Sarah has run off after Quinn, leaving Chuck to try and win her back and help with her mission, without even knowing where she is. Big changes are ahead for everyone as the story wraps up.
After the jump, we’ll have our last of these weekly talks.
This is the end. The show originally ran five seasons over almost five years. This re-watch has been nearly two years. So this seems like a very big deal! Coming in at number 38 on our poll, Goodbye is a controversial episode to say the least. Most seem to agree it was extremely well done, but issues related to the mood and clarity of the ending sour the impression for many viewers. I think for myself, I pretty much like it exactly where it polls. A solid episode with some serious problems, or the recurring phrase we’ve heard around here so many times the last few weeks, great episode(s), lousy finale.
I want to reiterate here, every viewer should try to get a hold of the 52 minute Extended Cut. This longer cut absolutely tells a better and more complete story. It is under “Special Features” (not the episode list!) if you have the disc. I have not seen it available through a download or streaming site, so getting the discs may be the only way to see it. As always, I encourage viewers to buy these discs (or legitimate download), we want to make Chuck as profitable a property as we can. That’s how we get more!
Its a little hard for me to know how to launch into this. Much of the mood here is desperate. I have no problem with that for our big finale. I think the opening is terrific; contrasting Chuck down and alone, but getting encouragement from family, opposed to Sarah Walker, super-spy on her mission of vengeance. No, she’s not out of his league (!).
As the episode unfolds there is so much that is really terrific. Great performances from Zac and Yvonne in particular. Also some seriously fun call backs. The Berlin mission in particular is an homage to many past scenes and settings. There is also an interesting dynamic at play as Chuck is proving himself as Sarah’s partner. There is good and bad to this. The absolute good is how many times Chuck says “You taught me that…” This is something I wanted to see and know for a long time. Sarah gave Chuck many of his introductory primers to spy life back in Seasons One and Two. But her role as mentor diminished a lot in Season Three and Four. Some of that was appropriate as their relationship, both personal and professional changed. When we get to Season Five, and Chuck no longer had an Intersect, it did raise some questions as to how it was he could hold his own in a fight. Well now, at the very end, we finally get an answer. Apparently Sarah has continued to provide Chuck with much of his conventional agent training, we just never knew.
But for me the bad part here is one final bit of buffoon humor for Chuck as he screws up the mission by shooting down Casey’s helicopter. I never really laugh at making Chuck look like an idiot. And there’s too much on the line here for this to be very amusing to me. Maybe this isn’t a huge thing, I laughed the first time! But it rubs me a little wrong now.
There are some nice and important moments here as Chuck and Sarah work together. Like Sarah getting a little distracted as Chuck holds her close while dancing. And I actually like Sarah shooting down Chuck’s (and Morgan’s) attempts at reconnecting her to her life. Especially as the situations set-up the ending on the beach. Don’t get me wrong, I would have much preferred a more clear re-connection all along. I’ll get into this more on Tuesday with our “Finale Alternatives” post. But especially with this longer cut, it is obvious how they’re setting the ending up. Really a shame some of it was cut for broadcast. But Sarah is holding Chuck, and her life, at arm’s length for the duration of the mission. This seems like such a Sarah Walker sort of thing to do.
The action climax comes at the music hall. This is one of the very best Jeffster performances I think. “Take On Me” is an excellent song choice; the visual gags as Jeffster appears on stage and Morgan takes the director’s baton are perfectly funny; and I love Quinn’s last scene. From being foiled by a really lousy cover band, to being gunned down by “his soldier”, this ending is fitting. And we finally see Chuck make a solidly good impression on Sarah as he sacrifices for the “greater good”; something Sarah will doubtless respect.
The supporting cast all has their own sub-stories scattered throughout as well. These are sort of uneven I think. Casey’s story typifies a common television finale flaw; his whole series growth is reiterated in a brief sub-plot. Hadn’t he spent five years already following this path? Now he tries to reject team and family one last time. Ellie and Devon consider a new job offer in Chicago. I have no problem with this story; except I think it just requires a change of story sequence to work best. Ellie saying goodbye to Chuck before she knows if Sarah is okay just seems wrong on every level. It would be much better if this farewell came after the beach with both Chuck and Sarah, as a call back to the Pilot and Honeymooners. That alone would have fixed every serious complaint I ever had about this episode. Jeffster, Big Mike, Morgan and Alex all get their goodbye scenes. I may like Big Mike’s the best; he flat out disbelieves that Chuck and his cronies are spies, as he happily contemplates Buy More’s new Subway ownership.
