Completely unrealistic, LOL!, but hilarous, and yet, also poignant with some great drama. I can honestly say that by the end of season two, I actually had only three issues with the entire series: One short arc that I pretty much hated, the writing of one guest-shot character, and one bit of casting. For thirty-five episodes that is not bad at all.
The overall appeal of the show is wonderful, but specifically I really enjoyed two aspects of how Chuck is written. But for one thread (albeit glaring to me, maybe someone can offer an explanation that I missed), it does an absolutely wonderful job of dropping hints and threads that are used to further plot and/or character in an organic way. I did begin to look for those hints because I *knew* that the show wouldn't disappoint, and it didn't. A great example was from the season two finale when Ellie mentioned that she had dreamed of a beach wedding, but the grand wedding was wonderful. And then once her grand wedding was destroyed, I was like 'ahh! she's gonna get her beach wedding.' There were many, many more; that's just a recent, good example.
On the flip side, they had one in-your-face, totally non-organic thingie that stuck out like a sore thumb (Casey's sudden appearance of the Crown Vic with the GPS being used was clearly thrown in for the later-plot point). However, that one there made it obvious just how well done all of the other many subtle, organic threads thrown in time and time again.
Speaking of dropping things, the show also does a great job of introducing issues/conflicts that continue to weave themselves throughout the episodes like real life. When something is introduced, you know there will be follow-through on Chuck. Erm, except when there isn't, LOL! That glaring one I mentioned above: At the end of season one, the General told Casey he had to kill Chuck when they had their new Intersect, and despite continued discussion of the Intersect in the second season, never again was there mention of that. Not that I mind, cuz you know I don't want Casey to kill Chuck, but still, that was a pretty glaring dropped bit o' conflict there. Or did I miss something? Please tell me I did.
Getting the negative out of the way, the arc I hated was the one with MI-6 agent, Cole Barker. He brought nothing to the show and added nothing plot-wise. If his character/storyline was removed, it would not change anything in the slightest. We didn't need him realizing at the end that Sarah loved Chuck and that's why she wouldn't go with him; we already knew that Sarah loved Chuck. Chuck also didn't need Barker to give him faith in his own abilities because he didn't. He made Chuck feel more inadequate than usual, and Sarah, Bryce and his dad covered the 'make Chuck more confident' area nicely in the end.
Ugh, and just the way the arc was written with all of the looks and moments between Cole and Sarah pissed me off as a Chuck/Sarah shipper (yep, I'm there) and as a Sarah-fan (totally there) because I absolutely believe that Sarah loves Chuck, and she wouldn't be into this guy at all, because: Hello?!?!? CHUCK!!! And then we have this arc where she's locking gazes with wonder-spy, passionately kissing him, etc. and I was just like "HELL TO THE NO!!!" Did NOT like that arc at all. I didn't like it during the execution, and hated it in retrospect because it added absolutely nothing to the story and was thus completely pointless.
Phew! Okay, other than a few quibbles (and one role I found badly cast), which I'll discuss later on, I loved everything else. So let's break it down!
Actors, principle and guest-shots
Zachary Levi/Chuck - I think he's fabulous. He pulls off the nerdy, but he's also believable in the spy sequences well. Levi is also effortlessly able to plumb the emotional depths -- no matter what emotion -- of Chuck; he's always believable, always there in the moment. He's got great comic timing and is just very real. As for Chuck, he's just a great character, a real guy. And the show has done a wonderful job of showing how he is a hero, choosing to put the Intersect back in his head in the finale was such a powerful moment (sold beautifully by Levi). However, he's not my favorite of the cast, nor is Chuck my favorite character. That would be ...
Yvonne Strahovski/Sarah - LOVE HER! I think part of why I hated the Cole Barker arc so much was that it messed with the character continuity of Sarah and her love for Chuck. It's weird because I found her pretty generic in the Pilot and first few episodes, but at some point -- I can't even pinpoint where -- she became my favorite. I think Strahovski is marvelous. Sarah is such a good soul; I adore her to bits. She's gorgeous, kicks-ass, has a heart, brains, soul, everything. She's the perfect woman. I want to be Sarah when I grow up. And Strahovski just nails every thing, every moment, every nuance, every sell.
She's fabulous. Like Levi, she's got the comic timing, as well as the dramatic chops. I mean, my god! that episode where she killed that Fulcrum agent to protect Chuck, even knowing that orders would want her to bring him in, how Strahovski played that just broke my heart. Beautiful. And is it just me or am I the only who thinks she looks like a more-classically attractive Julia Stiles? They could totally play sisters. Oh, and I got to give her kudos. I had NO CLUE she was Australian and was so impressed with her Australian accent in that one episode. I was shocked when I read that she actually *is* Australian because she does a spot-on FANTASTIC American accent. If I haven't mentioned it yet ... Yvonne Strahovski is AWESOME!
