Wednesday, 2 March 2011

'CHUCK' 4.17 - "Chuck Versus The First Bank Of Evil"

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Season 4's new storyline properly launched after last week's groundwork, with an entertaining episode that has me more engaged with the notion of Chuck (Zachary Levi) accidentally turning Volkoff's sheltered daughter Vivian McArthur (Lauren Cohen) into a supervillain. "Chuck Versus The First Bank Of Evil" was rather bloated considering how simplistic the main storyline was, and there was a truly awful subplot for Morgan (Joshua Gomez) this week, but the intention behind this arc definitely has legs.

Last week's inciting cliffhanger, with Vivian discovering a secret room in her father's office filled with blue light, was resolved in a disappointing way. I was hoping for some kind of Evil Intersect to turn Vivian into a more literal antithesis of Chuck, but instead Alexei Volkoff just likes to keep his bank card in ostentatious surroundings? Maybe he also keeps his car keys in a chamber full of dry ice and green lasers. The thrust of the story involved Vivian helping Chuck and Sarah (Yvonne Strahovski) gain access to the world's most impregnable bank in Macau, where Volkoff is said to keep his most prized possessions in a safety deposit box. General Beckman (Bonita Fiedericy) spotted a chance for Vivian to plant a device in the bank's stolen Chinese servers, which will help the CIA trace laundered money around the world, meaning a mission involving a bank robbery distraction was called for.

In a brain-numbing Buy More subplot (oh how I've missed 'em), Morgan placed an advert for a housemate to avoid living with his mother and Big Mike, which was rewritten by Lester (Vik Sahay) and Jeff (Scott Krinsky) so various costumed members of a medieval fair arrived for an interview. Ultimately, this was a feeble excuse to see people dressed as kings and wenches, with predictably ridiculous "British accents" -- pitched somewhere between East London via Galway. Indeed, this was an episode where British accents were a big joke, as Volkoff's lawyer (Ray Wise) earlier tried to convince Vivian to inherit her father's evil empire by reading a letter from her dad in his accent. To be fair, Wise does a tolerable upper-class English accent. Shame that Englishman Timothy Dalton's been playing Volkoff as a Russian this season!

Second of Strahotness: bank rubber

Much better were the smattering of moments with Sarah choosing her wedding dress, using the hitherto unseen high-tech dressing room at Castle, where you can see yourself wearing various clothes as a rotating hologram before making your selection. Well, I guess someone demanded to know where Sarah Walker gets all her outfits from, so now we know. I actually really liked this subplot, as it transformed Sarah from someone disengaged with her own wedding (unable to echo Ellie's excitement over choosing flowers for the ceremony), to someone who only grasped the magnitude of the event when she found the perfect white dress. A revelatory moment beautifully played by Strahovski, leading to Sarah out-enthusing Ellie with talk of the wedding. "I've created a monster" opined Ellie, which is exactly what Chuck doesn't notice he's doing to Vivian...

I'm liking how the Vivian storyline is effectively a tug-of-war between the forces of Good and Evil for her soul, which gives Ray Wise's presence added relevance because he played The Devil in Reaper (a short-lived comedy very much in the Chuck mould). Lauren Cohen's great in the role and the writers are doing a decent job making you believe someone as sweet and innocent as Vivian can be turned to evil, simply by making her doubt the sincerity of Chuck (who promised her a meeting with her father he couldn't keep) and beginning to realize her father truly loved her (his deposit box contained photos from her childhood). Chuck himself planted the seed in Vivian's mind that an absent father doesn't necessarily equal an unloving father, speaking from personal experience with his own dad.

You can also sense the underlying badass in Vivian's character, which occasionally slips out -- such as the moment when she stabbed her dad's lawyer in the hand, or when she kept a cool head during the bank operation. There are enough episodes left this season to make Vivian's transformation feel earned and affecting, so I have my fingers crossed they won't rush things and turn Vivian into a scowling villainess overnight.

Overall, "... The First Bank Of Evil" was a really good episode of Chuck in terms of theme and character, spoiled by a terrible Buy More diversion and fairly humdrum plot. The bank robbery was both a visual delight (a clear Matrix parody with Sarah rocking some leathers that gave Carrie-Anne Moss a run for her money), and patently absurd considering that bank's supposedly impenetrable. Chuck and Sarah faced such little opposition or security that it was a joke!

Asides

  • A plethora of pop-culture gags this week: The Numbers (4, 8, 5, 16, 23, 42) from Lost were embossed on Vivian's bank card, Lost's recurring guest-star Fran├žois Chau appeared as the bank manager, the lobby shootout from The Matrix was the clear inspiration for the bank robbery, dialogue was lifted from Pulp Fiction, and many more.
  • Is nobody asking questions about why there's suddenly a tunnel leading to a restricted area in Castle, with workmen coming and going?
written by Henry Alonso Myers & Craig DiGregorio / directed by Frederick E.O Toye / 28 February 2011 / NBC