Preview: 'Chuck' vs. The Finale

After five seasons, NBC says goodbye to TV's first retail spy.

****Mild spoilers below****

Here's something I completely forgot: Chuck made its 2007 debut the same week as two other very different shows targeting the same fans—The Big Bang Theory on CBS and the defunct Reaper from CW. And over the last five years, Chuck has kind of existed somewhere in between those two weirdly specific shows while carving out a small but incredibly loyal and vocal fanbase. Like Reaper, Chuck worked hard to find a wider audience with their (again) very similar premises of "slacker at a big retail chain has to become the devil's agent" and "slacker at a big retail chain becomes a super agent" (there must have been something in the water in the writing rooms at the time). And like Big Bang Theory, it presented a very specific view of nerdom, relying on frequent call-outs to comics, TV, and animation (Chuck has a unnerving number of Comic-Con stickers in his room) to give its lead geek bona fides (a string of regular genre film and TV guests on both shows didn't hurt, either).

Where Chuck distinguished itself, and where the series lands in its final two episodes is on the relationship between its title character (Zachary Levi) and Agent Sarah Walker (Yvonne Strahovski), who went from schlub and the spy who watched over him to loving husband and wife to, well, in these episodes there's a bit of a soft reset. After last week's "Chuck vs. the Bullet Train," Sarah no longer has any memory of her five years with Chuck, and these last two episodes—for all of the various turns in the plot—is about their five-year relationship and how it's changed them both. Chuck's gone from an unambitious man-child working at a Best Buy clone to a confident guy with his own spy shop underneath his day job while Sarah went from a cold secret agent to someone who could love someone like Chuck. And "Chuck vs. Sarah" and "Chuck vs. The End" deal with Sarah's doubts and confusion about how those two things came together and made them a couple.

It's kind of a convenient means of allowing almost pretty much every regular character from the series to get some time onscreen as the conclusion barrels towards multiple points of resolution for just about all of the remaining plot threads from the series. And as with the crisis between Chuck and Sarah, most of the plot looks at how the supporting characters like Casey, Morgan, and Chuck's family have changed over the last half decade, either because of Chuck and Sarah, or simply by being in proximity to them.

Oh, sure, you'll have to be very invested to get excited over the plot of the last two episodes which hinge on a pair of Intersect glasses and the villainous Quinn (Angus Macfadyen), but the real meat of the two episodes is Chuck and Sarah's relationship and what it means for the two of them to be without each other. For longtime fans, this is what you came for. It's actually a pretty close-ended conclusion to the series—again, there are no lingering mysteries or questions, maybe a little bit of ambiguity in its final shot, but still—and fans of the show should be happy: at five years, the creators of the show got to tell the story they wanted and the characters each get the end they deserve.

"Chuck vs. Sarah" and "Chuck vs. The End" air tonight at 8 on NBC.

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