Chuck vs. My Hopes and Expectations

Dear Chuck – yeah, you, Fedak and Schwartz – ,

What is your deal?

It seems like every time you get my hopes up and make the show seem better than ever, you immediately backtrack and it all goes to hell again.

Let’s look back at the last six episodes, shall we? “Chuck vs. the American Hero” and “Chuck vs. the Other Guy” are some of the best episodes of the entire series, if you ask me. That was some absolutely brilliant work and, even better, the result was an apparent stretching of limits and changing of rules.

Key word: “apparent”

Now, I was not entirely without reservations after “Chuck vs. The Other Guy.” It was so finale-like, and there were only a few episodes left, and I was a tad concerned about what y’all could possibly put together for the actual finale. BUT, those two aforementioned episodes were so excellent – and the zenith of an upward trend – so I dismissed my concerns and got all excited.

And what have you done since? Paraded out the most wrinkly, stuffy, mothball-smelling, cracked, broken, worn-down, over-used cliche plotlines you could find.

  1. “Chuck vs. the Honeymooners”: Chuck and Sarah have lots of sex and almost escape the spy life but wait! neither of them actually wants to and, oh, here’s some really great comedy moments to try and make the audience forget how lame this episode actually is.
  2. “Chuck vs. the Role Models”: Now that Chuck and Sarah have actually gotten together, clearly we must bring in the worst-case-scenario old people gag to make them question their future. But don’t pay attention to how tired that is – here’s Swoosie Kurtz and a tiger! (And, don’t forget, Ellie and Awesome go to Africa for two minutes and end up tangled with The Ring! But no, snake joke!)
  3. “Chuck vs. the Tooth”: Instead of just one of these exhaustingly predictable scenarios being featured, the latest episode trotted out a whole team of them.
    • First we have the first evidence of the Intersect interacting negatively with Chuck’s brain. Yes, it did have to happen eventually. It did not, however, need to progress from Sarah’s “Oh, btw, you’ve been having these dreams for awhile already” to “Hey, Chuck’s totally insane, let’s send him to therapy and then the funny farm!” all in the same episode. Frankly, this was handled with the finesse of a gorilla grubbing around for bugs. In its nose.
    • Ellie is finally being brought into the spy world. Again, I suppose this was inevitable. But the Ring operative turning her against Casey, Awesome suddenly turning into an utter moron, and Ellie suddenly becoming the link to Bartowski, Sr.? Seriously?
    • Speaking of Chuck and Ellie’s dad. Nothing says “We can’t come up with an original idea” more than recycling the major gamechanger from last year.
    • And finally, connecting back up with the first point on this sub-list, Shaw isn’t dead (maybe)? For the LOVE OF GOD. Does NO-ONE die on television anymore? Shaw was a new character, and he worked out great. SO FIND ANOTHER ONE INSTEAD OF JUST BRINGING HIM BACK.
    • …but, of course, we weren’t supposed to notice any of this. We were supposed to be distracted by Merlin and Morgan in a tux and Morgan dismissing Anna Woo and “The truth…is in the tooth.”

Much as I love Chuck, this show is a source of so much worry to me. I can’t begin to say how many times in a season I stop and wonder if it really would better to just call an end to the whole thing. Not because there is nothing to recommend the show. The comedy, physical and written, is near-unparalleled – reminiscent of the early days of Scrubs in that way. But once you look past the tigers and the outstanding guest cast and Zachary Levi‘s face and Yvonne Strahovski‘s cleavage, it’s unfortunately clear to see that all of that is a facade more often than not. Sad truth: Most of the time, the show just doesn’t have the substance to match.

But sometimes it does. Which is, I suppose, the reason for not only my continued disappointment following the high points, but also for my ability to tolerate the bad times and never actually give up on Chuck.

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