Post-Mortem: Chuck

After five seasons, Chuck is over. There was doubt at the end of every season as to whether it would get renewed for the next one or not, and at the end of the fourth season, the creators — Chris Fedak and Josh Schwartz — decided to make the fifth one the final one for certain, so that they could end it on their own terms. Not counting one-season wonders, it’s been a long time since a show has ended that I’ve watched from the very first episode all the way to the end — even with 24 I missed the first two or three hours.

So, as the first show to conclude since the start of my blogging, Chuck gets the distinction of being the first show to get not just a season Post-Mortem, but a full series Post-Mortem. I’ll go over what I loved, what I didn’t like, what changed over the years and what went right and wrong with each individual season. Obviously, there will be spoilers. If you haven’t seen the finale, go back to your DVR and watch it. If you haven’t seen the series… well, go buy or rent the boxed sets, wait for the fifth season, watch it, and come back. It’s worth it. And comments are always welcome, even months later. For the rest of you, keep reading.

Chuck started out with a premise that was both simple and versatile. Charles “Chuck” Bartowski (Zachary Levi), is a former Stanford student thrown out after being falsely accused of cheating, and works at the Burbank Buy More in charge of their “Nerd Herd” technicians (a clear spoof of Best Buy and their Geek Squad). One day he gets an email from his college roommate Bryce Larkin (Matt Bomer) — the same roommate who accused him of cheating and then stole his girlfriend. Most people would probably delete it, but Chuck’s curious what Bryce has to say — but opening it up simply sends a high-speed montage of images which causes Chuck to pass out. Turns out Bryce was working for the CIA, and on a mission gone bad, facing certain death, he had to send the data he was trying to receive — a massive neuro-compatible information network called the “Intersect” — to the one person he knew he could trust: the most honest guy he knew, his old framed friend Chuck Bartowski.

Now the Intersect, full of data from both the CIA and the NSA, is in Chuck’s head. When he sees or hears certain triggers, his mind “flashes” with information relevant to the subject: bomb defusing protocols, dossiers on spies and terrorists, government building schematics, virtually anything. But he’s still just an untrained civilian computer geek. He’s assigned handlers from both the NSA and the CIA: right-wing gung-ho Colonel John Casey (Adam Baldwin), and the beautiful and mysterious Agent Sarah Walker (Yvonne Strahovski). Casey takes up a cover as Chuck’s co-worker at the Buy More; Sarah, as his girlfriend. Naturally, Chuck starts to fall for her, and just as naturally their fake/real relationship is complicated not only by the need to keep it as a cover, but by the fact that Sarah was Bryce’s girlfriend at the time of his death. Casey and Sarah take Chuck on missions with them to act as a human database, and meanwhile Chuck has to keep his role as the Intersect and CIA asset secret from his sister Ellie (Sarah Lancaster), his best friend Morgan Grimes (Joshua Gomez), and his Buy More co-workers.

It made for a fun, uncomplicated spy spoof. There are nods to James Bond throughout the series, particularly in the first season, as well as other significant spy shows — though given its very heavy debt to previous inept-spy series Get Smart, I’m surprised that there wasn’t, to my recollection, ever a reference to that great show. Part of what made the first season — a tricky season for any show — work so well was that the show was unafraid of being silly. At one point, a mutual knowledge of Klingon helps Bryce (who had more lives than a cat) save Chuck. Another episode had a gun-smuggling ring mixed in with salami smuggling. The first bomb Chuck defused, he did so with a virus that was infesting porn sites, which he knew about from working with the Nerd Herd.

