We now know him DC's newest big screen superhero Shazam, but way before he received his awesome powers from an ancient wizard, Zachary Levi was mostly known for his portrayal of Chuck Bartowski on NBC's action-comedy series Chuck. The show ran for five seasons and followed the adventures of a Buy More employee-turned government asset by having the contents of a CIA/NSA supercomputer downloaded into his brain, and his two handlers Sarah Walker and John Casey.
The episodes usually featured several plotlines: the main spy story, the wacky exploits of Chuck, Morgan, and Jeffster at the Buy More, and Chuck's family storylines with Ellie and Awesome. When Chuck was good, it was outstanding. When it was bad, it delivered some rather forgettable and regrettable episodes.
10 WORST: CHUCK VERSUS THE SIZZLING SHRIMP
Chuck’s first season was good enough and had several great entries, however, beginnings are usually rocky. While the show was still finding its voice and its audience, we got a couple of really forgettable episodes, like episode five “Chuck Versus the Sizzling Shrimp.” Or as we like to call it “an evening with Morgan,” and that’s probably one of the main reasons it failed.
While Chuck’s little bearded buddy gradually grew on us, in season one he was mostly insufferable. Not once did his antics cause us to even chuckle, which is not something you want from a supposed comic relief character. On top of that, the main plotline with the taken brother of a Chinese spy was as predictable as it can get. That being said, the episode did have a heartwarming conclusion with Chuck and Ellie celebrating “Mother’s Day.”
9 BEST: CHUCK VERSUS THE SUBWAY & CHUCK VERSUS THE RING: PART II
The season three two-parter finale “Chuck Versus the Subway” and “Chuck Versus the Ring: Part II” took Chuck to new dramatic highs. The stakes were higher than ever as Team Bartowski and Chuck’s whole family were cornered by The Ring and not-so-dead-after-all, super-secret double agent Shaw, while Chuck struggled with the Intersect literally breaking down in his mind, making him seem like a madman in the process.
Ellie finally discovered the truth about her brother, and she, Awesome, and Morgan got to be the heroes for once, rescuing the spy trio from The Ring. Team Bartowski then engaged in their usual spy shenanigans, only cranked up to eleven, and Chuck out spied Shaw. Their rivalry culminated with the two battling it out at the Buy More, set to Jeffster's cover of "Blaze of Glory." Intense, gut-wrenching, but not devoid of humor and pop culture nods, the season three finale was an entertaining, exhilarating, and satisfying experience from start to finish.
8 WORST: CHUCK VERSUS THE THIRD DIMENSION
“Chuck Versus the Third Dimension” wasn’t a completely terrible episode, but it didn’t put the show’s best foot forward either. Of course, we have to keep in mind that this special 3D episode was intended to draw in newcomers, what with all the Super Bowl commercials, which is probably the reason why they toned it down a bit from the usual level of wackiness, and that’s perfectly understandable.
While we’re used to Chuck being unpredictable and gimmicky, this episode didn't quite meet the standard. Chuck gets to babysit a rock star who’s being targeted by a killer. The dude decides to go to a party and bringing Chuck along only to get captured and then rescued by Sarah and Casey. Ultimately, they decide to go with the oldest trick in the book to capture the killer – using the singer as bait. It’s a predictable, by-the-numbers episode that was more disappointing than anything else.
7 BEST: CHUCK VERSUS THE BEARD
In season three episode nine titled “Chuck Versus the Beard,” Morgan finally finds out that Chuck is a spy and it seems fitting, although a bit overdue, that it happens in one of the show’s wackiest episodes. In Zachary Levi’s directorial debut, Chuck and Morgan end up as Ring’s hostages, locked up at Castle while Sarah, Casey, and Shaw are sent on a wild goose chase.
During the interrogation of Agent Carmichael, aka Chuck, Morgan learns the truth about Chuck and has the best reaction to it – rejoicing that his best friend is a spy. The episode leans heavily on Zachary Levi and Joshua Gomez’s excellent chemistry and thrives on it. The scene where Chuck finally flashes and proceeds to wipe the floor with the Ring agents is both hilarious and undeniably awesome. Plus, the revolt going on at Buy More proves how essential Jeffster and the Buy More cover is to the show.
6 WORST: CHUCK VERSUS THE FROSTED TIPS
The third episode of season five, “Chuck Versus the Frosted Tips” continued the Dark Intersect Morgan storyline and reactions were mixed. This episode was all about finding the balance between the personal and professional, especially for Morgan, but the resolution fell flat. Ever since he got the Intersect, Morgan never could sell this conflict as well as Chuck did when he had it.
