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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Chuck: The Complete Fifth and Final Season
Chuck: The Complete Fifth and Final Season
Warner Bros. // Unrated // May 8, 2012
List Price: $39.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Neil Lumbard | posted June 5, 2012 | E-mail the Author
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Chuck S5 The Final Season DVD Review


Chuck
is the little show that could. It seemed as though the series was facing unimaginable odds of possible cancellation at every turn in its five year run on NBC television. The fans were the only thing keeping the show trucking' from the production standpoint of returning every year. Viewers from the Nielsen ratings just wouldn't cut it with the fans and faithful viewers of the series would do anything to make sure their most loved series would be back in the fall every season: from holding a massive twitter campaign, to group meetings, to purchasing Subway sandwiches when Chuck was on-air for an episode's airing (because Subway was one of the biggest advertisers during the show's run during commercials and some episodes as well), to buying merchandising, to purchasing DVD's or Blu-ray's, to supporting the cast and crew at Comic-Con, to being responsible for writing letters to the network and advertisers. The show audience was in a unique way just as responsible for the show continuing to exist as Chuck's amazing creative team who made it all possible for the fans to enjoy on a weekly basis.

I could go into a massive run-down of the plotline for the series but I'll give you the short version instead:

Chuck is an average nerdy guy season one who accidentally downloads a mysterious thing called the "Intersect" into his brain. Basically, it turns him into a computer. He's got everything there is to know about the CIA and government intelligence. He also knows Kung-Fu; all courtesy of the Intersect.

Chuck meets a CIA handler named Sarah Walker and an NSA agent named Casey and soon the amazing trio becomes spy-buddies. A goofball friend named Morgan comes along for the weird ride, and the Buy More employees (where Chuck and Morgan actually work) helps Chuck and company in their CIA cover whether they realize it or not. The team journeys into stopping the baddies, saving the world and uncovering the pasts for Chuck's own family and eventually for the stories behind Sarah and Casey. Chuck and Sarah begin a slow-brewing romance of epic proportions unparalleled in my own previous television viewing experiences.

Over the many years I have spent viewing countless television series, the number of series I have seen that actually made a dramatic impression on me is actually relatively small compared to the massive swarms of productions hitting the airwaves every year. There was even a time in my life in which I didn't feel television was capable of achieving great things. Then I saw Lost and my overall experience with viewing that series shifted my entire perspective on the TV landscape. Who knew television could be that good? As it had been before, I was just an anime and animation fanatic who would delight in whatever seemed worthwhile in the world of the animation-realms. Again, who knew television could be that good? Emphasis on "good".

I have a point in listing all of my opinions about the general state of having a "golden era" of television: Chuck fulfills virtually all of these elements. So bear with me for the next few of these fandom-inspired paragraphs:

Having given that little preamble, I think it is fair to say that a lot of television productions ultimately aren't "that good". However, it is my personal opinion that we are currently in a golden era of television production. The quality of programs is so high right now that some quality television series are legitimately outdoing the other mass form of film entertainment otherwise known as the motion-picture. AKA, our theatrical films.

If you're a huge fan of television then you are probably aware of the number of high quality series that have been hitting all our airwaves over the last several years: Lost, Alias, Battlestar Galactica, True Blood, Dexter, Mad Men, Fringe, Medium, Breaking Bad, and The Walking Dead are just a few prime examples. I could go on and make a long list of even more quality programs that effectively proved themselves to be in the upper-class of quality craftsmanship.

Don't get me wrong, quality TV is something that has always existed. Some of my favorites aired before "my time": The Twilight Zone, Star Trek, I Love Lucy, Seinfeld, Friends, etc. I wouldn't want to dismiss the fact that great television has always been possible to find. Yet something seems different now in how entertaining series arrive at airwaves concerned with every aspect of filmmaking on a more regular basis.

We've entered a superb television era that includes character development, plot development, excellence in behind-the-scenes, and quality on every level: whether it is in acting, directing, writing, costumes, sets, music, stage props, makeup, editing, stunts, and just about all of the other areas imaginable. How about casting? Let's start there.

Casting can make or break a show. Any element can form a crutch in both good and bad ways. And television makes the challenges more demanding because there's even more room to fail than the world of feature films. You could write several excellent seasons of a series and lose fans in the final run of episodes. This doesn't always happen, but it's worth pointing it out to remind people that the collaborative nature existing in this art-form has huge stakes.