Most of the other episodes similarly have an intertwining between the spy plot and Chuck’s experiences at the Buy More, where he’s the only sane man. His best friend Morgan is almost normal, but is a complete goof and slacker (at this stage). The manager, Big Mike would be normal except that he loves his job so much he has a downright unnatural affection for anything to do with the Buy More. It’s both unnerving and charming at the same time to hear him wax eloquent about selling electronics, and if Mark Christopher Lawrence goes on to a sitcom after this show, I suspect he’ll be very successful. He has the kind of natural delivery that works with family-oriented comedies. The duo that cause the most shenanigans at the Buy More, of course, are Jeff and Lester, and the casting on these characters was perfect. Jeff’s a perpetual stoner whose brain has been fried from years of abuse, and actor Scott Krinsky is almost frighteningly good at putting on a dead stare, or a leer, a rambling stumbling walk or anything else he’s called to do. Lester — a Canadian “Hin-Jew” like his actor Vik Sahay — isn’t stoned, but is every bit as creepy because of his deliberate sleaziness. Sahay, like Krinsky, has great mannerisms for the role, and Lester’s self-centered creepiness is apparent in nearly every line Sahay says, no matter how innocuous.

One character who didn’t work for me, though, was Morgan’s early-series girlfriend Anna Wu (Julia Ling). It was never clear exactly what Morgan saw in her, other than her being apparently female. Perhaps worse, it wasn’t clear what she saw in him other than a convenient verbal punching bag. They were the designated “beta couple” for the first two seasons, with their relationship problems often mirroring those of Chuck and Sarah. But it just didn’t click for me, because it never seemed to have a purpose or life of its own, and when Anna was written out between the second and third seasons, it was honestly a relief.

Chuck and Sarah’s relationship provided most of the drama for the first season and the series as a whole, with Chuck’s home life being the other major supplier. Ellie and Chuck were orphans of an unusual sort, in that their mother disappeared when they were young — and then their father disappeared as well when Ellie became a legal adult. Naturally, the two grew close, and Chuck keeping a secret from her and lying to her about his activities was a source of mild angst in the early seasons. Additionally, his home life provided a superior “beta couple” to Morgan/Anna, with Ellie and her boyfriend (later, husband) Devon “Captain Awesome” Woodcomb (Ryan McPartlin). Like a lot of characters in Chuck, Awesome is just a bit larger than life. Interestingly, he’s one example of how the fans affected the show; his character was originally planned to have secretly been a Russian spy, but when audiences reacted so positively to him, the creators decided to write him as being what he appears to be, somebody who genuinely believes that the world is “just awesome”. Ironically, given the character’s origins, lying and spying turn out to be among the few things he isn’t awesome at.

The first season of Chuck was great because it delivered on everything that it was supposed to. It had great spy action sequences. It had a lot of great comedy elements, from zany antics to quick-witted one-liners to absurd situations. It had just enough pathos to be interesting without wallowing in the drama and angst, a touch of romance without being too sappy. And it set up some ongoing mysteries: the nature of the Intersect, Bryce’s motivations in sending it to Chuck, and the disappearances of the senior Bartowskis, particularly their father (in early seasons, it was made to sound as if Mama Bartowski had just flaked out, but that Stephen had some kind of nervous breakdown). Plus, the dramatic irony in that Chuck just wants the Intersect out of his head, but doing so will mean Sarah will be reassigned — and unbeknownst to him, Chuck will be considered a “liability” by the NSA and targeted for assassination. And then it set up a nefarious spy agency known as Fulcrum to act as recurring enemies after the initial one-and-done villains of the season.

It also starts the trend of putting Yvonne Strahovski in skimpy outfits, which is certainly no cause for complaint.

The second season continued the high spy adventure and the hilarious antics, and honestly, I have to say it was my favorite of the seasons, despite the fact that the back-and-forth on the “will they, won’t they” question of Chuck & Sarah’s relationship started to get irritating. But mostly, the show was simply pure fun at this point. It continued the first season’s tendency of silly gimmicks and loving geek references, including one particularly glorious episode, “Chuck vs. Tom Sawyer”. In this episode, Team Bartowski discovers that the classic arcade game Missile Command was created by a programmer who was also responsible for the creation of an actual missile command satellite, which some terrorists have seized control of. The codes to deactivate it are on the “kill screen” of Missile Command — a screen that can only be reached by playing a perfect game. With no other options, Chuck has to turn to the one player other than the creator (killed by the terrorists) who might be able to do it — Missile Command world record holder… Jeff Barnes. “Creepy, stalker Buy More” Jeff. In front of a crowd of people, for a publicity stunt, Jeff marches up to the machine to the tune of Stan Bush’s “The Touch” — known to all geeks who grew up in the 80s as the main song from The Transformers: The Movie (and known to some others as being in Boogie Nights… there’s an odd path for a song.) And then he face-plants, stone drunk. So it’s up to Chuck, who flashes on a fan’s t-shirt and realizes that Missile Command’s creator, as a huge Rush fan, keyed the game so that it can be played perfectly if it’s played in synch with the song “Tom Sawyer”. I’ve done a lot of plot summaries for this blog, and given a lot of summaries over the years to friends or for book reports in school, and I don’t think I’ve ever had as much fun writing a summary as I had writing this one right now.

