The Intersect has completed the circle from intrusion, to opportunity, to crutch, to tool, and back to intrusion … with a new twist. This Intersect isn’t in Chuck. It’s more like it’s stalking him. Hmm.
Map check. Where are we? Before we explore this final Intersect phase in Chuck and Sarah’s life, let’s look back at the crazy landscape behind them. For the past four years the Intersect has plowed through Chuck’s life, alternately carving paths and creating obstacles: aiding and thwarting, beckoning and blocking; bringing Chuck and Sarah together one moment and trying to tear them apart the next; catalyzing amazing growth then testing it with a vengeance.
This phase is no different. Chuck will need every ounce of growth the Intersect catalyzed to prevent the Intersect from taking everything away from him. Sarah’s growth will be even more severely tested than Chuck’s. Her life, her future, her very self will depend on it.
We’ve seen Chuck grow through five of the six stages of a man: from boy to cowboy to warrior to lover to king. With each of these stages, we could point to a moment and say, “There! That’s when it happened.” However, the transition to sage is more gradual. Wisdom takes time. Throughout S5 we see wisdom grow, as Chuck and Sarah define their dreams and come to grips with the compatibility gap between the life they have and the life they want.
~ The 2nd Intrusion Period ~
It just seems like no matter what, the Intersect keeps finding me. I keep trying to break free, and then the very thing that started this keeps hooking us back in.
And with this particular Intersect … it feels like a very bad thing. This Intersect is different. Different bad. It brings a sense of foreboding: the danger is darker; the battle closer to home; the threat more personal.
Perhaps the reason it feels more personal is that there has always been a personal enemy behind it. According to Decker, the Intersect is part of something that has manipulated Chuck his entire life, and his parents before him.
Conspiracy Theories. After Chuck and Sarah got back from their honeymoon, Decker taunted Chuck about a conspiracy that goes all the way back to the First Domino … to Agent X:
You really think you’ve been fighting evil? Doing good? You’re just a pawn. You always were. You think it was all a coincidence: the Intersect, Fulcrum, the Ring, Shaw, AGENT X? That’s all just part of the plan, Bartowski … pieces on the puzzle board.
Several months later, at a conference table, in a darkened room, Decker briefed 11 shadow-people on the Intersect conspiracy:
That’s the plan. As you can see, our superiors’ interference in Chuck Bartowski’s life has only just begun. Now you understand how important he is. And why he must fail. You all have your orders. This is the plan. Its final chapter. Nothing can stop it.
How does Chuck fit in? Why must he fail? And why now?
[Unfortunately, these questions weren’t fully answered. There was a build up to something really huge, but the story never quite got there. The story that followed never adequately explained these two scenes, at least not in my mind. So, for what it’s worth, I view S5 from a slightly enhanced (rather than strictly canonical) view of the conspiracy]
How does Chuck fit in? My 2c: besides being an ideal Intersect candidate, Chuck may have been used to control Stephen and Mary. The puppet masters wanted Volkoff to remain in place.
Why must he fail? Why now? My guess: The conspiracy is fighting for survival. Chuck brought down the biggest cog in the conspiracy wheel (Alexei Volkoff). He found Hartley’s spy will, uncovered the truth about Agent X, and disappeared their succession plan into the Bartowski version of WITSEC, and in so doing, “pissed off a lot of powerful people.” The conspiracy is out of commission, all because of Chuck Bartowski. If it is to be revived, Chuck must fail. They need a new Volkoff, and they must get rid of the one man who is always standing in their way.
Prelude to War. Decker has to clean up his most recent failure: the Intersect glasses. Morgan uploaded the buggy Intersect instead of Chuck, so Decker puts out a hit on Morgan.
Beckman removes the mind-melting Intersect from Morgan and calls off the hit. Problem solved, right?
Sarah: I don’t understand what the problem is, General.
Casey: The problem’s name is Decker.
Chuck: He’s already ousted us from the agency. What’s his problem?
Sarah: He’s not done with us.
Throughout Business Trip, Chuck and Sarah are drawn to a normal life. Their life compass gradually turns toward N: N, for normal, instead of S, for spy.
C: I think maybe we’re at a fork in the road.
