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Sunday, January 29, 2012

Chuck mostly wins "Versus the Goodbye"

     NBC's Chuck comes to an end forever with "Chuck Versus the Goodbye." The second hour of a two hour finale, "Chuck Versus the Goodbye," finds Sarah (Yvonne Strahovski) reluctantly allowing Chuck (Zachary Levi) and Morgan (Joshua Gomez) to help her hunt down Quinn (Angus Macfadyen, Californication, Braveheart), now that she knows he is a bad guy. Chuck still hopes to spark Sarah's memories of their time together, but those hopes are dashed when Chuck must use the last Intersect upload to save many innocent lives, rather than to restore some of those memories. In the end, Quinn is killed, and Sarah does listen to Chuck tell their story, though whether or not she feels anything romantically for Chuck remains a mystery.

     Talking of using the Intersect to restore Sarah's memories, well, photos and such that pertain to memories, is a little creepy. It's a plan that will reprogram someone's brain. Of course, Chuck has always explored such themes with a light hand, given that the Intersect computer, which is implanted into one's brain, is an important element throughout all five seasons of the series. And the fact of the matter is, when it comes right down to it, the Intersect ends up being used as a weapon that harms Morgan and nearly destroys Sarah. So Chuck does anything but promote such invasive technology. No matter how cool it appears to be.

     Chuck ends up being a love story, first and foremost. There is a villain that must be defeated in the finale, sure, and there is spy work that must be done. But heart has always been a central element, and never does that take more prominence than in the series finale. Much of the final hour is devoted to Chuck's feelings for Sarah, and his efforts to re-spark that romance within her. He wooed her once, over the course of several years. Even without her memories, she does return to him, even if she has excuses for doing so. So maybe Chuck can eventually get her to fall for him again.

     The ending of "Chuck Versus the Goodbye" is left open to interpretation, which is actually quite nice. There are some plot holes and things that don't flow well in the finale, which will be covered shortly, and trying to resolve Sarah's missing memories likely would lend itself to more negatives. To tie up that story so neatly at the end of two hours, when the damage appears so permanent, would be unrealistic and hokey. But to allow Chuck and Sarah to kiss, both hoping against hope that this magical expression of their love will restore what they lost, then fading to black without revealing whether it works or not, is perfect. Because, the fact is, whether Sarah ever remembers or not, she is already seeing the love in Chuck's eyes, and it will not take her long to make some new memories with him. They both appear ready for the challenge of starting over, so it is truly a happy ending.

     "Chuck Versus the Goodbye," as well as the hour preceding it, are full of nostalgia for Sarah and Chuck. Seeing Sarah back in her hot dog serving outfit, or the pair dancing heatedly, or diffusing a bomb with Casey (Adam Baldwin), is a wonderful treat, paying homage to the early days of Chuck, sometimes very obviously. With everything dark going on, this lightens the mood. It also helps viewers overlook the numerous flaws, as they are so moved by what is playing out on screen, that they forget about logic. A smart move here.

     Sarah and Chuck aren't the only ones who get the happy ending, either. Casey, after a brief slip back to the detached military officer he once was, chooses heart instead, and goes after Gertrude (Carrie-Anne Moss). Morgan and Alex (Mekenna Melvin) decide to move in together. Ellie (Sarah Lancaster) and Awesome (Ryan McPartlin) take promising jobs in Chicago, which will allow them to afford a big house, something they cannot do in L.A., even with their doctor salaries. Even Mary (Linda Hamilton) stops in for a visit, and General Beckman (Bonita Friedericy) gets to play a small role in the final mission (the final final final mission, long after the characters' stated final mission). So all the major characters are served.

     Big Mike (Mark Christopher Lawrence) is thrilled to see Subway purchase the Buy More, or rather, excited by the prospect of the delicious food that will go with it. Subway has done much to keep Chuck on the air for all of these years, so despite some blatant product placement, which actually goes well with the hip charm of Chuck, and the confusion as to why a restaurant chain would want to purchase an electronic store, it can be overlooked. Subway deserves a reward for its staunch support of the show, and saluting it in the end is well justified.

     Jeffster makes a final appearance in "Chuck Versus the Goodbye" as the duo (Scott Krinsky and Vik Sahay) performs "Take On Me," with orchestral backup, to stop a bomb from going off and killing Beckman and the audience. Their musical numbers have been an integral part of Chuck, and present for many important moments. Thus, it's fitting to see them one last time. Even better, the two are offered a recording deal in Germany, and complete their maturation that's been building in this fifth season. finally leaving the Buy More and heading on to bigger things.

     Now, for the drawbacks. The two hour finale is full of plot holes. Why does Quinn need to remind Sarah of Ellie's name after Sarah studies files on Chuck and his loved ones? How does Morgan gets Jeffster dressed and ready to perform so quickly? How does Casey know that Sarah has taken up residence in her old apartment? The list goes on and on. Chuck has never been the best written series on television, but the final two hours are some of the worst, logic wise. This is disappointing, after five great years. The fact that the wonderful depth of heart distracts fans enough to enjoy the episodes does not take away from the wish that a little more time had been taken to make the story make more sense. Ah, well. Nothing can be done about it now.

     In the end, Chuck deserves thanks and praise for the five years it touched, tickled, and entertained us. It will be sorely missed.

     Oh, and did anyone else catch that Chuck ends with Chuck possessing a newly updated version of the Intersect in his head? Awesome!


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Article first published as TV Review: Chuck - "Chuck Versus the Goodbye" on Blogcritics.

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