To the best of my knowledge, this is not a real way to win Missile Command… nor is the game linked to actual lethal satellites.

Fulcrum continued their agenda in this season, and even worked on building their own Intersect to counter the CIA and NSA. Chuck, being one of the few people whose brains were compatible with an Intersect, actually wound up with the Fulcrum Intersect in his head in addition to his own. And while there were occasional stand-alone episodes, Fulcrum took the forefront in the second season, being the enemy for nearly all of the episodes, starting the show’s habit of having an over-arching plot for each season (or half-season, as the show was often extended mid-way through the season based on ratings.)

The second season also started the show’s fantastic run of guest stars. John Larroquette guest starred as a debonair super-spy who, while aging, was still the CIA’s top Bond-style seducer. Andy Richter guest starred as the head of a Fulcrum suburb where they were building their Intersect, and Chevy Chase was in a few episodes as the corporate leader of a giant tech firm — also, of course, a Fulcrum front. Chase as Ted Roark was both charming and surprisingly menacing — when he says, amiably laughing all the while, that he’s going to kill everybody in Ellie’s wedding party, it’s entirely believable. But most importantly, the series brought in Scott Bakula to play Chuck’s father, Stephen Bartowski. This was brilliant casting for several reasons. First, the show’s geeky fans were sure to recognize Bakula from his role as Dr. Sam Beckett in Quantum Leap — a genius who built a supercomputer and time-machine — and the show even gave a nod to this with a trademark Beckett “Oh boy” early on in his appearance. Second, Bakula was entirely believable both as a parent to Ellie and Chuck (the three all have enough physical similarities to be believable as relatives). And third, he was adept at playing the seemingly-addled scientist Stephen, the man who was revealed to have designed the Intersect. (Which raises some interesting questions about whether or not Bryce knew Stephen was Orion when he sent the Intersect to the son of the man who created it.)

The second season was a lot of fun, and had a great finale, but one that — in retrospect — had some troubling signs for the future. Fulcrum was destroyed, but a new sinister spy group, the Ring, was revealed to have been behind them. This “new ambiguously evil villains every season” trend would continue throughout the show’s run. And at the end, Chuck was given a new version of the Intersect — one that contained not just information, but actual spy and combat skills as well. In a combat situation, he would “flash” in a different way than the previous information dumps, and would then flawlessly perform the necessary combat moves to win. According to the series writers, they had originally pitched the show with the express statement that this wouldn’t happen — that he wouldn’t “know kung fu” as in The Matrix — and then at the end of the second season decided, “Well, what if he did?” (The similarity to The Matrix would be noted with Chuck uttering the famous line upon first acquiring the new Intersect.)