Adam Baldwin/Casey - I like Baldwin, but I've never *loved* him. I feel about Casey the way I do about all his characters. He's good. My favorite thing about the character is his relationship with Chuck (not in a slashy way though, I see absolutely NO subtext whatsoever). And I definitely prefer him as supporting, the two episodes that centered on him (his ex and his Sensei) were my least favorites -- still great of course -- outside of the Barker episodes.
Joshua Gomez/Morgan - I like him, but I don't love him. I DO love his friendship with Chuck though, more on that in the relationship section. Morgan does amuse me though. I'm also enjoying his evolving relationship with Big Mike. Simply put, I like what he brings to the show, although, I never need to see him without a shirt again. Really.
Sarah Lancaster/Ellie - She's my least favorite of the regular cast. I don't dislike her, I'm just eh on her. However, I do like her relationship with Awesome a lot.
Ryan McPartlin/Awesome - Yeah, okay, whatever Devon. I love Awesome. He was actually my favorite thing about the Pilot and watching the whole series his awesome so remained. He's just a genuinely good guy ... who happens to be awesome. I think McPartlin does a great job in showing the real guy behind the chiseled/perfect guy surface.
Bonita Friedericy/General Beckman - I like her. That's it.
The Buy More Gang - I love them all: Vik Sahay's Lester and Scott Krinsky's Jeff and their besties relationship. Mark Christopher Lawrence's Big Mike is such a caricature, but like with so much of this show, there's depth to him. And I just like the actor's affability beneath the gruff exterior. Julia Ling's Anna is a delight; I love her. I know that Josh Schwartz said that we'll see all of the gang despite budget cuts. Of course, he also said that we'd see a bit less of the gang because of budget cuts, but that's okay because some of their stories in the past seasons could have been cut and it wouldn't have hurt the show. I enjoyed the subplots (especially Jeffster!!! -- loved the wedding "Final Countdown" performance), but the omission of some of them is acceptable if it means we keep the show and the cast as is.
TONY HALE/Emmett - I heart Tony Hale. My only problem with Emmett is that I kinda wish that he had stayed the ass-man (hee!) and had just become part of the team as it seemed that he was starting to do. I just love Tony Hale so much, his Buster was my favorite character on Arrested Development and watching him here, I was reminded why. He's a brilliant comedic actor. Love him to bits, and I REALLY hope he returns next season since Schwartz said we would see a few new cast members. Pretty, pretty please.
Scott Bakula - Fabulous, fabulous casting. If you just imagine that Chuck's grandparents (at least one of 'em) was really tall, his height (less than Chuck's) is explained, and if mom had dark hair, we're good. Because Bakula looks enough like Levi (although, I never would have seen it were he not cast) with enough of the same type of acting style/mannerisms that it absolutely works. Putting that aside, Bakula is a great actor and I hope he's alongside Hale in becoming a cast member next season. Oh, and as a long-time Quantum Leap fan, I LOVED his "oh, boy" when he walked into Ellie/Awesome's place.
Matthew Bomer/Bryce - Other than Levi towering over him, he fits the perfect Bryce perfectly. Schwartz and co. did a fabulous job with weaving this character in and out of the show, both character and plot-wise. And Bomer hit all the right notes.
Jordana Brewster/Jill - And this would be my big casting dislike. She. can. not. act. I thought this when she was in her teens on As the World Turns, I thought this during her film career. I thought this even when she had awesome chemistry with Christopher Eccleston in The Invisible Circus. She. can. not. act. She's wooden. Very, very wooden. Also? I don't find her gorgeous, despite the press. (Yvonne Strahovski > Jordana Brewster) I just didn't care about the Chuck/Jill subplot and had to keep reminding myself that I shouldn't be mad at Chuck because it was his first BIG love, Jill, so it was understandable that he was fawning over him despite Sarah. But it was hard because Brewster and Levi had no chemistry, and, oh yeah, Jordana. Brewster. can. not. act.
Rachel Bilson/Lou - On the other hand, Bilson was lovely and she and Levi DID have chemistry. Plus, it was early enough that I was okay with Chuck falling for someone other than Sarah. They were cute; I liked them.
Trica Helfer/Alex Forrest - And here would be the guest-character where I didn't like the writing. I didn't have a problem with the stuff with Awesome because if all else fails, you're gonna do what you have to do, I get that. But she was a bad spy overall, and a horrible handler. She put Chuck's life in danger so much, and didn't take into account the reality of keeping him safe, like, at all. She sucked. And I like Tricia Helfer, I do. Oh, and one other thing: Why was her character name the same as Glenn Close's in Fatal Attraction? Weird, and the whole Casey/Alex flirty looks went nowhere. Yeah, this character just did not work.
Various famous guest-stars - Chuck does a good job of utilizing their famous guest stars organically into the plot. My favorites were Dominic Monoghan as the rock star, and Nicole Richie as the girl from Sarah's past. (Speaking of -- damn, did they do a good job of making Yvonne Strahovski unattractive in that episode!) Chevy Chase, Morgan Fairchild, Bruce Boxleitner, Gary Cole, et al. all were used well.
