Entertainment Magazine

Review #3097: Chuck 5.1: “Chuck Vs. the Zoom”

Posted on the 31 October 2011 by Entil2001 @criticalmyth

Contributor: Henry T.

Written by Chris Fedak and Nicholas Wootton
Directed by Robert Duncan McNeill

After last season’s reveal of Chuck and company being a rich freelance spy company independent of government review as well as Morgan downloading an Intersect into his brain, I had legitimate reservations. Some of those reservations continued to fester as this fifth and final season premiered. I think this final season will hopefully serve to alleviate those concerns as it progresses to the end of the series proper. Can they deliver on expectations?

Review #3097: Chuck 5.1: “Chuck vs. the Zoom”

What will certainly help is the knowledge that there are only thirteen episodes to play with, since the network’s waffling on how long the fourth season would last contributed to its sometimes bipolar overall feel. That should not happen here, and the narrative seems, at least judging from the premiere, to be moving quickly towards one big resolution.

This was addressed in the review for the season four finale: The show isn’t focused on Morgan as a spy. So the writers have to find a way to keep Chuck from drifting so far out of the center, but still keep Morgan as the newfangled spy with the Intersect gadget in his head. As Chuck says in the first act of the premiere, Carmichael Industries is still “working out the kinks.” I usually don’t like it when shows use events in the fictional reality as meta-commentary on how the show at large operates currently, but that statement fit it to a bill in this instance. Morgan is, as Chuck did in the first season, still trying to get comfortable with his new powers.

And, bumbling idiot that Morgan is, there are stumbles along the way. Like the first season, the rest of the team has to guide Morgan along slowly. Only, the difference here is that Chuck is included in that support group for the first time. He is understandably uncomfortable with the prospect of not being the star pupil, as it were. He doesn’t come outright saying that he’s a bit jealous that Morgan has the Intersect meant for him, but it’s clear from his actions in this premiere that he is. Morgan even picks up on that and tries hard to keep Chuck from dwelling on that jealousy by having him focus on other things like advancing the domesticated life he has built with his lovely bride, Sarah.

It’s definitely an interesting dynamic being set up here: Chuck has been the hero and Morgan the sidekick for so long that to have it reversed changes their relationship in little ways. At some point, the pupil (in this case, Morgan) will surpass the master, and there promises to be fireworks when that happens. I think it’s admirable that Morgan tries to keep Chuck from thinking he stole Chuck’s gift (and that makes him revert at times in this episode into his annoying season one persona) by keeping the hero-sidekick status intact whenever he can, but that’s probably not going to last.

There are hints in this episode that Morgan may not possess the Intersect as long as he thinks. Chuck has enlisted the help of Ellie to figure out a way to load another Intersect into the sunglasses Volkoff gave him. That, like the little subplot with Decker and the CIA, may sit in the background for a couple of episodes before factoring in largely in some unexpected manner. Carmichael Industries is running on fumes by the end of the episode, what with Decker freezing all of the team’s assets, so either the plan involving the Buy More’s profits works or Chuck becomes the Intersect again.

I really thought there was some room to play with the fact that the team was rich beyond their dreams, and for a time, the writers had fun with it. I think it would have been intriguing for them to take on some more jobs with the more unsavory lot than they’re accustomed. They’d be glorified mercenaries in a way. Alas, they go through with the mission and Decker proves to be a thorn to their sides. Chuck proved he was the true leader of the team (and I liked how they naturally got to that point), yet they aren’t even allowed to savor this victory before moving on to other problems. It felt like a long-term plot that was somehow fast-forwarded because this final season is shorter than normal.

The entire plot dedicated to introducing how the new status quo largely felt awkward to me. It was as if I was transported back to the first season, only with Chuck and Morgan in reversed roles. I had worried in the show’s time off the air that might come up. It wasn’t until Chuck hatched his plan to hack Bale’s computer and laid out each step of that plan (down to where he was going to leap out of the building, a nice detail) that the true meaning of the episode emerged: Their whole world might be upside-down and they may have enemies after them, but as long as Chuck is there to lead them, everything will turn out okay in the end.

This is a fundamental change from where he was at the beginning of the series, and shows how far he has come from that time. I think the final season will continually test that philosophy at every turn. As long as everyone has fun with that concept, there shouldn’t be too much to complain about from me. I’m very glad this show is back on television. But it all comes down to execution in the end.

Grade: 7/10

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