This could have destroyed the show by completely removing the “reluctant spy” aspect, but the show was still pretty decent in the third season on. But it clearly wasn’t the same, as giving Chuck these extra skills — as well as showing that he wasn’t simply letting things happen to him any more (which had been shown since the middle of the second season) — meant he couldn’t play the part of the comic relief as much as before. It was good character development for the character, but it meant the comedy had to come from other corners if it was to be present. And with Chuck spending less time in the Buy More, the main source of comedy was further divorced from the main plot. The show, while not becoming completely serious, become more self-aware of its dramatic tendencies and brought those to the forefront at the expense of the comedy. This was never more apparent than in the very first episode of the third season, when annoying replacement manager Emmett Milbarge (Tony Hale) was shot in the Buy More’s parking lot. I had never liked the character, and thought he was somewhat superfluous, but this was still shocking. He had been annoying, but not evil — not someone who deserved to get shot. And, more importantly (at least as far as the direction of the show), the Buy More people had always been “safe” from the spy stories. By shooting an essentially comedic character in the head, it was as if the show’s writers were coming out and saying “we’re a serious show now”. While the show still had comedic elements, it wasn’t as much an action-comedy as before, but rather an action series with occasional comedy, and a hefty amount of angst over the relationship issues — now magnified by Sarah wondering if Chuck was still the same man she’d finally started to admit she loved. It’s impossible to imagine an episode like “Chuck vs. Tom Sawyer” taking place in the third, fourth, or fifth seasons of the show. It’s simply too different, and that’s a shame. In fact, a few fourth and fifth season episodes even do away with the fun music of the opening credits — the writers have said they didn’t think it fit the mood of those episodes, which just goes to show how much things changed over the years, considering the music fit the original seasons perfectly.

The third season also marked the big Subway product placement push. There was an episode in season 2 where the product placement for Subway was particularly obnoxious (even quoting the vile “5 dollar foot-long” “song”), but season 3 really kicked it into overdrive. As part of the fan campaign to save the show, fans petitioned Subway to support the show further, and Zachary Levi apparently even led a group of fans in to Subway to buy sandwiches on the day of the season 2 finale. It worked, Subway sponsored the show for the remaining seasons. But the price, of course, was more product placement. I can’t object too strongly — it did save the show, and product placement is a sad fact of life — but it always seemed shoehorned into the episodes when it came. Plus, it’s just strange that in a show where there are imaginary versions of Best Buy (Buy More), Costco (Large Mart), Wienerschnitzel (Wienerlicious) and Orange Julius (Orange Orange), that they have a non-imaginary Subway. It kind of stands out.

The third season wasn’t all bad, though. Brandon Routh came in as an additional spy, who eventually went rogue due to finding out that Sarah was the spy who had killed his wife. Routh made for a better spy than a Superman, and his interactions with all the rest of the cast worked naturally whether he was a good guy or a bad guy. His character, Daniel Shaw, was easy to like and hate when the appropriate times came, and he managed to pose a credible threat to even the augmented Chuck. Sadly, one of the ways he posed such a threat was by killing Stephen. It was a great dramatic piece, but from then on, it would be absolutely impossible to treat the show as being more comedy than drama, as it had just killed one of the characters who represented the family life that Chuck always wanted. Plus, Stephen was simply a great character in his own right, so it was a real shame that we didn’t get to see more of him.

Come the fourth season, it was becoming apparent though that the continual question of “will NBC cancel or renew the show” was starting to have a toll on the writing. At the end of the third season, the Ring was shut down, Shaw was captured, and the Buy More was blown up. Chuck and Morgan were set to find out what had happened to Chuck’s mother. The third season finale was clearly written in such a way that it could serve as a series finale if it had to (the second season finale could have as well, but the third was particularly clear about it.) But the show did get renewed… and the fourth season came and suggested the writers hadn’t fully prepared for that eventuality.

The fourth season opened with Chuck attempting to find a new job, and ending up having to return to the newly-rebuilt Buy More (echoing a similar “uncancelled” situation from the season 2 finale, with Morgan leaving to become a Benihana chef in Hawaii only to return again in season 3’s opener.) Now the Buy More was the direct front for the CIA’s Intersect operations, with General Beckman (Bonita Friedericy) acting as manager of the store. The idea of super-serious General Beckman having to deal with the idiots Jeff and Lester would have been the sole redeeming value in shoehorning the Buy More back in so transparently — and it was discarded almost immediately by her handing the reins of the store over to Morgan. The Buy More plots, despite happening directly above the spy plots, tended to be even more separated from them than before. Jeff, Lester, and Big Mike were increasingly artifacts from earlier seasons, especially since they were, by that point, the only ones not “in the know” about Chuck’s spy life. There were exceptions — “Chuck vs. the Aisle of Terror” (featuring Robert Englund) was almost a callback to the early scenes in both its Buy More connections and its goofiness — but for the most part, they were sidelined.

