We got a good cliffhanger, the best Greta story to date and some decent comedy in the latest episode of “Chuck.” But it also set up more than it paid off, and we’ll be waiting at least a week to see if Chuck’s Intersect therapy really works.
It adds up to what may be the first real letdown in “Chuck” this season — and not a major one at that. But because we’re at the start of a new chapter in the story of Chuck Bartowski, Real Spy, and we don’t know how long that chapter will last, it’s tough to judge “Chuck vs. the Fear of Death” on its own.
The major hole in the story, as others have also noted, was that even though Chuck is without the Intersect (or more precisely, it’s still in his head but has been suppressed), is that even before Chuck got his upgrade and could handle himself physically on missions, he still proved his worth to the team on a number of occasions. I understand that having your own mother shatter your trust could cause you to question a lot of things, but it seemed like neither he nor anyone else remembered the old Chuck resourcefulness.
Watching Chuck be scared and unconfident for an hour doesn’t make for great fun, even if Intersect-retrieval specialist Jim Rye was loving every second up to the point where he got shot. I’ve never been a huge Rob Riggle fan, but he played the gung-ho part pretty well. His presence also laid the groundwork for Chuck and Sarah’s “I’m a spy”-“No you’re not! … Not right now” exchange. It was a nice moment for Yvonne Strahovski to show A) how much she really cares for Chuck and B) how their relationship can create dicey situations like this. In her mind Sarah just doesn’t want Chuck to get hurt, while in his she’s saying she doesn’t really believe he’s for real without the Intersect.
Despite the terror of nearly falling to his death from a gondola above the Swiss Alps, Chuck never does flash and finds himself in the hands of The Belgian, played by former miniseries king Richard Chamberlain. He appears again next week, and we’re eager to see him tear into his villainous role. The episode ends with Team Bartowski (Morgan included) setting off to find Chuck, and the affection they all have for him — even Casey — is obvious. We’re very eager to see next week’s “Kickboxer”/”Ong Bak”-inspired episode.
But before that, other thoughts on “Chuck vs. the Fear of Death”:
- The Greta stories had thus far been an excuse for a couple of good cameo roles but not much else. That changed tonight with Summer Glau as a tightly wound, Subway-loving CIA assassin who took none too kindly to Lester and Jeff snooping on her (then again, who would?). And a legion of “Firefly” fans got to see a couple of scenes reuniting Glau and Adam Baldwin, who defuses the situation with a cover story about Greta being a thief. Their mutually shared growl as she was leaving the Buy More was one of the funniest moments of the episode.
- Watching Casey distance himself from the team and from Alex as he sees what looks like Operation Bartowski circle the drain allowed for some more subtle emotional work from Baldwin. He’s a comedy and action machine, but watching him try to detach from people he genuinely likes made for a good undercurrent in his scenes — and also could at least partly explain why he’s so willing to join Sarah on her rogue mission.
- A jonesing Casey also had the episode’s best line: “I haven’t been on a mission in a month. I wake up with my trigger finger feeling itchy. Literally — it itches.”
- That month of downtime, though, brings up a slight timeline issue for the show. Based on Chuck saying he was on day 31 of Intersect testing before Rye showed up, that would put us at least a full month after the Halloween episode — i.e., at least a few days after Thanksgiving. Yet the show is doing a post-Thanksgiving-themed episode in a couple weeks. We wish the show would have taken more care and maybe condensed the testing timeline to fit in the window between Halloween and Thanksgiving.
- The previous bullet point brought to you by Overthinkers Anonymous.
What did you think of “Chuck vs. the Fear of Death”?
Photo credit: NBC