Chuck “Chuck Versus The Bullet Train” Review

Next week all five seasons of Chuck come to a conclusion. I’ve been watching the show fairly consistently since the beginning. It’s annoying, then, that the penultimate episode was so mediocre. Disappointing, even. Knowing that this was going to be the final season, I’d hoped the writers were going to really go for it: before, they’ve always been pulled back by NBC’s schizophrenic renewals and thus Chuck can sometimes feel like a botched job around the midway point, but they’ve always come through in the end.

Let’s get the subplot out of the way. Alex has been a problem from the beginning. She’s there to serve as “Morgan’s woman” – literally a quote from the episode. Perhaps the writers knew she was the most poorly handled of all the character when they had Sarah forget her entirely. She’s not defined by any personality and despite being a daughter of Casey, she was a weak willed character used as a MacGuffin: this week Morgan wants to save her, this week he wants to impress her, now he has to win her back, blah blah blah. She’s never had any agency of her own, existing purely as the plot dictates. So the fact that they just didn’t kill her off in this episode, and instead used her to create a comedic scenario wherein Jeff and Lester save Awesome, Morgan and Alex was just so lame. Especially since Adam Baldwin has been consistently amazing throughout the show’s run, and can make an episode with a simple grunt. Not giving him any emotional material to play with as Chuck draws to a close, instead relegating him to phone duty, seems like a huge waste of a great oppurtunity.

As last week’s episode drew to a close, to say I was super excited to see what the stunt team and writers had in store for Sarah is a huge understatement. Little did I know she’d spend most of the episode’s run curled up in a corner blindfolded. Worst of all, they went back to the ultimate lazy device for writers, along with the “it was all just a dream” scape: amnesia. I don’t give a crap about amnesia. I hate characters who get it and I hate when writers condescend to that level. How about brainwashing, a PG version of Martha Marcy May Marlene? How about give her her own motivations that conflict with Chuck and Casey’s? How about actually, ideologically or whatever, turning her into the antagonist, instead of giving her amnesia, which you know she’ll overcome when Chuck waves that drawing of the house with the picket fence and their potential family in front of her face, probably just as she’s about to put an end to his life or her own or something.

I can forgive terrible, terrible graphics. I can forgive bad secondary characters. But after five years, to have the core duo of Chuck and Sarah take a twist so lame, so cliched without a hint of subversion to even attempt to make it half-interesting? This is why the show will be known, ten years from now as “Oh yeah! I forgot I used to watch that! I think I liked that show.”

To end on a good note, I will say that, along with the aforementioned Baldwin, Yvonne Strahovski and Zachary Levi have been consistently brilliant on the show and I’ll miss seeing them every week.