The last season. Like the first season, its entirely too short. Now that Chuck and Sarah are married, Team B has gone private, and a bearded troll has the Intersect; how will this last, short season play out.
After the jump, we’ll discuss Chuck Season Five.
Like the show itself, we’re approaching the end entirely too fast.
To set the stage for this final season, I think this was the lowest stress off-season since the first. We got the Season Five order fairly quickly, and Season Four left us in a reasonably good place. There were no burning problems or questions unresolved. The biggest concern for many was just what would happen with “Morgansect”; in particular, would Morgan end up with a far bigger role than most of us wanted to see? This was no where near the anxiety past season finales had left us with, but it was at least a minor concern.
There was also some concern related to a schedule change. For this last season, Chuck was moved to Friday nights. This is traditionally a slow night for television, but a few shows have found success against weak competition over the years. I think we all held out some hope that Chuck would find a new niche. We were told several times that this order of 13 episodes was the end of the line, but there were hints if the ratings were good we could get more. But it wasn’t to be. Almost zero promotion led to dismal ratings. I am still amazed, years later, how many people I knew who watched the show faithfully, thought it ended at the wedding. Many casual viewers never knew about the change in nights, or the existence of the last season at all.
Let me start by saying I love Season Five. I have to follow that up by saying there’s a sort of duality to my feelings. I absolutely love seeing Chuck and Sarah as a happy team and couple. Some of the good moments from this season are simply the best we’ve ever seen. And that leads to a couple of extremely strong episodes. Even “average” episodes from this period can be profoundly satisfying in ways the other seasons can’t possibly compete with. This is the complete opposite of Season Three in that regard; the overall situation creates a halo effect that makes the good moments, better.
But I have some fairly serious problems with Season Five too. For arguments’ sake, I’ll say there were three basic arcs; Morgansect, Conspiracy and Finale. I found all three arcs lacking to some degree. None crippled the show or ruined it for me, but none really inspired or excited me either. Morgansect was mostly fun, and I like how in the end, it serves as a template of sorts for Sarah’s journey. Especially to say we saw Morgan reconnecting with who he really was at the end of Frosted Tips, in a way that I think parallels Sarah at the beach and post series. But it was a little too much Morgan for my taste. Especially Bearded Bandit. At least this arc only ran three episodes. On balance I thought it was well done, but I would have chosen something else, something more Charah and less Morgan if I were calling the shots.
The Conspiracy Arc was the most disappointing. Especially since it seemed to get off to a strong start. Decker was an excellent heavy. Of the sort you really, eagerly await his destruction. And his end was perfectly funny. But maybe it came too soon? Shaw was very disappointing as a mastermind. This is a classic example of a television villain making one (or two) too many unwanted returns. Still, Santa Suit was by no means a bad episode. Perhaps if the story was tweaked some so that Shaw was still clearly serving some greater master; basically to merge the Conspiracy Arc directly into the Finale Arc, this all might have worked out much better. As it is, I think this arc was underwhelming. Several of the episodes are quite good, but the conspiracy never quite gains traction with me.
The Finale Arc is of course the most controversial. It was well acted and executed. It was potentially, nearly excellent. And I think Quinn was a wonderful final villain. He was fully as psychotic as Volkoff, with none of his charm. I really wish he’d tied back into the conspiracy. I wish that we knew he’d been calling the shots for Decker and Shaw. But he wasn’t presented that way, and its only a nit pick. I’m mildly disappointed they went the amnesia route for a series finale; but Chuck was about computer implanted memories from the Pilot, so its hard to argue this trope had no place in the show. I have some story telling issues with 5.12, as I mentioned in the last re-watch post, but this is only a fairly big thing because it occurs so close to the end. I don’t like that so much of the end of this series, from late Bullet Train until Goodbye was darker in tone than what I’d been wanting to see every week. And I dislike that my favorite character was absent for the last 2+ episodes. Ultimately, my biggest problem with the end is it came a beat too early for me. I needed to see Chuck and Sarah come home from the beach together to see the Woodcombs head off for
paradise Chicago. Or at least hear from Sarah that she’d found what she was looking for. Some. Little. Bit. More. I think all those other complaints would have been completely forgotten if I’d been just a little happier with the end.
