Wednesday, 1 December 2010

'CHUCK' 4.10 - "Chuck Versus The Leftovers"

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

I suspect I'm in the minority, but I didn't like this episode. As a continuation of the excellent "... Versus The First Fight", I found it very unsatisfactory and tedious; with Timothy Dalton reduced to playing a love struck fool, and Linda Hamilton again proving to be an awfully dull screen presence. She simply has no sense for comedy, and it's a crying shame Chuck's producers didn't cast someone experienced with being funny on camera.

This week, Alexei Volkoff (Dalton) learned of Chuck's (Zachary Levi) survival, having believed he was killed in a house bombing, so sent his trusted Agent Frost/Mary Bartowski (Hamilton) back to America to finish the job, with the help of his three top assassins. Consequently, Chuck (now "unplugged" without the Intersect) and Sarah (Yvonne Strahovski) were attacked by Volkoff's hired killers, only to be saved by Mary, who again pleads she's deep undercover and is determined to keep her son safe from danger.

Mary was apprehended and taken to Castle for interrogation, which drew Volkoff himself to the Buy More to rescue the woman it's revealed he's been in love with for the past 20 years. Jeff (Scott Krinsky) and Lester (Vik Sahay) were incapacitated by a seductive Volkoff operative called Barbara (Monet Mazur) while locking up the Buy More, leaving Morgan (Joshua Gomez) as the only person topside able to prevent Volkoff's team accessing Castle and killing his friends.

It sounds more entertaining on paper, frankly. In reality, I think there's been too many situations in the Buy More that were similar to this episode's, including "... Versus The Cubic Z" from earlier this season. It's also about the sixth time the show's paid extensive homage to Die Hard; this time with Morgan crawling through air vents in a white vest, later forced to go barefoot in order to rescue the captured Casey (Adam Baldwin).

Second of Strahotness: the face of concern
What irritate me about "... Versus The Leftovers" is the unshakable feeling the writers are half-improvising this season, because there were developments here that just felt implausible or silly. We're expected to believe Volkoff's had an unrequited infatuation with Mary for two decades suddenly? And who thought it would be a great idea to undermine the power and authority Dalton brought to the role by having him try to accept Chuck as a potential son-in-law, and have "Thanksgiving leftovers" dinner with his family before playing Charades in their living room? I understand Chuck's foremost a comedy, but none of this rang true, and I thought it turned Volkoff into too much of a clown. I was rather excited by Dalton's gravitas in his previous outing, but now he's just another psychotic idiot.

Additionally, the persistent back-and-forth over Mary's allegiance became tedious long ago, so it's become maddening to see the writers still playing that card. At this stage, I don't even care if Mary is deep undercover or a defector, which also doesn't help sell the intended drama of this uncertainty. Linda Hamilton looks alternately bored with what's going on around her, or plain unable to give the material the lighthearted touch it so desperately needs. I'm at a loss to understand why some people think she's great casting, and I'm someone who loved her iconic work in the Terminator movies.

It was also frustrating that last week's provocative cliffhanger, with Ellie (Sarah Lancaster) accessing her father's super-laptop, was such a monumental flop. It turns out Ellie was just given a memory problem that she solved by doing MRI scans of her own brain (I don't understand any of that either), and the episode ended with Chuck solving the software's final riddle "1 or 11?" by inputting "Aces, Charles" and having a fresh Intersect downloaded into his mind. A sorely predictable moment, really. I expected something more imaginative, and this now marks the end of the brief Intersect-less Chuck storyline, which failed to meet its potential.

Overall, "Chuck Versus The Leftovers" just didn't work for me. Half of it was a dreary retread of situations/scenes the show has done before, and the remaining half neutered the delicious promise of Dalton's character and made us go through the Mary Bartowski "good or bad?" rigmarole for the umpteenth time. It wasn't even a very funny episode, with the only laugh coming from Morgan's broad parody of Die Hard's John McClane, culminating with him trying to grab a gun he'd taped to his own back.

I'm now very worried that this super-sized fourth season is going to leave a dirty stain on Chuck's good name. Hopefully the Mary Bartowski storyline will come to a half-decent conclusion soon, and the show can move onto something more engaging and productive. I need to wash this taste out of my mouth.

  • Here's an admission: I didn't know that Volkoff was unaware Chuck is Mary's son. Anyone else going to admit to that? So when that big reveal happened, I was surprised for a very different reason. I thought Volkoff's plan in "... Versus The First Fight" was to manipulate Chuck into revealing the whereabouts of his father's secret base, then testing the loyalty of Mary by ordering her to kill her own son.
  • "Come with me if you want to live". I guess Linda Hamilton had to recite that line from The Terminator sooner or later, but it just felt so hokey to me.
  • How the hell did Morgan manage to tape that gun to the middle of his back, all by himself?
  • Casey was once again incapacitated for the majority of this episode. This has been a particularly poor season for Adam Baldwin, hasn't it? Casey's spent most episodes either captured by the enemy, forced to step aside to let other characters save the day, or ordered to stay at the Buy More by General Beckman.
  • So much for the CIA stronghold of the Buy More! They let three civilians lock up at night? Where was Greta?
  • Has it become Dalton's "thing" to launch spittle from his mouth? He infamously did exactly the same thing in Doctor Who. I hope it's intentional, as otherwise he has a very nasty habit.
  • Was Ellie unaware that Chuck's gone back to spying? I thought he'd resolved things with her earlier this year.
  • This episode was directed by Zachary Levi; his second after "Chuck Versus The Beard"
  • Why did Stephen Bartowski leave another Intersect in the care of Ellie? I can't figure that out.
WRITER: Henry Alonso Myers
DIRECTOR: Zachary Levi
TRANSMISSION: 29 November 2010, NBC, 8/7c