So once again we’re taking a look at alternate story possibilities for Season Four. This time we’ve cover the period roughly from Fear of Death (4.08) to Push Mix (4.13).
That involves Chuck loosing and regaining the Intersect, the pursuit and apprehension of Alexei Volkoff, the return of Mary Bartowski to her family, the birth of Clara, and Chuck’s proposal to Sarah. Can we use a certain”e” word here? Epic.
But after the jump, we’ll at some ideas on how things might have been.
There are some truly terrific episodes in this period of the show, so I’ll emphasize again that “Alternative” does not have to mean critical! Or at least to say, some of the things I would like to have seen a little different are really minor complaints. This is a period of the show where I feel things were firing on all cylinders. The show at its very best. Well, mostly.
I should also mention that there will be some repetition this time around. Unlike S3 where I divorced myself from show canon entirely, which resulted in completely different discussions; this time around, I’ve already brought up many of my “issues” with these episodes as we went. So my treatment of them here will be fairly brief.
By far my biggest issue with these episodes is a little too much whiny Chuck, especially in Fear of Death and Leftovers. There is no big or elaborate fix needed, just I wish kept had kept his cool a little better at some points. This will remain an occasional complaint of mine to the end of the series (almost), with Curse being the nadir. Just to be clear, I don’t find it a terrible or unendurable flaw, just something I wish had been a little different.
My other thought is really more in the spirit of story-telling alternatives. You all know I’ve complained some about the Mary story. I do think it would have played better if we’d seen Mary as someone who had actually gone rogue and sided with Volkoff. Perhaps it could work as a Stockholm Syndrome sort of story, or maybe she just sold out for all the money she could make. I think this has the advantage of making her seem more corrupt than incompetent. The advantage I see to going this direction is it could make her ultimate redemption more believable and satisfying. At least to me; its easier to redeem corruption than stupidity. Its maybe a little funny to react that way, but I really like the idea of Mary having to confront all the evil she’s done when its about to kill her son and/or daughter-in-law. So have Mary finally, clearly have to switch sides when she realizes the cost of her actions exceeds what she’s willing to pay. Whether Mary survives the redemption process is a secondary issue. Although I like a couple of her later appearances, so I am happy to have her stick around.
I like that this version of the story makes Sarah more significant in the Volkoff mission. The real issue for her is to get Mary to switch sides again; maybe appealing to her maternal instincts, sense of duty and patriotism all at once. I would have preferred Chuck more involved and in touch with the mission all along too. Make it clear he is just on the “outside”, watching Sarah (and his Mom) while looking for the big opportunity to get both of his girls out.
My preferred alternatives for this period do not require any changes to later show canon. That is mostly a reflection of how much I like this season, in spite of a few complaints, I really see no need for sweeping change.
Fan Fiction writers have played with this period some, but not a lot. Volkoff often appears as a villain, and Mary’s story is occasionally touched on. The first alternative I’ll bring up here is “Sarah Vs Phase Three” by SicklyRaven. This starts at the very end of Phase Three and tells what happens when the rescue comes just a moment too late. This is almost a reverse reflection of the series finale, with a badly damaged Chuck and Sarah desperately trying to get through to him. This is a well written story, and it makes my favorites list. But it is a bit on the dark side, and I’m glad the show itself didn’t go there.
Another epilogue to Phase Three is a one-shot by steampunk.chuckster called “Chuck Versus His Bare Feet“. This is a more fun and upbeat treatment, and is really more canon supplemental than alternative.
Another favorite of mine is by NinjaVanish. Chapter 22 of “Chuck & Sarah vs the Recruits” is where Frost is first introduced to this epic. Volkoff follows a little later. This is extreme AU territory and I just linked you to late in the story. But that’s where it gets relevant to this discussion. Volkoff is using a version of the Intersect for mind control, and Mary is his favorite, most successful Guinea Pig. Can Intersect mind control survive an encounter with a grand daughter and long lost husband? This may be a cruel joke on my part to send an unprepared reader into this excellent series so late in the story. If anyone previously unfamiliar with this story takes the plunge from this link you’ll have to tell me how long it took you to figure out what was going on. Anyone really interested in an awesome story that ends with Volkoff trying to rule the world would be better off reading “Chuck & Sarah vs The Bunker“, followed by “Chuck & Sarah vs Themselves“, then all of “Chuck & Sarah vs the Recruits“.
Regular commenter here billatwork has taken a couple of stabs at the Volkoff/Frost story. At least one version is still in production and not available through ff.net. Maybe we’ll get lucky and Bill will drop by tell us about his ideas for alternates.
Marc Vun Kannon (AKA “authorguy”) has recently started an S4 alternative too. Check out his Nine2five 2,1 stories.
I think that’s as far as I’m going to take this for now. I look forward to other thoughts and input on the subject.