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September 2, 2015

EXCLUSIVE Season 5 Video Preview and Fond Thoughts about 'Chuck's' Final Run

by Maureen Ryan, posted Oct 27th 2011 9:30AM
The return of 'Chuck' (8PM Friday, NBC) is something to celebrate, but this fall's Nerd Herd party has a bittersweet quality, given that this is the last season of the show.

When season 5 ends, we'll have to say goodbye to the Intersect, say sayonara to Jeffster and swear off John Casey's grunts forever. We'll get no more celebratory Comic-Con love-ins in which the cast and producers tease fans with intel on the next round of espionage antics. No more Castle, no more secret missions, no more touching nerd romances and bromances.

Wait, wait, don't leave! I didn't mean to bring you down. But facts must be faced. Now that we've done the hard part, let's get to the good stuff: In honor of 'Chuck's' Friday return, let's celebrate the things that are most enjoyable about the show's new season.

NBC sent the first three episodes of season 5 to the media, so I can't opine on what happens beyond those hours, but they were solidly enjoyable. Are they perfect? No, but I don't love 'Chuck' because it's perfect, I love it because when it works well its admirable heart, its goofy energy and its distinctive characters make up for almost everything else it doesn't quite nail. I'm so glad to have the show back for one more season that I'm willing to forgive the few turns that weren't smooth or the parts of the story that felt a little speedy.

Generally speaking, I was pleasantly surprised by how solidly constructed the first three episodes are, and, given the show's past budget issues, I was especially impressed with the production values in the third episode, which has an exciting (and expensive-looking) action sequence. When 'Chuck's' humor, action beats and emotional moments all ring true, it's one of the most enjoyable shows on TV, and it's that particular blend of elements that I'll miss when it's gone.

Wait, I may be making you sad again. Sorry about that! Let's all go to the happy place together, and below, I'll talk more about the things that are working well in the new season of 'Chuck.' But before we get to that, here's an exclusive season 5 video preview, which features the cast talking about shooting the last season as well as footage of guest stars Danny Pudi of 'Community,' Rebecca Romijn, Mark Hamill and Carrie-Anne Moss:

Not surprisingly, the evolution of past and present Intersects drives the story in the early going. I know some fans are worried about how the Bearded One, a.k.a. Morgan Guillermo Grimes (Josh Gomez), will fare as the Intersect, but I think that development, which came at the end of season 4, made sense for both Chuck and Morgan. Chuck is now a good enough spy that he doesn't really need the Intersect to go up against the bad guys, and it's time he learned that once and for all. Also, seeing Morgan trying to master the Intersect is amusing, and that story line didn't necessarily go the way I expected.

Not every twist and turn of the Morgan-as-Intersect story completely works in the early episodes; some twists feel more sudden than others, and I wish there was a little more more of the nerdy, goofy Morgan-esque enthusiasm we've all come to know and love (having him go on missions with Chuck was one of the best parts of season 4). Overall, though, I like the way that the show acknowledges that it's hard for Chuck to not be the Intersect, and that it's also difficult for the new bearer of the data download to master the ever-evolving challenges it presents.

The team going solo as Carmichael Industries was also a wise idea; it gives a different flavor to the missions and gives them some interesting competition in the form of the fearsome Verbanski Corp, which is run by the ruthless super-spy Gertrude Verbanski (Carrie-Anne Moss). Maybe Chuck should have gone for his MBA at some point: He, Casey and Sarah not only have to try to score business for Carmichael Industries, he's also the owner of the Buy More, which, as we know, hasn't historically been the most well run retail store in Burbank (or anywhere on Earth). Chuck certainly has his hands full trying to keep Morgan from running off the rails and trying to manage the staffs of both enterprises (and we all know what an obedient group the Buy More employees are).

Despite the presence of various guest stars (and Moss is the best one of the bunch in the early episodes), the show wisely keeps the focus on the core characters that we love, and when the curtain drops on 'Chuck,' I'll miss many things about the show -- the rock 'n' roll delusions of Jeff and Lester, the velvety delight that is Big Mike's voice, the great soundtrack, the pop-culture references, Captain Awesome's awesomeness (not to mention his abs); the list goes on and on. Still, when all is said and done, I'm betting I'll miss John Casey's grunts the most.