As I said before, Chuck has all the elements of a great television program. It was one of the best that I've ever had the pleasure of seeing and in the past few years it has constantly remained as a show that I have felt passionate and loyal towards. The fans know this show constantly delivers and that's surely going to be remembered as one of the main reasons why the series kept being renewed again, then again, and again... but I have a feeling that there are some out there that are still in need of discovering this gem of a show. I hope that this review can manage to not only reach out to longtime fans but to some curious readers who might be swayed to discovering Chuck because of my high praises. Upon reaching the conclusion of the series, I firmly felt confident that this was my second favorite series ever (just behind Lost). I'm not sure if all viewers of Lost would find it as compelling to that high degree, but what I am confident in suggesting is that anyone who enjoys the current "golden era" of television as I described, please, please, please... check out Chuck and see for yourself. I have a feeling you might actually enjoy it a great deal. You may walk away from the series with as much love and immense feelings of gratitude and appreciation for the efforts of the cast & crew as I had.

Taking a look at the cast of actors and the wonderful characters they portrayed, it's really unsurprising that there was so much love for Chuck. Zachary Levi (Chuck Bartowski) is quintessential as the nerd with a heart of gold: a character that cared deeply for his family, friends, and the beautiful, intelligent, and charming woman who made his life mean more: mesmerizingly cool Sarah Walker, who bests Sydney Bristow as the coolest spy character television has ever seen, and who was played to perfection by Australian actress Yvonne Strahovski (with one of the most convincing accents that I have encountered to boot). In amazingly short time, Yvonne Strahovski became an essential aspect of the show's heart. Something about Sarah resonates amazingly well from beginning to end and I'd even say Strahovski turned out to be the best actor on the show, and she truly helped to carry it on.

In realizing one of the coolest nerd characters ever in Chuck, the writers also had to form the quintessential nerd-friend who is equal ranks nerdtastic, right? Enter Morgan Grimes (Joshua Gomez): the undeniably wonderful best-bud of Chuck and who managed to bring more laughs, wisdom (Morgan wisdom was truly special, folks), and camaraderie than any sidekick turned into a major series frontrunner as television has ever produced.

John Casey (Adam Baldwin, of previous Firefly fame) was one of the slyest and most surprising characters the show had to offer as a seemingly unstoppable army force with one mission: to be capable of accomplishing any mission with any cost, but who grew to share his full colors over this series and became recognized as the genuine teddy-bear and all-around family member (of sorts) helping to hold the gang together. Sure, he could kick people's butts and be strong in the gun-range but he had so much love in him too: from how he cared about his fellow spysters in Chuck, Sarah, and Morgan to his newfound knowledge and friendship with his daughter Alex (Mekenna Melvin).

What about Sarah Lancaster as Ellie Bartowski-Woodcomb? She performed the role of Chuck's older sister with so much special grace and warmth. It reminded me of my own relationship that I've been blessed enough to have with one of my sisters (named Corinna, if you want to know), and I imagine her performance having that kind of impact on others as well. There is not a single frame of the series where you doubt how much she cares about her brother Chuck, and that their love for each other is genuine and strong. From the pilot onward, she was a reminder of how we always need to remember our siblings, our brothers and sisters - and how much love we get the privilege to share in knowing them. Ellie was a great character, one who first confirmed for me that this was a show that placed creating real characters and relationships above anything else - of course, not that the series skimped on anything else.

We even had a character like Devon "Captain Awesome" Woodcomb, as performed by Ryan McPartlin. He's the kind of guy you would think that most men might feel some intimidation from because he has six-pack abs, blonde hair, blue eyes, and a tall body frame. He almost is reminder of the idealization found in a Ken Barbie doll.  Yet he's one of the best characters, constantly being just about the nicest guy imaginable, and one who always tries to help the others on Chuck. You'd think it's impossible, but the writers and directors were wise when casting McPartln, because he in true premonition style he truly was and is totally awesome.

