Why I Watched: Chuck vs. The Goodbye

72 hours later and I’m still reeling from how perfect the Chuck finale was. For the show that held on by a thread for so long, it doesn’t really feel like it’s really over. As I started writing about the finale, I realized that I didn’t want to write a recap. If you watch Chuck, you know what happened. If you don’t watch Chuck, you aren’t reading a recap of the series finale. So I decided to write more about what Chuck has meant to me and to the world in the last couple of years, since that’s what really matters.

I’ll admit, I only started watching Chuck because someone I was crushing on a few years ago talked me into it, but I was immediately sucked in. In retrospect, maybe I was in a serious relationship with Chuck for a while, since one of my roommates even said, “You’re always in your room watching Chuck.” Can’t say I regretted it. But since then, I’ve tried to watch faithfully every week, whether live or on Hulu the next day. Cake’s (arguably most famous) song “Short Skirt, Long Jacket,” which was the theme for the entire show, now gives me feelings every time I hear it (Supernatural fans and “Carry On, My Wayward Son,” I know you get me). Chuck is the perfect example of a brilliant hour-long show that’s able to tackle life drama while remaining silly and funny almost the whole time. That finale was two of the most heartrending hours the show has ever had, but Morgan with the invisibility cloak? “Yer a wizard, Harry.” I was dying laughing, and I know you were, too.

Chuck is the perfect encapsulation of the power that nerd culture can have, both within the show and in its fans. When you hear the phrase “nerd culture” in relation to television, most people think of The Big Bang Theory, which I would argue makes fun of nerds more than makes fun with them.. However, every episode of Chuck is about the empowerment that nerd culture can bring with it, when applied in full capacity (is a comparison to The Force too much here?). Chuck is about using nerd power to change the world. It’s about being smart and not being cool, and still coming out on top. Till the very end, this show never forgot its nerd roots. I’ve never seen a show that had so many subtle pop culture references (well, except maybe Community), and it was clear that every episode was a treat to fans. This is the show that took note of what the fans wanted and wrote that into the plot without becoming cliche or hackneyed, which is nearly impossible to do. But that’s just a minor part of what makes this show so perfect.

The thing is that Chuck Bartowski is not just an average slacker who happens to have nothing better to do with his life than work at the Buy More. When we meet him, he’s a guy who has just been wrongly accused of cheating at Stanford and thus expelled in his last semester, which has put him down on his luck and living with his sister. However, we learn that the only reason this happened was because his roommate and best friend Bryce Larkin planted the evidence because he didn’t think Chuck could handle getting wrapped up in the CIA. Chuck Bartowski is not a nobody – Chuck Bartowski is a freakin’ genius, guys. Though the show maintains its wacky humor each season, it’s not at the expense of Chuck’s intelligence. He’s a hugely smart guy who is dropped into the spy world, and though he has a lot of catching up to do, manages to hit the ground running, and within a few years is a top-notch spy with a top-notch team behind him.

From season one to season five

Though what Chuck brings to the spy world is his massive intellect (and the Intersect, but after that goes, his brain is still there), he also brings his heart, as incredibly cheesy as that is. Chuck is a guy who fully embraces being a nerd, and since he isn’t hung up on that fence, he’s able to use what he knows to become an essential third member of the team. I think John Casey said it all in the finale when he told Sarah that Chuck had made them both a little soft, but when he hugged Chuck, you knew that he didn’t think that was a bad thing. As Chuck explains to Sarah what she loved about him, he says that part of what she loved was that he didn’t want to kill people. And even as her memories were foggy at best, she could still feel his impact on her, calling her back to her old self, which in turn brought her to run rather than kill him as instructed.

