Chuck season 3 episode 1 review

Billy gets excited about the return of the everyman hero, Chuck. But the season opener does have a couple of problems...

3.1 Chuck Versus The Pink Slip

There’s been something missing this season from the television schedules, a breath of fresh air that only one show can deliver. Chuck is back to save the world, and probably my sanity along with it! Or rather I was hoping it was, but the first story only slightly rocked my boat in this respect.

It’s entertaining, it’s got nerds, and Chuck and Sarah, I mean what can go wrong with a blend like that? Mmmm…the snag, and it became obvious to me on reflection, is that the end of season two created a real problem, because they’d taken the Sarah relationship so far, and any further was going to be painfully extended.

To that end they decided to entirely alter things by starting out with the premise that Chuck has dumped Sarah, the woman he’d die to have in the first two seasons. The excuse, and a pretty thin one was offered, is that once he starts being trained as a spy he suddenly wants to become one, even to the exclusion of his true love.

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I’m sorry, I just didn’t buy this as it seems to flaunt the very core of his character, who wanted to be with Sarah more than anything else in the world. He’s spent two entire seasons wanting the Intersect out of his head and to no longer be an ‘asset’, and now he’s changed his mind?

Fired from the agency (hence the Pink Slip) Chuck is then faced with accepting he loved her all along, or live his life as a degenerate cheese puff eater. It’s a dark passage that many young men enter, and some never return.

But the unexpected resurrection of the show also put a few other plot points out of kilter, and they spend some time bringing back Morgan, who’s been dumped by Anna. I was sad about this, because although she wasn’t in many season two stories, I always liked Julia Ling as Anna, and I hope she doesn’t disappear to the same oblivion as the amazing Harry Tang. Anna could do kung fu, so she should come back as a spy, please!

Much of the first story is taken up with putting things back to a degree of how they were in season two, and that got changed by the final couple of episodes. By the end of this they manage to get Chuck back in the Buy More, and the majority of the Nerd Herd on hand.

One slightly dark diversion from this is Emmett Milbarge, who becomes the first acquaintance of Chuck who dies indirectly because of their association. They don’t actually tell Chuck that Emmett took a bullet through the eye from a bad guy that Chuck lead to the Buy More, so his secret death will probably be a plot point they’ve saved for later in the season.

Overall, this seemed a slightly disjointed story even by Chuck standards. The best, and funniest scene was the one they released as a teaser some months back, where Chuck crashes a mission pretending to be a Mariachi player. Sadly, there weren’t any other sections as good as that one, so they’d ruined the best part of the story promoting it.

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What I liked was the welcome return of Zachary Levi and Yvonne Strahovski, who can now play their characters with consummate ease. What it lacked was more ‘super-spy’ Chuck, because seeing him get frustrated at his inability to flash on demand could get boring quickly. Levi can only spend so long per 42 minutes making frustrated faces, or people will think he has a bowel condition.

The second episode tries to repair some of the awkwardness that this one introduced, and was shown directly afterwards. I’ve reviewed it separately, because it’s a different story, that builds on the Sarah/Chuck breakup this one floated.

When Chuck is good it’s great, but this felt like the smooth spy machine had become rusted with lack of regular action and, hopefully, it will start moving more elegantly as the season proceeds.