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TV Review: Chuck – “Chuck Versus the Cliffhanger”

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NBC’s Chuck is the little show that could, chugging along long after its been assumed dead, multiple times. With next season just announced as Chuck‘s fifth and final, last night’s season finale, “Chuck Versus the Cliffhanger,” should be yet another game changer for a series known for such. It does not disappoint. Fired from the CIA, and with the Intersect computer removed from his brain while trying to save Sarah’s (Yvonne Strahovski) life, Chuck (Zachary Levi) also takes the time to repair the relationship between Hartley / Volkoff (Timothy Dalton) and his daughter, Vivian (Lauren Cohan). As a wedding present, the dangerous duo leave Chuck and Sarah an empire worth nearly $1,000,000,000! Who needs a career when you have money? Hiring Casey (Adam Baldwin) and Morgan (Joshua Gomez), Chuck and Sarah buy the Buy More and open their own freelance spy agency. And then Morgan gets the Intersect in his head.

The end is near as soon as Agent Clyde Decker (Richard Burgi, Desperate Housewives) is introduced. Chuck may be able to get around Decker to save Sarah, dying after being attacked by Vivian, but nothing will ever be the same afterwards. Chuck has to cross too many lines to rescue his love, but it’s worth it, because Sarah is the person Chuck is meant to be with. This is a plot that has been toyed with before, but “Chuck Versus the Cliffhanger” takes the love story to a new level, costing the pair everything to be together, and making it totally worth it. Those who doubted the actions of the characters on Chuck have consequences, this is the ultimate answer to that question.

As such, next season, the series’s last, will be drastically different. General Beckman (Bonita Friedericy) will remain in the cast, but in what capacity is unclear. Will she quit to work for Chuck? Offer them freelance government jobs? Will she finally do more episodes in person than on a computer screen? What is known is that she will no longer be the boss. Instead, Chuck, Sarah, Casey, and Morgan will have nearly unlimited resources and their choice of all missions. It’s actually a new freedom, opening the characters up to live in a way they never imagined they could. The effect the money and power will have on them remains to be seen, but it’s a guarantee there will be far reaching effects, and this new living situation will have a major impact on the final thirteen episodes.

For four seasons, Chuck has slowly grown from uber-nerd, fish out of water into a super spy. Even without the Intersect computer, Chuck is a force to be reckoned with because of all his training and experience. Moving the Intersect into Morgan is genius because it resets the clock. Chuck gets to see just how difficult he used to be for Sarah and Casey to deal with. The powers will seem fresh and original in new hands. And Morgan will be even more involved than ever before, just as he has promised to pull back from the dangerous stuff for the sake of Alex (Mekenna Melvin).

Chuck understands what Morgan is going through, he himself having had to lie and face tough decisions to keep his family safe. Not so long ago, Chuck promises his sister, Ellie (Sarah Lancaster), that he will give up the dangerous spy life in order to stay at home and be safe. Now that shoe is on Morgan’s foot. What’s more, with Alex’s dad being Morgan’s co-worker, it is not likely Morgan will be allowed to lie to Alex and keep his involvement secret the way Chuck has. Morgan will likely face a tough decision before long: Alex or the Intersect. Knowing Morgan, as much as he will enjoy his new abilities, he will make the right decision in the end, and that’s Alex.

It seems the threat Vivan and Alexei Volkoff pose is now at an end. With Alexei restored to his peaceful self, and father and daughter pursuing the quiet life, they are not likely to be a threat, though one hopes they will be pop back up before series end.

Instead, Clyde Decker, as well as what he represents, will be Chuck’s biggest worry. Decker tells Chuck in “Chuck Versus the Cliffhanger” that everything that has happened to Chuck is part of a master plan. Chuck has faced down a number of villains, and fought with his family and himself to be who he ultimately has become. Now Decker says that’s exactly what he wants. Will Chuck find out who is behind everything and why? How will that impact Chuck’s life going forward? What is the end goal of such a plot?

Whatever Chuck faces, it is nice to know that the Buy More is secure. When Chuck turned more serious in the spy game, the goofy electronics store with its bizarre employees, including Jeff (Scott Krinsky), Lester (Vik Sahay), and Big Mike (Mark Christopher Lawrence), continued to be a grounding presence. No doubt, now that Chuck owns the franchise, he will be drawn closer than ever to the demented trio. They are not just comic relief, though, but also provide a tether to the real world, even when not appearing to live in it themselves. The Buy More is a quirky element that sets Chuck apart from any other series on the air, and it’s a relief to know that will not be changing.

What will be changing is Chuck’s relationship with his family. Ellie now not only knows what Chuck is up to, she also knows her family has always been involved in espionage. Despite her new baby with her husband, Awesome (Ryan McPartlin), Ellie probably will not want to close the door to that part of her history, especially with mother Mary (Linda Hamilton) back in her life. Look for Ellie to come into Castle from time to time to help out Chuck’s new team. Especially with the plot of the master plan going back years, Chuck will need Ellie’s help to decode what is happening.

The last thing to expect from a final season of Chuck is a lot of closure. Many things happen in “Chuck Versus the Cliffhanger,” but none take Chuck in majorly new directions that haven’t been broached before. While the rules keep changing, the game stays the same. As Chuck goes on his final missions, look for a lot of tie-in to past seasons and events. Rather than a new unfurling of further net, the final season of Chuck should begin drawing the loops closer, making connections where there were none before. Given four years of brilliant writing, the odds are in Chuck‘s favor that the writers will be cooking up a genius ending. Do not miss it.

Chuck will move to Fridays at 8pm next season, as it presents its final season on NBC.

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About JeromeWetzelTV

Jerome writes TV reviews for BlogCritics.org and Seat42F.com, as well as fiction. He is a frequent guest on two podcasts, Let's Talk TV with Barbara Barnett and The Good, the Bad, & the Geeky. All of his work can be found on his website, jeromewetzel.com