Who can forget the fellow Buy More employees? Mark Christopher Lawrence was magic as the lovable store-manager Big Mike - he was the glue of the storefront and someone who seemed to care for all of his employees and friends. He never got in on the spy game, in the end, but he was undeniably a true member of team Bartowski. Then we have those goofball weirdoes Jeff Barnes and Lester Patel. Respectively, Scott Krinsky and Vik Sahay made irritating characters become heartwarming. We were often annoyed, but it was always in the best of ways. These were some of the coolest characters on the show and you would often wonder what it might have been like witnessing a spin-off with these two silly and offbeat characters. Jeffster, forever, everyone! If David Hasselhoff could do it, so could Jeffster.

Lastly, the general Diane Beckman (performed by Bonita Friedericy), added an element that is something I would have never expected in the beginning of the show - her character began as a way just to express missions the characters would need to go on for the CIA - to having one of those undeniably charming supporting roles where you just couldn't help but like her. It was certainly clear that she always hoped for the best for Chuck, Sarah, Casey, and all of the rest.

This was a character-driven show. I hope I was able to express that clearly enough in discussing these characters, because the number one reason to watch Chuck was always how wonderful all of these characters were: you grew to know them, care for them, and love them. Each and every character was essential to the story and the balance of the show. Without all of them, it just isn't possible to even imagine it being the same. The journey was made entirely worth every single moment because these characters were so well written and so well performed. Not to mention directed.

I cannot even begin to fathom how much hard work was invested by everyone involved in the series. Everyone involved in this show amazed me. That's why I wanted to express just how I felt about this series tapping into every element of producing an amazing series so brilliantly. These types of almost-always pitch-perfect creations almost never happen, even in this great television era. Chuck was constantly innovative. It was always about watching the characters grow, the relationships blossom, and the friendships become strengthened.  

There are many series where you hit some rough patches and it seems as though the series might be slipping away creatively somewhat: even the so-called "weaker" episodes found in Chuck manage to avoid feeling as though this is happening. I cannot think of a single episode in the entire series run that I'd describe as a "bad" one. Not ONE episode. I was always entertained, thrilled, and moved.  The laughs were joyous and good-natured. The characters felt like they were (and are) friends. That sort of thing almost never happens.

I don't usually interrupt my reviews, but the rest of my review contains major spoilers.

Please don't read the rest of this portion of the review if you want things to remain as "unspoiled" until you have finished the series:

I was a little bit worried entering the final season that they wouldn't be able to live up to the previous seasons because the show had already managed to be as creative as it was for four amazing years. Season 4 was in many ways the best season and the Volkoff storyline with Timothy Dalton was incredible and finally learning about Chuck's mother (performed by magnificent Linda Hamilton) was a treat fans waited years to see.

This was it: the writers and directors knew going into it that this was the final season of the jubilant little show that could... Chuck. Yet they only had 13 episodes to end everything. I hesitate to say it was a "perfect" season, because there were some moments where these particular episodes proved stressful in ways prior seasons hadn't - characters were even recklessly thrown by the writers into disturbing situations (especially Sarah and Morgan, considering their storyline relating to a certain thing named the 'Intersect'). These were definitely challenging episodes that tested out the range of the actors and the characters dramatically seemed placed in situations that I actually wasn't all that fond of. Yet the storytelling remained just as captivating as always, and you knew the ride was worth a continuing price of admission.

These episodes range from having some of the most fantastically funny (Chuck Versus the Curse, Chuck Versus the Kept Man) to some of the intense (Chuck Versus the Frosted Tips, Chuck Versus Sarah) moments that ultimately bring even greater understanding of our own appreciations for these characters and why we loved them. In Chuck Versus the Curse, for example, it was nice to see Ellie and Awesome sort of get mixed into the spy-world game. Moments like these were priceless.

So many good moments happened in this concluding season. The show was also constantly mixing things up to keep it interesting. Chuck and company were left without CIA support initially during the season and started up Carmichael enterprises, Morgan became closer to girlfriend Alex, Casey finally found his own romance in meeting a new character named Gertrude Verbanski (Carrie-Anne Moss), Sarah FINALLY got some much needed story regarding her family upbringing - we learn more about her mother for the first time. I'm genuinely amazed to actually realize how many things were pulled off in just 13 episodes.