What scares Freddy Krueger? Babies in snail costumes.

That’s not to say it was without humor, though. In fact, in a lot of ways, season 4 was funnier than season 3, it just wasn’t from the direction one would expect. Chuck’s hunt for his mother leads him to Volkoff Industries, a weapons supplier for rogue spies, terrorists, and general do-bads. There he discovers his mother, Mary, deep undercover as the lover of the company head, Alexei Volkoff. Mary is played by Linda Hamilton, who was a great casting choice for reasons similar to those of casting Bakula. Volkoff, meanwhile, was played by Timothy Dalton, and was absolutely hilarious. You could tell Dalton was having a ball playing this comic villain, who at one point forced his way into a Thanksgiving dinner at gunpoint to quietly keep certain family members hostage, but then reveled at the enjoyment of being at a genuine family Thanksgiving. This dichotomy was eventually explained by him having been an early Intersect subject — one whose personality was overwritten to go undercover, and who never got out until the intervention of Chuck. His daughter, Viviane (Lauren Cohan) was sadly less interesting, but fortunately Dalton carried the weight of most of the episodes.

There was also a lot of humor coming from Morgan in the fourth season. Fully in the loop since midway through season 3, in the fourth season he starts being brought along on missions, often bumbling along just as Chuck did in the early seasons. Additionally, the third season finale had introduced Casey’s daughter, Alex (Mekenna Melvin), and as she started becoming a recurring character in the fourth season, she not only bonded with her long-lost father, but also started dating Morgan — providing numerous opportunities for humorous gripes from Casey, who besides being overly protective, was also Morgan’s housemate by that time. (Plus, wonder of wonders, the relationship between Alex and Morgan actually seemed natural and not forced.)

Then came the fifth and final season. The creators planned for it to be the last season from the get-go, and for it to be only a thirteen-episode season. This meant they could write it to conclude however they wanted. There were some good and some bad points in this.

On the good side, the first thing they did was to actually deliver on one of the premises from a previous season’s finale. Season three’s finale had teased the idea of leaving the CIA, but season 4 roped Chuck back in. Season four’s finale again had Chuck and the rest of the team deciding to leave, and this time it actually happened. The season reset buttons had gotten annoying, and were fairly obvious as attempts to give finales closure and then yanking it back when the show remained uncancelled. It was nice to see them follow through for once, and the new “Carmichael Industries” (named after Chuck’s frequent alter-ego — and official CIA handle! — Charles Carmichael) gave them some opportunities to work outside the confines of the CIA. This also introduced a non-villainous competitor, Verbanski Corporation, headed by Gertrude Verbanski. Played by Carrie-Anne Moss, Gertrude was an old flame of Casey’s and the on-screen chemistry between Moss and Baldwin was good and believable, adding yet another dimension to the character of Casey.

But the best thing they did was “Smart Jeff”. Under doctor’s orders (from Devon) to “stop sleeping in his van”, Jeff’s head clears after years of low-level carbon monoxide poisoning. He becomes smarter, sharper, and more moral — which disrupts the dynamic between him and Lester. It not only rejuvenated the comedy aspects of the Buy More staff (which even in the show was being referred to as a third wheel at this point), it also made the characters more important to the show, as Jeff was finally smart enough to see that something strange was going on beneath the surface of the Buy More. Because of this, Jeff and Lester were finally — after many memory wipes — able to learn the secret of the spy group, and so were able to save the day themselves a couple of times, always hilariously. And of course, this also meant that in the series finale their two-man rock band Jeffster! was able to get a proper send-off as well, performing a-Ha’s “Take on Me” with a full symphonic orchestra in order to delay the detonation of a music-triggered bomb set to take out General Beckman and the Chinese consulate.

