Wednesday, October 03, 2007

“I don’t kid about quiche”: Chuck

















Okay, so that wasn’t nearly as disappointing as early word would have you believe. True, it wasn't as thrilling as the pilot, but with a pilot that hectic how could it be? Instead, ‘Chuck vs. The Helicopter’ takes a more leisurely approach. While not without its fair share of action (the fight in Wienerlicious being the most memorable of these), the overall story puts more focus on further introducing the core characters.

The main plot is a mixed bag. A doctor is brought in to try and remove the secrets from Chuck’s brain, but soon after is seemingly killed when his car explodes. Both agents suspect the other, prompting tensions of a violent variety as they duke it out while each trying to hold onto Chuck. As a provider of consistent thrills it’s not so successful. Chuck’s doubts about Sarah weren’t too compelling as the resolution - neither agent was responsible - was a given from the beginning. On the other hand, any episode which gives Baldwin loads to do and lets him and Zachary Levi play off each other can’t be so bad. The villain is kinda dull, but he’s also beside the point, posing an interesting question: is it worth investing more time on a villain-of-the-week if it means less time with the core cast? It remains to be seen how this balance will be handled.

The many stressful and near-death situations Chuck suffers this week allow Levi plenty of chances to jump around and freak out, but little else. He’s still an endearing lead, but could do with a few more funny lines. Ellie and Morgan were detached from the action and as such felt kind of aimless here, though I’m sure they’ll get more involved soon enough.

The real focus in this story was on the two warring agents, Sarah (not her real name apparently, but whatever) and Casey. Their dynamic gets more hostile this week – first they fight for control of Chuck and then later, in a bizarre and brilliant scene, they fight for real. Adam Baldwin is still hilarious, playing all his stuff deadpan and emotionless as he should. There’s a couple suggestions of how ruthless Casey might really be, coupled with a further reminder of his willingness to kill Chuck if he gets the order. I liked that where most shows would counterpoint this suggestion with a more optimistic moment, Casey got no such treatment, and so remains just a lovable psychopath.

As for Sarah, I didn’t quite buy her anger at Chuck for not having trusted her; the writers are clearly trying to paint her as the more human of the two agents, but Yvonne Strzechowski is overplaying it a bit. Still, I’m glad that she is a genuine character rather than just eye candy (although she is that too), although the disadvantage of her model-like looks is that I don’t buy even the suggestion that she’d go for Chuck. Levi and Strzechowski have chemistry, but as of yet I'm not sold. Then again, this suggestion might well remain no more than that, at least for a while.

Overall, not the most eventful of sophomore efforts, but any weaknesses in the larger plot were made up for by the smaller, character moments. Chuck can’t be expected to stage adrenal efforts that rival Tony Scott blockbusters every week, nor should it try. The show has already established that it can stage suitably awesome shootouts and car chases; whether it has a genuine heart, however, is still a question mark.

4 comments:

Todd said...

After everyone commented on how similar the pilots for Reaper and Chuck were and then seemed happy to admit they would grow in very different directions, both shows had very similarly flawed second episodes, namely in that they mostly just went over the pilot again for little to no reason, forcing the characters to occasionally act like idiots who forgot everything they learned last week.

Chuck perks up again in week three. It remains to be seen if something similar will happen for Reaper.

Also, I hope they can the Sarah/Casey rivalry soon. It just doesn't work, and it doesn't make a ton of sense.

David Sims said...

Look, second episodes often suck/are mediocre. So I'm not really worried.

I really laughed loud when Adam Baldwin fell down in the Buy More because of the dart. Also when the car blew up.

Sarah Lancaster is really pretty, but her bangs are bugging me.

Todd said...

Lancaster's bangs have always bugged. But she was on Everwood, so I have immense reserves of good will for her.

I know that second episodes are probably the most difficult things to write in the TV world (well, sitcom pilots might be tougher). All I ask is that the show give me some idea that it knows where it will be going over the course of the season. Rehashing the pilot is one of my less favorite second episode gambits.

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