As is only fitting, Casey gets a prominent story line in season 5 -- he and Gertrude share not just a tangled history but some crazy sexual tension. And yes, it makes me mildly uncomfortable that I mentioned Casey and sexual tension in the same sentence; part of me wigs out a little when the subject of the Grunting One and dating comes up. But it will come as no surprise that Casey's cluelessness on the romance front constitutes one of his many gruff charms.

Speaking of the show's supporting characters, some of my fellow critics don't much care for the Buy More antics and the Jeffster silliness that I unreservedly love. I don't quite understand the aversion, but viewers in that camp should be glad that the Buy Morean exposure is relatively light in the first three episodes of the season. However, I have to say that the second episode features a Big Mike moment that is really funny (and don't worry, I wouldn't dream of giving away -- to even hint at what occurs would kind of ruin it).

[This paragraph, though it contains no plot specifics, might be considered mildly spoilery, so skip to the next paragraph if you are a spoilerphobe.] The one thing I worry about with this final season is what looks like an attempt to tie many previous pieces of mythology together in the final season. As I said in this week's Talking TV podcast, I don't quite understand why this is necessary, and it's not as if overall structure has ever been the show's strong point. I agree with my podcast partner Ryan McGee, who said that he was most concerned that the characters get fitting send-offs before season 5 ends, and I worry about whether there will be enough time for those resolutions and for the big mythology arc in these final thirteen episodes. We'll just have to see.

Just to head off an inevitable question, yes, the possibility does exist that NBC could order more episodes, given that most of the network's shows, new and old, are struggling, but I think that's unlikely. In any event, we all know how the show has struggled at times to regain its footing when a 13-episode order was added to in the middle of a season -- at times, the transitions between storytelling arcs have been rough.

So I'm viewing these episodes as the final 13 hours of 'Chuck,' and I hope the season doesn't go beyond that. I'd rather see the show go out on top with story lines that co-creators and executive producers Josh Schwartz and Chris Fedak planned out months ago than watch 'Chuck's' writers scramble to tack on extra arcs. Whatever its occasional wobbles, 'Chuck' has brought me so much pleasure over the years, I'd hate to see its final season remembered with anything other than fondness.

But all this leads me to a question for the show's hardcore devotees, who have done such a great job of keeping 'Chuck' alive for five seasons. (And I still can't believe that actually happened. Hats off to you, 'Chuck' fans!)

Here's my query: Would you rather have 'Chuck' end with these 13 episodes, or would you like the season order to be expanded? Leave your feedback, and thoughts on what you'll miss most when 'Chuck' ends, in the comment area.

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Morgan as intersect is buffonish. Aside from that, is this going to turn into a complete infringement on the Leverage trademark? Good luck trying to do that idea better.

Speaking of which, why does the new high concept Leverage ad not include Elliot, a great character. The hospital takeover episode in which Eliot saved the abused kid is one of the best of any show in several years. Parker and Hardison grew beautifully into something a fan would root for, and it is very sweet. I know Mo was never a fan of Parker, but that turned out to be a case of too little patience. The character is endearing, a feral child with wonderfully human and humane gut inclinations. But if Eliot is out of it, so am I. Christian Kane is a superb actor, and the ensemble is close to perfection. They had better not mess with it.

October 28 2011 at 8:25 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Bill H

Well I would like a back 9 because I think it would be fitting to have it end at a perfect 100 episodes even though I will never watch the first 13 of season 3 again. So that would give me 87 wonderful hours to enjoy in the years to come.
I will say I have been very very apprehensive about Morgansect as still think its a dumb idea. But I'm willing to overlook it because I am getting Sarah's mom this season and I'm really happy with the casting of Cheryl Ladd. That was my only requirement for this season and I'm getting it so I can handle a little Morgansect. I just hope and pray its ended by episode 5. I really don't want the final 13 to be focused on a minor character like Morgan. Give me Sarah, Chuck and Sarah and Chuck, Sarah and Casey. That is the reason I fell in love with the show. It was never Morgan. Focus on the big three and if anyone needed an expanded role it should have been Ellie.