Obviously I’ve saved the beach for last. There’s no doubt this is a beautiful scene. Pity they lost the last few minutes of footage. I do think there’s enough here to know all is well. And I don’t mean at some undefined point in the future, I think really all is well as the screen fades to black. There have been so many little tells that Sarah would recover; even going back to the way Morgan recovered before regaining his memories. We were also told in Bullet Train that the defective Intersect caused no brain damage in Morgan. Obviously Sarah lost far more memories than Morgan did. So they spelled it out a little differently here. Several times during Goodbye Sarah will make a point of not wanting to hear her and Chuck’s story. So Chuck makes an impression on her in other ways. Mostly, she sees first hand what sort of team they were (I love the thugs at the embassy “how do we take care of three guys?””Well usually you take two and I take the other, or you just take all three…”). I wish so much they had shown a woman falling in love more clearly. This I call flawed story telling. But even so, they rebuild trust as partners all while Sarah is having very small recollections, of mostly, well, stupid stuff.
Until very late in the episode. The post mission de-brief has the first major moment in Sarah’s recovery since the end of 5.12 when she says no to Beckman’s job offer. This would be completely out of character for her until fairly recently. And given how many times Sarah has insisted Chuck is responsible for giving her everything she is outside of the job, I think we have to conclude “finding herself” is very good news. It also looked to me like Sarah was torn when leaving Castle; like even though she said she needed time to herself, just maybe she wanted a reason to stay.
But its probably best Chuck doesn’t push her. The beach is a much more relaxed setting. And I like pretty much everything about this scene. Sarah seems fine with being found. And after Chuck asks her to trust him, she asks for “Our Story”. This is a huge moment. Sarah has gone from pushing Chuck and her feelings away, to wanting to reconnect with them. And I need to mention, this can only be a fully mature Sarah. At no time prior to being completely involved with Chuck did she have any interest or comfort with her own feelings. Maybe she wasn’t completely cold, but she was certainly all business. Chuck’s story time is absolutely a completely open Sarah. Unlike anything we saw in those first few seasons. Even in Season Four she struggled to be this open until the very end. We see Sarah happy, laughing, crying as “their” story unfolds. Even if she still has holes in her memories, she is clearly completely at ease, completely “feeling it” and reconnecting with her husband in the fullest sense of the word.
When Chuck finishes the story he tells Sarah about Morgan’s magic kiss theory. Before he can even finish Sarah asks for the kiss. Again, huge moment. There is no cover here. Sarah knows exactly what she’s asking for. This is an invitation for Chuck to come back into her life. You can only conclude otherwise by ignoring most of these last five minutes. I know some of you will claim otherwise anyway. You’re wrong. This is not ambiguous.
The episode ends with 15+ seconds of kissing, no end in sight, no other movement as the screen goes black. The series ends with husband and wife kissing on the beach, and they both seemed pretty content with it.
Now I’m not going to claim they immediately were back to their mid-Bullet Train status. They weren’t. Chuck and Sarah still have some recovering ahead. Who knows, Chuck may spend a few nights in the guest bedroom before Sarah’s ready for more. But in the end I’m completely comfortable saying Sarah is past the worst of it and her recovery is well underway.
One issue summed up discontent for many of us. The closing song “Rivers and Roads” is a melancholy song that struck many viewers as focusing on the struggles ahead, not the joy or the final triumph this episode seemed to be. So for everyone who has another thought for a great song, we look forward to hearing about it in comments! My own choice, probably my favorite love song, would be “I Will Be Here” by Steven Curtis Chapman. It was originally written as a song of God’s perfect love for his people, but a few years ago Steven Curtis Chapman re-recorded it as a love song for his wife. It’s no mistake the God of the Bible uses the love of man and wife as illustrative of his love for all of us. And I think this message of loving commitment and determination perfectly fits the end of the show.