S: Do you want to … not be spying?
C: I just wonder what it’d be like to be a normal married couple: regular nine-to-fives, more taco nights and fewer evil cabals.
The brilliant(!) final montage, sets up the final battle: the stakes, the conflict, the possible outcomes.
The party scene and the street scene contrast the warmth and color of normal life with the cold and gray of the spy world. The joyful moments of love and laughter are haunted by the mournful music that reminds us of the ever-present threat of the spy world on the other side of the door.
The stakes are, well … everything. The joy of S5 is seeing how far Chuck and Sarah have come: their personal growth, the life they’ve built, and their dreams for the future. Here we are at another Bartowski dinner: not at Ellie and Devon’s place, not at the bachelor pad with toys — er, sorry, collectibles — but at Chuck and Sarah Bartowski’s place. No awkward covers, no secrets, no lies. Just a real life.
Chuck and I have been a little sad this week that we aren’t normal people. I’ve been having a hard time with the fact that I have no real friends. But I look around here at all of you today, and I realize that because of Chuck I do. Nobody in the world is closer than we all are. So, thank you, and cheers.
Now, the family and the life are all at risk.
The conflict is what’s going down across town, where Casey hears Decker and his assassin vow to kill the people he loves, so he does what he has to do to keep his friends and family safe for another day. The question is, how long can they keep the evil at bay? Not long, because within the hour Decker pushes his way through the door and into Chuck and Sarah’s safe haven and their happy gathering.
The possible outcomes are also shown in these two inter-cut scenes: a completely normal life, like the one at the party; or a life continually fighting the spy world and its logical end, like Jane the Viper’s. Eventually they must shut out the spy world or get shut out in it and be destroyed. Is that always the choice for spies? Maybe not, but that is the set up for Chuck and Sarah in this final battle. Decker and his superiors will not quit until Chuck and Sarah are destroyed.
So, the game is afoot. Chuck and Sarah pursue their cheese dream, with the Intersect cats hot on their tale, intent on destroying them.
[The relationship dynamic of married Chuck and Sarah and the encroaching dangers thwarting their dreams and threatening to bring them down … these elements conspire to make S5 my favorite season (the under-delivered conspiracy and understated ending, notwithstanding). I prefer the conflict to be around/against Chuck and Sarah, not between them. And that’s what S5 gave us: Chuck and Sarah with a mature, sustaining love — confident, centered and strong — against a powerful external threat.]
Prelude to the Future. One thing we notice as the chase plays out is a new dynamic in their relationship: a sort of role reversal reversal. Chuck and Sarah begin to mesh in new and wonderful ways that add fun and balance and beauty to their marriage. Chuck, the one of girlish screams of old, takes the reigns of the spy side of things like a pro, the area where he used to depend heavily on Casey and Sarah. He is confident and in charge of his business and his team. Sarah, who only last year was more comfortable in spy mode and applied her spy brain to solve normal problems, is now very comfortable in the normal/real-world realm, where Chuck used to do all the heavy lifting.
They have rubbed off one each other, and it’s so much fun to watch. We see it in Chuck tagging the Viper and thinking like a spy in Business Trip and worrying more about the company’s bottom line than his mind-melted, traitorous best friend; in Sarah giving Casey, then Verbanski relationship advice (!this from the spy who confessed in Crown Vic that she wasn’t any good at relationships!) and being sensitive to Chuck’s best friend (something she totally didn’t get in Best Friend).
As clients and missions come and go, Chuck and Sarah continue romancing normal (and each other) and planning their dream. They find a dream house and begin to think about normal friends, a normal life … and maybe babies. It’s delightful and warms our hearts as much as anything in Chuck ever has. All the while, that haunting melody from Business Trip lingers, like an undertow pulling them back down into the spy life and farther from their dream. It’s ominous and chills us to the bone.
The Gauntlet Narrows. Decker arrested Casey. What’s he up to?
[Disclaimer: since neither Shaw nor Quinn satisfies the Conspiracy criteria that Decker laid out, I tend to think that someone higher than all of them is still pulling the strings and trying to get another patsy to be the next Volkoff. I see Shaw and Quinn as their candidates, so that’s the context I’m playing with. Of course, that’s not established in canon. It just makes sense to me. So, indulge me this bit of fun. You can play along if you like speculation or just ignore the non-canonical assumptions. Either way Chuck and Sarah are in big trouble.]
