Chuck: “I love you. Just in case.”
Meet Ellie’s engagement ring… Actually, that’s an object, so I’m not sure the verb applies. Besides, Awesome doesn’t propose right away. Instead, for reasons that don’t particularly make sense, he entrusts the jewel to Chuck, who loses it after storing it in his work locker, which didn’t particularly make sense either. The ring’s a precious thing indeed, having once belonged to Devon’s late great-granny, who knew before him Ellie was the one. More importantly, it symbolises Chuck’s ability to support and provide for his loved ones, which has been under threat since the series began.
For its first season finale, Chuck brings that threat to the forefront as our heroes find Fulcrum bugs spread throughout the Buy More. With the Intersect’s identity at risk, Team Bartowski must locate the receiver within forty-eight hours, lest Chuck spends the rest of his days in a secure facility, unable to see his family. Granted, that may not be a lot of days, given Beckman’s plans to kill the guy once the new Intersect is operational, but you can understand why Sarah and the increasingly mushy Casey might show concern.
Adopting more of a mystery structure, “Chuck versus the Marlin” serves up a lot of twists and turns, from the Buy More clear-out burglary to Detective Conway’s true affiliations, which prove easy enough to guess once you consider the CIA would never let a real cop investigate their heist. I also like how Ellie’s hostile disinterest with Chuck and Casey is later explained in Morgan’s account. It’s a dense plot, especially by this series’ standards, providing every supporting character (except Anna) with an opportunity to shine.
To accommodate the substantial cast, the writers merge the spy caper and Buy More B-plot halfway through the episode, as the ring and Fulcrum receiver each find their way into Big Mike’s marlin. This works well, giving a sense of urgency to an otherwise comical chain of events. Both MacGuffins, after all, represent our hero’s salvation, the implication being that Chuck’s attachments comprise his very essence and that removing him from those he cherishes would be the same as killing him.
As such, Chuck and Sarah’s conversation on the rooftop really got to me. How can anyone stay indifferent watching Sarah tear up like she’s listening to a loved one’s dying words, while Chuck, even with life as he knows it coming to an end, shows nothing but dignity, still trying to make things work for his friends and family? To make things worse, their exchange takes place where Team Bartowski first came together in the pilot. I mean worse in a good way, of course, in the best possible way.
Gone is the neurotic man-child from “Chuck versus the Intersect” and “Chuck versus the Helicopter”. In fact, our hero proves remarkably resourceful in this finale, deducing Pita Girl is the Fulcrum agent without help from the Intersect and sneaking into an air vent undetected to convey the information to his handlers. I love that, for all intents and purposes, he saved Sarah’s life using a CD-ROM marked “Boobies”. Chuck’s come a long way in thirteen episodes.
Chuck versus the Season Overview
Looking back, it comes as little surprise that Chuck moved up my TV watch list so quick. The series started with an awesome pilot and managed to keep the momentum throughout its first season, delivering only one or two misfires (no outright duds) along the way. Granted, that’s easier to achieve with just thirteen episodes, owing to the WGA strike, but the writers display such a strong sense of pacing, creating a long-term arc while avoiding the recent trap of full-on serialisation, it’s hard to imagine they didn’t know exactly what they were doing.
Every episode provides a self-contained experience, yet the characters keep evolving from week to week. Chuck, Sarah, Casey, and Morgan are undeniably different from when we first met them. I don’t mean that in a “please tell me this is an evil twin” manner like in Heroes but in an organic “that funny bit with the shrimp actually meant something to our protagonist” kind of way. Also, the November sweeps episodes blew me away.
Because of ratings, Chuck finales are always written in such a way that they could double as series conclusions if necessary, and this one’s no exception. However, the Bartowski story would have turned out a real downer if it had ended here. Unlike subsequent season cliffhangers, which play as tongue-in-cheek tributes to the “And the adventure continues!” action trope, the final scene of “Chuck versus the Marlin” focuses on the inherent tragedy of our hero’s situation. As Casey points out to his CIA partner, Chuck is still living on borrowed time, and it won’t be long before Beckman orders his execution. Of course, Sarah knows better than anyone that a few extra moments with Chuck are worth a lifetime for those who love him.
Bits and Pieces
- It was cute seeing Sarah and Casey bicker like divorcé parents before revealing Beckman’s cruel contingency plan. The scene is also the first of many in which John proves better at gauging Chuck’s strength of character than Sarah. Maybe the emotional distance gives him an edge.
- Awesome’s got two little brothers. I wonder if we’re going to meet them down the line or if it’s going to turn out like The X-Files, in which Scully had a different number of siblings every season.
- It seems wrong to me somehow that the Nerd Mobile didn’t make an appearance.
- The scene in which Chuck bangs his head against the table, hurts himself, and falls off his chair was a riot. I’m pretty sure that’s happened to me. Several times. Last week.
A mystery plot means lots of interrogation scenes, which, in turn, means lots of great quotes:
Casey: “Okay, we can do this the easy way or the hard way. Easy way is I shove his foot up your ass.”
Jeff: “What’s the hard way?”
Casey: “I use my foot.”
In a past life, Casey must have been Red Foreman. Yes, I know that’s a completely anachronistic observation.
Morgan: “Okay, someone wasn’t hugged enough as a child.”
Jeff: “Bring me down, and I will cut you.”
Casey: “Okay, start talking, from the beginning.”
Morgan: “Okay, I was born a caesarean section. I always feel I was robbed that headlong voyage through the uterine canal.”
Devon: “This is not awesome.”
Awesome’s version of, “If you were here, I’d be tearing off your limbs and beating your face with them.”
Morgan: “My own personal kryptonite: grape soda. On the rocks please.”
Casey: “I had a feeling that girl was dirty.”
At this point in the series, Casey still had a propensity for deliberately awful one-liners.
Devon: “Way to go, Chuck! I always knew you could handle my family jewels.”
Chuck: “Who puts horseradish on a hot dog?”
Family jewels. Heh.