Secrets revealed, enemies defeated and the status quo (literally) exploded – Last night’s Chuck on NBC showed Lost how to really do a series finale. It’s almost a shame that it’s continuing next year, really.
Last night’s double bill of “Chuck Vs. The Subway” and “Chuck Vs. The Ring, Part II” managed to bring every plot thread of the season – and some from previous seasons – together in ways that almost made me forgive them for some of the more ridiculous stunts they’ve pulled getting there. After a few weeks of uneven pacing and seemingly-throwaway episodes, the last two hours were nearly perfect examples of how to do this show properly, mixing melodrama and comedy with over-the-top stuntwork and spy escapades in such a way that it made sense – even as Ellie pointed out that, well, it doesn’t, not really – through pure momentum and force of will. It wasn’t entirely perfect, of course – The Casey/daughter subplot reappeared out of nowhere (Seriously, they couldn’t have had anything leading up to that in the last few weeks?), and Casey’s “The Ring are taking over the CIA from within” was more “We as writers have to explain this to the audience” than anything Casey should’ve been able to guess by himself at that point – but, quibbles aside? It was a surprisingly great piece of television. Here’re some of my favorite things from those two hours:
- Ellie knows. Finally. And her reaction – upset, disbelief and finally just dealing with it – was completely in character, which was great, as was Chuck finally being called on his “It’s better to keep you in the dark even though I always say that I hide nothing from you” attitude. Of course, he’s about to go right back to keeping her in the dark as of the final minutes’ reveal, but still.
- The double/triple bluff about Shaw. Was he working for the Ring? For the CIA? For the CIA but really the Ring? There was a point in the middle there where I was unsure who was with what agency and what motives anyone had, and that seemed completely appropriate in a show about spies. Also, points for not killing him off: It’s always good to have an Evil Analogue in your back pocket just in case. Actually…
- Chuck isn’t a killer. Not just in the sense of, he refused to kill Shaw in the end, but in the sense of, Shaw not being dead at all means that Chuck still hasn’t actually killed someone… which seems intentional on behalf of the writers, given Sarah’s comment to the Shaw’s “That’s what makes you weak” taunt.
- Chuck has always been an Intersect. Well, maybe not always, but he’s had one since he was a kid – Is that what led him to “reboot”? Who knows – it wasn’t completely explained this time around – but there’s something about the idea that Chuck had accidentally been “primed” by the intersect when younger that makes the idea that Bryce sending him the file in the pilot episode make slightly more sense, and less “Oh, and your father built it!” coincidental.
- All the James Bond shout-outs. Not just Casey’s spy car (complete with missile launching from the headlamp, which was kind of awesome), but also Shaw’s escape (Jumping out a window and swinging around on a nearby flag into the hotel room below? Pretty damn impressive, Evil Chuck).
- No more BuyMore. Okay, maybe they’ll rebuild it next year, but with the store being closed even before the destruction – and with Jeff and Lester ending the season on the run from the law for their (non-existent) role in said destruction – it felt as if the series was saying goodbye to that entire status quo… Especially now that Chuck’s entire family knows the truth about his job. As one who’s become more and more tired of the store over the last season, I couldn’t be happier to see it go (Also: bonus points for the Planet of The Apes reference).
- The reboot for next year. It wasn’t just Chuck who needed to reboot, apparently; the end of the episode set up a whole new world for next year, which looks like it’ll answer a nagging question about the show’s mythology… Where’s Chuck’s mom? The answer seems to involve lots of different spy organizations or adventures (What were all the names on those files, anyway?), and offer the show the chance to set Chuck and friends start all over next year, breaking out of whatever rut the show has gotten itself into.
Of course, it remains to be seen whether whatever comes next resets everything by bringing Chuck back to the CIA or going out alone or, for that matter, sends the show down a conspiracy theory of relationships a la Alias. But with something like last night’s episodes to tease it, one thing’s for sure: I’ll definitely be checking it out no matter where they head next.
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