Chuck: “Chuck Versus The Frosted Tips”
B+

Chuck: “Chuck Versus The Frosted Tips”

Long-form televised narrative is a tricky business. It doesn’t have the benefit of novels or film, both genres that feature the ability to massively edit and tweak things before anyone actually gets to see them. Television viewers of certain shows value continuity as a valuable asset, and they aren’t wrong to want such things. But they are sometimes wrong to demand such things in ways that would be superhuman at best to accomplish. There are simply too many moving pieces for most shows to follow a linear path that covers every base, overturns every stone, and never stumbles along the way. Just ask Mr. Eko from Lost how well that works out.

All of this is a way to say that I have no idea whether or not Chuck planned this storyline with Morgan and the Intersect to end this way or not. All I care about is how the storyline did play out. We can create “what if” scenarios until the cows come home, but chalk me up in the column for being happy that Morgan wasn’t supposed to get the Intersect, that his recent douchery was mechanically-induced, and that we can finally get back to having our characters rely on each other in keeping the world at bay. That “the world” also includes the very CIA from which the Intersect project started is smart symmetry: for this show to end feeling like it’s come full circle, it has to go back to the source of it all.

But let’s step back and walk through things: tonight’s hour was all about the tension between the personal and the professional. In some ways, that’s been the tension for the show all along. As Chuck got to be a better spy through his use of The Intersect, the show actually had to step up its spy missions to match his expertise. The fact that the show couldn’t do that on a regular basis was a constant fault throughout the third and fourth season of Chuck, leading to a regular series of missions that should have ended in the death of one if not all of the denizens of Castle. However, the show almost always nailed the personal sides of its characters, which kept a hard-core if ever-dwindling number of viewers around to see these people earn their happy endings.

So I’m happy that Sarah spent most of the hour calling bullshit on Chuck and Casey’s supposedly “professional” interests in getting back a valuable zip drive that Morgan stole and provided to Gertrude. Sarah hasn’t gotten nearly as much to do as the other core characters this season, but she served as the conscience of the group when her partners were emotionally blinded/blindsided. Neither Chuck nor Casey could admit to themselves that personal feelings were clouding their judgment…until they saw Morgan and Gertrude about to be engulfed by a giant fireball. At that point, all bets were off, feelings won out over business, and Chuck got back to doing what the show does best.

The larger implications of the glasses left at the end of Season 4 interest me less as an extension of the show’s mythology and more in how it will potentially put Chuck and Company against the world over the final 10 episodes. (And yes, these will be the last ten. See about re: “ever-dwindling,” then look at this season’s ratings, and then cry into your Star Wars pillow.) That Decker (or Decker’s boss) wanted Chuck to wear those glasses fits in with the final scene of “Chuck Versus the Zoom,” in which Decker declared a plan was already in motion. The modifications should have made Chuck do…something, although teasing out what is something I have little interest in. Again, the uber-mythology of the show is so impossibly ret-conned at this point that I almost pray they abandoned it. It’ll probably turn out at the end of everything that Decker’s boss was jealous of Stephen Bartowski marrying Mary, and that’s the ultimate source of this season’s angst. Whatever. But if those glasses led to a season of Carmichael Industries trying to keep Morgan and themselves alive, then that’s a season worth watching.

Less worth watching? The potential rehabilitation of Jeff. I mean, on one level, it was certainly interesting to see a sober version of that character appear onscreen. But what was less believable tonight: Morgan feeling OK after remembering about his 7th grade revenge on Meredith Lester, or Jeff sobering up after one night? That dude would have to go through a detox that would make what happened to Ewan McGregor in Trainspotting look like a walk in the park. (Then again, I guess we should be happy we were spared the image of Baby Clara crawling along the ceiling.) I know the show is in love with the Buy More, and maybe there’s a plan in motion to somehow have Jeff, Lester, and the rest of the Buy More crew help save the day in the final hour. But if there’s not such a plan in place, can’t Chuck spend its final episodes focusing on what really matters?

As far as that end game goes, I think Awesome alluded to it in his pep talk with Morgan: “Don’t confuse your job with your life.” Casey can’t distinguish between reconnaissance and dating. Chuck and Sarah want the house with the white picket fence, but can’t give up the spy game easily. Morgan identifies himself through his job at the Buy More. All have more to offer, but none of them have had the epiphany Awesome has. But that’s OK: not everyone can be Awesome all the time. Well, except Awesome. Point is: I hope the series ends with all primary players no longer having to run from the CIA. But more importantly, I hope none of them run from what could truly make them happy long-term. And I don’t think that happiness lies anywhere near Castle.

Random observations:

  • At some point, Carmichael Industries has to bring in Ellie/Awesome, right? They need a neurological expert and a team doctor, given their current situation.
  • The Casey/Verbanski “I wanna fight you/I wanna fuck you” dance was insanely fun. If we had to abandon Alex’s mom for this, I’m more than fine with it.
  • For a show with such a small budget, everything on that helipad looked top-notch.
  • Awesome and Clara’s montage was great, since it covered only 45 minutes of the day.
  • The Morgan fight stuff has been ridiculously awful thus far, but his training sequence in Verbanski Corp was surprisingly solid. Looks like they figured out how to do this right just as they decided to stop having him zoom.
  • Was Chuck going to hire Carrie-Anne Moss and NOT make a reference to The Matrix? Of course not. Thus, Morgan’s bullet-time evasion of Sarah’s tranquilizer darts.
  • “DMPD’d.”
  • “Is that a zip drive in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?”
  • “Ladies, please stop fighting!” “Shut up!”
  • “I will not be party to the reckless endangerment of a coworker!”
Filed Under: TV, Chuck

More TV Club