Review: 'Chuck' - 'Chuck vs. the Hack-Off': Jeff and Abed in the Buy More!
A review of tonight's "Chuck" coming up just as soon as we wrap up the Phish concert...
"Chuck" wrapped production two days ago. The little show that could has finally made it down the hill and into town with all the toys and good things to eat for all the good little girls and boys, and now Levi, Strahovski, Baldwin and the rest will go on to do other fine (but possibly never as much fun) things. We, fortunately, still have eight episodes after this one, and "Chuck vs. the Hack-Off" was a nice start to what should be original episodes every week from now through the January 27th series finale.
It's been great to see all of the show's original characters grow and change - to see Chuck and Sarah become a real couple, to see Morgan stumble into a spy career, etc. - but there are also times where the one big happy family vibe of these later years takes away some of the original comic tension. Casey still gets annoyed with Morgan - though likely a bit less now that the little bearded one assisted in his prison break - but he long ago embraced Chuck as both a spy and leader of the team, and endorsed Chuck and Sarah as a couple.
So a lot of the bickering the show could easily go to during missions in the early years is a bit harder to pull off, which made Gertrude Verbanski's temporary partnership with Carmichael Industries a refreshing, amusing throwback to the season 1 days. Gertrude hasn't been through so many wars with Chuck and Sarah. She doesn't know them, doesn't like them and sure as hell doesn't respect them, and "Hack-Off" had a lot of fun with showing how a veteran spy might react to working with Mr. and Mrs. Bartowski for a couple of days. Carrie-Anne Moss remains one of the best recurring castmembers the show has ever used, and I hope her time on the lam doesn't last too long, because she played this week with Levi and Strahovski (and, briefly, Gomez) just as well as she has all season with Adam Baldwin.
This was Zachary Levi's third turn in the "Chuck" director's chair, by the way, and while it didn't seem visually different from your average episode, I imagine the entire crew had an interesting time when he had to direct the scene where Chuck and Sarah strip down to infiltrate the group of nudists. Good use of pixellation (especially in the later moment where Colin Davis' robe bunches up after he falls), and then once Chuck and Sarah were partially clothed we got one of the better straightforward Sarah fight scenes in a while when she took on the razor blade-wielding lady boss of the cult.
It also felt appropriate to have Levi directing, given that so much of the episode was about showing Chuck totally in his element, and not just confident but cocky. This is the guy who doesn't need the Intersect - but maybe needs a little chardonnay - to kick ass, take names, and buy everyone a flatscreen. A Chuck who's too confident at everything also takes away comedy, but I appreciate that at this late date, the show is willing to let him be really good at certain things and just know it. (And the wine allowed him to still be ridiculous even as he was being awesome.)
While Verbanski was helping the team in the field, Casey had to cool his heels in prison, and enjoy an amusing little role reversal with Lester, who figured out a way to become the man in lock-up. I knew Danny Pudi was guest starring in this episode(*), and therefore could guess how Smart Jeff and Morgan were going to convince Lester to return, but it still played out well, particularly Pudi's rendition of "Oh, Canada."
(*) But kudos to the "Chuck" producers for keeping the second "Community" cameo - Yvette Nicole Brown as the Buy More saleswoman who was hot for Abed - totally under wraps. I imagine there's a good amount of "Community"/"Chuck" audience crossover, and I practically clapped when Brown showed up unexpected like that. I wish more stunt casting could be kept secret in that way.
Now Lester's back at the store, Verbanski and Casey are each on the run in different ways, Decker is dead before his smugness could overstay its welcome - and in a cold-blooded, awesome way that only Casey or Verbanski could get away with at this stage of the series - and Chuck and Sarah are in a whole lotta trouble. Should definitely be an interesting sprint to the finish line.
What did everybody else think?