May 16, 2011

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

It never fails. When Chuck needs to pull off a great finale, the show never comes up short. "Chuck vs. The Cliffhanger" will go down as one the best SEASON finales this show has ever given us, and it was a great way to kick-off the now confirmed fifth and final season.

Honestly, there was so much going on in "Cliffhanger" that I don't know if I'll be able to get to all of it, but I'll sure try. Last we left Team Bartowski, Sarah fell victim to Vivian's Norseman weapon, so her life was in danger. Seeing the woman he was about to marry on her death bed (or death tub filled with ice) prompted Chuck to do whatever it took to save her. His first plan of action was for him and Casey to bust Volkoff out of a maximum security prison so they could find an antidote, but once they got there Alexi was gone. Apparently, the CIA, specifically Agent Clyde Decker, had other plans for Volkoff and they whisked him away. Chuck refused to bow down to Decker, and this was where things got good.

As soon as he defied Decker, Chuck and the rest of his team essentially went rouge in order to save Sarah's life. Their first objective was to bust Volkoff out of his armored convoy, but Decker had removed the Intersect from Alexi's head thus turning him back to Hartley Winterbottom and having no recollection of what he did as his alter-ego. Luckily, he was aware of the antidote that was needed to cure Sarah. On their way to find the antidote, Chuck was taken down by Decker and his men.

Decker still refused to allow Chuck to save Sarah, and he even suppressed the Intersect. While Decker was trying to convince Casey to keep the Agent X mission a secret, the Colonel showed his true alliance to his teammates and let Chuck and Hartley get away so they could get their hands on the cure.

Once in Russia, Hartley was expected to meet his daughter for the first time to convince her to help the man who has been deceiving her this entire time. He didn't have the nerve, so it was up to Chuck to beg for his fiancĂ©es life. At first, Vivian was not willing to help her nemesis, but good old Winterbottom showed up to save the day by reminding her that she's not this person that she has become. Of course she had a change of heart, and the Volkoffs even helped Chuck get back in time to save Sarah with the help of Team Bartowski, The C.A.T. Squad, and the Russian Special Forces.

When it was all said and done, Chuck and Sarah got their happily ever after, and Hartley even gave them a billion dollars as a wedding present. Since they were no longer spies, Chuck used some of the money to buy the Buy More and Castle, and enough gear to allow them to be freelance operatives. The final kicker: Morgan put on some special shades meant for Chuck meaning we have a new Intersect.

See, I told you there was a lot going on. In a lot of ways "Chuck vs. The Cliffhanger" was the perfect example of this show. It had the right amount of action, twist and turns, heart, and laughs from start to finish. It even made Vivian interesting for the first time in months, but at the core was seeing Chuck evolve from the Intersect into a real spy. Over the years, he's developed his skills, but he's always had the computer in his head as a crutch, but for the first time in a long time we got to see him act independently of the Intersect, and he was able to show how capable he can be as just Chuck. A few weeks ago, I wouldn't have been able to see Chuck live this kind of life without the Intersect, but "Cliffhanger" proved that he has so much more going for him, and it'll be interesting to see where things go from here.

Speaking of the future, I'm really excited about Season 5 as Team Bartowski goes all soldiers of fortune while trying to figure out who has been behind all of it, and if the writers are smart they will have the U.S. government be the Big Bad as Decker chases after them. Sure, it sounds a little too much like The A-Team, but Chucksters wouldn't have it any other way. Although, I'd much rather prefer a Chuck version of Leverage myself.

My only small complaint about the ending was the decision to have Morgan become the new Intersect. Those who have kept up with my reviews of Chuck know that I used to hate Morgan. I disliked him so much that I wanted him to be killed off in Season 2, but he slowly grew on me, and I was a fan once he was brought into the fold. Morgan's role was always to bring the slapsticky humor that used to be Chuck's bread and butter early on in the show's history, but I never took him seriously as a spy. Yes, he's served his purpose over the years, but I never quite bought into him as a legit member of Team Bartowski. That's obviously going to change now that he's Chuck's replacement. I'm sure we're going to be in for some great gags as Morgan gets used to having a computer in his brain, but he still wouldn't have been my first choice.

Other Odds and Ends:
  • So many great Casey grunts tonight.
  • I was having major Scrubs flashbacks every time there was a hospital scene.
  • We need to have Awesome go on more missions. I know it's not possible now that he's a dad, but he was such a great addition to Team Bartowski.
  • Timothy Dalton seriously deserves an Emmy after his arc on Chuck. He was able to flawlessly play three separate characters all cut from the same cloth. Truly awesome.
  • The "best friend acts as the officiant" has to be my least favorite trope of all time. Joey really ruined it for me.
  • The flashbacks and the Chuck & Sarah montage were nice touches and really reminded us what this show has always been about.
  • "That guy may think he's a hard-ass, but I'm the Intersect."
  • "Is he still in charge?" "Hmph, if only."
  • "And whack 'em if they ever got out of line. That's smart. Reagan smart."
  • "Shut up! You're Chuck Bartowski. You're the second best spy I've ever worked with. Now, you're going to go save the best one."
  • "My name is Charles Carmich...Chuck Bartowski, and I'm here to see Vivian Volkoff." "And what is this in regard too?" "She wants to kill me."
  • "Russians. So many Russians."
  • "As you wish."
  • "Guys, I know kung-fu."
NBC has gotten a lot of crap over the years, and some of it has been warranted, but I cannot badmouth a network that has kept Chuck on for four seasons AND renewed for a fifth one as well. "Chuck vs. The Cliffhanger" would've worked as a series finale, but thanks to the Peacock we're in for some more Chuck-y goodness. What's even better is it feels like the cast and crew were rejuvenated during this episode, and we're probably in for an amazing final go round. I can't wait!

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