As I wrote about last time, endings are hard work. I didn't know what to expect for the series finale of "Chuck", seeing as how "Chuck" itself is pop culture mix of espionage, science fiction, comedy, romance and drama all rolled into one. However, I'm happy to say "Chuck" pulled off a fine ending for its finale - one that is hysterical, heart-warming and heart-wrenching all at the same time.
Ex-CIA agent and would-be super-spy Nicholas Quinn (Angus Macfadyen) stands revealed the finale's Big Bad. Sarah downloads the super-spy-producing Intersect program to save her husband Chuck when he is captured by Quinn. Unfortunately, the current Intersect is already flawed, and when Quinn forcibly removes the Intersect, he removes Sarah's entire memory of the last five years. Posing as her CIA handler, Quinn tasks the amnesiac Sarah with retrieving the Intersect and killing its current holder - Chuck Bartowski (it's not a huge stretch for Sarah, considering the only people she does remember - her partner and one-time-lover Bryce and mentor Graham - have since died from Intersect-related developments, something Quinn is quick to exploit).
The strongest part of "Chuck" part has always been the characterization, which is truly put under a five-year microscope in the two-part finale. Stuck in a star-crossed conundrum, Chuck must overcome doubts that Sarah can be saved. It's a tall order, since Sarah has reverted to a ruthlessly efficient killer who is emotionally skittish and vulnerable on the inside. Chuck tries to convince Sarah that she can fall for a nerd like him, but Sarah seems unsure someone in her line of work can even fall in love at all. John Casey tries to regain his edge by putting down Nicholas Quinn, even if it means sidelining his own team. His behavior leads to scathing yet dead-on rebuke from Morgan, who shines as an occasionally bizarre voice of reason for the episode. Everyone else, from Ellie and Awesome to Jeff and Lester to Big Mike and the entire Buy More crew have their individual time to shine, with funny and heartwarming resolutions along the way.
The weakest part of "Chuck" has always been the overall villains. Individually, Chuck Bartowski has one of the most dynamic rogue's gallery on television, but the villains are usually summed up as one guy and a bunch of mooks. At best, they are mysteriously vague organizations like Fulcrum and the RING. The best villain by far was Timothy Dalton's cheerful megalomaniac Volkoff. Richard Burgi's corrupt CIA hard case Decker seemed a worthy replacement, but his tenure was cut short - and his replacement was an out-of-place Daniel Shaw (Brandon Routh), who in turn gave way to the underwhelming Nicholas Quinn. It's nothing against "Braveheart" star Angus Macfayden - Quinn just doesn't seem that much of a match from Team Bartowski (an amnesiac Sarah nearly kills him when they first meet). Considering one of his master plans is derailed by the likes of Jeffster, Quinn goes down as one lousy bad guy.
For all his short-comings though, the antagonist serves a catalyst for the drama ensuing between Chuck and Sarah, and fans looking for a quick fix for the situation are going to be disappointed. While the episode provides an exhaustive overview of where Chuck and Sarah have been, the ending has only a few scant clues of where the couple is going. Some critics have complained of a "Sopranos"-style ending, but I can honestly say I don't see it (first of all, there's no Journey playing). While the ending is quietly ambiguous, it is also tender and redemptive - showing all the reasons "Chuck" is will be irreplaceable on my DVR for years to come.
(That's it for this rant. Check out the last page of Blue Yonder Chapter 1 this Wednesday!)