March 2, 2011

Episode Review: CHUCK, "Chuck vs. The First Bank of Evil"

I haven't been shy about voicing my indifference about the last couple of episodes of Chuck because they were mediocre to OK, but hopefully things will start to turn around after this week's "Chuck vs. The First Bank of Evil". Personally, I think the show works better when there's an overarching story being told, and we're seeing this mini-arc involving Volkoff's daughter forming, which should take us through the rest of the season.

The main plotline opened up with Vivian in Vokoff's office and she was confronted by his personal lawyer (played by Ray Wise) who revealed that he's tapped her as his successor. At first she was unwilling to take over, and sought out Team Bartowski for help. While in Castle she showed Chuck and Sarah a plastic card which was the key to Volkoff's safety deposit box in the First Bank of Macau which is run by bad guys. General Beckman tapped Vivian as an asset to get them into the bank, and while Chuck was hesitant at first he decided to help her transition to the spy life by relating to her. While in Macau, Vivian found out that Volkoff's most prized possession were mementos of her and her accomplishments, thus planting the seed of confliction. After more intel, Beckman sent Chuck, Sarah, and Vivian back to Macau to get access to the bank's servers, and Chuck's asks to have a meeting be set up between Vivian and her father since she's helped the C.I.A. Beckman agreed to the meeting at first, but went back on her word when it was all said and done, which sent Vivian back to Volkoff's lawyer.

For the first time in what felt like forever, the main plot had the right mix of action, humor, and character moments. While I think it could be risky pinning so much of the story on a brand new character, and I was initially hesitant about Vivian's introduction, I do like where the show is going with her and her story. Having her essentially be a female version of Chuck was a clich├ęd move, but it could have a big payoff in the end. It also doesn't hurt that Vivian and Chuck have some chemistry, and he's still a nice guy at his core which was why seeing him go out of his way to build a relationship just to see it fractured because he cannot think like a spy had an emotional punch. Like I mentioned last week, we know a full-blown heel turn by Vivian is not far away, but I'm still hoping that is not the direction the writers take the character and the story because it's too easy. I don't mind a conflicted Vivian, but she does not need to be Volkoff 2.0. That being said, a super axis of evil consisting of James Bond, the Devil, and Bela may be too good to pass up on.

There were also two minor subplots going on during "First Bank of Evil". Ellie and Sarah were planning the wedding, but Sarah was not having it. After some futile attempts to get the bride to be excited, Ellie suggested that everything would become real once she made a big decision which ended up being the dress. Once it hit Sarah that she was marrying Chuck she turned into the typical bridezilla. While this was going on, Morgan's attempts to find a new place to live were not panning out, so he crashed at the Buy More and stumbled across Casey and his new secret mission.

The Sarah/Ellie story was the more developed of the two, and it had some nice moments like when Sarah finally found her dress, but it was really just worked into the episode to remind us that the wedding was coming up. While it did give Yvonne the chance to show a range of emotions, the whole wedding subplot felt like filler, but at least it was more entertaining than the Morgan/Casey one.

First off, all of the Jeffster/Renaissance fair gags fell flat, were not remotely funny, and a giant waste of time. Sure, they were just used to help Morgan along in his quest to find a home, but their entire presences was unnecessary and they dragged the episode down. As for Casey, I'm sure his secret mission will come to light soon, but having him only pop up occasionally was a bummer, and the thought of him and Morgan living together is not as funny as the show thinks it is. Anything involving Morgan, Casey, and the Buy More could have been cut out and I would've been totally fine with that move.

Other Odds and Ends:
  • While I love Ray Wise, does he always have to be a bad guy?
  • If I weren't so tired of the "will they, won't they', I wouldn't be opposed to a possible Chuck/Vivian fling.
  • Nice Simpsons shout-out from Morgan, but why didn't him in his pjs not raise any red flags to those working on Casey's project.
  • Chuck + Stockings = Hilarious
  • More great pop-culture references: Chuck and Sarah going all Matrix/Pulp Fiction during their bank heist.
  • I also love a good bank job, so seeing them as bank robbers was a lot of fun.
  • A lot of people are hung up on the plot hole involving the bank manager not recognizing Chuck and Sarah during the heist, but I think they're being short sighted. I think he knew who they were, but let it slide to help turn Vivian.
  • One thing that did bother me: Why'd they burn the money?
I know that I was originally down on the introduction of the Princess Volkoff arc last week, but I was won over after watching "The First Bank of Evil". The combination of Chuck and Vivian's bond, the ambiguity around which path she'll take, and the addition of Ray Wise has me excited about where the show is going to go next.

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