Hello, Chuck fans!
With Steve off on a supersecret mission of his own, I, somewhat foolishly, volunteered to review Chuck in his stead. I’m going to lay my cards down here: I’m a sporadic Chuck viewer. I’ve always seen Chuck as a fun episodic show, and while I have missed some of the nuance over time, I’ve caught up on the broad strokes. I think of Chuck as a show about broad strokes. I had no idea until I read the comments on some of the more recent Chuck reviews that there was such a division among fans over whether this season has been as strong as previous ones or whether it's a sign that Chuck is on the wane. It reminds me of the great war among Buffy fans when season six started tapping viewers on the nose in every other scene to make sure they were keeping up. Some wondered if real fans could criticize the great Joss Whedon without betraying him. This debate, of course, still rages today, but let me tell you: Regardless of the context, whether tv, politics, music, or whatever, it’s a stupid debate. Even the mightiest of mighty shows (and I’m talking here about The Wire and Deadwood) stumbled occasionally. I like Chuck just fine, but it’s no Deadwood, and it was never meant to be.
The last episode was a fun one, which is at least partly due to the presence of Ray Wise, one of those character actors who elevates material both great and crappy. This one, however, has the guy from the Old Spice commercials. Perhaps he, too, is an excellent actor, but he doesn’t have much to do here besides look blandly arrogant.
The plot revolves around Chuck and Sarah, who feel cast aside, using their spy skills to find out about Casey’s double-secret activities down the red hallway: Casey’s new boss, General Robin Givens, has created two new Intersect agents who are now Casey’s new team. Chuck and Sarah feel, correctly, that they have been replaced by this new team, thus the title (after the Charlie’s Angels episode, I was worried that we were in for a Chuck-sized dose of B.A. Baracus). General Givens is creating the new Intersects because she sees Chuck as weak, with the typical ice-cold baddie justification that touchy-feely emotional guys like Chuck are all delicate flowers unfit for the gifts bestowed upon them. I feel that we’ve heard this all before and already learned about great power and the great responsibility that comes with it, so OK, fine. There’s a short power struggle, and by the episode’s end, Chuck has used those supposed weaknesses to defuse a suitcase bomb and save L.A., much to every generic bad guy’s surprise. How is it that emotional dudes make better superheroes? I don’t quite get how Chuck’s emotionalism allowed him to suss out the bomb better than the other Intersectors, but I think that was the gist of that scene. General Beckman sets him back on top, and the two new Intersects are no more. And this is why I think of Chuck as episodic TV. We just learned about the secret red hallway two episodes ago, right? Now Charles is in charge (sorry, sorry), and the threat is exposed and at least partially defused.
I say partially because the B-plot, in which Ellie is going stir-crazy as a stay-at-home mom, and tries to find her father’s computer to give herself something to do, has a little bum-bum-BUM moment at the end that promises at least a little more drama from General Givens. As with so many Chuck B-plots, though, I could have done without pretty much all of the scenes heading towards that moment. Jeff’s a psychic? Throwaway moment. Ellie’s baby sleeps for hours and hours without waking? No worries.
I did like how Casey, once his new team was revealed, tried to reach out to Chuck and Sarah. I don’t understand how Morgan is supposed to continue dating Casey’s daughter while living with the guy. Did I miss something there? I also don’t understand why Sarah hit him with a tranq so potent that it knocked him out for the rest of the episode. Perhaps I’m overthinking this. More confusion: Why does the show suggest that it was the Intersect that made the new agents dicks? Has this been explained in the past? Is there some sort of Intersect Dick Clause that only skips Chuck? This may be another nuance that has escaped me.
Overall, “Chuck Versus The A-Team” was better than some episodes (“Masquerade,” I’m looking at you) but not up to the zippy heights of the show at its best. I’m going to give it a B-, but I wonder if I’d rate it higher or lower if I were more invested in the show. Commenters, what do you think? Am I letting the broad strokes blind me to some of the other charms of the show? Or am I going too gentle on a sorry episode, simply because they didn’t cast Mr. T?