So, my take. Whatever Decker’s up to it’s part of the plan to use an Intersect to create the next Volkoff. Now let’s see. Where is there an extra Intersect lying around? Oh yeah, languishing in a jail cell is someone who has proved corruptible in the past, someone eager for revenge against the CIA and Chuck and Sarah. Perfect.
Of course the Intersect needs updating, but the CIA isn’t going to update Shaw’s Intersect. Hmm, looks like they need a hacker and a program to steal the data, a device to compress it and update the Intersect, and they need to get Chuck out of the way. Don’t you love it when a plan comes together. Well, not this plan, of course.
The plan: arrest Chuck’s friend to get leverage over Chuck. Force Chuck to steal the world’s most dangerous virus. Frame him for releasing it. Use the virus to steal all CIA data, compress it with the Macao device (previously stolen by Decker), and update the Intersect.
Chuck, the plan-wrecker does it again. Decker’s dead, and the conspirators don’t end up with the Omen Virus. Chuck has it.
GB: A group inside the CIA is conspiring to destroy Chuck. Chuck and Sarah are being hunted, and so is their family.
Plan B: Kidnap Chuck’s family to get leverage over Chuck. Force Chuck to return the Omen Virus. Break out Daniel Shaw, the new Volkoff, who will take Sarah hostage and force Chuck to steal the Macao device and update the Intersect in Shaw’s head. Oh yeah, and frame Chuck.
Foiling plan B … and undoing another Intersect problem. Chuck steals the device as directed, but he reverse engineers it into a removal device. When Shaw uses the device, the last Intersect is destroyed. Shaw is framed for releasing the virus and returned to jail where he belongs.
Interlude. While the conspirators come up with a plan C, Chuck and Sarah right one last wrong for Sarah (the Baby) and spend a brief interlude between battles … in their future.
Chuck takes Sarah to their dream house and fills it with visions of their future together. It’s perfect. It suits them. Sarah wants it … all of it … except for one tiny thing. The CIA. Sarah doesn’t want to go back. She doesn’t need to go back, because spying is just something she does. It’s no longer who she is. Before returning to the present, Sarah carves their names in the door frame. It is a promise that the dream will be theirs, and that she will always remember that moment. Sarah leaves a marker about her future, in her future, for her future self to find … so she can remember something from her past.
Another mission, another epiphany: Spying and parenting just don’t go together.
That does it. Sarah comes up with a business plan for Carmichael Industries that incorporates Chuck’s hackery with her knowledge of international-bad-guyery and focuses on countering cyber-terrorism. It’s all but done. She’s got their future spread out in front of her: photos, business plan, office space design, and champaign chilling to celebrate their new life. A nice, safe life: no bombs, no bullets, no kidnappings. It’s going to be so good.
Hold that thought.
The Intersect Glasses from Hell. Plan C. Quinn had a pair of Intersect glasses, the buggy ones as it turns out. Morgan stole them … and misplaced them. Quinn wants them. Chuck and Sarah have to find them before Quinn does, which they do, and destroy them, which they … don’t.
Never let the bad guy get away.
Casa Bartowski is infiltrated once more by the spy world. Quinn, like Decker before him, invades Casa Bartowski. This time instead of Casey being arrested, Chuck is kidnapped as leverage for the Intersect glasses.
Intersect Alamo. It all ends up in a battle to the death in the final scene of Bo, which is the bookend to the final scene of Business Trip, only without the warm fuzzy part. Casey and Sarah go into the breach again to fight for their family. The cold and gray of the warehouse are all too familiar. Enter 20 or so bad guys with machine guns; cue the foreboding music … and all of a sudden it feels a lot like the Alamo. (Awesome use of music in both of these scenes.)
Outnumbered, ammunition spent, no way out, no hope … save one. The Intersect. Sarah weighs the situation — all she knows about the Intersect, the odds of the fight, the ramifications of intersecting — against her love for Chuck. Nothing, but nothing, can tip those scales. Casey yells a warning, and Sarah does the only thing she can to survive. She uploads the buggy Intersect. It is a huge gamble that puts their lives and their future at risk.
