Television Review: "Chuck" Season Three, Episodes 1-3

1/15/2010 Posted by Admin

By our guest blogger, Anna Weiland

The second season of "Chuck" felt like a master class in the gradual build up--each episode carefully increased the stakes, and by the end of the season, each piece of the perfectly plotted puzzle fit together so perfectly, it was overwhelming. It was lighthearted drama done right, and for that reason, it’s one of my favorite television seasons ever. I have high hopes for this third season, which began on Sunday with a two-episode premiere, and a third episode aired on Monday.

Last season’s finale ended as Chuck accidentally downloaded a new Intersect into his brain--the information software that had locked government secrets into his brain and made him a CIA asset. But this new Intersect wasn’t just valuable information--it was valuable skill sets. Suddenly, Chuck knew kung fu, how to play the guitar, and how to ballroom dance, among other talents. The revelation set up the third season to be entirely different from anything we’ve seen from the show before. Instead of a hapless Buy More employee with a goldmine in his brain that other agents use to complete missions, Chuck now is a real spy.

Except not really. There’s a catch to this more powerful Intersect, and it’s that the skills only manifest themselves occasionally. There are glitches, both technical and psychological, and the end result is that for now, Chuck never knows when he can count on the database in his mind. In the first part of Sunday’s premiere, this dilemma got Chuck fired. His superiors decide they couldn’t count on him after he repeatedly failed the training exercises specifically designed for him at a facility in Prague.

Chuck returned home, depressed, and went on a cheese ball bender. Moping on the couch for weeks, he grew a Beard of Sadness and became the kind of person who lives in his robe. It was bleak.

Over the course of the two-parter, we found out that to supplement his work-related troubles, Chuck had completely botched things with Sarah, one of his CIA handlers and love interest over the past two seasons. Just when it looked as if things might finally work out, Chuck bailed on their plans to run away together in favor of continuing his spy training. But now that that also failed, Chuck is left with nothing going for him. That is, until he finagles his way back into his former CIA team by crashing and nearly sabotaging their mission. While more things go wrong than right as Chuck stomps around the party at which the mission takes place, demanding to have a “relationship talk” with Sarah and finding himself unable to access the Intersect at the right moment, Chuck proves he still has beneficial skills and information to the team--and Operation Bartowski is reinstated.

In the third episode, Chuck is forced to include his brother-in-law, Captain Awesome (real name Devon Woodcomb, but why would you use that when you can be Awesome), in a mission that requires his talents as a surgeon. The Generalissimo of Costa Gravas (wait, you’ve never been there?) requires both medical attention and protection from assassination, and only by attending a fancy gala can Chuck and Co. save him from death. The plot is snappy, fun, exciting and downright hilarious. It’s one of the best "Chuck" episodes yet, and three cheers for such spectacular use of Awesome, one of my favorite characters thanks to the masterful actor Ryan McPartlin.

The first two episodes felt a little off. It was clear the show was adjusting to its evolved conceit and trying to figure out how to position this newly talented Chuck Bartowski in with the same old crew. Additionally, the Chuck and Sarah romance subplot felt too heavy handed--I was left worried that the third season would be a rehash of the Chuck/Sarah story arc in the second season, which was admirably executed and oftentimes moving. Were they to feature another season of pining with no results, I doubt I’d be able to stay truly interested in the romance. But episode three calmed my fears and set forth a new, friendlier and platonic direction for the two. If they’re not going to be together (though they should be!), at least it’s established with some certainty for now. All in all, a solid start for this charming show, and if the 7-million-plus ratings hold, we could be in for a very successful fresh start for "Chuck."

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