Well, we’ve made it to the last season. This re-watch has seemed both endless and all too short at the same time. So now, with only three months left, we get to Chuck and Sarah married, Team B working as a private business, and Morgan as the current Intersect. So much change…
After the jump, we’ll dive right into our final season premier.
The Morgansect Arc (5.01-5.03) was not well received. As an arc, only the Misery Arc seems to score worse in our Chuck This poll. Some of this may have been due to low expectations. I know going back to the end of Cliffhanger many of us (including me) had concerns about how much screen time would go to Morgan when we really wanted to see Chuck and Sarah as the focus of the show. In the end, I’m okay with this story. Bearded Bandit was the nadir in our poll, and I would agree with that. While the first and last episodes of the arc were rated at the low end of average. I think that says many viewers gave the episodes a chance, and were okay, if not enthused, with them. At least that’s how I felt. I am able to enjoy the whole arc at this point, especially seeing how these episodes inform us about Sarah’s recovery process at the end. And I’m fine with calling Zoom an average (ish) episode.
There is certainly plenty that’s fun here. The episode opens with a gorgeous scene, that is also funny in how it introduces Team B’s super weapon. I particularly like how reluctant Casey is to even acknowledge their super spy. I also like how Sarah seems the most comfortable with it.
A few other highlights, I like how the new team dynamic is introduced and I like the “moral ambiguity” discussion. Although its funny to me that Casey is the one concerned. Meeting the new client a is very funny moment; working some kinks out indeed! I wholeheartedly endorse Sarah’s method for getting information from her husband; I’m not sure it would actually work that way, but I endorse the methodology nonetheless and both parties seem to enjoy the process quite a bit.
Morgan in his Michael Carmichael persona is very funny in this episode. Its funny in a tragic sort of way how next week, as the Intersect starts to consume him, Morgan will loose the ability to switch off “Michael”, it will become his base personality! But in spite of a few warning signs, all seems well here. I really like the Sarah/Morgan friendship we see developing, and I like how Sarah will look out for the little guy even when Chuck looses confidence in him in the next couple episodes. Chuck isn’t the only beneficiary of lioness protector mode. There’s some very funny moments on the mission here too; from a spy high five, to a comical and distracting dance routine (per IMDb, Yvonne is only one inch taller than Josh. It looked more like six! Good staging), to “computer emergency”.
A few sub-plots are at play here. First would be Chuck’s plan to buy Sarah her dream house. Chuck not actually finding out what Sarah would consider a dream house was a small road bump. But all’s well that ends well, and an open husband/wife talk at home in bed, is a nice moment. The end scene is even better. “You are our leader” may be the dominant theme of this final season.
We also have an interesting Chuck/Ellie discussion. This scene is interesting on a couple levels; we had heard as shooting started that Sarah Lancaster had returned from maternity leave over a week after the rest of the cast started. So I’m thinking the one Chuck/Ellie scene was probably shot the week after the rest of the episode was complete. But it covers some interesting material too. Ellie expresses her confidence in Chuck’s leadership in a way that foreshadows what Sarah will tell him in the end. So we see a symbolic representation of how Sarah is taking Ellie’s place in Chuck’s life; exactly as it should be.
We also have a few scenes with Clyde Decker, including the ominous set up of the Grande Dud Conspiracy at the very end. You know we’ll talk more about that in a few weeks.
So overall I think a fun episode. Not the strongest season premier of the series, but far from the weakest too.
I’m repeating myself, but if someone had asked me in the summer and fall of 2011 how I wanted Chuck and Sarah to live out their days, the opening scene of Chuck vs. The Zoom comes freakishly close. It was like they were reading my mind.
Here they are at the start of their marriage, Chuck&Sarah the power couple (a term we used a lot back then), very much in love, worth a billion dollars (and looking like they are worth at least that much) overlooking a gorgeous vista with their equally gorgeous mansion in the background. Perfect. Exactly what I wanted for them.
Like Sarah told us more than once, things are “complicated”, though. So it’s no real shock that my vision of Bartowski heaven isn’t quite there yet at the beginning of S5. But that’s okay. The truth is almost comforting, isn’t it? The married couple…
Chuck: Hello. Husband? It’s my official title now.
… may still be living in an Echo Park apartment, but that’s alright. It’s cozy. Morgan may have The Intersect, but he’s still, well, Morgan.
Jeff and Lester are still up to their antics. Casey will still grunt his cynical way through the morally ambiguous world of corporate espionage, but to get him to act, all you have to do is give him the right incentive.
Woodley: He stole 2 million from Rush Limbaugh.
Casey: Tell me everything you know about this animal!
Adam? Did you suggest that line, or what? 😉
Which isn’t to say that everything’s the same. Not by a long shot. [What was your first clue, Buckley?] Hang on – I have an answer to that! It’s Sarah. She’s absolutely wonderful as Mrs. Bartowski. Maybe I was expecting the same sort of tentativeness that Agent Walker showed too often at the fountain every time Chuck, in his transparent way, made it clear that he was in love with her. Maybe I was expecting her to pull away at the last moment the way she had after the proposal on the balcony got interrupted by the CIA for a mission that she accepted hours later.
Or maybe I expected Sarah to dig in her heels a bit, fighting to stay in her old, familiar life the way she did about moving in with Chuck – let’s call it the thirty foot rule – and about unpacking.
Instead, what we get is someone who is becoming comfortable having a family while still being a (corporate) spy, even with the secret corporate/family handshake.
She’ll play Sarah the bunny to Morgan’s rich, playboy, squash player and she’ll do a little dirty dancing for the sake of the mission.
Sarah: Do you realize that I’m a trained spy, who can tell when somebody is keeping a secret?
You bet. But once she’s home, ah, that’s where she belongs. Our adrenaline soaked, jet-setting, dancing-till-dawn-with-Gorbachev former CIA agent has finally come to grips with that other part of her, the one that wants a home.
Sarah: Well, I always imagined, uh, a little white house with a red door, and – don’t laugh – but it had a picket fence just like, you know, the houses that you see on TV that people live in.
Chuck: Hmmm. Mid-century. Very Leave It To Beaver.
Sarah: Cozy, homey and simple.
Chuck: And perfect.
There’s that word again. All this, plus the fantastic plan that Chuck improvises on the spot (you know, where he pretends to be a nerd-herder) makes this one of my favorite episodes, ranked much higher in my personal list than the general consensus placement.
But yeah, there’s a downside. By the end of Chuck vs. The Zoom, Decker has taken most of the Bartowski’s $0.78 B, Sarah’s dream house, modest as it is, has become out of reach and Chuck has discovered that the spy life without the Intersect is difficult. I almost hate to say it, but Chuck’s old insecurities, the one’s that made him whine too much, seem to have returned too.
Yet something is different. It’s not that Chuck suddenly woke up and realized that, even without The Intersect, he’s become “the Chuck we always knew he could be.” Chuck’s far too modest a person for that. It’s not like there’s some great new hope on the horizon telling him that Carmichael Industries is going to be a raging success if only he does X, Y and Z or makes the right plan.
What’s different is that Chuck has a partner with whom he can communicate. What’s different is his knowledge of Sarah’s commitment and the ring on his finger. When Chuck is wondering where he fits in, he has a partner whose answer he can believe.
Sarah: Chuck, you’re our leader.
I find that’s the most fantastic change of all.
Take my hand and lead me home again