If there is any minor disappointment with the season, it's that the bad guys don't seem as interesting compared to someone like Timothy Dalton as Volkoff. That entire storyline's probably one of my favorites. I was also a little confused by the "conspiracy" theme that undeniably became a forefront plotline in the premiere episode. It seemed a bit rushed in carrying out that storyline, but was decently concluded with Chuck Versus the Santa Suit, featuring the return of Brandon Routh as Daniel Shaw.

The last batch of episodes did something that irritated some fans but reminded me of the overriding, number-one reason why I fell in love with this series in the first place: it took us to a dark place where the possibility of loss was used as a major plot element. With concluding the series, in  the last two episodes (Chuck Versus Sarah and Chuck Versus the Goodbye), I was reminded that the best thing about this series (aside from the characters themselves) was the fact that Chuck is a love story first and foremost.

Getting to know Chuck and Sarah and was the greatest part of the entire journey. These characters felt as though they truly loved each other and that love was the heartbeat that motivated everything. Chuck loves Sarah and Sarah loves Chuck. Beyond the action, the suspense, the comedy, and wonderful characters... beyond ALL of it, fans loved the story; recognizing the romance between Chuck and Sarah because it was one of the best all-around romantic storylines in television history.

 In the end-game, Sarah downloads a virus infected, corrupted intersect (as Morgan had done earlier in the season) because it is the only way to get out of a dangerous situation. It was the most devastating moment in the show's run. Sarah begins to lose memories. This devastated fans. Understandably so! Yet the final episode felt like a gift to everyone who followed this series throughout the entire run because it was all about reaffirming the love between these characters and about how magical their love for each other was from the moment they met. Nothing has moved me more in romantic-storytelling than this story of Chuck and Sarah. Perhaps Pride & Prejudice, but I think Jane Austen herself might have enjoyed the series.   

I absolutely understand that some viewers were bothered by the open-ended final scene. I recognize that this is something that the show hadn't done before and that this is how it's ultimately concluded. For me, though, the last scene at the beach was a way of saying that everything was going to work out alright for Chuck and Sarah in the end regardless of if the magical fairy-tale ending occurred as predicted by Morgan or if things would take some time regarding the recovery of Sarah's memories. 

For myself, I watched the final scene with Chuck and Sarah kissing and embracing each other I knew in my heart that they were in love and that this is something that wouldn't change. Chuck began as a story of a boy and a girl meeting and ended as a story of a man and a woman whose love for each other meant that they would always be there for each other through thick and thin.

My eyes were not merely watery, and I'm unashamed to say that my tears flowed during these moments: that this most beautiful and transcendent ending was something that surpassed my every expectation. In its own way, I felt the Chuck series finale was the perfect sendoff and nothing else comes close - except, of course, the Lost series finale (still my number one in television despite some of those lingering mysteries).

The real end-game of Chuck is all about love. This is the true message of the show, as I perceived it: love is the most valuable thing in the world. Don't lose it. I cried. I smiled.

Chuck was a story about true love, and I loved every minute of the journey.

The DVD:


Video:

Warner Bros. has presented Chuck on DVD across three discs (with Disc 1 and 2 each containing 5 episodes and Disc 3 containing the final three, the extended version of the series finale, and the majority of the bonus materials). The PQ leaves something to be desired. It's actually not all that great. I've seen the show in High Definition on Blu-ray and I must say that the HD version gets something of a bad-wrap for no reason - the series is filmed on Super 16mm film and it has an abundance of grain that gives the series a filmic look that I can appreciate.

However, on DVD the film grain doesn't translate as well and looks more like an inconsistent mess. Fans that don't have a Blu-ray player are still encouraged to purchase the DVD's - the show itself is worth every penny. However, if you CAN choose, don't listen to anyone who faults the Blu-ray's as not being of high enough quality. The High Definition presentation surpasses Chuck on DVD in every way.

The series is presented in its original television broadcast aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is 16:9 enhanced for anamorphic widescreen display.

Audio:

The Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound tracks are somewhat underrated in my opinion. The sound design is kind of fun and exciting when it wants to be. The show is undeniably front-heavy and center-channel driven but the action sequences (of which there are plenty) are creatively-driven audio-wise and deliver good thrills with the sound design of effects, popular songs, or the great score by Tim Jones.

Subtitles are provided in English, French, and Spanish languages.


