Unfortunately there was no Chuck review for last weeks episode as I was struck down with the flu. I say unfortunately as Chuck v the Tic-Tac was one of the best episodes in the entire series & continued the strong showing from the previous installments. Chuck v the Final Exam focused on Chuck's graduation to fully fledged spy. This final mission would test his ability to function on his own & most of all test his ability to make the ultimate decision - take someone's life. As has been the trend throughout the season the episode was fairly dark, or at least dark for Chuck. The light relief was provided by second storyline featuring John Casey & the Buy More Crew. Overall it was a solid episode but definitely not as good as the last two that have aired, though as they were among the best of the series that's not too shabby. Some other reflections on the episode:
- On the whole Chuck becoming a spy story I thought there were quite a few oversights. Firstly the aspect of Chuck failing & thus being released by the CIA seemed a strange one. I understand the need to make Chuck stand on his own as he can't always rely on Sarah & Casey. But with the knowledge that Chuck has (I remember something about an interesect) plus the successful way the team has operated for the past few years surely there's a role for Chuck somewhere in the CIA. Team CIA's most successful operation so why break that up particularly in the face of the supposed increased danger posed by the Ring. There is a possibility that the whole threat was designed to test Chuck's ability to work in the most extreme circumstances but there was considerable stress in the situation without the need to add loss of career & possibly the girl he loves.
Onto the killing itself if Casey knew Chuck wouldn't be able to kill his target than surely Sarah must have come to the same conclusion. And if that was the case she'd have to remain close to him otherwise there was a strong chance that Chuck would be the one who would be killed. She even articulated this herself during her conversation with Shaw. So letting Chuck out of her sight was a major mistake & if it wasn't for Casey we'd be dealing with a dead Agent Carmichael.
- Another thing I did not understand was Chuck thinking that the first part of the mission constituted the whole test. The mission while dangerous was nothing in comparison to other ones Chuck has dealt with. And with Casey questioning whether he had completed the test you'd have thought Chuck would re-evaluate whether it should be oh so simple.
- The other aspect of Chuck mission is something that is relevant to the whole season as well as this episode. Throughout this season we have seen the story revolve around Chuck's attempt to become a spy almost to the exclusion of anything else. We haven't learned about the Ring in any great deal. What about the Intersect? It's role hasn't been covered apart from it not always functioning correctly. Without building on these aspects the shows focus has become to narrow. Which I believe has had a detrimental effect on the show. Season 2's climax was so good because it was not only about Chuck but included a wider arc that tied so many different storylines together. Hopefully the next two episodes will bring together the unresolved parts of this season.
- We got a far a bit of Chuck & Sarah time in this episode, all of which seems designed to set up the inevitable conclusion to the whole story arc. The Chuck/Sarah thing has been covered ad-nauseam else where so I don't think it's necessary to add any more to the debate. What I will say is that in this episode they as usual show cased how well they work together. Whether it's serious or light-hearted moments there is undeniable chemistry between the pair.
- Shaw's has been one of the strongest believers in Chuck's ability to be an effective spy. He's pushed him when Sarah & Casey have been sceptical as well as continually encouraging Chuck to develop into an elite spy. This all fits in with the Shaw as mentor storyline yet throughout his arc we haven't really had a Chuck & Shaw moment. The relationship hasn't developed beyond one of superior & subordinate. And I think this is important aspect in why the Shaw character has received a lot of criticism from a large section of fans. He's been made into a one note character who's sole presence on the show is as a competitor for Sarah's affection. Where is his relationship with the rest of Team Bartowski or even more imperatively his expertise on the Ring. We've yet to see what additional skills he's brought to the team. And this is even more of failure when you consider the reduction in the rest of supporting casts screen time should have allowed the writers to explore his character further.
- The Casey storyline didn't really work for me, which I'm surprised about because I love the goofy side of Chuck & they don't come more goofy then Jeff & Lester. Throw in Big Mike & you'd think it would be sure fire hit. Unfortunately that was not the case. I didn't buy Casey accepting the situation he's in & basically rolling over for Buy More's fearsome twosome. We did, though, get some great lines from this unlikely union as well as the most obvious Subway integration of the season. On the Subway front I think they managed to pull off the advertising without it seeming out of place but they have to be careful not to go overboard if it's not to damage the show & the brand.
- Once again not a full compliment of the cast. Of the missing members the presence I felt needed most was that of Morgan's. After the big reveal in Chuck v the Beard we have yet to see how Morgan can help or be involved in Chuck's life.
- Having read back this review it's noticeably negative, which is not the impression I intended to give. I enjoyed the episode & have definitely liked the whole season. There has been a change in emphasis during the season but I think that is a good thing. The story had to progress & while it has become a little darker it has retained its essential Chuckness (I've been watching You, Me & Dupree). Attempting to change a winning formula is always difficult as there are so much to lose. It's perhaps part of the reason why this season has drawn a mixed response from the fans. I've liked the fact that the show-runners have tried to progress the story on & overall I think the season has been at least as strong as Season 2. Several of the current seasons episodes have been among the shows best & I have no doubt that the last two of the initial arc will be excellent.