The Intersect, the thing that started everything, now has the power to save the dream … or destroy it.
The calm in the midst of the storm … and another bookend. Chuck and Sarah spend the last leg of their journey in the same way they began their journey … in a train compartment, this time as husband and wife enjoying their marriage — its friendship and its passion. It’s been a fantastic ride, and now their dream is so close they can taste it.
Let’s catch our breath for a moment and marvel at this snapshot of the couple Chuck and Sarah have become … and the couple they will be again. No more mishegaas or hand wringing on Chuck’s part. Even though the situation is as dire as any they’ve faced, he calmly sketches their dream. Sarah’s happiness isn’t new and giddy, but normal and comfortable. It has settled into her heart and her features, making her more beautiful than ever. No boxing-therapy needed to sort out her feelings about babies, she embraces the dream — house and baby and all — with complete contentment.
I rank this scene as the most intimate of the series, and appropriately so. It is our last glimpse of the Bartowskis and their future. The drawing is the guardian of the dream and the promise that Chuck and Sarah will ultimately reach their final destination.
The final battle. The Intersect and Quinn will not go quietly. Both are back to pose the darkest threat, inflict the deepest pain, and present the cruelest test.
Six Degrees of Separation. Six times the Intersect, or events directly caused by it, threatened to tear Chuck and Sarah apart. In Marlin the Intersect threatened to separate Chuck, via bunker, from his family and friends and Sarah. In Ring, the removal of the Intersect threatened to separate Chuck and Sarah by sending them back to their respective worlds. In S3, the Intersect threatened to separate Chuck from himself, and therefore, Sarah from the man she loved. In S4, the Intersect threatened to separate Sarah from Chuck, as it had his parents, through a mission to bring down Alexei Volkoff. On the eve of their wedding, the Intersect threatened to separate Chuck and Sarah through death. Finally, the Intersect separates Sarah from herself and shatters Chuck’s world.
Where is the hope that Sarah — and Chuck and Sarah’s world — can be put right again?
The hope is in the growth. When they met, these two individuals were plagued by arrested development. In relationship with each other, they have become whole.
Chuck got behind Sarah’s defenses almost immediately and connected with the inner girl, the one buried somewhere inside, the one who hadn’t gotten much of a chance to grow and develop. Chuck saw and loved that girl, the real Sarah. Sarah responded to Chuck and his love, despite her training screaming that she shouldn’t. The heart wants what the heart wants, no? In relationship with Chuck over 5 years, that inner girl became the S5 Sarah Bartowski who told Chuck, “I’m different now. Things have changed. You’ve changed me.” That Sarah is now the inner Sarah that Chuck must connect with.
Chuck is different now, too. The guy she fell for in the Buymore probably couldn’t reach her now, but this Chuck can. Still the endearing regular guy, he is also the warrior, lover, king, and budding sage that she nurtured in him … and the man she inspired him to become.
The hope is that this Chuck can reach this Sarah and that she will respond … again.
I won’t go into great detail about the finale or where I think Chuck and Sarah end up or how they get there, because I’ve already spilled copious words on these topics in two posts and an epilogue fanfic (here, here, and here), so I’ll just sum up.
The Sage Crucible. Chuck has an enemy to defeat, an Intersect to protect, and a wife to win back. It is the harshest of tests and the ultimate Kobiyashi Maru, but again and again Chuck proves himself to be all that his growth has wrought in him — Warrior, Lover, King and Sage.
The Intersect. His family legacy. His “ring of power” to protect. And the thing that has caused so much loss and keeps his family in constant danger. What should he do with it? Destroying it seems like the right thing to do. It has proven to be too powerful and too dangerous, to the world and to his family, for any government to own it. So … mission on. Destroy the Intersect.
Meanwhile, what’s up with Sarah? Chuck is no longer the trusting noob, and as hard as it is for him, he must become wary of his wife, when he finds the empty Intersect glasses in her bag.
I love the scene in the Intersect room. Chuck does everything right. Courageous beyond belief, he walks up to Sarah Wild-Card-Enforcer Walker, lowers her gun, and puts his hand on her waist. Death wish, right? Well, it would be … if his Sarah weren’t still in there.
