Saturday, January 28, 2012

'Chuck' series finale

'Chuck' series finale: The end is a new beginning
Five seasons, 91 episodes and countless Subway sandwiches after it began, "Chuck" came to a close Friday (Jan. 27). 
The real finale that followed at least five other episodes in the show's history that, because of its near-constant bubble status, were designed as possible series finales.
Because of that, it felt like there was some real pressure on team "Chuck" to get this one right. 

Mission accomplished.

The two-parter of "Chuck vs. Sarah" and "Chuck vs. the Goodbye" wasn't perfect -- there is one glaring question left hanging at the end (more on that in a bit), and you can argue with the storytelling path the series took in the couple episodes prior to this. But having chosen that road, the show delivered an emotional, somewhat bittersweet but very satisfying capper to the story of a guy who works in a Buy More and the woman who walked into his life 4 1/2 years ago. All that, and Jeffster! singing A-ha too? That's pretty great.

Co-creator Chris Fedak said the finale would be "very callback-y," and man was he not kidding. As Chuck accompanies Sarah to Berlin on her mission to take down Quinn, a ridiculous set of coincidences mirror their early missions together, ending with Sarah Walker in a Wienerlicious uniform for one last time. (Alas, the Orange Orange appears not to have made it to Germany yet.)

"Chuck vs. Sarah" also takes us Intersect room one more time, where Sarah shows just how much she's reverted to her pre-Burbank self by holding a gun to Morgan to get away with the last pure version of the Intersect (or so she believes). There are a couple hints that the Sarah we've come to know isn't completely gone -- her rearranging of the cups in the Wienerlicious, for instance -- but she's not willing to believe Chuck's insistences that he loves her, and she him -- not even when Chuck steps in front of a bullet for her.

It leads to a pretty devastating close to the first half, when even after Casey drops off Sarah's mission log for her to watch, and she recounts to herself the progression of her own feelings, she doesn't come running back into his arms. She believes him, she tells Chuck, but she doesn't feel it. 


We then cut to two weeks later, with Sarah now hell-bent on revenge against Quinn, Casey back working for Beckman and Chuck ... sleeping till 11 a.m. and on the verge of giving up. A pep talk from Morgan, Ellie and Awesome convinces him to give it one more shot, and it leads to Berlin and Chuck's refusal to shoot to kill scotching the Quinn mission in a big, helicopter-disabling way. 

The silver lining: Ellie thinks that the pristine Intersect -- which Quinn hasn't completely assembled yet -- can be used to restore Sarah's memories, and it's here that Fedak (who wrote the finale) makes maybe the smartest possible decision of the finale. 

The Intersect has been something of a magical problem-solver for "Chuck" throughout its run, but to have Ellie and Chuck's plan work without a hitch would have been almost too easy, and I'd argue not really in the spirit of the show. Sarah fell in love with Chuck despite what the Intersect did to him, not because of it, and it's only fitting that he'll try to make her remember again without its help. Her willingness to listen to "our story" and the last words of the series -- "Chuck, kiss me" -- leaves a pretty clear impression that Sarah is having her heart opened again. 

As we leave Chuck and Sarah on the beach sharing that one, we hope magical kiss, we leave "Chuck" with grace notes for all the characters: Ellie and Awesome are headed to Chicago to start promising new jobs, Morgan and Alex are moving in together, Casey is off to search for Verbanski, Jeffster! is on the verge of pop stardom in Germany* and Big Mike, the only principal to remain in the dark about the spy stuff throughout the show's run, revels in Subway moving into the Buy More.

(*Of COURSE they're going to be huge in Germany. Hat tip to Fedak for that specific note, because well, if Germans can love this, they can certainly love a keytar and falsetto.)

And Chuck and Sarah? Well, we think they'll be fine, whether they do more spy work or just finally move into that house together. Which brings us to that one big question mentioned up above: Unless Ellie managed to remove it offscreen, Chuck still has the Intersect in his head as they sit on the beach. For all his talk about needing to destroy it so no one comes after him or the people he loves again, that's a rather sizable loose end to leave hanging.

Then again, having that still be a possibility for the Season 6 that will take place in our mind is not such a bad thing. 

A few other notes from the finale:

That was quite the one-two punch of sweet/melancholy songs to end the show. "Cruel and Beautiful World" by Grouplove played under Ellie and Chuck saying goodbye and Morgan's chat with Chuck at the fountain, and "Rivers and Roads" by The Head and the Heart accompanied the final scene on the beach.
I'm not sure how it was for you when Casey hugged Chuck, but it was a little dusty here.
Casey also gets the funniest line of the finale when Alex and Morgan both suggest he "run to" Verbanski: "I'm a Casey. I don't run -- I stalk my prey."
Speaking (again) of callbacks: Just as he did in the pilot, Chuck disarms his last bomb with the Irene Demova porn virus.
Zachary Levi had to do a whole lot as Chuck, from fights to comedy. I'm not sure he got full credit for how well he played the heart-on-his-sleeve aspects of the character, though. The ability he has to bare his emotions on screen served Chuck extremely well and was in full evidence tonight.

"Chuck" has been a great ride over these five seasons, and we'll miss it. That it even got to end on its own terms is a small miracle. To have it end this well is just awesome.

What did you think of the series finale?

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