I still watch a lot of Chuck clips on YouTube, and more than anything else, I find myself focusing on the clips that are about the relationship between Chuck and Sarah, who have chemistry on so many levels. Sarah protects Chuck; Chuck offers Sarah family she hasn’t known before. Sarah teaches Chuck how to protect himself and stand up for himself; Chuck teaches about how to led a normal life outside of the spy world.
What makes the final scene of Chuck fulfilling was that it didn’t end at the moment that Sarah got all her memories back; it ended at the moment where she trusted Chuck again to help her.
As I write this, it has been roughly less than an hour since those final poignant moments aired, and I’m still trying to judge Chuck‘s final episode. On the one hand, I was very pleased with the way the two hours started-Amnesiac Sarah, now turned by Quinn, had been sent into her house with Chuck, in order to acquire the intersect glasses with their data. The situation recreated the same kind of great tension you had in the first and second season, where characters knew secrets the others different and trusted each other at different levels, and you really didn’t know what Sarah was going to do.
What was disappointing about blank slate-Sarah that there were only two hours to play with all that tension. Someone else had written this on another blog-part of the problem with Chuck over the past year and a half was that there were story-lines that had the potential to go two or three episodes or even longer, and got resolved in an episode. Episode nine of season four, for example, where Sarah goes on a mission to rescue Chuck, and finds him by the end of the hour, when it could have thrown in another obstacle or two. It is especially disappointing here, where Chuck and Sarah spend half the season wondering whether or not they want to be spies, that this story could have carried them much longer.
But I digress. The first hour, it actually did tell a good story, in a good situation. But there were certain things that I didn’t buy-one, that after Casey gave her the disc with her video logs, that Sarah would just walk away from a Chuck that was trying to help her, and even more so, that Chuck didn’t fight for her at that moment. One of my personal complaints about Chuck since Chuck and Sarah have gotten together, the producers have almost been afraid to create real, authentic conflict in their relationship. Even the episode entitled “Chuck vs. the First Fight” really didn’t feel like a fight. Now, in the final episode, they created a really good conflict for Chuck and Sarah, and they completely blew it.
The second hour, while pretty good, did suffer a little bit from too much nostalgia. The Mexican restaurant, the Winnerlicious, the mocking of the huge sponsorship deal with Subway-it did get to be a bit much, but that is what a series finale is allowed to. Each of the characters got a sentimental sendoff-the Awesomes to better jobs, Jeff and Lester to a record deal, Morgan and Alex moving ahead with their future, Casey off to find Gertrude. As the hour wore on, I kept thinking to myself, there is more to this arc of Sarah getting her memory back. But maybe that was what I was supposed to think all along.
Now, to the last mission and the last moments. I was wrong on one count in my predictions for the ending of Chuck-the scene with the intersect glasses didn’t snap Chuck out of a freeze that had begun when he opened the intersect e-mail, revealing that all the event of the show had been a dream. But it was classic Chuck-having to make a choice for the country, or a choice for someone you loved. Ultimately, Chuck choose to save Beckman and the concert hall, rather than to try to get Sarah’s memories back, which was the right choice.
I thought that Chuck would take Sarah to the beach right after the car crash in the first hour (which I tweeted out, then someone tweeted back at me that they would go to the dream house. He was right.) But eventually, Chuck found Sarah on that beach, where some of the final moments of the pilot happened. It was the place where Chuck originally began to grow, and where he helped Sarah start to grow again.
So, now for the half of the ending I got right: Josh Schwartz and Chuck Fedak did have to have an open ending to their show, although it wasn’t quite the complete undoing. We leave them, Sarah not quite having consciously remember everything for herself, but heading there I think. We shouldn’t leave the ending of Chuck thinking to ourselves, “Did Sarah get her memories back?” We should leave it saying, “Even if Sarah doesn’t get her memories back, Chuck will be there for here.” After the show, I watched again the moment where Chuck and Sarah hook up for the first time, and it still holds true. I think it will.
It harkens back to the pilot-when the show began, Chuck was an underachieving guy who got thrust into an impossible situation and started to make something of it and believe he could do better than he was doing at the time. It ended with him helping the woman who’d been sent to help him. Full circle-for a guy who didn’t have a five-year plan in the beginning, it was a good five years.
Side notes: The revealing thing about the Chuck fans on twitter was that they did seem quite passive about the show. Granted the tweets were mostly all positive, but there were not a lot of tweets about specific things in the show. For example, when Ellie crashed the car with her and Sarah in it, no one really seemed to acknowledge. Even with an ending that was sure to cause at least some stir among fans, no one was tweeting “you have to give Sarah her memories back! #goodbyechuck”. Proof that the show is ready to retire, if it is not generating real passion.
Detail problem: When Sarah tells Chuck to kiss her, the line should have been “Shut up and kiss me” (the line at the end of the episode where Chuck and Sarah finally hooked up), not simply “kiss me”. Also, I felt like there wasn’t a lot of pop music in the two hours, disappointing given that Chuck used pop music as well as any show I’ve ever watched. Jeff and Lester did sing an awful song I can’t recall, and the final montage featuring “Rivers and Roads” by The Head and the Heart really did ring true. It was the perfect song to say good bye to Chuck on.
That leads me to one final point: as much as I complained that Chuck was over the hill this year, when the screen faded to black, I really did want more. That right there is the sign of greatness.
Update 1/28/12: Chuck‘s final moments, courtesy of youtube