Chuck season 3 episode 11 review

Billy likes this pivotal Chuck, even if it wasn't a laugh a minute…

3.11 Chuck Versus The Final Exam

Chuck has gone through some odd oscillations recently, swinging abruptly from the sublime to the distinctly sub-standard. Chuck Versus The Final Exam is certainly better than his last outing, but not classic Chuck, as such.

If I’m critical at all about what transpires here it’s that it isn’t overly funny, and while the narrative does demand this to a degree, it all gets rather serious for a usually lighted hearted show towards the end.

It starts with Chuck following a man in a rail yard, who, when cornered, pleads for his life. Chuck pulls a gun and points it at him, and then a shot rings out! Surely Chuck isn’t a killer?! Well, the show then does the usual trick of going back a few days and explaining how we got to that point, which, for the most part, is the ‘final exam’ of the title.

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Almost all of the humour in this story comes from a nice side story about Casey, who still works at the BuyMore, and can’t resist the temptation to brutalise Jeff and Lester at every opportunity. They threaten to get litigious, and Big Mike steps in to calm things down in his own unique style. His philosophy about using his personal tailor to adapt Casey’s personality is really good, even if they end up using this whole exercise as an excuse to go to Subway and say nice things about their food.

Chuck’s adventure has significantly fewer laughs, as he tracks a CIA mole to a hotel to meet a Ring agent. This is all being monitored by Sarah and Daniel, who are assessing if he’s really got what it takes to be a spy. The downside in this is that the appearance of Brandon Routh appears to have eliminated the budget that would have paid for Morgan, Ellie and Awesome, who don’t appear at all this week.

Chuck manages to identify the mole and thinks he’s passed the spy test, naively. To actually be a real spy he must kill the double agent, which is only revealed when he meets Sarah for dinner. This entire scene is something of a subtle homage to La Femme Nikita (1997), although Chuck doesn’t end up in a toilet with a bricked up window. What he does do is pursue the man to the rail yard where the story started.

His choice is simple in his mind: if he wants Sarah, then he needs to be a spy, but that means killing this man. This is pretty dark for a show that’s supposedly a comedy. I won’t say who shoots the man, but it obviously isn’t Chuck, who just isn’t an assassin at heart.

What we’re left with is the CIA/NSA thinking that Chuck is spy material, Chuck knowing he isn’t, and Sarah wondering what happened to the guy she loved.

This is a pretty good set-up for the rest of the season. My only concern is, again, Brandon Routh, who I’d dearly like to see the back of. But, optimistically, the plotline for the next adventure,where Chuck decides to win back Sarah’s affections with the help of Casey and Awesome, sounds brilliant.

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Chuck season three could turn out to be the best yet, even if it’s been wildly inconstant so far.

Check out our review of episode 10 here.