Wednesday, December 05, 2007

“Never trust a woman whose name is a palindrome.”: Chuck

















Back in the sophomore episode of Chuck, there was a scene in which Casey’s superior General Beckman made it clear that as soon as the Intersect went back online and Chuck was no longer needed, Casey would have to take care of him. Stone-faced, he assented. I remember liking that the writers made no attempt at coupling this with a more optimistic character moment for Casey, instead just letting it stand alone and linger. Now Schwartz and co. have finally returned to that suggestion, if only by making a further one as the cliff-hanger of ‘Chuck versus the Crown Vic,’ our last slice of Chuck for a while.

Casey is a fantastic character because he’s not supposed to be likeable. He is a loyal servant of his country first and foremost, and consequently he considers himself above people like Chuck, who complain about having to help out. (This might be why he’s so nice to Ellie, a doctor and thus a public servant.) He has always maintained the attitude of someone on the job, without any personal vested interest. Neither attribute has been better shown than in a scene this week between Casey and Sarah. When she asks Casey if he ever wants to just settle down and start a family, his face contorts into barely concealed disgust. A momentary flicker of emotion passes quickly, and he growls, “The choice we made, to protect something bigger than ourselves, is the right choice.” It’s a memorable moment – Casey’s best so far. It also lends weight to the often ludicrous rivalry between him and Sarah, reminding us of how fundamentally different they are.

The casualty in all this is Sarah. This week her character was at her very sappiest, concealing her obvious attraction to Chuck with a shocking lack of subtlety. I’m not attacking Strahovski, rather the writers for over-stressing Sarah's emotional side to the point that I lost sympathy for her. Sarah’s motives and actions I can understand, but her overt sensitivity I don’t buy.

Even with all the Chuck & Sarah dramatics, ‘Chuck versus the Crown Vic’ put a fair amount of focus on him and Casey’s interplay. Still, I think I would’ve preferred it if Sarah had taken the day off altogether, leaving Chuck and Casey to bounce off each-other without Sarah as a mediating force. Maybe just for the first half of the story? That was where I'd hoped things were going, and I was disappointed when it didn't prove the case. As it was, Chuck and Casey’s relationship didn’t develop beyond anything it wasn’t already - then again, maybe it doesn’t need to. Casey has obviously worked out a way to deal with Chuck’s various eccentricities, and that alone might be enough development for the most part of a season – I worry that Casey would lose his impact if the writers try too hard to ‘deepen’ him.

The spy plot was a bit weak, especially the lame villain. Right now the antagonists are Chuck’s only constant problem, and I doubt it's a problem that's going away any time soon. At least this week’s plot had Chuck doing his best James Bond impression, losing $100,000 worth of government money in the process. (Chuck’s freakout when he realised how much he’d bet was hilariously played by Levi.) And the pay-off on Casey’s car was brilliant. (Poor Casey!) I was also happy to see yet more exemplary Buy More action; Lester and Jeff are growing into perfect comic relief, Big Mike in a Santa costume is effortlessly funny, and Morgan is developing into a believable, bearable character.

All in all, Chuck is awesome. I love it, and judging from the other reviews out there, I know I’m not alone. Thank God for that back-nine order – good call NBC! Like me, I’m sure you all look forward to seeing Chuck again as soon as possible. Until that time, I've found that rewatching The O.C. is surprisingly therapeutic. In any situation!

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