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confessions of a chuck convert
by katherine l (aka clevertitania) (@CleverTitania)
6.19.09
television


I dont remember what scheduling conflict kept me from trying Chuck initially. I just never had a specific reason to reconsider the decision. I didnt know anyone who raved about the show, and so I figured Id wait for syndication or DVD. But then, two things happened. First, I joined Twitter, just as the next seasons up-fronts were approaching. The second event, was that another Joss Whedon show was about to be choked to death in its infancy, creating an awful feeling of dj vu. So as I found myself once again preparing for battle, I noticed the Whedonites werent the only ones engaging the network powers-that-be, in a bid to save a series from premature demise. And they were as anxious as we. What was it about this show, which Id originally taken for a revamp of Jake 2.0, that could cause its fans to react like the rabid Mutant Enemy devotees? Well at the moment, I was too busy catching up on Burn Notice to check.

But then, my sister started catching up on Chuck, apparently equally curious. By half-way through season 1 she was already telling me, in no uncertain terms; you must watch this show! So as soon as I finished getting up to speed on Michael Westin, I got to work on Chuck Bartowski, and... Wow!

What makes a show great? Its a tricky formula, trying to create the perfect blending of writing, production, cast, crew... blah, blah, blah.

Lets face it; there is no formula, no way to be sure, no guarantee. All a show creator(s) can do, is match the best elements they can find, and hope it all works out. But if its hard to create a great show, how does one define a great show? Thats actually a lot easier. It boils down to this; how do viewers feel about the characters? Its not about liking/loving them, or even about relating to them. After all, some of the best shows in history have been about characters beyond anyones imagination or comfort zone. And you can have a show about the most undesirable bastard in the history of TV, and still make a great show. No, the key element is far more elusive than that. To make a great show, viewers must be compelled by the characters and events taking place on screen. They must constantly want to know where things are going. Not even want; want is too simple. The viewers must share a fervent desire to know what comes next.

At about 1AM, on my 34th birthday, I finished watching season two of Chuck. The season finale was a great gift to me. In point of fact, it might just be the best episode of television Ive ever seen (forgive me Joss).

Many TV shows have a point in them, where things change so dramatically, nothing will ever be the same. For some, that is considered a Jump the Shark moment. For instance, Angels team taking over the LA branch of Wolfram and Hart, was a paradigm shift of the highest magnitude. The entire dynamic of the show changed, and some might have thought for the worse. Personally, I considered it a wonderful evolution for the characters. Another example would be the Stemwinder episodes of Scarecrow and Mrs. King (a show I think Chuck pays wonderful homage to). Again, many considered that the beginning of the end, because the relationship of Lee and Amanda was a given from that moment on. But they were my favorite episodes of the show, because an ambiguity was finally resolved. The romance was no longer a hidden and dubious element of the show, and Amandas place as Lees partner was finally set in stone. From then on, the show was no longer about a housewife thrust into the world of espionage, and the reluctant spy who was forced to work with and protect her. Now the show was about two people, trying to balance their lives as employees of The Agency, with the family they were trying to form. Alas, because of Kate Jacksons battle with breast cancer, we never really got to see that new side of the show take form.

In Chuck Vs. The Ring, the series resolved its own ambiguity brilliantly, and gave us a shift of focus that will resonate through television history. Chuck had always been a victim of his fate. Having never wanted to be a spy, much less a hero, he often bemoaned being forced into either role. But as Sarah told him, How many times do you have to be a hero, to realize that, you are that guy? Chucks greatest strength has never been the Intersect in his brain, or the very intelligent mind which can contain it. No, his heart is far more powerful than either of those pieces of him. He cares, and because he does, he cant just let bad things happen, if he can do something to help. This is what makes him a true hero, even if he was reluctant to admit it to himself.

But in that moment, as he stood in the white room and thought over the key events of the last two years, he finally embraced his own heroic nature. No longer will Chuck be the victim in this espionage game. In his time as a pseudo-spy, hes learned just what living this life entails. He knows that it involves danger to himself and those he cares about, lying to the people who matter most, and the confusion of living (at the least) two lives. But he also knows the satisfaction that can be found, in helping people he may never even meet. When he placed his hand on the activation panel, he knew exactly what he was getting himself into, and he made a choice.

That choice will make all the difference as we move into Season 3. Chuck is no longer a victim or a puppet, at the whim of the information forced into his mind, and those who seek to control it. He is now a spy, and a hero, of his own choosing. There was another way this couldve happened. If it had been determined that the Intersect was never removable, eventually Chuck wouldve accepted his new life as permanent, but that might have changed him irrevocably. Like Sarahs shift from confidence woman/girl to spy, it couldve hardened and jaded him. But because he was able to make the decision, because he embraced it on his own; I believe he will find a way to become the hero he was always meant to be, and still be the lovable geek we adore. He will find a way to still be the wonderful friend and brother hes always been, and save the day too. He will find a way to have the love of his life, without forcing he or Sarah to give up the job they were destined to do. Ironically just as Sarah was choosing life with him over life as a spy, he was giving up the normal life he'd coveted, to join her in saving the world. But just as his own love and joy for life has helped Sarah to find the balance in herself shes always yearned for, he will find that balance in himself.

And as Chuck embraces his destiny and his place in this world, those of as at home cheering him on, will be even more compelled to see what comes next.


ABOUT KATHERINE L (AKA CLEVERTITANIA)

When I grow up, I want to be; whoever Joss Whedon wants to be, when he grows up. I am a writer because it's the first thing I want to do when I wake up in the morning; aside from eating and using the lavatory of course. My work includes screenplays, short stories, film/TV/music reviews and socio-political commentary. The last one is a fancy way of saying I like to shoot my mouth off on many topics. I excel at using $1.50 words. They gone up, thanks to inflation. Isn't our economy awesome?

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