That’s not to say that there aren’t your stereotypical nerds on this show. It is, after all, a show for and about nerddom. Enter Jeff and Lester, or as they prefer to be known, Jeffster!. Vik Sahay and Scott Krinsky have been absolutely flawless in these roles for five years, regardless of their prominence in the show. They’ve been such a minor but crucial element to the show for its entire run, and seeing one last Jeffster performance (that prevented the detonation of a bomb and also got them signed to a German record label) was the cherry on top of a perfect last spy scene. All of the “supernerds” on this show made it to the last episode, showing up at the end to help find Sarah (who wound up being about fifty feet away, inside the Buy More). In this time when lawmakers are questioning the power of, to quote them, “nerds,” this was a great way to show that you can’t underestimate the power of the Internet (even if it was coincidence).

In all, I think this was a show about fulfilling your potential by believing in who you truly are. Every single character came into this show with his or her own insecurities, and each one of them became not only who they were meant to be, but who they wanted to be. This show said that you can have it all, as long as you don’t forget who you are inside. No one here realizes they were chasing a false dream (with regards to endgame) – everyone develops into who they thought they could be, which is something I really admire in a show. Also, none of these characters slipped into their relationships or let an outside factor truly define them. When you lose everything you have, all you can fall back on is yourself, and each character here grew in such a way that when they were tested, they soared because of who they’d each become.

It was also a show about holding your friends and loved ones close. From the beginning until the end, the core members of the team (official or not) were Chuck, Sarah, Casey, Morgan, Ellie, and Awesome. In the finale, they rely on each other to make it through the day, and if just one of them had been missing, the finale wouldn’t have worked. As much as they’ve denied it over the years, these characters love each other and would do whatever they could to keep everyone safe and alive. This is a show about knowing yourself but also knowing that you can’t survive without the people you love, even if they don’t always know it.

One other thing that I loved is that this is a show that not only recognizes its fans, but one of their outstanding sponsors, Subway. For those of you who don’t know, in 2009 Subway struck a deal with NBC to have greater sponsorship and product placement within the show, which quite literally saved it from the chopping block at the end of season two. Subway was swayed into this agreement by fans who showed that they care about the show by making concentrated purchases at important times for the show and making that distinction clear to the sponsor. And what did we see at the end of the finale? The Buy More is becoming a giant Subway, led by Big Mike, who says he’ll be eating fresh from now on. Absolutely loved it. And this is just one example of how fans and sponsors worked together to keep the show on the air.

Thanks to Nerd Tweet Up and NBC, I was lucky enough to get to go to a live screening of the finale at 30 Rockefeller Center, in the NBC viewing room. Experiencing the finale with 50-something other Chuck fans was one of the most fun things I’ve ever done, and I can’t tell you how lucky I was to get to go. As a surprise, after the finale ended (and we were all in puddles of tears), we got to Skype with Zach Levi for about ten minutes. Yes, Chuck Bartowski himself. It was amazing to listen to him say a few words about how much the show has meant to him, but even more amazing to listen to Levi talk about how much the fans have meant to him. And maybe I shouldn’t say this, but he did tear up a little bit at the end – you could just tell exactly how much being in this show has meant to him over the past five years. He is a really great guy, which is clear in everything he does, and I wish him all the best. If you didn’t know, he voiced Flynn Rider in Disney’s Tangled last year, so it looks like he’s not done yet. Follow him on Twitter at @ZacharyLevi to keep up with him.

So – what about how the show ended? Do you think the last kiss sent all of Sarah’s memories flowing back into her brain? I’ve gotta be honest here, I don’t think so. I mean, come on, when have any of Morgan’s grandiose plans ever worked out? But you know, I do think that Sarah will regain her memories, if those weren’t her flashbacks we saw, and I do think she and Chuck will be together. I have no doubts there. A really, really unexpected ending, but I have to say that I loved it. I know a lot of viewers were disappointed, but you know me, I prefer it when things aren’t all wrapped up nicely at the end – I like being able to imagine further.

Now, let’s get Chuck on Netflix so all of you naysayers can see what you were missing out on. Is there a grassroots movement for that yet?

All photos property of NBC.
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About Bailey

I'm a writer and a feminist. I read a lot of books and I watch a lot of television.

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