So, when it came to resolving Morgan's internal struggle, it just didn't resonate. In “Chuck Versus the Frosted Tips,” the Dark Morgan saga comes to an end when a childhood memory awakens the pre-Intersect Morgan and everything’s right with the world once again. The only thing less believable than Morgan’s sudden recovery is Jeff’s sobriety after not sleeping under his car just one night.
5 BEST: CHUCK VERSUS SANTA CLAUS
In “Chuck Versus Santa Claus,” on the day before Christmas, the Buy More staff plus Ellie and Awesome become hostages when a man drives a car into the Buy More store and holds everyone at gunpoint. The situation turns out to be a lot more serious when, in a surprising plot twist, it’s revealed that both the hostage-taker, Ned Rhyerson, and the LAPD negotiator Mauser are, in fact, Fulcrum agents.
The episode is a superbly executed homage to Die Hard – following a similar story, featuring “Ode to Joy,” and, last but not least, Reginald VelJohnson reprising his role of LAPD officer Al Powell from Die Hard. It's action-packed, it's funny, and it nails the emotional moments from start to finish, but that ending when Chuck witnesses Sarah shoot an unarmed Mauser, seemingly in cold blood, set to the backdrop of “Silent Night” has to be one of the highest points of the show altogether. It completely shifts gears without it feeling out of place and introduces a new dynamic to their relationship.
4 WORST: CHUCK VERSUS THE BEARDED BANDIT
Chuck got off to a bit of a rocky start with season five, which wasn’t a big surprise considering the show basically hit the reset button. Now working for their own spy company Carmichael Industries, Chuck, Sarah, Casey and the new Intersect Morgan are ready for new adventures. Unfortunately, Morgan having the Intersect didn't quite work out as intended. A particularly poor example is the second episode “Chuck Versus the Bearded Bandit,” which many have cited as their least favorite Chuck episode ever.
As annoying as Morgan could get in previous seasons, especially season one, it never came even remotely close to how intolerable he got in this one episode. His constant whining about not being used to his full potential felt unearned, and his turn to the dark side felt cheap and predictable, which is not the kind of writing Chuck is usually known for.
3 BEST: CHUCK VERSUS TOM SAWYER
In what’s been hailed as Chuck’s geekiest episode, “Chuck Versus Tom Sawyer,” Chuck’s quirky Buy More co-worker Jeff takes the spotlight. When a criminal name Farrokh Bulsara – yes, that is Freddy Mercury’s real name – comes to Buy More looking for Jeff it’s revealed that Jeff used to be a Missile Command champion.
As it turns out, the creator of the game has hidden actual missile codes in the game's kill screen, which have been set to launch. Team Bartowski decides to use Jeff's gaming skills to get the codes and prevent the missiles from launching. However, he passes out from excitement, and the responsibility falls upon Chuck. The episode features a dizzying amount of pop culture references, with the team breaking into Atari headquarters, Chuck defeating the game by playing to the beat of Rush’s “Tom Sawyer,” and so on. Sure, the plot is ridiculous, but as a geeky comedy hour, this episode is the golden standard.
2 WORST: CHUCK VERSUS THE MASQUERADE
The fourth season of Chuck had a number of awesome episodes like “Chuck Versus the Push Mix” and “Chuck Versus the Cliffhanger” that nearly made this list, however, it also had one of the show’s most forgettable episodes – “Chuck Versus the Masquerade.” From the awful horseback riding scenes and stunts to extremely poor CGI to the forced drama and boring plotlines, this episode is an advertisement of everything that was wrong with Chuck.
Because, while the show had phenomenal moments, it also had stuff like Chuck jumping off a horse and spinning cartoonishly on a tree branch to kick the bad guys off of their horses. But, bad stunt work and CGI aside, the subplot with Morgan not wanting to move out of Chuck and Sarah’s apartment and the other subplot (if it can even be called that) with Ellie and Awesome and the crying baby were both utterly uninteresting.
1 BEST: CHUCK VERSUS THE COLONEL
The penultimate episode of the second season titled “Chuck Versus the Colonel” is without question one of the show’s most pivotal episodes. The episode sees Chuck and Sarah going rogue to search for Chuck’s father who’s been taken by Fulcrum in order to create a new Intersect. Meanwhile, Morgan becomes the assistant manager at Buy More but decides to leave for Hawaii to pursue his true passion, while Awesome discovers Chuck’s secret.
The episode was a turning point in Chuck and Sarah’s relationships as it featured the couple almost getting it on during their time on the lam, another makeout session in the lockup, and holding hands at the very end of the episode. The various plotlines are all entertaining in their own right and when it all comes together at the end, we get a satisfying conclusion, plus an ominous tease for the season finale. “Chuck Versus the Colonel” is what happens when the wacky comedy, the action, the romance subplot, the pop culture references, and all the plotlines work perfectly.