Every new fall season, there's this fear that my favorite TV shows wouldn't be on the roster. With CHUCK getting the nod for a fifth and final season, there's a sigh of relief. It's very hard for me to be impartial and critique this show. And I won't even try, really. But, okay, maybe I'll mention that perhaps CHUCK's getting only one more season may be a good thing. In Season 4, there's been a creeping sense of familiarity, a nagging worry that maybe, just maybe, the show's slowing down some.
It's still a cool premise, hapless nerd secretly a brilliant spy. And the cast still demonstrates that banging chemistry. But the central tension always was in Chuck and Sarah's relationship. Once they formally became a couple in Season 3, I was happy as pigs in mud but also concerned about where the show would go from here on out, what with that central conflict being resolved. Remember what happened to MOONLIGHTING once David and Maddy hooked up?
But CHUCK isn't all about a nerd's hopeless romantic pinings. And, in the area of wicked espionage and devilish plot twists and just plain exploiting the Intersect, the show exhibits plenty of legs. In Season 3's finale, Chuck had promised his sister that he's out of the spy game for good, and I think we all got a good snicker out of that. Like a phoenix from the ashes or a cockroach shrugging off the holocaust, the Burbank Buy More store is back, rebuilt and revamped and become a full-fledged, covert joint NSA/CIA operation. Because when Chuck Bartowski doesn't come to the spy game, the spy game comes to Chuck Bartowski.
It's all a subterfuge, of course, his fellow spies assuming that Chuck had quit espionage, with Sarah pulling off missions with John Casey while Chuck frets at home. But Chuck is up to something. He's following leads on his long-thought-to-be-dead mother, with Morgan as his only backup. The subterfuge lasts only during the season opener, though. And, somewhere in this first episode, for fun, we get "sexting" between Chuck and Sarah, except that it's really between Morgan and an unwitting Sarah (ugh!). Chuck and Morgan even find time to attend a hand-to-hand combat class in, uh, "strip-kick," a discipline which combines the "self-defense of Krav Maga with the intense core workout of pole dancing." Heh.
The rest of Season 4 tracks Chuck's search for his mom and the agents' ongoing mission to take down Volkoff Industries, a new criminal organization. Just about each episode explores a facet of Chuck and Sarah's relationship, ranging from their first fight as a couple to their inability to air out their feelings to why Sarah refuses to bring personal mementos with her on missions. But the show doesn't neglect its other characters, whether it's John Casey's own relationship with his daughter or Awesome and Ellie's pregnancy or Morgan's gradual inclusion into the inner circle (Morgan more or less worms his way in).
Viewing CHUCK is like going to fan boy heaven. It's a big get, casting Linda Hamilton as Chuck's mom. Another nice conceit is that the new BuyMore regularly rotates a roster of agents whose name tag is always "Greta." For the first few episodes, each week unveiled a new star cameo. So we see "Greta" being played by the likes of geek goddess Olivia Munn, Summer Glau, and even by the Old Spice guy. For villains, we get familiar sorts like Timothy Dalton, Lou Ferrigno, Richard Chamberlain, and Dolph Lundgren (who even quotes his famous Ivan Drago line).
Another thing I love about CHUCK is that it never hesitates to upend the status quo. I love the unpredictability of the episodes. The characters evolve (well, maybe not Jeffster), and, as for Chuck's mom, for plenty of episodes, I wasn't entirely certain which side she'd fall on. At this stage, the challenge is how to keep Chuck Bartowski a total badasss on the field while still retaining his nerd creds. Thank goodness you can't totally shed your neuroses. I guess if you're a sorry bloke what happened to land a smoking hot girlfriend, chances are there's a part of you that'll always be insecure. Except that, lately, Chuck's development hasn't been as arrested.
Just about each episode is terrific, but I did like some better than others, and here's a SPOILERS alert. In "Chuck Vs. The Cat Squad," Chuck reunites Sarah with her old spy team. I love "Chuck Vs. Phase Three" because it reaffirms Sarah Walker's badassery. I love that a legend builds around Sarah as she carves a swath thru the jungles of Southeast Asia, beating up on guy after guy in her quest to find an Intersect-less Chuck. "Chuck Vs. The Muuurder" challenges Chuck's leadership skills when he's put in charge of a crucial mission, and then a murder mystery surfaces. And in "Chuck Vs. The Wedding Planner," Chuck and Sarah are scammed out of their wedding money and Sarah reluctantly goes to her con man dad to get the money back.
Despite mad support from its ardent fans, CHUCK, each season, has been on the brink of cancellation, so it's amazing and really gratifying that it's lasted this long. And, dammit, you know what, I take back what I said earlier. This show isn't in danger of growing stale. The stories are too inventive, the cast is too good, the humor too water cooler, and the hook simply too irresistible. Hell yes to Season 5. That new car smell forever!!
This DVD set comes with 5 discs with the following bonus stuff:
- 18 Declassified Scenes (also known as Deleted/Extended Scenes)
- "Buy Hard: The Jeff & Lester Story: The Chronicle of Their Quest for an Elusive Video Game" - Three months on the run after their perceived crime of arson at the Buy More, Jeff and Lester re-enter society in search of the new Halo Reach game - this mini-episode is told in 5 parts (totaling 00:13:25 minutes long)
- "Chuck versus Directing: Zachary Levi Takes Charge" - follow Zachary Levi as he directs the episode "Chuck Vs. the Leftovers," and also meet his film crew (00:13:26 minutes)
- "Spying on the Cast: Operation Gomez" - goofing around with Joshua Gomez as he shows off his newfound spy skills, including installing a hidden toilet cam in Yvonne Strahovski's bathroom (00:10:00 minutes)
- Gag Reel (00:04:45 minutes)