This review may contain spoilers.
4.22 Chuck Versus Agent X
A successful Chuck is like a perfect cake mix in many ways. The ingredients must include those characters at the Buy More, an entirely rational reason for doing the irrational, and some entirely unpredictable directions that the story can take.
Chuck Versus Agent X had all of these, and the proportions of the mix were pretty good in a show that’s not been at its peak for maybe a couple of seasons.
But, first off, there is a visual gag with Casey in the first couple of minutes of the pre-credit sequence that entirely made me gasp. Because it relates to someone who died the very day that this episode screened, and I can’t believe that it was either included at the last minute or that it wasn’t pulled accordingly. Obviously, the scene was shot a while ago, but the timing of its appearance can only be described as spooky at best. (It’s shown below if you missed it or are curious.)
Moving rapidly on from that shocker, the basic theme of the story is Chuck and Sarah’s respective bachelor parties, one organised by Ellie and the other by Devon. Given that this is a family show, the options here were always going to be limited, mostly to those things that don’t happen on these occasions. However, there was a brilliant line from Sarah when she’s surrounded by male strippers and inquires if one of them has a gun, only to work out quickly that it’s not.
Chuck’s adventure is less amusing when he discovers that Devon is the dumbest smart person he knows, having confused ‘Las Vegas’ with the fictional Las Vecas, Nevada State Park. Of those invited along, only Jeff is remotely excited, seeing the immediate potential in the hallucinogenic fungi collection. My immediate reaction to this was to wonder what budgetary constraints the show was now under, and how cool it might have been to see Jeff, Lester and Big Mike actually get to Sin City.
But with Riley (Ray Wise) in hot pursuit of Orion’s laptop, which Devon accidentally brought along, the respective bachelor parties are short-lived and soon the first hints of the true identity of Agent X are given, although when it was finally revealed at the end of the show, it wasn’t any of the people I’d considered.
Ellie is invited into Castle to be shown the truth about Chuck, and the team leaves to pursue Agent X, a man called Hartley. This is the preamble to one of the most bat-shit crazy sequences that’s ever been in Chuck, ever.
They arrive at a house in England (yer, right) and meet a truculent old lady played scintillatingly by the legendary Millicent Martin. She turns out to be Hartley’s mum, an octogenarian who packs a heavy machine gun under her coffee table. This whole sequence had me rolling on the floor, with more than a cursory nod to the machinegun-toting senior citizen in Goldfinger. When Chuck is this off-the-wall, it’s great, and after all the action mayhem we get the big reveal of who Harley Winterbottom/Agent X really is. Ta-da!
With just two episodes left, I’m now confident that Chuck will end this year on a high, possibly with all guns blazing, if they invite Granny Winterbottom to the wedding.
This story didn’t deliver a very consistent tone throughout, but the highlights more than made up for some of the less successful elements.