But he connects with his Sarah in an awesome way. Then he does the right thing, even though it may (and does) later jeopardize his wife-wooing progress. He can’t let Sarah take the Intersect glasses, so he swaps them for empties.
When everyone else has given up on Sarah, Chuck will not give up. He shows her the depths of his love when he pleads with her to remember, when he refuses to fight back or hurt her (even when she aims a gun at him), when he takes a bullet for her … and when he lets her go.
After she’s gone, he doesn’t remain in defeat. He takes the advice of his family and friends and renews his determination to win back his wife. And, of course, there’s still the enemy to defeat and an Intersect at large to deal with.
He still won’t shoot a man in the back, and when faced with a choice to use the Intersect for personal reasons (no matter how worthy) or to save hundreds of innocent people … Chuck makes the right choice. He’s still that guy that Sarah fell for … and someone she can’t kill and can’t walk away from.
Forgotten but not gone. Rather than the familiar phrase (gone but not forgotten), this is my goto phrase to describe Sarah’s state in the finale.
The Sarah who awakens in the hotel room is fragmented, but she is essentially still Sarah. We see various aspects of Sarah acting independently, rather than as an integrated whole: some pre-Chuck Sarah Walker (like the one we saw in the Budapest flash-back in Baby) and some S1 and S2 Agent Walker, with a dash of Graham’s wild-card-enforcer and gentle tugs of Sarah Bartowski.
Sarah Bartowski is not gone. All the growth, the person Sarah became with Chuck … she’s still in there, but this Sarah doesn’t remember her. Hence, forgotten but not gone. She keeps showing up at the oddest times: looking at a picture in their apartment, eavesdropping on Chuck and Ellie, in the Intersect room, in their dream house (a lot), on the dance floor, and at the Wiennerliscious in Berlin.
Prelude to a Kiss. Throughout the finale, we see Sarah acting out of the woman she remembers, only to be over-ruled by the inner Sarah Bartowski she doesn’t remember. (Yvonne did such an amazing job portraying this fragmented, layered, confused Sarah. Absolutely stunning performance.)
All the while, through all the tests and impossible situations, this Chuck is gently connecting with his Sarah, until finally Sarah, herself, realizes that she is not the woman she remembers and that she needs to find out who she is. I need to go find myself.
That process begins and gets well underway, when a very sage-like Chuck finds Sarah on their beach, the beach where it all began. He relates to her from his strength, not from his need. He doesn’t ask her to remember or require anything from her that she can’t give. He just offers her himself, tells her it will be okay, and asks for her trust. When she gives him her trust and asks to hear their story, he gently draws her back into her own life and begins filling her heart with laughter, joy, beauty, tears … and most of all, love.
The Taming of the Intersect.
If knowledge is power, then the Intersect is the ultimate power tool. In the wrong person — or programmed by the wrong person — it corrupts the host, destroys lives, controls governments, seeks power, spreads evil. In the right person, it equips and serves, protects lives, preserves governments, advances peace and justice.
If we’ve seen anything, we’ve seen that not just anyone can — or should — wield it. It was created by a good man to do good things but ended up being used by corrupt people for selfish ends. Its many versions have been uploaded into diverse people, with varying degrees of success or disaster. In its 30+ years of existence, it has done far more harm than good … until Chuck Bartowski — Intersect Whisperer — the one person who can (and should) wield the Intersect.
And so the Intersect story ends (or does it?). With Quinn dead, the Intersect presumed dead along with him, and with Chuck as the secret, solitary guardian of the last Intersect, the Intersect remains both destroyed and safe.
Sarah is at his side, back “home” with her Chuck, filling her own place in the Bartowski Legacy. All is as it should be.
Chuck and Sarah stand — perhaps a bit wobbly, but they stand — surrounded by a sea of fallen dominoes. They have prevailed in the Intersect Wars. Together, they accomplished a lot of good and righted a lot of wrongs … including the very wrongs that the Intersect caused to begin with.
Now they are finally free to rebuild their life, pursue their dream, and get back to their future … after they finish the kiss, of course.