Friday, January 27, 2012

Saying #GoodByeChuck...

Now that the tears should have cleared from the Chuck finale, I'm going to reveal something I was convinced to be true about the episode after visiting the set, talking with the stars, knowing what I did about five years' worth of spy games, and just plain speculating. I was one hundred percent convinced that Casey (Adam Baldwin) was not long for this world. Baldwin's own words to me on the finale set was that Casey got to go out with "a bang." Add that to the fact that Zachary Levi admitted one of the players wanted to "go out in a blaze of glory," and I was sure showrunner Chris Fedak was going to take Casey down in battle-- once a soldier, always a soldier, now a casualty. So when he sat down in Beckman (Bonita Friedericy)'s office and said "I'm ready to go," I immediately thought: "No, Casey, don't do it!" That would have been some on the nose foreshadowing. And then when Chuck shot into the air and hit the helicopter, I saw another near miss that was only going to lead up to a bigger, much more emotional end. But thankfully, that was one aspect of the show about which I was wrong.

Going into this two-hour, back-to-back series finale with Sarah (Yvonne Strahovski) not quite herself was a little bit of a let down. Not because I obviously wanted to see Chuck and Sarah ride off in the sunset, so to speak, and finally get their dream house by the end (because that would have been a cheap fast-forward), but because it felt like false stakes. Knowing this show as we do, it was obvious there was no way they were going to keep Sarah and Chuck apart permanently. Sure, it was tense and emotional in a different way to see Sarah resisting the memories that were starting to creep back, convinced they were not real at first and then simply out to find herself before she jumped back into anything else, but what really saved the plot point for me was the chance to sit alone with Sarah and see the story from her side for a change, even if only for a few minutes. Those DVDs where she chronicled her missions and relationship with Chuck were gold. Early on, when Sarah was still "pretending," she usually managed to keep such a cool, calm, and collected stance about her. So it was nice to finally be let in that she, too, was falling just as hard, and she just felt she had to hide it-- but thankfully not from herself.

Chuck has always been a show so in-tune with itself and its fandom, and over the years it has proven that simply by some of the guest stars they've gotten to parade through, but it was never more apparent than with all of the finale parallels to the pilot. The first scene with Chuck very clearly set up that he felt he was back in the same place as he was five years ago-- no real job, no girlfriend, heartbroken, alone, etc-- and admittedly when he said it out-loud, it kind of killed the imagery. The fact that he had a group around him at all showed how far he's come, and again, pointing it out ruined it a little. Especially when that group around him very soon started to disperse, kind of proving the point that at this chapter in their lives, it's supposed to be Chuck and Sarah's story. Together or bust.

Things will never really go back to how they were for Chuck (hell, he no longer thought Sarah was out of his league-- that in itself exhibited HUGE growth); they can't after all he has been through and all he has learned. Yet, seeing him slip on the skinny tie and pocket-protector again was giddy-inducing, and even his choice to download the Intersect one last time had a warm nostalgia to it. After everything he went through and everything he learned, he's still the same old Chuck who refuses to shoot anyone but still wants to save the day. It's always a bonus when shows can reinforce that their characters can stay true to who they are, despite their circumstances. That's continuity, but more importantly, that's life.

Besides, not giving Sarah the Intersect filled with her old memories just makes it all the more special when they return on their own. There is no "easy button" in relationships, and Chuck may have played hero for five years, but he was always a regular guy first, and regular people can't just snap their fingers and fix every little problem. She had to want to remember. And when she finally does-- in drips and droves or in a flood-- those memories will be earned, and the relationship will be that much stronger for it. There is absolutely no need to see The Vow; Chuck Bartowski had to make his wife fall back in love with him, and he did it through ways that were emotionally satisfying for all of us-- because we've been invested in this couple for five years.