This ending is easily the most divisive moment of the show since Season Three. At this point, I’m completely content to say I know Chuck and Sarah were all right. But I do think this was very poorly told. It was too subtle and too clever by far. That I had to re-watch several times, and even rely on writer’s interviews, and finally the extended cut of the episode to be 100% satisfied they got the ending I wanted exposes a badly flawed execution. I know some viewers, possibly most, saw this right away. But I didn’t, and we spent six months after the finale going over this stuff every single day at this site. So many viewers failed to see the happy ending. Some called this end “brave”, I prefer “foolish” or even “inconsiderate”. That the writer was willing to alienate so many viewers who had supported and watched for five years, including a very high profile “save the show” campaign, is, I think, ridiculous. It concerns me a lot that writers feel so little responsibility or concern towards those fans who support them. I will definitely be very cautious about supporting any show again the way I did Chuck. Chris Fedak once challenged us with “do you quit reading a book at chapter seven?” (well I have Chris, if I didn’t like the book!); but what to do when the book is blank after chapter seven?
This Tuesday (4/15) I should have up “Finale Alternatives and Epilogues“. This will follow the format I’ve used for all such posts, with talk about how things could have been different, both small changes and big, in the finale arc. And of course lot’s of fan fiction links for stories that provide both alternatives and epilogues. I think the fan fiction epilogues will be a very lengthy listing!
Next Sunday night will start a series of review posts, starting with “Chuck in Overview: Season One” and ending, six weeks later, with “Chuck in Overview: The Whole Series”. For now, that is all we really have planned. I don’t expect this site to go away for a while yet. But things may slow down with the end of “scheduled” programming. We’ll see, another idea may come along. And hopefully, you’ll all still know where to find us when movie talk really gets going…
A Kiss Goodbye
There’s no doubt. It’s been an emotional rollercoaster.
If a three-four chord can ignite a flame
And a girl like you can forget my name
By this time you’ve probably made up your mind about the finale, Chuck vs. The Goodbye. Thumbs up or thumbs down, we’re not going to change many minds and I’m not going to try. I will, however, tell you what thoughts I had during this, my 4th or 5th re-watch. I also want to tell you how surprised I was that my reaction was indeed, much different than previous. Perhaps time and tide have changed my perspective a bit.
Most of you will recognize that the Blitzen Trapper song was used, not in this episode, but much earlier, in S2, when Chuck was more than uncertain about his standing with Sarah. And that’s funny (funny ‘peculiar’, not funny ‘ha-ha’) because when it’s played, she’s sleeping right beside him and very happy to do so, it appears. But even then the situation was at best a mixed bag for Chuck – “A taste of Heaven mixed with Hell inside of my head.”
And so it’s been for most of these past five years. From the moment Sarah says “I just don’t feel it,” the finale has always struck me as being much more about the latter than the former. Getting past that in any satisfying way has been difficult for me, to say the least.
Dave’s got it right (again!) about the technical strengths of the episode. The intro is awesome at every level I care about, from the music to the comedic timing and scoffing at past villains.
Hector: The Ring. Amateurs.
Morgan insisting just enough to touch the surface of annoying that one magic kiss is what Sarah needs and Chuck unleashing the perverts to find Sarah are LOL this time around. Really, I let that humor wash over me the first four times.
Ellie: Enough crazy.
Oh – and the set-up is nicely intricate. I’ll confess, I forgot that the plot revolves around a key for the Intersect that had been divided into three parts (by Stephen, Hartley and Ted Roark of all people). Quinn already has the first and the second is up for sale by a former Fulcrum operative in Germany. The third? Some govie has it. It’s a nice tie-in to the past and from there, all the adventures flow.
So do the memories. My first impressions about Goodbye were dominated by all the references to familiar scenes – the Mexican restaurant where Chuck and Sarah had their first date, the ballroom dance, the Weinerlicious – and my disappointment that Sarah’s memory did not seem to be returning even a little.
I got it wrong, though. Now I see those scenes weren’t about Sarah’s memories at all. They were about Chuck’s memories and mine. It wasn’t just Sarah who had to discover herself again. Chuck did too.
