In 2007, Josh Schwartz and Chris Fedak's geek-inspired spy series Chuck premiered on NBC and the notion of a fan-driven series was forever defined. Battling continuous intents of cancelation, as well as nasty writer's strikes, television's proverbial 'little series that could' proved that a cult show can not only be saved by its fans, but it can also evolve into something wonderful, if only given a chance.
Starting out as a series about the geek-turned-spy Chuck Bartowski (Zachary Levi), NBC's Chuck quickly took hold of all the geek cred that it received from fans and championed on for 5 years. Turning a series about one reluctant man against a world of bad guys into a hilariously referential ensemble series, which saw the entire cast join in on the fight – including Jeff (Scott Krinsky) and Lester (Vik Sahay).
And now, after 89 episodes, it's finally time for the world's greatest spy (no, not John Casey) to walk off into the sunset – but not before taking on the most important mission of his life.
Wrapped in a thoroughly enjoyable, outwardly comedic styling, Chuck still maintains its roots as a pseudo-drama series. At times, the goofball premises and pop-culture one-liners may serve to mask this element of the series. But for those who dare to completely accept a series that bases many of its storylines around a pair of plastic sunglasses, an endless string of beautifully heartbreaking and emotionally impactful character moments await.
Like other television series that revel in its propensity for hilarious absurdity (i.e. Psych), Chuck knows its audience better than the majority of shows still on the air. For a show that has been continuously threatened with cancellation - yet always saved by its fans - a familiar bond emerges between a series and its viewers.
Yet unlike any of the aforementioned series of the same vein, Chuck never once accepted its position as a singularly categorized series. For all intents and purposes, Schwartz and Fedak never once wavered in their intent to emotionally grow the series and its characters into something more – something that was never outwardly demanded from its audience.
By continuously delivering beyond its audience's presumed expectations, Chuck not only maintained itself as the enjoyable comedy that fans once fell in love with, it also further evolved itself into something more tangible – which by and large helped stave off the tendency for diminishing returns as a television series ages.
Presenting itself as a two-tiered conclusion, the Chuck series finale - a combination of two single episodes - clearly defines the stories it wishes to tell. "Chuck Versus Sarah" and "Chuck Versus the Goodbye" perfectly establishes the final two chapters of the series by leveraging the profound relationship between Chuck and Sarah to help drive the series home.
As with any episode of Chuck, the situations presented are always heightened to a degree that many would deem unbelievable. Yet it is in fact that the series remains so emotionally grounded within its characters (while other things may not be) that allows these moments to be enjoyed without regret.
Establishing Sarah as the unwitting villain for the first half of the Chuck series finale provides viewers with an earnest emotional reaction to want the story of Chuck and Sarah to end happily, yet the knowledge that it would was never certain – and perhaps it still isn't, even after watching the final episode.
Providing an emotionally profound start to the two-hour finale, "Chuck Versus Sarah" highlights the series' unique ability to brilliantly mix intrigue, comedy and, more importantly, emotional honesty. While "Chuck Versus Sarah" serves to be a heartbreaking conclusion to the series' penultimate chapter, "Chuck Versus the Goodbye" begins with an emotional turnaround that reminds viewers that Chuck's intentions to win back his true love remains resolute.
Proving to be the more comically rich than the first half, 'Chuck Versus the Goodbye' presents a much welcomed optimistic hilarity to the unfortunate events in the first half, though not without its fair share of emotional moments. With the intended storyline focused on taking out the villainous Quinn, the final chapter of Chuck is much more about the characters we grew to love over the course of the series than any type of vendetta against an enemy that thoroughly deserves to be "taken care of."
While many elements of 'Chuck Versus the Goodbye' can be labeled hit-or-miss, one has to give credit to Schwartz and Fedak for attempting to reference the series' origin in an even more heightened reality than Chuck already resides.
Yes, Chuck shooting down Casey's helicopter was a bit much, and a bomb rigged to explode when the symphony stopped playing was more of a setup to a completely wonderful Jeffster punch line – but this is the final episode, so why not shoot for the stars. Hit or miss, NBC's "little series that could certainly" earned that right.
Of course, if there's one complaint that some fans will have with the Chuck series finale, it's the conclusion (or lack there of) to Chuck and Sarah's story.
That notwithstanding, it's hard to say that the final 5 minutes of the series finale wasn't a heartbreaking reward for a series that remained, even when up against all odds. As each character made their exit, the glitz and glamour of a television series melted away.
It was no longer about seeing characters bid farewell to each other, but about watching a group of actors that became a family sharing one last scene together. The tears are real and the goodbyes are sincere. For those watching, that is the conclusion of Chuck that should resonate… not whether or not Sarah got her memory back.
The kiss at the end highlighted her intent of wanting to be with Chuck – but it was the tearful moments that came before all of that where the real ending of the series lies.
Not for Chuck and Sarah, or "Awesome" and Ellie, or Morgan and Alex, or Casey - or even Jeff and Lestor… but for Zachary Levi, Yvonne Strahovski, Ryan McPartlin, Sarah Lancaster, Joshua Gomez, Vik Sahay and Scott Krinsky.
Chuck aired on NBC from 2007-2012
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