January 28, 2012

Episode Review: CHUCK, "Chuck vs. Sarah" and "Chuck vs. the Goodbye"

I'm just going to get it out of the way and say it; people who did not like the Chuck finale make me sad. While I understand that some people want things wrapped up with a tidy bow, it's dang near impossible to get that with television shows. My advice to them: suck it up and deal because "Chuck vs. Sarah," and "Chuck vs. the Goodbye" were the right episodes to end this series with.

"Chuck vs. Sarah" picked up where "Bullet Train" left off. Sarah's memories are completely gone, and she's being used by Quinn to retrieve the Intersect glasses before killing Chuck. A wiped Sarah stumbled back to her and Chuck's apartment, but her husband had a feeling that something wasn't quite right. After giving it some thought, Chuck realized that the Intersect's been the reason for all of the bad things that's happened to him and his family, so his final mission was to destroy the last working version of the program before Quinn could get his hands on it. Before he could rid the world of the Intersect once and for all, Sarah uploaded it to Quinn's glasses and trapped her team in the "white room." She was supposed to blow them up but didn't have the nerve, so Quinn did it for her. Luckily, Chuck, Casey and Morgan were able to survive the blast, and our hero was able to swap out the glasses. Sarah was not going to fail her mission, so she took Ellie captive as a way to force Chuck to hand over the Intersect, but Ellie was able to save herself and knock Sarah out via car wreck. Chuck took her to their dream house with hopes that it would bring her back, but Quinn showed up to take his prize, and Sarah had to go on the run to avoid getting arrested.

"Chuck vs. the Goodbye" started two weeks after the events of "Chuck vs. Sarah," and Quinn was getting closer and closer to creating his perfect Intersect, but Sarah was determined to get revenge for what he did to her. After a brief gun battle on a plane, which led to her being tossed into a freefall, Sarah emerged alive but still on a mission. Back in Burbank, Chuck was convinced by his family and friends to not give up on Sarah, and he too was on a mission to get his wife back. When she showed up at the Buy More to get access to Castle, Chuck was able to get Sarah to agree to take him and Morgan on a mission to Berlin where Quinn was meeting up with someone to get another piece of the Intersect "Key." After Chuck accidentally botched the mission, Quinn was able to get away and was planning on getting the final piece of the Key from General Beckman before blowing up people yet again. Thankfully, Jeffster was able to save the day by buying Chuck enough time to get the Intersect, upload it, and defuse the bomb. Unfortunately, Chuck's uploading of the Intersect meant that he wouldn't be able to use it to restore Sarah's memory.

As the series came to a close, everyone got their proper endings: the Awesomes moved to Chicago, Jeffster was destined to become pop stars in Germany, Morgan and Alex decided to move in together, Casey went after Gertrude, Big Mike stayed at the Buy More (now with a built-in Subway), and Chuck and Sarah sat on the same beach they did during the first episode. She believed that she loved Chuck once and wanted to hear their story right before their magical kiss. Whether or not it cured Sarah was beside the point because it was filled with hope and love, and it was perfect.

Now, I'll fully admit that I love me some ambiguous endings because I'd rather come up with my own conclusions rather than be told what happened (I suppose it's the creative side of me), so while I was initially shocked by the way "Goodbye" ended, it made complete sense after I thought about it. The way I see it, people who are more optimistic will love the ending. They can believe that either a.) the kiss worked and all is right in the Chuck world or b.) Chuck and Sarah will get to fall in love all over again. On the other hand, more cynical people will focus on the fact that Sarah still doesn't remember the last five years and it was all a waste of time. Sure, that's a very dualistic approach to viewing the finale, but that's the way most people are going to see it anyway.

I for one fall into the former camp, and I think the idea of Chuck and Sarah having the chance to reconnect and fall in love all over again is oddly romantic. Heck, even if Chuck was Prince Charming and the kiss worked, they still get the chance to have their happily ever after, and I don't need to shown that. I just choose to believe it, but the last five minutes were only a small part of the epic series finale, and we shouldn't dwell on them. Collectively, "Chuck vs. Sarah" and "Chuck vs. the Goodbye" were just two good episodes of television, and that's what we should remember.

