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A rousing finale after a handful of mediocre episodes, the final installment of Chuck's third season was All That and Then Some. Secrets were revealed, acts of unspeakable heroism were perpetrated on an unsuspecting audience and some minor silliness can be overlooked in the face of such well-orchestrated action and excitement.
The final episodes, aired back-to-back as a double feature, showed us exactly why we love this show. We love it because the characters are not only great, or lovable, or comic, but because they grow, change and evolve throughout the series. And because at their best, they intersperse the comedy with drama and action almost seamlessly, bringing the audience from laughter to tears – and sometimes back again - in a single scene.
The double episode (henceforth referred to only as “the episode”) is plot-heavy, with several threads heading to a mutual conclusion – and this review is spoiler-heavy.
Chuck's continued mental deterioration as the host of the Intersect, Ellie being manipulated by Ring operatives, Shaw's return from the dead, Orion's return from who-knows-where and Casey's secret past coming home to roost – again – are all mixed into the dough and liberally sprinkled with guns, kung-fu, and Jeffster.
In order of appearance:
Chuck knows the stress of hosting the Intersect will cause his brain to malfunction, but cannot bring himself to confide in Sarah. Dad, also known as “Orion the Super Techie-Nerd” is working on a device – the “Governor” - that will eliminate the mental stress and keep Chuck sane and functioning. While waiting for his “Governor”, Chuck accidentally spots Shaw.
Fortunately (or not) this turns out to be true, rather than a hallucination, and the trio of super-spies decide to enter his secret Ring-base to take out the security-threat he poses. Upon entering the base, they realize that something is Very, Very Wrong – just in time to blunder into a very real hearing in the very real CIA base.
Expertly manipulated by Shaw, the team is discredited, General Beckman embarrassed, and Chuck taken into custody.
Ellie, having been lured to the base by her “CIA-handler” cum Ring-agent is treated to an up close and personal display of Chuck's abilities, meaning the final member of the Bartowski family and extended clan is finally in the know – much to her shock and dismay.
Casey, our favorite grizzly bear with a heart of gold, reveals that he's been keeping in touch with his unknown daughter, keeping tabs on her life as her favorite customer “John”. When the shit hits the fan, he immediately races to get her out of the line of fire. A little spot of kidnapping and some big reveals later, she proves to be her father's daughter with an impressive amount of gumption and survival instincts – and she can kick ass, too.
After Sarah and Casey are taken into custody by the Ring-infiltrated CIA, Chuck – previously liberated by his father – race to the rescue. After a clever bit of spy work, father and son ends up face to face with Shaw and his minions, resulting in the tragic death of Orion, shocking Chuck into guilt and despair.
While all this is going on, Ellie has a long-awaited chat with Captain Awesome, and a subsequent briefing by Morgan – who has grown into quite the mature young man, continuously impressing us with his insights (equal parts charmingly nerdy naivete and world-weary cynicism) and sheer guts.
Ellie also manages to witness her father's execution, and shows true Bartowski grit – she doesn't have the time to wallow in despair; she calls in her boys for a rescue mission!
One action packed rescue later, Chuck and Ellie have a quick heart-to-heart resulting in his promise to quit working as a spy as soon as the current trouble is over. While somewhat reluctant, Chuck does not hesitate to choose family – the only family he has left – over life as a spy.
Discovering that the leaders of the Ring – the five Elders – will be present at a CIA conference as a part of their plan to take over the agency, the newly extended Team Bartowski sets out to stop Shaw and his new employers before it is too late.
After a bit of derring-do, misdirection and general cleverness, the team manages to get Shaw to reveal the identity of the unknown Elders, resulting in their capture and the decapitation of the Ring.
Of course, things cannot go too smoothly, that would be boring – and so we end up at the Buy More, home to so many embarrassing moments, near-disasters and life lessons for the explosive finale. Quite literally.
Shaw has planted explosives all over the store, capturing poor Morgan in the process. Looking for a final confrontation with Chuck, he is unaware that Chuck is currently incapacitated, the Intersect causing his brain to overload after every flash.
Sarah tries to confront Shaw in Chuck's place, but is captured instead.
Meanwhile, Morgan is trying to find a way to empty the store before it blows, while still tied to a chair in the back room. After a phone call with Casey, he breaks his thumbs in order to escape and pull the fire alarm. The fact that somebody beats him to it does not diminish his heroic accomplishment – only Casey could do something like that, and the fact that Morgan emulates him in this is incredible to say the least. We knew he had guts, but this is above and beyond what we expected from the “funny little man”.
This is when Chuck enters the picture, striding in in heroic slow-mo, gun in hand. No signs of the geeky, clumsy goofball – this is Charles Bartowski, spy extraordinaire, ready for the final showdown.
Despite being near-crippled by the melt-downs caused by every flash, despite his vaunted inability to flash under emotional pressure, he rises to the occasion, giving his all in an epic fight with his equal and opposite. And in classic Chuck-style, he chooses not to kill when given the option – much to Sarah's delight.
And that's that. Or it might be, if it wasn't for the fact that there's one more season coming up. And so, after swearing to Ellie that he's quit the spy-life with General Beckman's blessing, Chuck gets a message from his late father, directing him to a secret hideout where he discovers Orion's lair: An amazing, high tech facility where he conducted his own, private war on all the bad guys out there – and the hunt for his missing wife...
All in all a VERY plot-intensive two hours, but that was not the great thing about this episode. No, the great thing was the big emotional moments. And Ellie learning about Chuck's secret. And Casey's daughter. And Shaw finally getting his comeuppance. And Morgan being a real hero. And the great flashbacks to the Bartowskis' childhood (they were so CUTE together!). And the revelation that Chuck has always been “special”. And blowing up the Buy More. And... and...
You get the picture.
The long-awaited inclusion of Ellie was great – she handled it just the way we knew she would, freaking out but doing what needed to be done anyway. Hey, any girl who can clock John Casey and get away with it has already proven herself ten times over – it is just that Ellie can do so much more. Her tearfilled but determined face during the rescue mission was perfect, and her handling of Captain Awesome's bumbling confession proves that she will make a great mother some day. Or a top-notch interrogator, whichever comes first.
Morgan excelled at everything (except possibly effective tough-guy speak during the capture of the Ring Elders), but was especially impressive when meeting Casey's daughter the first time – he does a surprisingly good “suave secret operative” when he is in his element.
There is a lot more to love about this episode, but there is simply no way to list them all within the confines of a simple review.
All you need to know is that you should watch it.
And cross your fingers for the next season – if it is as awesome as this episode, it is must-see-TV.