Wednesday, 11 May 2011

'CHUCK' 4.23 - "Chuck Versus The Last Details"

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

The penultimate episode of Chuck (perhaps ever--again) was a better episode than we've become accustomed to recently, but there were things that strangled my enjoyment. I've simply grown bored of Chuck (Zachary Levi) and tired of his relationship with Sarah (Yvonne Strahovski); which remains cute because the actors have good chemistry together, but has long since stopped being a compelling love story. Plus, as I've been unimpressed by the Mary (Linda Hamilton) and Volkoff angles to this season's arc, any episode that involves both causes my heart to sink. The only outright successes this week were a brief diversion with Morgan (Joshua Gomez) undercover and a sweet denouement that took a shocking twist.

This week, Mary Bartowski was caught by Vivian Volkoff (Lauren Cohan) and evil mentor Riley (Ray Wise) trying to steal their lethal Norseman weapon (which uses DNA samples to kill targets over vast distances) from a secret mine in Amacayacu, Colombia. Upon hearing the news of his mother's capture and incarceration in the mine, Chuck, Sarah and Casey (Adam Baldwin) travelled to Colombia on a rescue mission, keen to ensure Mary can attend her son's forthcoming wedding. Meanwhile, Ellie (Sarah Lancaster) and Morgan reluctantly agreed to let Jeff (Scott Krinsky) and Lester (Vik Sahay) compile a video-montage celebrating Chuck and Sarah's romance, to be played at their rehearsal dinner.

This whole Vivian storyline could have worked if it has been planned from the very start, but as something introduced late it's just annoyingly implausible because it hasn't been given enough time to develop. It's a shame US TV allows for networks snapping their fingers and forcing writers to scramble and get another nine-episode story arc done without much preparation. It's given Chuck a half-improvised feel in these final months. The writers have had to pull off this trick before, sure, but those earlier seasons of Chuck were much easier to milk fresh stories from.

Second of Strahotness: bride-to-be-autiful

"... The Last Details" was crammed with pop-culture references -- which are sometimes amusing, but usually lazy ways to get geeks grinning in lieu of actual jokes. Chuck and Sarah accessed the mine by re-enacting a scene from Star Wars where Han Solo used Chewbacca as a prisoner, with Casey playing the Wookie; Chuck inspired Morgan to play a crime boss by humming "The Imperial March"; Linda Hamilton was seen doing pull-ups in prison as a nod to Terminator 2 (although I have my doubts that was really Hamilton doing them); and there were shout-outs for '80s movie Mannequin and AMC's Breaking Bad, etc.

But I appreciate scenarios that are actually funny or inventive, not just referential, of which there was only one: Morgan pretending to be a sinister villain (ordering the death of a puppy in a phone call), then having to fake his own death when his peers were killed by the Norseman device, before Casey demonstrated astonishing sniper skill by taking out a room of baddies by shooting through walls, only using the visual input of Morgan's camera-glasses and his GPS position.

The final scene was much better than the rest of the episode, with Chuck and Sarah's rehearsal dinner taking place, and Lester's horrifying video-montage being rescued by Jeff's alternative cut -- which was so perfect it earned him a full on the lips smooch from Ellie! And the final twist, with Vivian (now aware her father became a villain because an Intersect Chuck's father created went haywire) triggering her backup Norseman to target Sarah, worked very well. It's highly unlikely Sarah's going to actually die (so was this the equivalent of a warning shot from Vivian?), but it was still a very tense ending. A part of me would applaud the courage of Chuck if they did kill Sarah (seriously, this show would become legendary), but Chuck's too sweet-natured for that kind of punch to the guts.

I don't have much else to say this week, really. I'm sure most of you liked "... The Last Details" more one than me, as you're probably more tolerant of the Volkoff/Norseman nonsense, find pop-culture references hilarious, and have maintained deeper affection for "Chara" this season.


  • NBC reveal their 2011/12 Upfronts next Monday, so fans will be aware if next week's finale is the last episode till season 5, or the end-of-the-line for this spy-comedy. In previous years I've had my fingers crossed for a reprieve, but I'm now hoping NBC cancel Chuck. Season 4's been the worst year of the show, so best to let it go with some dignity intact. The prospect of more episodes, with the inevitable "Sarah's pregnant" plot arc, just doesn't appeal to me now. The show's had its time. In fact, it's had more than its time because of NBC's ratings struggles and the creative ways Chuck's running costs have been lowered. I think the actors (particularly Levi and Strahovski) deserve the chance to move onto bigger and better things.
written by Henry Alonso Myers & Kristin Newman / directed by Peter Lauer / 9 May 2011 / NBC