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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » Chuck: The Complete Third Season (Blu-ray)
Chuck: The Complete Third Season (Blu-ray)
Warner Bros. // Unrated // September 7, 2010 // Region A
List Price: $69.97 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by John Sinnott | posted September 23, 2010 | E-mail the Author
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Highly Recommended
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The Show:
Always a sleeper hit (and only saved from cancelation by the fanbase (oh, and a deal with Subway)) the third season of Chuck builds on what's come before and expands the show wonderfully.  Now with the Intersect 2.0 installed into his brain, Chuck finds that he has new abilities but his personal life is even more of a shambles than ever.  He's no longer a reluctant pawn caught up in events he can't control, now Chuck is starting to become and actual spy.
Series Background:
Chuck Bartowski (Zachary Levi) was a brilliant student at Stanford until his life came crashing down on him.  It all happened when his roommate and best friend, Bryce, stole his first (and only) girlfriend, Jill, and then conspired to get him kicked out of college.  That was five years ago (as the series begins) and Chuck finds himself living with his sister, Ellie (Sarah Lancaster), a doctor, and her boyfriend, a mountain-climbing sky-diving doctor who Chuck refers to as Captain Awesome (Ryan McPartlin.)  He works at the local Buy More, and when he's not working hangs out with his uber-nerd friend Morgan (Joshua Gomez).

Things all change one evening when, out of the blue, Chuck receives an e-mail from Bryce.  It turns out to be the Intersect, a program that downloads a CIA database into Chuck's brain.  Now whenever he sees someone or something that's in the database he'll 'flash' and instantly gain all the information that the CIA knows about that person or thing.  After the original Intersect is destroyed, Chuck is the ONLY source of that information.  Since such important information can't be allowed to walk the streets freely, he gets two agents assigned to watch his every move:  cute and sexy CIA agent Sarah Walker (Yvonne Strahovski) who poses as Chuck's girlfriend, and psychopathic killer NSA agent John Casey (Adam Baldwin) who gets a job at the Buy More and moves into the apartment across from Chuck's.
At the end of season two Chuck was implanted with the Intersect 2.0, which in addition to
raw data also allows him to become a martial arts expert (or whatever skill he may need) but only when he flashes, which is unfortunately rather unpredictable.
The Season:
Now that Chuck "knows Kung Fu" the CIA agrees to train him to become an official field operative, which doesn't go so well.  His flashes are unpredictable and he can't always get out of the sticky situations they put him in during the course of his training.  So he's kicked out of the program and goes back to the Buy More, where Morgan joins him after returning from Hawaii. 
While things seem the same, they aren't.  Things have cooled between Chuck and Sarah ever since she offered to run away with him and he turned her down in order to take a chance at being a spy.  A mistake in anyone's book.
The spy game is getting a little dangerous too.  When Awesome helps Chuck with an assignment, the Ring, an evil organization that the CIA is hunting and which controls Fulcrum, assumes that the extreme sports enthusiast cardiologist is the real spy and tries to turn him, and if they fail they'll just kill him.  While Awesome relished the idea of becoming an asset (unlike Chuck originally) the reality is much too far outside of his comfort zone and he starts to crack under the pressure.  Even knowing Chuck is leading a double life is hard for him to handle.
Ironically, Chuck is growing into being a spy.  He starts to really excel as an agent and helps the team out of some sticky situations (as always) but now he's enjoying it.  His superiors have noticed and they start to give him more responsibility, including sending him on his first solo mission.  Sarah isn't happy with the new Chuck however.  He becoming growing too comfortable with being a spy and as he does the things she liked about him start to disappear.
There are a couple of new characters this season that serve to change the show just a bit and make things more interesting.  First is the new leader of the small team, Daniel Shaw (Brandon Routh).  He's been chasing the ring for years and is charged with destroying the organization.  Handsome, talented, and smart (Chuck describes him as "Superman-y", which isn't too far from the truth given that Routh portrayed the Kryptonian in Superman Returns), he takes a liking to Sarah, something that starts to upset Chuck.   Chuck also has a new love interest, Hannah (Kristin Kreuk, Smallville) a one-time highly paid trouble shooter who finds herself out of a job and starts working at the Buy More.
This season was very good once again, with the creators changing things up just enough to make the show feel new and fresh while not altering it so much as to alienate fans.  The story arc of Chuck becoming a field agent worked well.  He became so adept at leading a double life that it changed him a bit, and the fact that Sarah could relate, and knew where it would ultimately take Chuck was a big driving force through the season. 
The only place this season really falters is with Sarah and Chuck's relationship.  While the things that they're going through are realistic, a few episodes spent too much time dwelling on their feeling for each other.  At times it felt more like a teen romantic drama than an action/comedy show, but there were only a few episodes where the romance troubles became to thick.
That's not to say that the show lost its humor, one of the great things about the program, it hasn't.  There are still some laugh-out-loud funny moments and every episode is amusing.  One of my favorite episodes has Chuck impersonating an assassin, Rafe Gruber, in order to discover the man's next target.  He's hired by a pair of tough mobsters (played by Tony Sirico and Louis Lombardi both from The Sopranos) and is undercover when he spies Sarah with Shaw.  His reaction to this revelation leads to a wonderfully comic scene where the two thugs and the 'international assassin' have a heart-to-heart about how demanding and unfair women can be.  Three seasons in, the show's still got it. 
The Blu-ray Disc:

The 19 episodes that make up Chuck Season Three arrive on four Blu-ray discs in a double 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 codex, and it looks pretty average at best.  I was astounded 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 appeared like this originally or if it is a problem with the encoding, but I was expecting a lot better.  The whites are often too bright and details are frequently lost.  Chuck's white work shirt often seems flat and lacking texture, and there 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 clearly a latex applications for example.  Overall this doesn't look bad, it just has several problems that keep it out of the top-tier Blu-ray releases.
It's a little disappointing that this season, again, only comes with a DD 5.1 soundtrack.  While I guess I should be happy that it's not just a stereo track, I was hoping that we'd be treated to lossless audio.  In any case the audio sounds fine with the dialog being easy to discern and the music and background noises coming through clearly.  The soundstage wasn't used much, mainly during the few action sequences when some audio effects were thrown to the rears, so the show isn't as enveloping as I would have liked 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, though nothing that is really exciting they are all in HD with the exception of the gag reel.  First there's an EPK fluff piece, Chuck-Fu... and Dim Sum (22 min), which has the cast and crew talking about the show and their characters.  Like most behind-the-scenes featurettes, it's light on real content.  That's followed by The Jeffster Revolution (11 min) a mockumentary on the band Jeffster, which is pretty funny.  I really like the duo, and this was the highlight of the bonus material.  There are also deleted scenes to several episodes and a fairly lame gag reel.
Final Thoughts:
Like the previous seasons, this is a wonderfully entertaining show that's willing to take risks to keep the program fresh and interesting.  Chuck filling into his role as an agent while having to juggle two lives was taken up a notch, and the new characters worked well (though I wish one of them had stayed around a bit longer.)  It's hard to mix action and intrigue with comedy and not have it turn into camp, but the creators behind this show have managed to do exactly that.  The stories are fun, the characters are likeable and the acting is excellent.  It comes Highly Recommended.
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