10 reasons we loved Chuck
Now the last ever episode has aired, Caroline salutes NBC's Chuck with 10 reasons to love the little show that could...
This article contains spoilers.
So, it's all over. Network television's 'little show that could' has faded to black for the last time, after an hour of heart-breaking romance, action, Jeffster, Subway sandwiches and geeky references galore. It may not have been the perfect finale many had been waiting for, but it did the show justice in its final hour, and stayed true to how Chuck began all those years ago.
The show always wore its absurdity on its sleeve, and for those who could accept a show based primarily around a downloaded supercomputer inside one dashing geek's brain, wonderful character moments, pitch-perfect comedy and sincerely romantic drama were in store. It was never afraid of the cheesy moment, or outlandish story twists, and for that we loved it.
Now that it's off the air for good, here are some of the other reasons we loved Chuck, and why we're grateful for its win over the network, managing against the odds to run for five wonderful years. Major spoilers lie ahead…
Chuck & Sarah
Chuck and Sarah were the unabashed focus of the two-part finale, and there was always the sense that the show's writers may have put more stock in their importance than the viewer. Those doubts were put to bed by the final scene, on the same beach that the pair sat on in the pilot, as every single fan was hoping for a final reconciliation.
The show managed the almost impossible job of getting their resident 'will they, won't they' couple together without a huge dip in quality, and come last week's finale, the natural growth of their dynamic could clearly be seen. Every series needs an epic romance to anchor its drama, and Chuck and Sarah's unlikely partnership did just that.
We loved Adam Baldwin in Firefly, but who could have guessed that his rebound show, unlike many of the other cast members’ next projects, would have cemented him in the geek hall of fame once again. Colonel John Casey was, on the surface, the most one-dimensional character on Chuck for a good while, but as the end drew closer, everyone could see the journey the character had been on.
He now had a daughter, for one thing, and his developing relationship with Alex and Morgan was once of the show's more touching threads. Never forced or overly schmaltzy, Casey's rediscovery of his family and growing affection for his team was what Chuck was all about, and the character went further than anyone in representing its central concept.
The Buy More
A lot of locations on shows become characters in their own right, but they're rarely as beloved or essential as the Buy More was to Chuck. It went through many incarnations over the years, from a simple cover job to full-blown CIA-run facility, but it was always endearingly dysfunctional and home to some of the best supporting cast members on TV.
As the show got darker and darker, particularly during its third series, the store was always a comforting presence where comic relief could run wild. It was a loss when fringe members of the staff were lost due to budgetary and time constraints, but Jeff, Lester and Big Mike were always around to raise a smile, and they were always welcome.
Ellie & Awesome
Ellie and Devon (a.k.a Captain Awesome) were around from the beginning of the pilot until the end of the finale, and things hadn't changed too much for them. Some would call that boring, and often this painfully stable couple could come across a little dull, but they gave a heart and sincerity to the show, and were a grounding force in Chuck's life throughout.
Devon was the first to learn of his brother-in-law's secret identity, after all, and the writers were constantly trying to integrate them into the A-plot, to mixed results. What was important about the pair was their 'normalness', and they transcended their loving but nagging sister/perfect boyfriend character types to become fully rounded people as popular as their more 'interesting' counterparts.
Jeffster, though once a genuinely hilarious idea, lost a lot of fan favour over the years. The characters, as well as their musical partnership, were a casualty of constantly threatened cancellation, as each and every season finale was desperate to pay off the joke before it was too late. The result is a dilution of the gag's impact.
The finale was smart in that, instead of creating a new contrived scenario for Jeffster to sing along to (like season four's Push It number in the maternity ward), it paid homage to the moment in which we all fell in love with them in the first place. Season two's wedding sequence remains one of Chuck's finest moments, and we were reminded of that during the equally bizarre Take on Me number.
No matter how little money or time the show had to spend on action sequences, each and every fight scene was always superb. It's essential for an action show to have convincing shoot-outs and ass-kicking but, as Chuck has always been camp and light-hearted in these moments, the show could get away with a lot.
It always hit the right mark in these parts of the episode, either as comedy or character-building drama, when other shows would have simply taken time out from the episode's structure to show off their stunt work or special effects. It struck an admirable balance, and has left us with some truly memorable moments.
The nerdy references
You could always rely on Morgan to drop a reference when the occasion called for it, or even if it didn't, but a love of pop culture ran through the very DNA of Chuck, so much so that even the most ardent geek wouldn't be able to spot them all on first viewing.
From the Tron poster behind which Chuck kept all of his secrets, to the faithful Comic-Con stickers on his wall, the references were genuine, and they were what caused many to fall in love with the show. Creators Josh Schwartz and Chris Fedak understood their fan base from the start, and the references became more and more obscure as the series continued.
The guest stars
Some might say that the casting people got a little carried away at times, but if you wanted to measure the success and influence of Chuck, one way would be to count its notable guest stars. From Mark Hamill to Stan Lee, from Summer Glau to Timothy Dalton, it seemed that everyone wanted to take part in the show, and it was terrific treat for the fans.
They even had major genre stars as regular or recurring characters - Linda Hamilton as Eleanor Bartowski and Carrie-Anne Moss as Gertrude - and it was often as fun to read the list of a season's guest stars as it was to see them appear. If you haven't seen this clip already, I'd really recommend it.
Its title sequence
We live in a world without title sequences, and it’s a sadder place for this fact. These little works of 30-second art have been dying out for a while, but Chuck takes inspiration from classic shows in its simply wonderful animated titles, summing up everything the show is brilliantly.
Against the soundtrack of Short Skirt/Long Jacket by Cake, we see bullets, car chases and throwing stars chase the little animated stick man across the screen, and it's a lovely introduction to the next 40-minutes to come.
And last, but by no means least, we come to the saviour of Chuck and everyone's favourite sandwich outlet, Subway. The fans actually saved the show from cancellation after its second season, and they did so by aggressively targeting one of Chuck's chief sponsors.
On April 27th 2009, fans were asked to buy a footlong sub in the show's name, and the extraordinary level of support led the good folks at Subway to strike a significant deal with NBC. Product placement was rife from this point, but viewers knew of its significance, and it created an effective running joke lasting until the end of its run.
As a final thank you from Chuck's team and its fans, Subway got one final mention in the finale, as the buyers of a now defunct Buy More. The show cheated death for so long, so it's fitting that this should be how it ends.
Read our review of the last episode of Chuck here.