mission objectives could work quite well. And finally breaking from Volkoff to save her son and/or daughter-in-law, at the cost of her own life, might have been a really good way to go with it (gee, why does that sound familiar?)
I really don’t think I would mess with much else in this season. Likewise fan fiction does very little with this period of the show. It’s kind of a happy relaxed period in some ways. Volkoff shows up as a villain in many stories, but often in completely different scenarios that really don’t tie into show canon well at all. One story I’ll recommend is “Father’s Day” by aardvark7734. It was actually written immediately prior to the season, and has little to do with S4; although there might be an Easter Egg drawn from all those spoilers we were getting…
Another really fun S4 fic is “Anniversaries, Sexting and the Bearded Gnome” by KateMcK. This really takes place at some undefined point soon after 4.01. Like much of Kate’s work it is fast paced, fun and very funny. But it has no impact on show canon, so its not really much of an alternate.
A couple others from this period; “Two Nights on the Town” by Atlee and “Sarah vs Mothers, Daughters and Sisters-in-law” by KateMcK are brief, fun, and have little impact on canon. CostassTT wrote a much longer AU adventure story called “Chuck vs the Game” that starts after 4.02, but likewise this is more about a fun story with the characters we love, and doesn’t try to spin a real alternate.
As always, I’d love to hear thoughts on what might have/should have been done differently. It will be interesting to see how this goes as most of us are happier with this part of the story, and even the fan fiction community mostly left it alone. So I promise not to be disappointed if this only gets five comments!