I loved the first season of Chuck. I say that and couple it with my thinking that it was ultimately a three-star series, that I just happened to like very much. It ended with a whimper, but had enough in the episodes that made it through the writers’ strike at the time to make me keen for its return.
Season two of Chuck? It’s a belter. It finds Zachary Levi utterly owning the title character, with his effortless charm allowing the ensemble cast around him to thrive. But it’s Levi who holds this together, as the nerd-turned-superspy who just happens to have the CIA intersect computer in his head. He’s utterly believable in a completely unbelievable role.
That said, he does have terrific support. Morgan was my favourite supporting character of the first season, and while he doesn’t get quite so many highlights this time round, there’s still plenty to enjoy, and Joshua Gomez is brilliant in the role. But the extended 22-episode run for season two (23 if you include the lacklustre 3D episode, which is included here as an extra feature) allows other characters plenty of time in the spotlight.
The least convincing I always though was Jeff, but his double act with Lester is frequently chucklesome here (and I’d happily book Jeffster to play any event I ever stage), and then he gets fleshed out brilliantly in an episode celebrating his Missile Command prowess. It’s an insanely good, and nerdy, piece of television.
I also really enjoyed, though, the growing friction between Big Mike and Emmett, and the Awesome family when they turn up. Plus, there’s real joy in most of the scenes set around the Buy More store, which seems to be a magnet for bad guys across the world.
The two main plots that run through the season are the impending wedding of Chuck’s sister to the aforementioned Dr Awesome, and Chuck’s ambition to get the intersect out of his head and hopefully settle down for a life with Sarah. Naturally, these frequently overlap, with lots of visits to the aforementioned Buy More included.
I found the season at its weakest when dealing with the whole will-they-won’t-they thing with Chuck and Sarah, and the pair go through inevitable break-ups here that I could have happily lived without. We sat through years of Mulder and Scully, and potential romances between leading characters have never quite worked as well since for my money. That said, the central trio of Chuck, Sarah and Casey are sparky, and superbly played to the point that you can forgive the odd lapse into cliché. You can’t beat “Unleash the Casey”, after all.
Come particularly the back third of the season, Chuck hits top gear though, and it ends spectacularly well with a potentially game changing episode, and a brilliantly funny one. Considering the future of the show was in doubt when this was put together, it’s a blessed relief that season three is alive and well, and coming at us soon. If they can persuade the likes of Gary Cole and Scott Bakula to come back for it too, then all the better.
For you know you’re on solid ground with season two from the opening episode, where Chuck eventually uses Morgan’s Call Of Duty tactics to outwit the bad guys. This is geek television par excellence surely, for reasons such as that?
Right through the show, there are references and nudges to films and geek culture that make a second run through of the season both worthwhile and likely (and I barely spotted half of those that our regular Chuck reviewer, Billy Grifter, picked up). If we had to pick a favourite for this, it would be the outstanding Christmas episode which riffs Die Hard perfectly, right down to the casting of Reginald VelJohnson as Al, munching away on his Twinkies. It’s genius, and full of the kind of lines that make Chuck one of the most quotable shows on the box.
Chuck has really built on the foundations of season one here, with its sophomore run both more confident, and given the space to have a lot more fun with the concept. Some of the plots are slight, and there’s some repetition from time to time, but then the writers throw in – out of nowhere – a reference that makes you realise they really, really care about the show, and its audience.
Here’s hoping Chuck has a few more seasons in him yet, and if they match the standard of this one, then there’s an argument that Chuck is the most fun programme on US TV right now. Season three can’t come soon enough.
You get 22 episodes (plus one bonus 3D instalment) spread across six discs here, and once again, there’s a fair smattering of extra features on top. There are many deleted scenes, a look back at the mythology of Chuck, and the sublime Captain Awesome’s Guide To Being Awesome among the hilarious (if brief) featurettes. Throw in work on the stunts and some bloopers, along with 3D glasses (which we didn’t get with our review copy but understand they come with the retail box), and this is a decent set for a terrific series.
The Show:The Discs:
Chuck Season Two is out now.