"Chuck Versus The First Bank Of Evil" S4 / E17
- B- Community Grade
I wonder what Chuck would be like if it were a half hour show, instead of an hour. For one thing, there'd only be one mission/dramatic scene every episode, and they'd have to trim down the Buy More stuff or Ellie plots—or just choose one as the B-story of the week. There was a lot happening in "Chuck Versus The First Bank Of Evil": Chuck and Sarah accompany Vivian to the titular evil bank so she can withdraw her father's assets using the crystal clear credit card she got from an actorly Ray Wise. Meanwhile, Ellie has decided to take Sarah under her wing and assist with the wedding planning, giving Sarah an awful lot to think about while on the mission. Casey is running secret missions, Morgan is being ambushed by Renaissance Fair attendees, and Vivian is realizing she's more like her father than she ever realized.
To the episode's credit, it doesn't feel very disjointed. The sideshow with Lester and Jeff was just a long way of getting Morgan to sleep in the Buy More, so he can catch Casey in the act. Chuck's relationship with Vivian for mission-related business ends up being his undoing—he drops the spy facade and promises Vivian a meeting with her father, and when he fails to deliver, it sends her over-the-edge. In both these cases, the tone of the two stories merges without much effort. Others don't fare nearly as well. It's understandable that Sarah would be getting wedding jitters, but the show has decided that every week they must progress this part of the plot, and thus, we leap to something that feels forced. Sarah barely had time to enjoy her engagement before she started planning which type of flowers she wants to have at the reception. Given the serious and, at times, flippity-floppity action-packed bank scenes, it was odd to have Sarah jump in with her feelings about the wedding.
Those two worlds didn't blend, and I think it's because the show has stopped doing something it used to do surprisingly well. Each week, the mission itself—or people encountered while performing it—would demonstrate something for Chuck and Sarah that they could apply to their relationship. They didn't need to talk about it while working, because the show was letting the mission do the heavy lifting. Chuck has become a much talkier show, and without storytelling savvy, the bulk of its scenes are plagued with talking-head syndrome—it's a rehash of what we already know, sent into the ether from whence it came. To continue that train of thought, the scene where Sarah surveys her wedding dress options was far superior to the others, because it gave us a chance to watch her really take in her situation, rather than talk about it.
"The First Bank Of Evil" was still one of the better recent Chuck episodes (and even though I'm the guy who gave last week's a D, I don't mean that as faint praise). The action, particularly the Matrix homage that sent Sarah flying through the air, was well staged and self-aware enough to let itself go over-the-top. Ray Wise made a chilling addition to the creepy Volkoff family, even though it's still a little ridiculous how stupid the set of Volkoff's office looks. There was also an appearance or two from Francois Chau, and the term "Ren-tang" was thrown around.
I still think the episode was a bit bloated, though. The Morgan/Casey stuff progressed in only a handful of scenes and was left on a vague, not-at-all cliffhanger-y note. The show could have easily lost most of the Buy More scenes and every Casey scene except for the discovery one, and the episode would have been just about the same, if not stronger. I would much rather the show tackle fewer things in a half an hour than more things, less well, in an hour. Any episode that ends with Vivian and Riley the lawyer sitting in the car together only minorly hinting at creepy behavior could probably have filled its 42 minutes with more meat. But I'm just happy the episode found a way to come together—and found a fabulously bearded man a proper roommate.