Well guys, you did it. When it looked like the end was nigh, it was the fans who rallied together and kept Chuck on the air, affording it the opportunity to wrap things up that not many shows get. So does it capitalise on this privilege? Well, yes, but perhaps not in a manner that will satisfy everyone.
For those who have forgotten, the state of play is as follows: Chuck (Zachary Levi) and Sarah (Yvonne Strahovski) are now happily married, having appropriated the wealth of the disbanded Volkoff Industries to purchase the Buy More, which they continue to use as a base of operations for their fledgling spy outfit, Carmichael Industries alongside Casey (Adam Baldwin). Oh, and Chuck has lost the Intersect – which was subsequently found by best pal Morgan (Joshua Gomez).
This new dynamic presents interesting new plot possibilities, with Chuck being forced into the caretaker role for his buddy in much the same manner as Sarah and Casey were in earlier seasons. It’s an interesting idea, but it isn’t one the show lingers on for too long, swiftly dispensing with Morgan’s capers in favour of throwing every idea at the screen while there’s still time.
Indeed, this is indicative of this season’s approach to the show’s adversaries. While earlier seasons had Fulcrum and The Ring as ever-pervading threats lurking unseen in the background, this time around the various big bads are dispensed with almost as soon as they are introduced. This revolving door approach to the show’s rogues gallery is somewhat misjudged, shattering any momentum built up by earlier episodes, with the return of one particularly iconic villain being criminally short-changed. It’s either a case of running out of ideas or trying to cram too many into too short a time window, but either way it doesn’t work.
Moreover, the bittersweet ending feels at odds with the jovial tone of the series. Sure, Chuck has dealt with some pretty dark subject matter over the years, but the atmosphere has always been an overwhelmingly positive one, making some of the crueller occurrences hard to stomach. If the conclusion had been built up to then it would perhaps be more palatable, but it isn’t; it feels rushed and ultimately misjudged.
Amid the divisive ending and slack pacing, however, Team Bartowski hold it together. The dynamic between the core trio of Levi, Strahovski and Baldwin functions seamlessly, their well-honed understanding allowing them to bounce of each other with astute comic timing. The supporting cast, too, more than play their part: Morgan has perhaps undertaken the most pronounced journey of everyone save the protagonist himself; Ellie (Sarah Lancaster) and Devon (Ryan McPartlin) represent a down-to-earth touchstone, and even Jeff (Scott Krinsky) and Lester (Vik Sahay) are firm favourites by the series’ end.
So it’s farewell and goodbye to one of the most unique shows on TV: one that combined great action scenes with snappy one-liners, unique characterisation, more pop culture references and iconic guest stars than anyone could keep track of and a genuinely compelling love story that proved it could run and run. Not all of this stands out in the closing season, but there’s enough to remind us why we fell in love with Chuck in the first place, and why it mattered to the fans. For a show about an underdog, it’s fitting that the underdog won.