The whole "Sarah amnesia" storyline could have been a complete misfire, but I thought that it was a nice twist that had some very satisfying elements like Yvonne Strahovski getting to play a darker version of the character. Out of all of the actors on this show, Strahovski's been one of the most versatile, and I was glad that we got to see her take on a colder Sarah Walker. Just some great stuff from a woefully under-appreciated actor.

As for "Goodbye," it was a giant love letter from Chris Fedak as he brought back so many callbacks to some iconic Chuck scenes which gave it a sense of nostalgia while still pushing the current story forward, and it was a nice reminder of what this show has meant to so many people. Again, those last couple of minutes may not have been what everyone wanted to see, but I couldn't help but get choked up while watching them, and people need to re-evaluate why they watched the show to begin with if they didn't.

That being said, the last two hours were not flawless. While I'm a big fan of Zachary Levi, he's not the most convincing crier, so some of his scenes during "Chuck vs. Sarah" were a tad bit over-dramatic for my tastes. I also thought that the way Quinn was taken out was kind of anti-climactic, but that may have also been because he was only the main villain for a handful of episodes. In the end, Quinn was just a plot device that caused Sarah's memory loss, so I guess I can't get too upset about his less than stellar ending. I also thought that the finale relied too heavily on some cliched moments like people moving away, but I guess that's to be expected. In the end, these are minor quibbles about two pretty damn good episodes of Chuck, so I really can't complain.

Other Odds and Ends:
  • Seriously, how good was Yvonne Strahovski?
  • Quinn's manipulation of Sarah was effectively creepy.
  • Casey's "World's Greatest Dad" apron was brilliant ... and true.
  • Apparently, Sarah didn't even need the Intersect. She's still badass all on her own.
  • Chuck AND Harry Potter! I have to admit, that got me kinda excited.
  • Quinn really was a Bond villain.
  • Sarah's mission log was almost too much to handle. Such a great moment.
  • The female pervert's code name was "Starbuck." Now, I never watched Battlestar, but even I know that's funny.
  • I'm so glad they brought back the Wienerlicious.
  • Morgan laying down the truth on Casey was beyond amazing.
  • Jeffster saved the day again!
  • So many great callbacks.
  • Casey hugged Chuck!
  • "Well, if you would use a plate when you're eating taquitos, I wouldn't have to scrub the floors would I?"
  • "You're a wizard, Harry."
  • "My wife never came home."
  • "I guess Bartowski's made us both a little soft."
  • "One sit-up closer to getting the girl back."
  • "She may be the best spy in the world, but I'm Chuck Bartowski. It's not like she's out of my league."
  • "And yes, I've been watching a ton of Disney princess movies with baby Clara ..."
  • "Unleash the perverts."
  • "No nip-slips."
  • "You shot down my helicopter with my own damn gun!"
  • Devon: "Grandma, what did we say about baby Clara seeing firearms?"
    Mary: "It's a no-no."
  • "Chuck, find the porn virus. Find it now."
  • "My little brother. Aces, Charles. You're aces."
  • "Trust me Sarah. I'm here for you always."
  • "It started with a guy who worked at Buy More, and then one day his an old college friend of his sent him an email that was filled with secrets, and then the next day his life really changed when he met a spy named Sarah. And he fell in love."
To be fair, I can't say that those who didn't like the finale are wrong (although they are) because people watched this show with their own set of expectations, but I hope they don't let it color their thoughts on the series as a whole. Ultimately, Chuck was a special show made for a special set of fans, and I'd like to think that the journey was more important than the destination because this show's true legacy will be the fans' love for it. I'd hate for a few minutes to undo all the greatness that this show has given us, but I'll deal regardless because to me that was a pretty great way for Chuck to bow out.


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