The little sprinklings of flashbacks were perfect-- as were the nods to the past done in present day, such as the "check in" with Fulcrum, the return of the mariachi band (and this is coming from someone who HATES mariachi music), and of course, the tango. It was also shocking to see how far everyone has come in the last few, short years, though. The hair alone was jarring! It kind of just served as an extra special wrap-up that characters got to do what they've always wanted: Jeffster (Scott Krinsky and Vik Sahay) got to not only show that they actually do know how to find women (though I doubt they can "get" them) but also play a huge show (to a sold out, captive, but most importantly, enthusiastic crowd); Ellie (Sarah Lancaster) got to go on missions, even if inadvertently; and Morgan (Joshua Gomez) got his girl, too. There was a lot of talk about growing up in and on Chuck; Chuck himself started off as just an above averagely smart but directionless kid, but it was those around him, perhaps inspired by him, who may have changed the most in surprising ways. Casey was always such a rough, tough, rigid guy. He grunted more than he'd speak. He'd shoot before he'd talk. He'd never stand down and never surrender. But he never stopped to think that was his weakness. I couldn't understand why he'd want to go back to that, so I'm glad Morgan managed to talk some sense into him. I know, I know, we were all surprised! Here not only did he pull through for Sarah by embracing the "new" him, ultimately, he pulled through for himself. He finally gave himself a chance to be a fully-formed, well-rounded man when he decided to go after Gertrude (Carrie-Anne Moss). He may not find her-- or when he does, he may not find he wants to stay with her-- but the point is, he took the leap; he acted outside his own box. He risked, and so he shall (hopefully) be rewarded.

The one part of the finale with which I just couldn't get on board was the idea of Ellie and Awesome (Ryan McPartlin) moving away from Chuck was absolutely heart-breaking the minute it was brought up. With Sarah not herself and without indication she might ever find herself, it felt kind of glib for Ellie to even consider walking away from the kid she ultimately raised. They were always their only family, and sure, intellectually, we as an audience knew it was Ellie's way of acknowledging Chuck as a grown man who has more than come into his own and can take care of himself, but it still just felt overtly harsh. Maybe because Linda Hamilton's grandma pop in was so sweet (Awesome covering Baby Clara's eyes when grandma got a gun? Classic!), and we know that she can't do that in the mid-west, either. But mostly because though we have every intention and belief that Chuck and Sarah will be fine, they aren't quite there yet. And Chuck needs and deserves his whole support system around him. A big chunk of this episode felt like characters coming to terms with the fact that Sarah may never remember and them just being okay with that. It was almost baffling that after everything they could feel that way-- or at least give off the impression that they felt that way. Chuck may be the only one in love with her, but if they all loved her as much as they said they did-- even after she did some pretty crappy things to them (well, mostly Ellie)-- they could have put forth a little more of an effort. I'm not saying the episode needed to revolve on fixing her; they just didn't seem as disturbed as it seemed like they should have. I expected Casey to treat her like a fallen soldier and be able to just walk on, but I didn't expect that from everyone else.

The final scene on the beach was absolutely beautiful, though. It was poignant for Chuck and Sarah's story, sure, but I also mean physically: that is what Hollywood calls magic hour, and I think you can see why. And there was just something extra special in the wink and nudge to Levi's recent Disney work in the whole "Chuck's magical kiss" thing, but the truest way to tell this tale was "if Sarah doesn't remember everything right now, it's only a matter of time." I didn't see this finale as a return to "Will they or won't they" for Sarah and Chuck. In all honesty, I never saw it as "Will they or won't they" for Sarah and Chuck-- not even in the pilot. It was always a matter of when. Those two characters had such distinct, different personalities, though, that it had to be earned then, and it had to be earned (again) now. In that sense, the end was beautiful. Little things had come back to Sarah along the way, and here she was, asking to hear the story and then asking for him to kiss her. It's a good sign and a strong start on the road to re-romance. Yet, I couldn't help but wish there was one final line to drive it home, wrap it up, and stay true to Chuck's heart and humor...

So as the final scene faded out, in my head I heard Strahovski softly whisper "Chuck, you knew kung fu."

Good-bye, Chuck. I'm proud to call myself a nerd now.

1 comment:

Snaus said...

The final line should've been Chuck saying "Don't freak out."