Episode Review: CHUCK: "Chuck vs. the Anniversary" (Season 4, episode 1)

Sam White
Sam White's picture

When last we saw Chuck Bartowski, his recently deceased (maybe, people have a way of coming back on “Chuck”) father had left him with a mission: to find his mother (who, it turns out, is Sarah Connor, which means Chuck is actually ... never mind). He begins this season by enlisting uber-spy Morgan Grimes in this quest, a task for which Morgan is more than ready—or so he says.

As they set off on a globetrotting adventure (that we viewed mainly through maps), Sarah and Casey are sent on a mission by the government to capture an EMP weapon capable of shutting down all electrical devices in a 3 km range. This leads to a crimp in Chuck and Sarah’s romantic life, which Morgan tries to remedy by sexting Sarah on behalf of Chuck.

Meanwhile, the “Buy More” is open for business and the new manager is … General Beckman.

This is now season 4 of “Chuck”. Chuck has been the Intersect. He’s been the Intersect 2.0. He’s found his father. He’s defeated Fulcrum and the Ring. He’s given away his “secret” about being an agent to just about everyone in southern California.

What do we do now?

“Chuck” has always been a drama with a lot of comedy. The season opener for this year was either equally balanced between drama and comedy or, maybe just slightly tilted toward comedy.

I loved it, but I can see where it might be a turn-off for anyone who is wanting to watch a “serious spy show” (as if there were such a thing) or a straight comedy (is that an oxymoron?). It will be interesting to see if this change continues and if it works. TV history is littered with shows that came to a similar point and realized they either had to keep on going in exactly the same direction and risk losing their punch, or go in a new direction and risk losing their audience.

[“Gunsmoke” ran for 20 years and over 600 episodes, but in some ways was at least three different series. You have the early, 30 minute eps that focus on quickly told stories. Then, you have the hour-long episodes that focused more on character development, and had much more humor once Festus was introduced into the cast. Then, there were the last few years when the show became an ensemble “theater” show with episodes that sometimes barely even had Matt or Festus in them at all. Or “The Andy Griffith Show” (aka “Television’s Greatest Show Ever”) which was really two shows: with Don Knotts and without Don Knotts. And then there are shows like “Moonlighting” and “I Dream of Jeannie” which couldn’t survive having the characters marry, but would have stretched credibility if they hadn’t.]

I really enjoyed this episode and loved the additional humor, however I do have one real quibble with the new direction: the Buy More. I, personally, would have liked to have seen the Buy More go buy-buy as the episodes (or, even, scenes within episodes) that took place at the store were becoming more and more just speed bumps to the rest of the series. Now that the Buy More is actually a CIA/NSA super base disguised in plain sight as a popular retail location … that just seems ridiculous to me. Yes, I know this is a comedy, but this strikes me as coming awfully close to the old question of, “How come they can build a stage for Ginger but can’t build a boat to get off the island?”