I highly doubt we will get a back 9 but I'd like it. More Chuck is always better. But maybe they could have a fan poll and vote for the best 10 eps to air through the spring in that dead timeslot.. I would bet not one from the first 13 of season 3 would make it except maybe Other Guy. But rewatching 78 out of 91 will give me a great deal of fun in years to come.

October 28 2011 at 2:40 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

>Still, when all is said and done, I'm betting I'll miss John Casey's grunts the most.<

Casey = Awkward with romance?!!? Go re-watch 'Chuck vs the Undercover Lover' and wash your pen out with soap!

October 28 2011 at 2:12 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
stephen barker

I will always want more Chuck, this show is just so amazing athat IMO even the bad epiosdes are better than 90% of all the other TV shows. I would prefer it if NBC changed there mind and commisioned a series 6 than give it extra epiodes or if it does get extra episodes I think that Fedak and Co should use the extension as a seperate miniseries. I have to believe that although most things will probably get resolved they are going to leave something open enough to allow the story to continue. I think the problems that they have had with the uneven season 3 and 4 was because of carrying things through to the back half rather than starting a new.
Hopefully NBC sees the light and does the right thing and we do get more episodes, I am just not ready to let go of these characters yet ,I love them so much.

October 28 2011 at 4:02 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Joyce Strangman

If the writers could only know in some possible advance that there would possibly be more episodes then, by all means yes I'd love more to be able to expand the season to understand the whole mythology. I sure hope his dad really isn't dead!! My most favorite part of the show has been Chuck himself and how he has evolved into a real spy. Unfortunately, for me I think some of last season he wasn't used to the best that he could have been, but the ending of the season was awesome!!

October 28 2011 at 12:49 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

13 episodes should be enough and yes Casey's grunts are the best!

October 27 2011 at 6:50 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Because of how it currently stands, I would want Chuck to end with these 13 episodes. Had the show been picked up for a full season before the season's storylines had been planned out, that would have been one thing, however, to try and tack on more episodes now would be a disservice to the show, to its writers/producers/cast/crew/etc and to its fans.

I would like to see this show end with head held high, crossing the finish lines on its own terms (in victory if you will). Based on the last two seasons, if more episodes were added now, to me that would result in them limping across the finish line instead, brought down by storylines they didn't mean to tell. I want to believe that episode 13 will bring a satisfying conclusion to this epic journey that we have all taken together and I don't want to see that muddled.

October 27 2011 at 4:56 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I have all the time wished that Chuck could get whole season to have justified ending to the best series ever.

October 27 2011 at 4:20 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Jem Joven

I'd rather this be the show's last huzzah. Not because I don't want more Chuck, I absolutely want more Chuck but we've had so many scrambles, so many plots thought of in less time it really requires that since it's the final go, I want to go out on top--with a story that they sweated, bled for, and cried tears of joy (ok so I exaggerate). The show and quite frankly the fans of the show deserve a final and fitting farewell.

Having said that the only way I would be ok with extended episodes (and let's face it, it's likely) is if those episodes were to take place years into the future and with a villain-by-week. While I don't agree with you and Mr. McGee about the necessity for an overarching arc this season (I think fans wanted it too much for them not to revisit any mythology regardless of strength), I do agree with it in part when it comes to extended episodes. I guess my vision is clouded by the fact that I thought Push Mix was so super great, yet Cliffhanger left me disappointed.

In any case I'll be devastated when the final curtain does fall. I'll miss you Chuck! My life will never be the same.

October 27 2011 at 4:01 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Charley Carey

13 episodes and done. season 2 was the best season because it was a full season from the start. the last 2 years the pacing as been screwed with due to late extensions. the storytelling as been significantly hampered by this. The only way to get a great final season is to stick with 13 episodes.

October 27 2011 at 4:01 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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