- Buy the DVD
All photos © NBC
Reviewed by Will Harris
t’s been said on Bullz-Eye and elsewhere, but it’s worth saying again: there are few things on the TV landscape more inexplicable than the fact that NBC’s “Chuck” always seems to be teetering on the precipice of cancellation. It started out as a show with a heart, a brain, and an unabashed love for the world of the geek, and although it had to suffer through a stunted first season because of the writer’s strike, it was stronger than ever when it returned for its second season.
For those who didn’t catch the show during its first go-round, here’s what you need to know: Chuck Bartowski (Zachary Levi) is a 20-something slacker who’s wasting his time as an employee at Buy More until a former classmate of his from Stanford sends him an E-mail which, when he opens it, uploads the contents of a secret government computer system called the Intersect into his brain. As a result, Chuck finds himself more or less the property of the CIA and is forced to participate in secret missions because of his newfound tendency to “flash,” a.k.a. pull up information from the Intersect, whenever he sees someone or something contained within his new memory banks.
During the course of Season Two, “Chuck” successfully managed to straddle its titular character’s three worlds – home, the Buy More, and the CIA – and flesh out all three without making any of them feel forced. Chuck’s relationship with CIA officer Sarah Walker (Yvonne Strahovski) spends the season getting progressively more awkward, given that it’s clear that she shares his feelings for her but is stymied by her dedication to her position; meanwhile, NSA agent John Casey (Adam Baldwin) continues to only barely tolerate his existence, but he nonetheless begins to begrudgingly acknowledge his moxie. The Buy More offers up the majority of the straightforward comedy for the series, and in addition to seeing the continuing relationship between Chuck’s best bud, Morgan (Joshua Gomez), and the ridiculously cute Anna Wu (Julia Ling), we see Lester (Vik Sahay) continue his slimy, scheming ways, discover that Jeff (Scott Krinsky) used to kick some serious ass at “Missile Command,” and we finally get to see the musical genius that is Jeffster! There’s also a new addition to the Buy More management team, with Tony Hale turning up as the store’s new manager, Emmett Milbarge. (Kudos on the “Spies Like Us” tribute!) Lastly, on the home front, Chuck’s still living with his sister Ellie (Sarah Lancaster) and her fiancé, Captain Awesome (Ryan McPartlin), but their engagement and impending nuptials make it pretty clear that he’s going to have to find a new pad sooner than later.
There’s considerable evolution in Chuck’s character this season, as we see him dealing with his feelings with Sarah on a regular basis, but it briefly looks as though he might be pursuing love with his former girlfriend, Jill (Jordana Brewster), who reenters the picture and rekindles their romance. Of course, you know Chuck’s luck: she’s soon revealed as a Fulcrum agent. The mysterious disappearance of Chuck and Ellie’s father, Stephen (Scott Bakula), is resolved this season as well, but although he plays a major part on Chuck’s life by season’s end, there’s a significant amount of emotional heft when it comes to Ellie’s feelings toward him. If there’s one constant with “Chuck,” it’s that, although it makes you laugh on a regular basis, you’re invested in these characters and their fates, which means that you feel for them, too.
Season Two of “Chuck” ends with a development in the life of Chuck Bartowski which, despite the fact that it’s a highly overused term, can only be described as a game-changer: after having fought for the better part of two seasons to get the Intersect out of his head and finally succeeding, he proceeds to perform like the spy he always swore he wasn’t and put it right back in again. The difference this time, however, is that it’s been upgraded to provide Chuck with the knowledge to utilize the physical attributes of a spy as well as the mental. Or, as he says immediately before the closing credits roll on the season finale, “Guys…? I know kung-fu.”
Season Three can’t get here quickly enough.
Special Features: Sadly, there are no audio commentaries floating around the set, but there’s still quite a lot of bonus material here for your perusal. In addition to “declassified” (deleted) scenes for the majority of the episodes, there’s a nice 20-minute featurette which examines the season (“Truth, Spies and Regular Guys: Exploring the Mythology of ‘Chuck’”), short pieces from Captain Awesome (“Tips for Being Awesome”) and Casey (“So You Want To Be A Deadly Spy?”), a look into the season’s best action sequences (“Dude in Distress”), the obligatory gag reel (“Chuck Versus the Chuckles”), and the show’s various webisodes from the season. Lastly, it’s worth noting that, for those of you who may be concerned that you won’t be able to fully appreciate the episode entitled “Chuck Versus the Third Dimension,” the set does indeed include two pairs of 3D glasses.