January 24, 2011

Episode Review: CHUCK, "Chuck vs. The Gobbler"

For a minute there I forgot that "Chuck vs. The Gobbler" was originally supposed to be the penultimate episode of Season 4, since it was conceived and put in motion prior to NBC picking up the back-11 order, because it didn't feel like one of the show's epic pre-finale efforts. Episodes like "Colonel", "American Hero", and "Subway" were some of the better installments of their respective seasons, and they pumped up the audience for the big season-ender. Unfortunately, "Gobbler" wasn't able to live up to the show's impressive track record.

Sarah was able to convince Volkoff to bring her in for a tryout, and he tested her by sending her on a suicide mission which involved breaking one of his henchmen, the titular Gobbler, out of prison. In order to do so, she had to enlist the help from her former bandmates. So we ended up with Team Bartowski on a mission for Volkoff without the latter knowing anything about it. Huh?  Of course, our heroes set the Gobbler free, but Volkoff quickly killed him off and gouged out his eye since it held all of the organization's secrets.

Unfortunately, Sarah's test wasn't over and her final trial was to kill Casey. The Colonel understood how his death would cement Sarah's position within Volkoff Industries, so he allowed her to throw him out of a nine-story window. The original plan was for Casey to land on a platform below, but it gave way which sent him spiraling down to the earth, and the impact left him in a coma. As if things couldn't get any worse, Chuck witnessed what Sarah did and is now worried if she's turning to the dark side like his mother did.

This final Double-Agent Sarah stint hasn't been as strong as past arcs, and some will argue that its shortcomings stem from the fact that the creators had to put together a shortened season, so we didn't get enough plot development. I can buy this excuse to an extent, but other shows have been able to use a 13-episode order to put together strong storylines. It'd also be easier to blame the abbreviated season if we didn't waste so much time on abandoned plot points like Greta and the Intersect being suppressed in Chuck's head. In the grand scheme of things, those elements really didn't add anything to the larger Momma B season-long narrative.

So instead of having time to build up to Sarah's infiltration of Volkoff's organization we got half-baked, hastily told episodes with very little buy in. I'm not saying that Sarah's new mission was a bad idea, but it wasn't given enough time to fully develop, which could lead to a lackluster payoff. That being said, Chuck tends to have really good finales so I'm confident that "Chuck vs. the Push Mix" will return the show to form.

"Gobbler" also had two minor sub-plots: one that involved Morgan's relationship with Alex, and the other was about Ellie and Awesome picking out baby names. Of the two, the Morgan/Alex story had some nice moments and actually contributed to the main plot. The Ellie/Awesome stuff added absolutely nothing to the overall episode and easily could have been left out in favor of more Baroness Sarah scenes.

The highlight of this week's episode was once again Timothy Dalton. You can tell that the former Bond is enjoying being a baddie because the enthusiasm is all over the screen whenever he's on. I just hope for the sake of the show that next week isn't his last appearance and he's able to drop in during the final 11 episodes. Heck, they were able to bring Shaw back last season, so why not do the same with Volkoff.

Other Odds and Ends:
  • Pizza and orange juice. That is all.
  • While I'm not usually a fan of the Buy Morons, Awesome asking them to dissuade Ellie from naming their child Grunka was kind of funny.
"Chuck vs. The Gobbler" had the potential to be one of the best episodes of the show, but the lack of build up and rushed story telling led to a mediocre outing. Like I mentioned before, Chuck has been able to salvage past seasons with really great finales, and while next week technically isn't a "finale" hopefully it will be on par with "Chuck vs. The Ring" and "Chuck vs. The Ring: Part II".


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