You see, Chuck had changed these past five years, starting from the moment he met Sarah. At his birthday party Ellie had to reprimand him about the way he left first impressions with girls. Immediately talking about Bryce and Jill in a pathetic manner was not the way to make friends and influence people. Back then you’ll recall, Chuck started to do just that with Sarah at the Mexican restaurant, but brought himself up short. The result was a little magic.
Chuck: Uh, yeah. Yeah. Um, ah, Actually, well, back in college, there was someone. But actually, that’s all over with now. And her restraining orders are very specific. [They laugh] So…
Sarah: I like you, Chuck.
This time, Chuck started to forget the lesson and Sarah reacted the same way she would have five years ago had Chuck started off so whiny. And wow is that disappointing. Except – instead of watching Chuck make a fool of himself again, watch Sarah’s reaction. Could it be that she’s kinda, sorta pulling for Chuck to be the Chuck we saw the first time with her, in the Pilot? I think so.
The more I watched, the more times I saw Sarah do that. There were no indications that she was seeing flashes or snippets of memories or anything like that. It was more like she was trying – almost fighting – to recapture something. Would “everything for the mission, wild-card enforcer” Sarah even try to do that? Stacking cups and moving straws in the Weinerlicious has nothing to do with Chuck. It’s got everything to do with home and with being comfortable. Adjusting Chuck’s tie is not about the things Sarah has forgotten. It’s about who she is and always has been.
Ellie: It’s clear that we can’t force Sarah to remember. But, emotions, feelings – those are powerful things.
Perhaps you can see how differently I saw the episode now. Maybe the intense pain of seeing Sarah separated from Chuck’s memory and my desire to see her made whole was too much before. Maybe time has allowed me to see other things now, like the amazing job Yvonne does with the subtle expressions, expressions that go far beyond the blunt characterizations of anger, surprise and joy that we usually see on TV. Some see it as a flaw that this episode requires some close scrutiny and thought. Heh! I see that as a feature now. There is, of course, more.
Morgan: What about Chuck and Sarah? They’re a liability too, right? Good! By all means, lock ’em up, throw away the key, lock away your feelings too – forget everything that we’ve been through and YOU BE RUTHLESS!
Casey: You just don’t understand, do ya? I got soft. I lost my edge.
Say after me –
“It’s no better to be safe than sorry”
If I haven’t thrown enough clue-bricks around yet, here’s another. I was struck for the first time by how much Casey had to go through the same process of figuring out who he is now. He’s forgotten so thoroughly that even Morgan has to tell him off, that the team WAS his biggest asset and when the team’s together that’s when he at his best. And he’s being a giant jackass now.
See? They’re all going through it, the trials, pains and joys of figuring out who they are now. Those flashbacks are not just about Sarah recalling things she desperately wants to remember (and they are that). They are also about the things we – or at least, I – want to remember. They are the things I thought about those days, nearly seven years ago when I was quite different too, when I took daily walks with Arcade Fire and Blitzen Trapper playing from my iPod. Those were thoughts about wanting to be more than I was, reaching for adventure versus feeling that it was better to be safe than sorry, and about knowing the value of home, friends and family. I can accept that as a metaphorical kiss from TPTB.
So how does the ending play for you now? Unlike the first time, Rivers and Roads strikes me now as the perfect choice because it’s not about Chuck and Sarah so much as about living. The questions were indeed answered; the girl smiling, crying and laughing (even hysterically, at times) on the beach is not the cold emotionless assassin pursuing vengeance – a mere spy. It’s Sarah, complete with the feelings she said she didn’t have and it’s Sarah, the woman she said she didn’t know how to be any longer. Maybe those were lies, or maybe those were sad truths, undone by “the magic kiss.” Don’t know, don’t really care, because she’s the Sarah we came to know and my doubts are gone.
And maybe, if five years of the rollercoaster wasn’t enough, seven years has satisfied me. In ways I can’t put to words, I’ve grown and been fulfilled by the story I’ve seen and by the time I spent here, doing this.
But like Bryce said, it’s hard to say goodbye. And like Dave said, we’ll have a little more to say about the show and I still want to thank you all for reading and commenting. All in all, it’s been absolutely wonderful.