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TV Review: Chuck Surpasses Awesomeness

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I realize that the title of this article is a bold statement. It is also one I am willing to stand by. So far in the fourth season, Chuck (Zachary Levi) has found and rescued his mother, Mary a.k.a. Frost (Linda Hamilton), wooed and proposed (multiple times) to Sarah (Yvonne Strahovski), who last night appeared to say yes, and brought down one of the most notorious criminals of all time, Volkoff (Timothy Dalton) and his organization. As General Beckman (Bonita Friedericy) told Chuck when he asked to borrow a van, and I’m paraphrasing here, ‘After what you’ve done, I’ll send you by chopper!’

This season of Chuck has felt like a helicopter ride in a storm, swinging around wildly, but thrilling at the same time. The show, frequently on the verge of cancellation, has packed much plot into a handful of episodes before, most notably at the end of season two, and it felt rushed. This time, however, it feels anything but. It’s perfectly plotted out, brilliantly executed, and a hell of a good time. Last night’s episode, “Chuck Versus the Push Mix”, seemed like a season finale, but the best part is, it wasn’t! There’s still more Chuck to come!

In true Chuck fashion, last night’s big episode did not end in a spectacular fight, though there was plenty of action. Instead, the final moments were Devon a.k.a. Captain Awesome (Ryan McPartlin) declaring his newborn baby girl ‘awesome’, and Sarah accepting Chuck’s proposal. The proposal was particularly neat, as the viewer could hear only the floor waxing machine, not the words. We’ve heard them before, recently, so we didn’t need to again. We’ve seen Chuck and Sarah grow together. And it felt absolutely perfect for him to ask now, and for her to say yes. It also felt like a private moment, as everyone but the two of them, including viewers, were excluded to some degree. Super sweet.

Some shows worry about jumping the shark when they put their two romantic leads together. Series put it off for years, tossing one obstacle after another in their way. Chuck did that, too, but after three and a half years, the perfect amount of time, in my opinion, they tossed caution to the wind and went for it. Chuck and Sarah’s relationship informed every episode of the season, to its credit. It has really worked, adding a fresh element. More importantly, Chuck never felt like her equal until now. After taking down Volkoff, he more than proved he deserves her.

Timothy Dalton has been delicious in every episode, and I hate to see him go so soon. I hope the writers will find a way to bring him back. The final showdown was pitch perfect, with Chuck playing on Volkoff’s weakness (jealousy), and the stand off being much more talk than fight. Chuck manipulated Volkoff into saying the words he needed to use Chuck’s father’s computer virus to steal Volkoff’s computer system. Not only that, Chuck played it uber cool. When Volkoff told Chuck he’d need an army to escape the cabin, I just knew Beckman and the army were on the other side of that door. When they were, I had to clap out loud in excitement!

Chuck began the show as a geek, thrust into the spy life purely by circumstance. After four years, two computers in his brain, both of which have been removed and blocked for periods of time, two secret lairs, uncovering family espionage secrets, gaining and losing a parent, finding the other, friends and family being brought into and taken out of the loop, a variety of happy accidents, intense CIA training, and countless international missions, Chuck is a full fledged spy. Where will he go from here? With Volkoff, the season’s Big Bad taken down, that question applies doubly.

Of course, the show has never really been just about Chuck. There is a slew of supporting characters, and almost every one got their due in this episode, too, save Big Mike (Mark Christopher Lawrence), who must have been taking the night off. The best supporting character moment goes to Jeffster’s (a band consisting of Vik Sahay’s Lester and Scott Krinsky’s Jeff) cover of “Push” as Ellie (Sarah Lancaster) gave birth. They got into the hospital, broke into the sound system, and delivered their best performance to date. It was so wrong, it was hilarious. So glad they made it as long as they did before security arrived to escort them out.

For some reason, Jeffster, as much of a joke as it is, always kicks an episode up a notch. Many times in a show, you just need a good musical number to raise the scene to an entirely higher level. Chuck has figured out that allowing two incredibly geeky losers access to the musical equipment to give a live performance, along with an unhealthy dose of delusions of grandeur, is better than just running a track. I agree one thousand percent, when said duo is Jeff and Lester. I assumed the pair would disappear when the show got serious about the spy stuff, but keeping the Buy More scenes has allowed the series, and the character of Chuck, to stay grounded. Kudos.

Not surprisingly, Morgan (Joshua Gomez) also got his due. With Chuck now soaring in skills and abilities, the show needed someone to be the new, I mean old, Chuck, capturing that earnest enthusiasm, but without the talent to back it up. I’m sorry; I may have angered fans by implying Morgan has no talent. He sure does, as evidenced by his laser dodging dance last night, another highlight of the episode. But it never feels like Morgan’s accomplishments are entirely intentional. He sure tries hard, though! Which is why he such a beloved character. It’s interesting to see him grow, as Chuck did, as their paths will surely be quite different.

I guess what was surprising was that Casey (Adam Baldwin), always part of the central spy trio with Chuck and Sarah (now often a quartet with Morgan), spent most of last night in a hospital bed. It shouldn’t have been that surprising, after his near-fatal plummet in last week’s episode, but it felt odd to not have Casey involved on the mission. Instead, the writers focused on a strength Casey has been steadily developing: connecting to people.

When we first met Casey, he was a rough and tough, seemingly emotionless soldier. Casey has lightened up considerably, and not just to his teammates, Chuck and Sarah. He has become a devoted father to Alex (Mekenna Melvin), and a mentor (and hopefully, before long, father-in-law) to Morgan. Casey had fine, emotional moments with Alex, Morgan, Sarah, and even Devon last night, sort of becoming a heart in the series. It’s not Casey’s traditional story, but it is very welcome.

What will the rest of season four hold? Obviously, new bad guys. But also Chuck and Sarah planning a wedding, Ellie and Devon learning to be parents, and Jeff and Lester getting into trouble. I don’t want to count my season five chickens before they hatch, but I feel better about the show’s chance this year than any before. It is a fantastic series, and definitely deserves to be on the air. Much praise to NBC for sticking by it when it dangled near cancellation, multiple times. A few more shows like Chuck, and the network might not be #4 any more.

Chuck airs on NBC Monday nights at 9 p.m.

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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