'Chuck' - 'Chuck vs. the Fear of Death': Holding out for a hero
Chuck tries to get the Intersect back on-line with help from guest star Rob Riggle
A review of tonight's "Chuck" coming up just as soon as I take an online gemology class...
"It's what I do. I'm a spy." -Chuck
"No, Chuck! You're not... not right now" -Sarah
How I feel about "Chuck vs. the Fear of Death" is going to depend largely, I think, on next week's episode, or however long it takes for this Chuck-sans-Intersect mini-arc to play itself out.
Most of the episode is about Chuck's fear not of real death, but the death of his spy career, because he thinks he can't (or won't be allowed to) function as a spy without the Intersect powers. But Chuck did pretty darned well for himself without Chuck Fu in the show's first two seasons, and the Intersect database itself rarely helped out in finishing missions; it usually just started them. Obviously, he was more of an asset than a full-fledged agent then, and he needed Sarah as his handler. And obviously, the CIA - even the forgiving version of it on this show that allows Chuck to use the "Sorry, my mom made me do it" excuse to avoid punishment on the Frost thing - wouldn't let a semi-trained guy with limited natural combat skills be a field agent in the way he's been treated for the last season and a half.
But Chuck had his uses in the first few years beyond the Intersect data, and some of the show's more memorable plot resolutions involved Chuck saving the day in spite of his utter lack of training, whether stopping a bomb with a porn spam virus or bluffing Michael Clarke Duncan with his battle plan from Call of Duty. The one thing the show and/or Chuck himself lost with the addition of the Chuck Fu was that - not just the comedy of it, but the idea that Chuck had things to contribute beyond the computer in his head. And once the series finally went down the "superhero loses his powers" well, I hoped we might get reminded of that.
But outside the brief gag about Chuck learning gemology on the flight to Gstaad, the episode's equation was very simple: No Intersect = No Spy Chuck.
That's not an unreasonable place to start over a story that's going to run at least one more episode. Of course Chuck would want to get the Intersect back online, and the government would only care about that and not other applications for his video game skills. But if this story resolves itself without Chuck proving his worth without the Chuck Fu, I'm going to be disappointed.
But regardless of where we go next week, "Chuck vs. the Fear of Death" still likely won't stand out as one of this season's strongest episodes. I like the idea of the Rob Riggle character, but I think the execution fell somewhere in the nether region between the show's goofy and sweet sides - too silly for the crisis to be taken totally seriously, yet not not quite funny enough to work as a pure comic character. I enjoy seeing guys get slapped in the face, but the set-up and/or reactions to Chuck's various punishments at the hands of Rye never entirely clicked. (Conversely, Zachary Levi's delivery of "What was the point of the water? I was just wondering" helped sell the earlier sequence of the tests from before Rye showed up.)
Still pitting Jeffster up against an angry CIA agent with little patience for them led to some good laughs, provided an excuse for some Subway plugs (the Save "Chuck" campaign was so successful at making me associate the sandwiches with the show that I'm at the point where I start to feel sad if we go too many episodes without hearing someone describe the ingredients), and also tied in nicely to a good subplot about Casey trying to re-erect the emotional walls he's dropped over the last few years in Burbank.
Good cliffhanger, and we'll see where it goes next week.
Some other thoughts:
• This week in "Chuck" guest stars: Rob Riggle you probably know from "The Daily Show," or his brief stint on "SNL." Summer Glau's going to be on NBC's mid-season superhero show "The Cape" (and, as Fienberg pointed out on Twitter earlier today, NBC's mid-season schedule is so bananas that "Chuck" has now become one of the few stable rocks in the lineup), and I was glad she got a few moments with her old "Firefly" co-star Adam Baldwin. And as The Belgian, the show got '70s and '80s TV icon Richard Chamberlain, who once had the nickname King of the Miniseries for his work in "Shogun," "The Thorn Birds" and "Centennial." His style of ham should suit him well in what I assume will be an expanded role next week.
• This week in "Chuck" music: "Zero Zero" by Operator Please (the opening scientist montage), "Perfect Day" by The Constellations (Jeffster stalk Greta), "Towards the Sun" by Alexi Murdoch (Casey has lunch with Alex), "Hiding Place" by Aushua (final montage).
• This week in "Chuck" pop culture references: among others, Chuck quotes Olivia Newton-John when he tells Rye "Let's get physical," and of course Chuck and Rye talk about the Vulcan nerve pinch from the original "Star Trek."
• I was amused by Chuck and Rye's shared love of the milkiness of Swiss chocolate.
• "Why does she transmogrify into a woodland creature? Why does she have a tail?" Oh, Jeff. The view from in there must be marvelous.
• At what point did the knowledge that Charles Carmichael and "the human intersect" were one and the same become more widely-known outside the core members of Operation Bartowski? For a long time, Chris Fedak would explain that it was okay for people to learn that Chuck was really a spy, code-name Carmichael, so long as they didn't learn about the Intersect. But De Smet obviously knows both. Did all the people helping train him at the start of season 3 know?
What did everybody else think?
News From Our Partners
- Cannes Film Festival: Cannes 2013, Day Four: The Coen brothers return to the festival with a folk-rock flashback Cannes Film Festival: Cannes 2013, Day Three: Cheers for the young stars of The Selfish Giant, jeers for the new films by Hirokazu Kore-eda and Arnaud Desplechin Watch This: With Beavis And Butt-head Do America, Mike Judge skewered the idiocy of cinematic adventures
- The Telefile - The Most Heinous Person on Reality TV This Week The Telefile - Modern Family: The Best Lines of the Night The Telefile - Fall TV 2013: What's On When
- Box Office: 'Star Trek Into Darkness' Misses $100M Domestic Mark on Opening Weekend Beyonce Pregnant Again? Sources Confirm 'Epic' Star Is Carrying Baby No. 2 'Hangover 3' Red Band Trailer: Take a Walk Down a NSFW Memory Lane (VIDEO)
- A Final 'Office' Farewell Stefon Marries Anderson Cooper In Final Show Creed Bratton: Closing Creed Thoughts
- 'Doctor Who' Season 8 Confirmed, Steven Moffat to Return The Wrap Up: Behind-the-Scenes Image from 'Godzilla' Shows a Train in Peril Batman: Arkham Origins Will See the Return of Kevin Conroy
- 'Anchorman 2' Trailer Had Us At 'Hello': Watch Now! Fiery 'Star Trek Into Darkness' Scene Hurt The Most: Ouch! How Far Will 'Star Trek Into Darkness' Boldly Go At Box Office?
- Box Office Guru Wrapup: Star Trek Softer Than Expected at #1 Weekly Ketchup: Will Smith to Star in Wild Bunch Remake? Critics Consensus: Star Trek Into Darkness is Certified Fresh
- FTW vs. WTF: The TV Week in Review (May 19) Doctor Who "The Name of the Doctor" Review: The Impossible Girl Made Possible What to Watch This Weekend: The Season Finales of Nikita, Doctor Who, The Simpsons, and Family Guy
The Lannisters throw a wedding, Daenerys faces a new army, and Stannis meets GendrySunday, May 19, 2013
Promising pilots, puzzling scheduling moves and moreSunday, May 19, 2013
The Doctor uncovers Clara's secret and comes face-to-face with a surprising figureSaturday, May 18, 2013
Dan and Alan also discuss the recent finales of 'Survivor' and 'The Amazing Race'Friday, May 17, 2013