Entertainment Magazine

Review #3180: Chuck 5.5: “Chuck Vs. the Hack Off”

Posted on the 12 December 2011 by Entil2001 @criticalmyth

Contributor: Henry T.

Written by Craig DiGregorio
Directed by Zachary Levi

The show is kicking off the second act of its final season in fine form. It would have been better if Casey’s stay in jail was a little longer, but that’s really a consequence of the abbreviated season. This episode hit all the right buttons, I felt. It went back to the show at its roots, acknowledging that Chuck is capable of a great deal many things without benefit of an Intersect in his head. There is also mature conversations within scenes that dealt with what the future might entail for Team Bartowski. Production has wrapped for the series and for the first time this year, I wonder where the show is heading as it speeds towards the end next month.

Review #3180: Chuck 5.5: “Chuck vs. the Hack Off”

The lone problem I had with this episode was the fact that Casey ended up in County Jail instead of federal prison. I would think that since he murdered a covert operative in cold blood, there would be a harsher sentence for him. If the cover story was that he had unpaid parking tickets, then that would explain the plot hole. It’s a small quibble, and ultimately doesn’t matter anyway because the scenes within the jail were great comedy. From the tiny blueprints for Chuck’s escape plan, to the clandestine “conjugal visit” paid to Casey by Verbanski, to the fact that Casey gets rescued from a mass beating by Lester of all people, the scenes in the jail were a delightful counterpoint to Chuck and Sarah’s mission from Decker.

I personally liked the little detail of a goon telling Lester that the “12-gauge” has arrived and we find out later it’s 12-gauge wire, not a shotgun. Or that Lester learned how to cope in prison from viewing a women’s prison film! Morgan and Jeff’s “threat” to replace Lester didn’t really go anywhere, but was just an excuse to put two stars of the show “Community” in cameo appearances. As a fan of both that show and this one, I couldn’t help but smile at how clever it was all integrated.

I loved the main plot as well, if not better than the one involving Casey. Chuck and Sarah team up with Verbanski to find a hacker and get the very destructive computer virus for Decker. Verbanski is a substitute for the imprisoned Casey, but the mission to infiltrate the cult had all the makings of “Chuck” in its early season one stages. The episode does well to first fully acknowledge that Chuck is, at his core, a very big nerd by establishing that he’s a very capable computer hacker himself. That’s followed up by Verbanski’s increasing impatience at how long it takes Sarah and Chuck to actually complete the mission objective. Verbanski is, in effect, very much like Casey and that in part explains why she has feelings for him. It could have easily looked like the writers were treading old territory and repeating some of the same reliable rhythms but Verbanski is a rival of theirs and that keeps the element feeling fresh and amusing.

Stylistically, I don’t think any other show has more audacity than to show people fully nude but with pixelated genitals. That visual oddity alone earns this episode extra points. Aside from the goofy aspects of this episode, the writers manage to squeeze in some time for conversations about Sarah’s place in the world and whether or not the Bartowski couple could ever leave the spy game. A lot of things add up to Chuck and Sarah getting their happily-ever-after ending (they want a house, Carmichael Industries could be a tech company, they wouldn’t be under the threat of death every day), but it could easily go the other way as well. The end of this episode proved that in spades with Chuck and Sarah on the run from the government. We’ll have to see how that develops as the season continues.

It’s going to be a sad day when “Chuck” finally goes off the air. I think that’s how I will feel when that day comes. For now, I just hope the eight remaining episodes are like this one. This episode had both of its storylines well-integrated with each other and made great use of guest star Carrie-Anne Moss as Verbanski. The show hasn’t proven to be that consistent in quite some time so maybe I’m asking a little too much of it. If the rest of the batch is game to match this episode, the ride to the end will be epic and so much more satisfying than what I would have expected.

Grade: 9/10

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