Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Chuck: What the Chuck?

When I ate my Subways Sweet Onion Chicken Teriyaki sandwich, demanding a third season of Chuck, never in a million years would I have thought that I was buying into the one thing I absolutely loathe about television series as a whole.

This insane notion that, as a viewer, what I find most interesting is the amount of time they can keep two destined characters apart insults me seasonally, but that alone is not enough to incur my wrath because it's actually fairly typical and usually acceptable when there's an end in sight – something writers of ALL series should find BEFORE they start their tinkering – because I'm really watching for the, you know, plot.

That doesn't mean screwing with the relationships doesn't piss me off.

A little separation, a few obstacles, the idea that you have to wait just a little bit longer to see that these characters are being written OBVIOUSLY on their way towards coupledom is one thing… UST is a magical thing. UST, or Unresolved Sexual Tension for those not acronymically inclined, is a driving force with romantically linked characters.

For most shows, there is a pair of leads – traditionally male and female – and part of the fun of watching the show is that beyond whatever happens contained to any specific episode, there is a relationship that develops within the overall arch of the series, generally hinting at – and eventually coming to – romance. Chuck, aside from the spy games, has at its core this constant almost-there relationship between Chuck and his spy-handler Sarah.

Sarah is the ex-partner/girlfriend of Chuck's old best friend Bryce and for a good part of season one, while Chuck had a growing infatuation with Sarah, her constant reminder to him was that falling in love with a spy was dangerous and she insisted the feelings were NOT mutual. Though the audience could tell otherwise, it was believable that she would resist this relationship, given that Bryce was presumed dead, so why WOULD Sarah want to begin a new relationship with Chuck.

Season two seemed to have these two characters coming to grips with the fact that yes, their feelings were reciprocated, and that maybe, just maybe it could work, but each week reminded them that it couldn't. Not as long as they were spies. And then they brought in Chuck's ex-girlfriend who turned out to be a bad guy, no one seemed to care, it was awkward, and they wrapped that storyline up quicker than you could say, "Chuck this." Oh, and there was that spy who got his ass kicked and Sarah was, like, "Psht."

Fans fought for a third season. They fought for the right to see the storyline – which ended with Chuck uploading a newer version of the intersect that gave him instant access to knowledge like… oh… Kung Fu – progress and also, to see these characters progress, since they'd never been given a proper coupling. As an aside, I say, if you're not watching a television show with at least a little hint of 'shipper' in you, you will never be satisfied with the ending of a show; if you outright reject a ship, you will never be satisfied with a show period. Ships are part of the shows we watch and as humans we should root for them.

So we get this third season, opening with Chuck having been whisked away to a secret location to learn to use his new intersect to become a Real Spy, as opposed to the lucky idiot he's been portrayed to be during spy missions thus far. This idea has real potential because it's now what Chuck wants, because of Sarah. BUT, now Sarah wants nothing to do with the spy business – she wants to leave it for good, and she wants Chuck to join her. Creatively, this is amazing and believable and heart wrenching at the same time, but in the way that's lovely to watch.

Of course, it’s not enough. We've now been introduced to two new characters, Hannah and CIA Special Agent Daniel Shaw who serve as potential love interests for Chuck and Sarah, respectively. And I've got one question: Why?

With Chuck advancing in his skills, it makes sense for them to send in a new agent to further his training, and possibly serve as an annoyance to the existing team – proving how well they work together – but to also make him a love interest for Sarah… Sarah, who just decided she wanted to leave the spy game altogether to pursue a normal life with Chuck. Sarah, who spent two seasons fighting her feelings for Chuck because of Bryce's death. I'm supposed to believe she's just going to fall into a relationship with this guy she's known a month because she's… jealous? Poisoned? Really really dumb?

Hannah's introduction, aside from my Kristin Kreuk bias (by the time the Smallville scribes pulled their heads out of Lana's punani they'd destroyed the show… I hear they've rebounded beautifully in her absence), makes even less sense. Does she serve as a reminder to Chuck that he DOESN'T want to be a spy, only a few episodes after he's decided to run the gauntlet? Will she prove to be another spy? She's overqualified for the Buy More, under qualified for Chuck, and nothing more than a nuisance to the storyline already established.

The obstacle that made sense, the one they'd introduced believably at the beginning of the season, was Chuck eschewing a relationship with Sarah to become a real spy, and it's an idea that I looked forward to seeing Chuck and Sarah struggle with. Instead we get televisions newest Love Quadrangle and unfortunately 'Chuck versus the Mask' left me with a very sour taste in my mouth… one that not even a million Subway Sweet Onion Chicken Teriyaki sandwiches can cure.

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