After a good five year run, cult spy-comedy show Chuck
calls it quits. Looking back on the whole
series, the show
gets a lot of credit for consistently advancing the plot, season to
season. They changed things up pretty
dramatically by the time all was said and done.
This kept the show feeling fresh and it was nice to see the
evolving and growing over time. On the
down side, with so much change there are bound to be some missteps and
final season has more than a few. It's
uneven, starting out with some really lousy episodes (they were so bad
youngest son bailed on this season though he loved the first four) but
mixing in some solid, entertaining adventures before wrapping the
with an excellent finale. Fans will want
to go in with lowered expectations but it'll be worth sitting through
to see how everything turns out.
At the end of the last season Chuck and Sarah were wed, at
long last, and as a gift their one-time enemy Russian arms dealer
they receive nearly a billion dollars.
No longer working for the CIA, they use the money to
purchase the Buy More and their secret spy-base underneath it, dubbed
and start up their own spy-for-hire business Carmichael Industries
Morgan and Casey, of course.) Now that
they're free-lancers, they can only take the missions that they want,
work for the good guys.
Not everything is going smoothly though. Chuck
has had the Intersect forcibly removed
from him by an evil CIA agent, Decker. Decker
has also revealed that there is an even bigger conspiracy than anyone
previously imagined which has been manipulating Chuck since the
beginning. (Yes, you can roll your eyes at
revelation.) Finally, in a box of
Chuck's personal effects, Morgan discovers a pair of cool looking sun
that he tries and gets a surprise: they
were an Intersect delivery device, presumably sent by General Beckman,
after seeing a series of odd pictures Morgan Grimes has the most
super-secret database installed into his brain.
The beginning of this season seems like a reboot back to
season one, except that Morgan is stuck in the van begging to get out
action. Oh yeah, and Morgan is the comic
relief instead of the hero. That makes
the first episodes painful to watch.
Grimes, who can apparently 'zoom' (his term for flashing) at
kung-fu and enjoys kicking butt (with the help of an obvious stunt
some very quick editing in a feeble attempt to hide said double) but he
manages to goof up in the end. He'll
take out six armed guards and then accidently drop the priceless Ming
they've been hired to recover.
Hilarious! Okay, it isn't. It's just irritating.
Carmichael Industries is also competing against a huge
multi-million dollar security firm run by an ex-Russian spy, Gertrude
(Carrie-Anne Moss), who once disarmed Casey in a battle and still has
gun. Verbanski is taking all of the
business away from Chuck's group, which is putting a sever crimp on
flow. Things get critical after Decker
hacks into the team's network freezes all of their accounts
indefinitely. They're broke.
Things go from bad to worse when Morgan starts acting very
odd. He's pushing away all of his
friends and even quits the team. Is he
just being a jerk, or is the Intersect malfunctioning in a very bad way?
There was a lot that went right with this season and a lot
that went awry. The beginning episodes
where Morgan was the focus were just plain bad.
He's a fine supporting character (not great, but good) and
"I'm stupid but loyal" persona the focus of the show, and getting rid
loyal part, didn't work at all. The
first shows were hard to watch.
One of the things that the show does exceedingly well is
keeping things fresh, and they do that in spades this season. Large, seemingly season-long plots are
surprisingly wrapped up in the last minutes of an episode and the story
off in unexpected directions. This happens
a few times in the season and it was always exciting when it did.
I was a bit disappointed about how far removed they had come
from the original concept of the show however.
I'll definitely give the creators points for guts, I can't think
another show that has changed so gradually yet dramatically over time. When they started though, Chuck was a geeky
college drop-out in a dead end job. In
this season he's a spy who holds his own (without the Intersect!) with
other highly trained agents that have decades of experience. He's suave and cool; he's like a young James
Bond which is nothing like the guy who we were first introduced to five
ago. He tell opponents that he's "a
fully trained spy" several times and picks locks and gets into fist
the best of them. Exactly when did this
happen? He was never trained to do those
things because the Intersect would show him how automatically. There were several times I wondered out loud
"what happened to the real Chuck?"
