Charles Carmichael is a hard man to kill. On the show Chuck, The Ring, Daniel Shaw and Alexei Volkoff have all tried to take out the lovable spy. And in real life, the powers that be at NBC have almost canceled the show more times that you can count. Yet somehow, after five years and 91 episodes, it all comes to an end tonight.
When you stop to think about it, it’s pretty amazing we’ve made it to this point. After season two, every episode we’ve gotten has been a gift. It was only thanks to a grassroots campaign by dedicated fans who all went to Subway en mass to show their support that we got a season three. (Chuck himself, Zachary Levi even served sandwiches to patrons on that day.) The show has been on the brink of cancelation ever since. The writers have had to come up with a variety of midseason and season finales that could serve as a series finale if the show didn’t get renewed. (By some counts, the show has had five different “series” finales.)
But tonight the show gets what it deserves and it gets something most shows don’t, which is to go out on its own terms. This season, the writers went in knowing it would be their last and they were able to gear these final 13 episodes toward one final, definitive end. And they’ve come up with something great. Chuck’s final battle, which will play out in a two-hour finale tonight, is against the love of his life Sarah Walker, who has the Intersect in her head and no recollection of her relationship with her husband.
While I’m excited to see how it all plays out tonight, I can definitely say the show will be missed. I’ve written about the show at length over the years during various “Save Chuck campaigns” and also I’ve had the good fortune to interview cast members Mark Christopher Lawrence (Big Mike), Scott Krinsky (Lester) and Bonita Friedericy (General Diane Beckman). I’ve loved the show’s quirky blend of comedy and action and I’ve always thought it had a surprising amount of heart in an era when television often seems quite cynical and bleak.
The show has always felt to me like a throwback to a long gone era of television. It feels one of those campy shows from the 70s or 80s where an everyman is given some type of gift (like an alien supersuit, a talking car or six-million dollars worth of bionic implants). But what I’ve enjoyed most is that while the show has always been a bit silly and ridiculous, it has also built this complex mythology that has unfolded over the past five seasons, revealing why Chuck Bartowski was chosen to have the Intersect in his head and what the powerful database can do if it ends up inside the wrong person.
What I’ve also really loved seeing is the evolution of Sarah Walker and how it has paralleled Chuck’s in this really fascinating way. While Chuck’s journey has been from compassionate, brilliant slacker to a formidable spy (who now can get by on his own without the Intersect as a crutch), Sarah has gone from a detached, unstoppable spy to someone who relies on and empathizes with those she cares about. Her decision to retire from active field duty so she can raise a family with her husband doesn’t seem like a cop out, it’s an ending this show has earned five years in.
I’ve also enjoyed the expanded cast of characters they’ve given us. Sarah is a great character in her own right, but watching her and Chuck together has been a joy (and I’m not someone who generally enjoys “Will they or won’t they?” relationships on shows.) Seeing Adam Baldwin, who I loved so much as Jayne Cobb, sink his teeth into a role as juicy as John Casey has been a lot of fun too. (He can convey so much with one simple growl.) Morgan Grimes, who was a bit of a problematic character early on in the show, has evolved into a really great sidekick and has taken over the role Bartowski had early on of “guy in way over his head in the spy world.” Eli and Awesome are both such perfect supporting characters. Jeff and Lester have provided some fantastic comedic moments, though they are best utilized in small doses. And Diane Beckman’s personal life has proven to be a fertile ground for comedy.
I’ve also enjoyed the high profile guest stars they’ve been able to snag. My Scott Bakula man-crush knowns no bounds thanks to his role on Quantum Leap. Having him play Chuck’s dad is such perfect casting. I honestly can’t think of anyone else who would have been a better fit. Having Linda Hamilton as his mom turned out to be wonderful casting as well. And the role of Alexei Volkoff became one of my favorite things Timothy Dalton has ever done and I’m a big fan of his work.
So thanks so much to the cast and crew for bringing these characters to life. Thanks so much to the writers for building the complex mythology of this show and giving us all moments like the Jeffster “Mr. Roboto” montage, Chuck outmaneuvering Volkoff in their showdown inside the cabin and everything involving the Giant Blonde She-Male of Thailand. And finally, thanks to NBC for letting this show go out on its own terms. (Now do the same thing for Community.)
It’s been a great five years. And while I will definitely miss this show, I’m happy that they have given us 91 episodes of this quirky, fun little show. It will certainly live on in my DVD collection for years to come.
Joel Murphy is the creator of HoboTrashcan, which is probably why he has his own column. He loves pugs, hates Jimmy Fallon and has an irrational fear of robots. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.