Chuck season 3 episode 18 review

Chuck's penultimate episode of season three proves to be something of an epic...

Chuck

3.18 Chuck Versus The Subway

Warning. There be spoilers ahead!

Last week I talked about the creative forces moving Chuck in a particular direction, away from being primarily a comedy into more of a spy drama. While I saw this I wasn’t really prepared for how far they’d take that idea as presented in Chuck Versus The Subway.

The previous story left us with the rather daunting prospect of Chuck going up against a new Intersect powered by a certainly alive Daniel Shaw, while The Ring holds his sister. Except Chuck knows nothing of these things at the outset, and he’s having issues with what the Intersect is doing to his brain!

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This soon changes when he sees Shaw and follows him down into the subway, and luckily, the station’s TV surveillance proves he’s not having a delusion. This is all pretty serious stuff. And while they do counterpoint it with some broad humour about Morgan thinking that Ellie is having an affair, and then telling Awesome, it doesn’t really balance the darker tone of this story.

However, the reappearance of Shaw causes the entire Chuck story to take a massive leap off into the deep end, in one of the most brilliant pieces of writing we’ve yet seen in this show, and actually much better than many serious spy adventures. Every minute, for at least the next ten, I kept shouting ‘Alias‘ at the screen, as it was revealed that Daniel had masterminded an impressive subversion of the CIA with Ring agents, but that his objectives were the destruction of Chuck, and just about everyone he knows!

That includes a new character they’ve added, Alex, the daughter of Casey, who moves rather abruptly from being a waitress to a potential Ring target.

There’s a marvellous elevator of threat that is developed here, where I kept thinking that things couldn’t get worse, but they then did substantially.

Very shortly, all the people that Chuck might reasonably expect to help him are neutralised, and the last hope for all the agents becomes those who are just civilians. The sight of General Beckman being dragged from her office is hilarious, but underlines just how far wrong things have gone for Team Bartowski.

With Chuck on the run, aided by his father, the story winds towards him organising the few assets he has (Ellie, Morgan, Awesome and his dad), to stop Shaw and save Sarah and Casey.

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But then, like a total bolt from the blue, the show does something so entirely shocking that I needed to have a strong drink afterwards. I can’t think of many ostensibly ‘comedy’ shows that have the balls to kill a character, but this one certainly has. It made me think about The A-Team where people used automatic weapons with total abandon but nobody ever got killed. Chuck isn’t The A-Team, and possibly isn’t even the original show now, after Steven Bartowski takes one for the B-Team. It’s a gutsy move, and demonstrates the creative confidence that they now have to pull something like this off.

But it’s not just that they did it, but the manner it’s done. Shaw confronts father and son as they leave a secret Ring base, and knowing Chuck can’t function when he’s emotionally compromised, shoots papa. He dies in Chuck’s arms, but unbeknown to him, it’s all witnessed by Ellie from the shadows.

This would have been a harrowing scene in any drama, but that Chuck threw this especially low blow blew my mind entirely.

That leaves only the incredible set-up for the finale, which sent the sort of tingle down my spine that I last got when I tried rewiring the lights without cutting the power off.

Is this the greatest Chuck story yet? Very possibly, but then in saying that I’ve not seen the next one yet, which I’m going to watch the second I stop typing.

It’s time that Team Bartowski kicked Daniel ‘dead eyes’ Shaw into touch, and I want to be there to see that!

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Check out our review of episode 17 here. Or have a look through all season 3 reviews for Chuck here.