Wednesday, November 07, 2007

“Leave the quips to me.”: Chuck

Chuck is going strong, and only getting stronger. ‘Chuck versus The Alma Mater’ was yet another fine offering, showing off many of Chuck’s fine qualities and adding something new to the table.

Namely, backstory! Or mythology, or a central mystery, or whatever you want to call it. There had always been the question of why Bryce sent the Intersect to Chuck, but this episode gave some much appreciated context to Bryce and his relationship with Chuck. Basically it did everything an early ‘mythology’ episode should – provided an answer to a smaller mystery, while deepening our interest in the main one. We discovered that Bryce deliberately got Chuck kicked out of Stanford because he didn’t want him to be sucked into a CIA life that Bryce didn’t think he could handle. Bryce’s actions are questionable – after all, Chuck could have turned down the offer – but I think that’s the idea. Overall it is the well-meant action of a friend, and a nice explanation for Chuck’s abrupt exit from Stanford. The flashback scenes between Chuck and Bryce were sweet, and I especially liked the dramatic effect of their playing backwards chronologically.

Writer Anne Coffell Saunders made a welcome, if not entirely successful attempt to tie every character into the central mission. The only problem here was that as well as making this effort, Saunders also tried to frame the story as a personal journey for Chuck. The emphasis ends up swinging towards the latter - probably the right approach, but as a consequence Ellie and Awesome basically disappeared halfway through. Sarah and Casey get more to do, although I can’t help but keeping wanting more Casey than we’re getting. Maybe the writers think he will work beter as occasional comic relief – if so, I strongly disagree.

As has become the norm now, Morgan and the Buy More folks get a sub-plot all to themselves. This week’s, involving Harry Tang’s reign of terror as the new Buy More assistant manager, was entertaining enough while never hitting any great comic heights. At least Morgan wasn’t annoying. Eventually this structure is going to become tiresome, but for now I can live with it.

Forgivable criticisms aside, another solid episode. Looking ahead, it seems like there’s plenty of good stories coming before the strike starts to affect the show, starting with the beginning of Rachel Bilson’s arc next week. Essential viewing, methinks.

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