What did the fifth season not do well? A couple things. First, the villain. At the end of the fourth season, one of the CIA’s directors fired the team and hinted that all the previous villains — Fulcrum, the Ring, and Volkoff Industries — were all connected and that one entity was behind all the misfortunes of the Bartowski clan, even dating back to before Chuck himself received the Intersect. I think I was like a lot of fans in that this gave me hopes that there was some unifying outline to the nebulous evil organizations, that perhaps — despite the ever-present threat of cancellation — the writers weren’t completely winging it. But they were. The villain the show ended with was Nicholas Quinn (Angus Macfadyen), a former CIA agent who supposedly was the original intended recipient of the Intersect. And who… seems to have no particular motive in being evil, or any actual connection to the previous evil organizations, or any sign that he was, in fact, intended to have the Intersect or was in any way, shape, or form connected to anything that had anything to do with the show at all. He was hyped as being the ultimate villain of the show, but was only so in the most literal sense, i.e., that he was the last. To say it was a disappointment is an understatement.

The other mistake, in my eyes, had to do with the Intersect. Ever since the second season, it’s been clear that the writers have been flip-flopping and changing their minds on just what the Intersect is, and what it’s meant to be. Initially it was suggested that it wasn’t even meant to be stored in a human head, but in a computer by itself; that Chuck was able to retain it all was something remarkable. The first flash was even at Sarah’s instigation, suggesting that the information must be in his head somewhere — it wasn’t suggested as a purposeful design. While later that season, it was amended to suggest that the Intersect was meant to be stored in a human head, it also suggested that Chuck was virtually unique in his ability to retain information stored that way; this was also a key aspect in defeating the Fulcrum agents who were trying to build their own Intersect in the suburbs. But then it started to change towards the end of the second season. That other people could theoretically use it isn’t too surprising, of course. But the addition of combat skills changed the nature of the Intersect as well as the show itself — the information flashes became comparatively scarce from the third season onward. What’s more, it was revealed that the Intersect is harmful to the human brain, even one as good at memorizing as Chuck’s, and a regulator device is necessary to handle it. Of course, the same season’s finale also revealed that Chuck had a early prototype Intersect in his brain since early childhood that had never given him trouble. The fourth season revealed that the Intersect can be used to over-write peoples’ personalities.

Add all that up, and now you get an Intersect that can be severely deleterious to somebody’s brain. Which is where the fifth season went (well, starting with the season 4 finale). First, Chuck was stripped of the Intersect (which also suggests some oddness, as the Intersect removal in season 2 removed neither Stephen’s Intersect — and he was exposed to it as well — nor the early Intersect prototype in Chuck’s head). Then, a new flawed Intersect was inadvertently planted in Morgan’s head. This was alternately decried as something likely to ruin the show, or something that would mark a return to fun wackiness. Neither was wholly true, but the former was truer than the latter. Morgan with the Intersect wasn’t terribly funny, and the twist of the new Intersect was that it was actively making him a jerk, and deleting some of his memories as it went on. But although Morgan had a bigger focus in those episodes, Morgan as a jerk wasn’t terribly interesting or terribly funny. Fortunately for the sake of his character, he got it removed after a few episodes. But that meant an Intersect-less Chuck for the midsection of the season, and while I understand the desire to experiment, Chuck without the Intersect is a lot like Star Trek without the spaceships; there’s a sense that something significant is missing. (I also couldn’t understand why Chuck never used Orion’s wrist-device after the end of the second season. Call me crazy, but when you’ve lost the Intersect, a device that acts a skeleton key for electronics is probably a handy substitute.)

Finally, as part of a desperate act to escape an ambush, Sarah wound up using the Intersect. And here the show went off the rails for me. Don’t get me wrong, watching Sarah kick ass even harder was pretty awesome. But the writers amped up the memory loss so that, by the season finale, Sarah had been mind-wiped all the way back to how she was before she first met Chuck. All the character development, from the knife-nut cold-hearted assassin CIA agent to the kind, loving wife — gone in a “flash”. And though there were two hours between that moment and the last minute of the finale, I knew from the moment they did it how it would end. Sarah would never get her memories back, but Chuck would explain everything they had done together in five years, and they would stay together despite her no longer remembering all of it herself. It has the “aw, romantic” standard going for it, but it just feels too trite for me. I would have preferred it had they actually taken the teased out and used the repaired Intersect to fix her brain. It may have been a bit of a cheat, but not really — they’d already established its capabilities in the personality front in season 4. And it would have fit the original tone of the show better with a fully happy ending, instead of a 90% happy ending.

