I don’t know what was more uncomfortable on last night’s episode of Chuck on NBC: Seeing the show (accidentally?) point out all of the flaws and plotholes in the way that the series has evolved away from its initial set-up, or watching Scott Bakula.
Okay, it’s not that Bakula’s acting is bad; it’s just that I genuinely found it hard to watch his socially-awkward Stephen Bartowski (AKA Chuck’s dad, AKA the man who invented both of the intersects that have ended up in Chuck’s head in what can only be described as the most unlikely coincidence in television history. I mean, come on) without feeling like I should apologize to everyone involved. Either Bakula is a much better actor than I’ve given him credit for in the past – although that is based on my experience watching him in Quantum Leap and Enterprise, so I think you’ll forgive me – or he’s suffering from some horrible neurological illness that’s making him hunch over, stumble around and mumble a lot. I’m pulling for the former.
But as to the rest of the show: It’s got to be intentional that “Chuck Versus The Living Dead” made it very clear that two of the show’s major concepts are completely broken, right? To wit:
Chuck is a good person who is forced to lie to people about his double life even though he is, essentially, an honest and upstanding human being who we can all empathize with. No: Chuck has no problem lying to everyone whatsoever, and pretending that it’s for some fictional “greater good” in his head. Why didn’t he tell his girlfriend that he believes her former ex-boyfriend who tried to kill her is still alive and plotting revenge? Because he didn’t want to put her in danger… even though not telling her actually puts her in more danger and, oh, that’s right: She’s a crazily competent CIA agent who could kick the asses of most people on the planet without breaking a sweat. Why didn’t he tell his father that he is still a CIA agent and working to save the world? Because he didn’t want him to be mad, even though his dad (a) knew already, because he’s a genius and (b) built the computer that’s now stuck inside his head and therefore understands the need for someone to be in Chuck’s shoes. Why isn’t he telling anyone that the intersect may be a time bomb inside his head that could drive him insane at any moment? Because he doesn’t want to be locked in an insane asylum again like last week and… Oh, okay; he’s got a point with that last one. But otherwise, let’s face it: Chuck Bartowski is an untrustworthy son of a bitch who’ll lie to your face as quickly as he’ll say hello.
Chuck doesn’t tell his sister Ellie – about whom he normally spends a scene thinking about each episode, looking wistful and wishing that he wasn’t forced to keep his double life a secret – that he’s a spy because to do so would put her in danger. Yeah, this one is completely ridiculous, considering that the bad guys don’t just know about her – Although not, ironically, because of Chuck, but because of their dad – they’ve actually recruited her to their cause under unlikely subterfuge (Seriously, if someone came up to you and said “I’m from the CIA, will you become a spy so we can defend your dad,” you wouldn’t say yes. Or, at least, I wouldn’t). More to the point, though, everyone else who matters knows already. Letting Awesome know was one thing; the secret was still, essentially, a secret. But when their dad, Morgan and Awesome are all in on the truth, it just begins to look cruel not to tell Ellie. Here’s hoping she officially joins the bad guys next week, just to get back at Chuck for being an ass.
Clearly, the show’s heading for some kind of reboot with next week’s season finale: Even without the trailer showing the Buy More sign in flames (Please please please get rid of Jeff and Lester please please please), bringing up these two thorns in the side of the series, turning the is-he-dead-no-yes-no returning Brandon Routh into Evil Chuck (How did the Ring get an updated intersect, anyhow?) and bringing in “The Governor,” a new mechanical McGuffin to solve the “Intersect will make you mad” plot introduced last week all point towards another status quo shift before we get to the fourth season. But will it be enough to keep people watching, or will JJ Abrams’ Undercovers steal the action comedy spy thunder? Here’s hoping for something spectacular – and something to make me think Chuck is slightly more likable again, please.
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