Extras:

For the final season of the series the supplemental materials have been expanded. The Season 5 box-set contains more extras than any of the previous releases and it was an effort well worth appreciating. 

Extended Version of Series Finale "Chuck Versus the Goodbye" (53 minutes) is actually only included under the supplemental section. I'm not sure why. This is the better way to view the concluding episode as it contains an additional eight minutes or so. These moments essentially are used to extend various characters goodbyes and final scenes for supporting cast members. There's an extended restaurant sequence, and one final action piece with Chuck and Sarah. I especially enjoyed the lengthier conclusion for Casey's character - it's just a minute or two longer. Despite the short run time, I do feel that fans will appreciate the added content. It is something that doesn't change the ending (don't expect that if that's what you were hoping). Instead, it does make things feel even more satisfying with the story that was told. Easily the coolest extra on any of the Chuck season sets.

Sandwiches and Superfans: The Saving of a Show (11 minutes) is tag-lined as "A Tribute to the World's Greatest Fans" and it is all about how various fan campaigns helped to keep the show alive and renewed for several years. The cast and crew reminiscence about how fans helped to make the show by keeping it on the air through their support and they even left some grateful messages to the fans. Certainly a nice piece that should be appreciated most by the fans that helped to keep the show on the air five seasons.

Chuck Versus the Final Episode (14 minutes) is a glimpse into the making of the very last episode of Chuck.

Scoring the World of Chuck (6 minutes) is (at last!) a supplemental piece about the vastly underrated composer Tim Jones and the work he did to compose music for the series. He composed music from season one to season five and created some iconic themes that are wonderfully used on the show.

Chuck: The Beginnings (5 minutes) is a brief looking-back piece about the beginnings of Chuck's cult-favorite television status.

Chuck: Through the Years (11 minutes) is about the transformation of the characters and especially Chuck as a regular Nerd-Herder to full-fledged secret agent man.

Goodbye, Buy More (2 minutes) is a sad vignette sort of piece in which time-altered film dramatically speeds us through the take-down of the Buy More set.

Writer and co-creator Chris Fedak waves to viewer's goodbye before it all ends. Quite sad.

Exclusive Buy More Commercials (1:25) features the two Buy More commercials that were utilized during the actual season: that means you get standalone versions of Big Mike and Captain Awesome Commercials. These are extremely cute on their own and it's great to ultimately revisit these silly commercials.

Chuck: The Future is another short featurette in which the various actors/actresses for Chuck reflect upon how they see their respective characters being in the future (in, say... five or ten years).

Commentaries are included on the final two episodes, Chuck Versus Sarah and Chuck Versus the Goodbye by series executive producers Chris Fedak, Josh Schwartz and actors Zachary Levi and Joshua Gomez. These commentaries are generally reflective about the entire series and working with everyone on the show to some degree. I'd even go so far as to say these are nostalgic, kind commentaries. Fans that enjoy listening to commentaries from actors/writers should enjoy them.

Declassified Scenes - Extended and Deleted scenes from throughout the season. There is only a handful and most of them do feel somewhat throwaway (hence part of the reason these parts got edited out in the first place). A few funny added bits with Morgan in some of these should make these worthwhile for fans to view at least once though.

Gag Reel (4 minutes) is your typical mixture of some funny moments and some probably more amusing for just the cast/crew.  Lots of bleeped swearing. This was a fun little way to send off watching the Chuck experience.

+ Ultraviolet Digital Copy code is included to instantly stream and download the 5th season of Chuck


Final Thoughts:

It's been said before, and should be said again: there was a lot of love behind Chuck and a lot of love is something that can go a long way. The last episode was something that left complete and utter satisfaction for this particular fan, and I can only hope that it brings real pleasure to the fans that cherished the series as much as I did.

The characters were always what made this show amazing. Especially the romance and love that developed between Chuck and Sarah.  I immensely enjoyed the entire season and couldn't have asked for a better final episode as a swan song to one of the best shows of the last several years, and for one of my all-time personal favorites.

This series should be viewed by any fan of great television: Chuck is the perfect mix of action, comedy, adventure, and romance. How can you get any better than that?

Highly Recommended.

Neil Lumbard is a lifelong fan of cinema, and a student who aspires to make movies. He loves writing, and currently does in Texas.

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