I also had a bit of a problem with an apparent plot hole in the sequence where Chuck is attempting to convince the amnesiac Sarah that their relationship was real and not just a cover. Why didn’t he call her by name? He learned her middle name was Lisa early in the first season (and though she whispered it, it was on his Intersect info board in the second season.) He learned her first name was Sam (probably Samantha) when she told it to Daniel Shaw. He met her mother — who nobody else in the CIA even knew about — and so he almost certainly learned her original last name. So he knows her full real name, which is the one thing she would never let a mere “cover” know. Perhaps she or Nicholas Quinn could have hand-waved it away somehow, but it still seems like it would have been a bit of a wake-up call to her that maybe she wasn’t being fed the truth. It’s not a big concern, overall — certainly not compared to the irritation of the amnesia plot to begin with — but it’s there.

Overall, I have mixed feelings about the finale. Between the villain and the amnesia, the two biggest aspects of the episode, there was a lot for me to dislike. On the other hand, it gave good send-offs for the Buy More crew, for Ellie and Devon, and for Casey, Morgan, and Alex. It brought back General Beckman and Mary Bartowski for the episode as well, and did as much as it could to pay tribute to the episodes of Chuck past, even having Chuck disarm the bomb using the same porn virus as in the first episode.

As for the series as a whole, while I have to say I enjoyed the first two seasons much more than the last three, I never disliked the show. Even with my dissatisfaction over the finale, I would still say it was a good show all the way through. I look forward to seeing all the minor actors as character actors in other series and movies, and as for the core four, I can honestly say that I’m interested in seeing what Zachary Levi, Yvonne Strahovski, Adam Baldwin, and Joshua Gomez do next.

Chuck may have lost its way at the end, but it was still a fun show, and I’m glad it went out on its own terms instead of being canceled abruptly. I might have had a higher overall opinion had that end come at the end of the third season, but I wouldn’t have kept watching if I hadn’t been enjoying it on the whole. I think it was definitely its time to go, but I’m still going to miss it.

About Morgan R. Lewis

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4 Responses to Post-Mortem: Chuck

  1. I was not able to watch Chuck’s final season, thanks to work and Hulu not even showing it for some goddamn reason. But it doesn’t sound like I missed a lot. I think the amnesia thing would have annoyed me fiercely. Smacks too much of the melodrama that plagued the latter seasons.

    Of course, you and I have talked about this A LOT, and you know I agree that the show kinda lost its way after the second season. The reasons why are myriad. Amping up the Intersect was obviously one of them, but I don’t think it in and of itself necessarily derailed things. “Upping the stakes” certainly did, and the fact that nearly every season ended with a possible end to the series, only to have to do a soft reset when the show got renewed. And they had plenty of opportunities to swing things back, but whiffed on every one of them…most notably the chance to install Beckman as the Buy More’s GM.

    Maybe I’ll catch S5 one of these days, but I still count Seasons 1 & 2 among my most prized DVDs/Blu-Rays. I sincerely believed the rest of television could have learned a lot from Chuck in those days. Unfortunately, it went the other way.

    Oh well. I think I’ll pop in “Chuck vs. Tom Sawyer” and remember better days. (Especially since Sarah apparently can’t anymore…)

    • I think the line “maybe I’ll catch S5 one of these days” says a lot. When even the show’s fans are viewing the last season as superfluous, things have gone astray. It started out a great, different show… and in the end was trying to be too much like the things it started out parodying.

      You really didn’t miss much. I think the only thing there that really felt like “old Chuck” was the development of “smart Jeff”. The rest was just too bogged down with the same melodramatic crap that bugged us both about the 3rd and 4th seasons.

  2. Pingback: The Elite – Yvonne Strahovski « Rhoades to Madness

  3. Pingback: Farewell, 2012! | Morgan on Media

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