Chuck/Sarah - I'm not OBSESSED with them, like Logan/Veronica, Doctor/Rose, Sheldon/Penny obsessed, but I really, really, really like them. Put it this way, I rewatched the first kiss about five times, and the bedroom scene in episode 2.21 about twenty times. And made an icon from that scene. And went back and rewatched it another twenty times or so. I love how in love they are; but how believable that they are apart. I love how their love is based on who they are as people ... moreso for Sarah than Chuck. But that's evened out pretty nicely, I think. They are there for each other emotionally, they risk things for each other and not just because it's their job. Levi and Strahovski look fabulous together, and have a wonderful chemistry. I love them, I really do.
Chuck/Morgan - I LOVE their friendship. I think this is the most realistic portrayal of long-time friendship on television. The episode where Chuck had to "betray" Morgan was a wonderful lens on that. His speech to Sarah about what Morgan meant to him, the way that Morgan didn't hold it against Chuck and be all pissy for three/four episodes, but rather took into account their history and their friendship was fine. I just love their relationship, and if Chuck could tell one (other) person the truth about his "secret" life I'd love for it to be Morgan, but I get why that hasn't happened ... and most likely won't.
Chuck/Casey - I like their friendship; and I like when Casey shows that he does care.
Morgan/Anna - I love this relationship. What's cool is that there were hints in a few episodes before it happened where Anna would say things that bespoke of feeling for Morgan. I'm glad they're still together. And I loved Sarah's line to Anna about how she should know that Morgan was the one because it was Morgan to who she was comparing new boyfriend to. I love Sarah.
Ellie/Awesome - It's fabulous seeing such a trusting, (mostly) non-dysfunctional romance on tv. Sure they're already together, but that hasn't stopped the writers from showing their romance, and it's lovely.
Random thoughts -- in no particular order ...
- Hah, go me! I totally thought that Orion was his dad. Then he was done exploded in the helicopter, I thought, oops, I was wrong. But, hahah! I was right. Still, nice fake-a-roo there, show. And it made it make so much perfect sense that Orion sought him out and trusted him so completely.
- On that note, I love how everyone who's involved (except Casey, for the most part) believes so thoroughly in Chuck, but yet keeps trying to protect him so thoroughly not because they think less of him, but just because they love him so much and don't want him tainted by the darkness that can come with the job. They know that he can do it, they just don't want him to because they love him. Awww.
- I much preferred the "Weinerlicious" shop as opposed to the boring "FroYo" place. Plus, I thought Sarah's Weinerlicious outfit was adorable, as were the long pigtails. So cute. Speaking of ...
- Man, I wish that Strahovski hadn't cut her hair in season two. It's not that MUCH shorter, but it's definitely shorter. I hope she grows it longer again cuz I loved it in season one.
- I mentioned loving Jeffster's "Final Countown" performance above, but I gotta give it props here as well because that performance edited in with the dramatic/action-packed moments happening at the wedding was a tour-de-force of television-making skill. GO ROBERT DUNCAN McNEIL! McNeil is one half of one of my all-time favorite couples: Paris/Torres of Voyager. (He was Paris.) He began directing episodes during that show's run and he did just a brilliant job. It's wonderful seeing him continue to show off that brilliance as a supervising producer and some-time director of this show (as he directed the finale). And, hee, the Torres of the pairing -- Roxann Dawson -- is a producer and some-time director of Cold Case. This makes her and McNeil the only two former Voyager cast, despite several directing during the show's run, who've found success as a TV-director. Go Paris/Torres!!
- DAMN, I loved Chuck getting all dressed up in battle gear, and then when he pulled the gun on Casey, I actually sat up and yelled: "Go Chuck!" It was awesome, and hot.
- I loved how in the season two finale, it came full-circle. We had Bryce in the Intersect room doing what had to be done, then fighting, before "dying." In the finale, we had Bryce truly dying, Chuck in the Intersect room doing what had to be done, then fighting ("Guys, I know Kung Fu."). It was awesome. I literally stood up and clapped when Chuck was going all Matrix on the baddies, I loved it, loved it, loved it. And rewatched it a few times.
Heh! "Guys, I know kung-fu." And I knew he learned kung-fu because I had seen that mentioned here and there, so I kept waiting for him to learn and then when Bryce told Orion that the new Intersect could do awesome things, I was like, 'Oh, Chuck is gonna get the new Intersect in his brain and learn Kung-fu that way.' And he did, but it was still awesome and being spoiled that way didn't diminish the awesome of that final kick-awesome scene.
Erm, okay, I think that's it thoughts-wise. Bottom-line: Chuck is LOVE! And it SUCKS SO ROYALLY that we have to wait until March of 2010 before we see more, but at least it's coming back. At least there is that.
One final question: Can anyone recommend any good fanvids (show or Chuck/Sarah-based, no Chuck or Sarah other pairings recs, please) or good meaty fic, if there's romance -- only Chuck/Sarah based, please. Me = couple girl.
* Sigh, I accidentally deleted my original Chuck post. Wasn't much there, but I had enjoyed the comments. Damnit.