There were some excellent episodes in this short season
however, and those make it worth buying the set. Bo
Derek makes a guest appearance in one of
the funniest episode from the entire series.
Morgan had hid something while 'zooming' and then had his memory
by a drug, and they have to track down where it is using a few clues. Derek does a great job playing herself and
doesn't mind poking fun at her persona.
Jeff and Lester play a bigger role in this season too.
Though it's disappointing that the duo claim
their hilarious band "Jeffster" has run its course in an early episode,
still have some of the best scenes. Jeff
gets clean and it turns out he's really smart.
He starts noticing some odd things are happening at the Buy More
comes to the conclusion that Chuck, Sarah, and Casey are spies working
CIA. He knows that there's one more
person in their cell too, but he's not sure who. When
Morgan finds out about his theory he
confirms it all and tells him who the 4th member is: Captain Awesome. It's
a great subplot that works well and adds
a lot of humor through the season.
I'm also happy to report that the final episode is one very,
very good. The show ends on just the right
note. I won't say anything more, since I
don't want to give anything away, but it brings closure to the show and
up all of the story lines. It's an
excellent way to wrap up a very good series.
The Blu-ray Disc:
The 13 episodes that make up Chuck Season Five arrive
on two Blu-ray discs in a single-width
case with slipcover.
Like the earlier seasons, I wasn't impressed with the video
quality of this program. The show is
presented with a 1.78:1 aspect ratio, encoded at 1080p with the VC-1
it looks pretty average at best. I was
at how much digital noise and grain was present in the image. Much of the show is plagued by mosquito
noise, especially in the background. I
never saw this show when it was broadcast so I have no idea if it
this originally or if it is a problem with the encoding, but I was
lot better. The whites are often too
bright and details are frequently lost.
Chuck's white work shirt often seems flat and lacking texture,
is very rare blooming.
Aside from the noise issue things look pretty good.
The colors are fairly stable and the flesh
tones look fine. The level of detail is on
the soft side, but there is no confusing this with a SD DVD. There are even a couple of scenes where the
detail is too good, revealing that wounds that Casey suffered are
latex applications for example. Overall
this doesn't look bad, it just has several problems that keep it out of
top-tier Blu-ray releases.
This time around fans are treated to at DTS-HD Master Audio
5.1 soundtrack which sounds great. The
dialog is easy to discern and the music and background noises coming
clearly. The soundstage wasn't used
much, mainly during the few action sequences when some audio effects
thrown to the rears, so the show isn't as enveloping as I would have
it. The sub channel was also fairly
anemic. For a TV show the sound is fine,
just not as impressive as it could have been.
There are some nice bonus features included with this set, all
in HD. The
final two episodes each get an audio
commentary with the executive producers/creators Chris Fedak and Josh
along with actors Zachary Levi (Chuck) and Joshua Gomez (Morgan). This is the first audio commentary that has
been done for an episode of Chuck
(there was a video commentary thingy on a previous season) and while
definitely glad fans finally get one, I wish the other two stars had
Other supplements include Chuck Vs. the Final Episode
- a behind the scene look at the filming
of the last episode; Sandwiches and
Superfans: The Saving of a Show - a
nice tribute to the fans who were so very vocal in their support of the
show; Spy Tunes: Scoring the World of Chuck -
a look at the person behind the music; Chuck:
The Beginnings - a featurette that looks at the show's genesis; Chuck: Through the Years - an overview
of the series; Chuck: The Future -
cast and crew predictions. The set wraps
up with some Declassified scenes; a gag
reel, and full versions of the Buy More TV commercials with Big Mike
This final season is very uneven, with some not-so-great
episodes mixed in with some very entertaining one.
With only a scant 13 episodes in the season,
I think that shows that the series ended at the right time. The good episodes definitely make up for the
poor ones, and the final chapter of Chuck's story was an excellent way
up the series. Fans should make sure to
see this one way or another. Definitely
rent it, but since if you're a die-hard fan like myself it comes recommended.