I’ve just this second finished watching the season finale of Chuck, and parts of it hit the right note so cleanly that they sent a shiver down my geek spine.
Where so many shows these days aim so low and yet still fail to meet even those expectations, Chuck delivers a superb ending that leaves you wanting more.
Chuck’s day starts fine, when he and Casey resign from the Buy More, where Emmett is rapidly running out of nerds.
But the key premise of Chuck Vs. The Ring is essentially getting Ellie married to Devon, and as you might expect, it’s an event of mythic proportions.
With the exception of Harry Tang and Emmett Milbarge, all the cast regulars are at the wedding, plus the ‘Awesomes’ and Stephen J. Bartowski to give away the bride. The only major character not there is Casey, as he’s already been put on a transport plane to deliver death and destruction to some remote country.
As the wedding moves towards the fateful hour things start to go awry for Chuck, first in that Sarah tells him she’s leaving to work on the new Intersect with Bryce Larkin, and secondly when he finds some dead wedding caterers under a table. Ted Roark has turned up uninvited, and tells Chuck he wants Orion’s new Intersect computer or he’ll kill the bride. This role seems to feed on a darker side to Chevy Chase, but he seems to enjoy being the bad guy for once.
We then descend into the sort of insanity that only Chuck can dispense. Chuck tells Morgan to stall the wedding, and in turn he unleashes the musical Armageddon that goes by the name of Jeffster on the assembled Church congregation. And it is indeed to the unforgettable strains of Mr. Roboto (originally by Styx, I think) that a huge gun and knife fight breaks out in the reception room between the forces of FULCRUM and the assembled CIA good guys. The cutting deftly between these two scenes is inspired direction from Robert Duncan McNeill, and it reaches a crescendo when Casey turns up by parachute with his NSA buddies and, at the same time, Jeff lights Marine flares setting off the sprinkler system in the church. The wedding is totally ruined, Ellie is distraught, but there are no family fatalities.
For most shows that story would be enough in one episode, but this is only the beginning. This is the halfway point, where Chuck then uses his first (and only) government pay check to buy Ellie the beach wedding she always really wanted. Ah…
As Devon and Ellie are being hitched on a beach, back at the Castle Ted Roark is being assassinated in his cell, but not by a FULCRUM agent. One of the men Casey was assigned works for another unnamed organisation, intent on getting the Intersect for themselves.
He kills the other two NSA men there, and knocks Casey out. Bryce is due to be uploaded with the latest Intersect that night, but the man he’s with isn’t the CIA agent he’s supposed to be. Normally in these stories Chuck would ‘flash’ that, but here it’s Bartowski Senior that’s the spy-data enhanced one.
He warns Chuck and Sarah, and they race with Casey to save Bryce and the Intersect computer. And, as they say, we come full circle to the very first Chuck story – to the huge room full of monitors and the spy with a head full of secrets.
Bryce locks himself inside the room, but he’s already been fatally shot. While Sarah and Casey fight the enemy agents outside, Chuck comes through the air-conditioning ducts to Bryce’s aid. But he’s too late. Bryce is close to death and tells Chuck to destroy the Intersect…
As fans of this show we’ve waited two seasons for this moment, when Chuck becomes more than the nerd from the herd, and it’s a very special moment for the show.
Bryce dies, leaving Chuck to destroy the Intersect once and for all. But he doesn’t do that, instead he activates it, uploading the data into his brain!
That’s great, because Chuck is at heart a hero, even if he’s not previously been equipped to be one. The enemy agents break into the Intersect room just seconds after Chuck uses the original Apple Mac to destroy it using a special key Bryce gave him. They’ve captured Casey and Sarah, things look bad as there are five bad guys and they all have guns.
That would be a concern for everyone if the Intersect upload didn’t include a few ‘upgrades’. Chuck flashes, and instead of getting dry old intelligence, he gets martial arts knowledge instead. The trigger word seems to be ‘spy’, but whatever it is he’s able to dispatch all five agents single-handed. Chuck is so deadly even Casey is impressed. Chuck tells his spy friends that that in a reference to Neo in the Matrix, “I know Kung Fu”. Then the screen goes black and we get those immortal words”to be continued…”
I really hope they mean that, because this season’s conclusion really shook the pillars of heaven. It’s mostly been a complete delight to write about, and a pleasure to watch. I think, along with Sarah Connor and Dexter, this is exactly the quality of TV people should demand, and not the reality rubbish the networks love to push.
For me, whatever happens in the future, Zachary Levi will always be Chuck and Yvonne Strahovski will forever be sexy super-spy Sarah. They’ve carved out a small but perfectly formed tableau in the tapestry of TV history, and whatever the ultimate destiny of the show, they can’t take that sort of magic away.
Check out Billy’s review of episode 21 here.