Season Five was another mixed outing for Chuck. I mostly liked what I saw. Chuck is happy, confident and capable with his new wife and company. I particularly like episodes like Hack Off, Baby, Bullet Train and Goodbye where we see a wise and mature man and husband for Sarah. This is Chuck at his very best, and there can be no denying that in the end Chuck rises to the challenge and is the man he needs to be. But I do wish we hadn’t had to see the return of Chuck the buffoon in Curse and Kept Man. I’m not sure who finds this funny, I know I don’t. Curse especially makes Chuck look very foolish, very bad, at a time when we’re supposed to believe he is at his most mature. I find this bitterly disappointing.
Sarah again fairs much better. Her maturity and confidence throughout the season is easily my single favorite part of the show. From confidently coaching Gertrude on making a relationship work while remaining a spy in Hack Off, to rejecting a CIA job offer in Baby, to embracing a new, safer business model in preparation for having kids of her own in Bo; this is just perfect. Watch Truth or Suburbs, then come back to Baby. Wow! Add in learning the story of Emma and Molly and Season Five was truly a great one for Sarah Bartowski. Of course some of this only makes the end harder. I really dislike the way this was handled. And I understand completely that those viewers who do not see Sarah’s recovery as really having started yet at the end may find it particularly heartbreaking. But really, she’s all right. I’m sure of it. Maybe it took a couple days or weeks. But trust me on this, the Bartowskis recently celebrated their third anniversary and Sarah remembers all of it.
Casey has another good season. He adapts surprisingly well to life as a private spy/security specialist. Even if he still prefers the lack of moral ambiguity in government work (!). The big news for Casey is a new love interest. I think Gertrude was a terrific addition to the show. Especially in Frosted Tips and Hack Off she was a valuable new comer, and Casey’s obvious soul mate!
I think Morgan was mostly well used in Season Five. Maybe a little too much of him in the Morgansect arc, but his part shrunk to a more appropriate quantity after. I found his efforts to win back Alex to be sweet and funny.
Ellie and Devon were very entertaining at times, they particularly owned Curse. I liked both Ellie getting to play Intersect expert at times and Devon as the new face of Buy More. Given that these two have been the symbol of “stable” and “normal” since the series started we never saw huge changes for them, but they remained a welcome and entertaining part of the ensemble.
For the minor characters, Jeff had the best season. That’s something I never expected to say! But it was a lot of fun seeing him come out from the fog. Especially how it shook up Lester. Even more amazing, they were still friends in the end.
I’ll use my usual three ranks for evaluating episodes again.
- STRONG: Business Trip, Hack Off, Baby. I wish I could put more on this list. The basic situation for this season (marriage, private business) is by far my favorite of the whole series. Baby is another of those extremely strong sorts.
- AVERAGE: Zoom, Bearded Bandit, Frosted Tips, Santa Suit, Bo, Bullet Train, 5.12, Goodbye. Several of these are almost strong, and would have been with just the smallest of little teaks (“Take me home Chuck…”).
- WEAK: Curse, Kept Man. Like many past weak episodes, Chuck the buffoon is what knocks these down a peg. Both episodes could have been “Average” with fairly small changes.
As I said above, I really love Season Five. Looking at all the episodes rated above I’m struck by how strong so much of it was. And I think the addition of four words at the end could have lifted three more episodes to “strong” status. But I think Baby will always be the enduring gem of the season. That’s a masterpiece.
I feel like I could write a lot more here. But we just did full write-ups on every episode! So I think I leave the more detailed discussions for those posts. As always, feel free to comment here, or in any post that seems most fitting to what you want you want to say. I look forward to everyone’s input.
Next week will be our last “scheduled” post, with “Chuck in Overview: The Complete Series”.