Josh Schwartz has gone on record countless times, both on Twitter and on the Firewall and Iceberg Podcast, that the final 10 minutes of “Chuck Versus The Push Mix” were the greatest in the series’ history. Even for a series that’s been on varying planes of struggle for a full calendar year, that’s a big, bold statement to make and one that I really hoped would come to fruition.
Unfortunately, Schwartz’s assertion is incorrect, at least from my humble perspective. But I can see where he’s coming from. If the first 12 episodes of season four of Chuck hadn’t been driven by a messy, rushed narrative, I might have adored those 10 minutes. If Mama Bartowski hadn’t been sorely misused and sometimes poorly written in such a way that left me completely devoid of any emotion or caring as to what happened to her, I might have adored those 10 minutes. If Chuck and Sarah hadn’t spent a good deal of this season tip-toeing around each other before stupidly jumping into an extremely rushed storyline in the last two episodes, I might have adored those 10 minutes. And of course if Awesome and Ellie were actual characters and not just vessels for occasional BABY DRAMA plots, I might have adored those 10 minutes.
I think you get my point.
But that’s the problem with this whole season of Chuck and these much-discussed 10 minutes: It’s fully relying on a short-hand storytelling approach that fully requires you to be an uncritical Chuck fanatic. The conclusion to “Push Mix” assumes that you love Chuck and Sarah no matter what, that you want to see Mama B happy no matter what and the same goes for Awesome and Ellie. There’s a problem with that, however. Just because you’ve built a series with immensely lovable characters doesn’t mean you get to stop trying building a coherent narrative that makes those characters even better or allows them to grow. This season hasn’t been concerned with such things, unfortunately. Instead, it’s been built on individual moments that fans have apparently waited a long time to see.
So when Chuck defeats Volkov and saves everyone, when the whole gang gets to see Ellie and Awesome have the baby and when Chuck finally pops the question to Sarah, it’s supposed to be this big swell of satisfaction and emotional catharsis. But most of it is false. Apart from the middling execution of Chuck and Sarah’s probable engagement, all the other big stories of the season have been undercooked. We’re just supposed to feel great about these series of happy endings because hey, we like these people. But you have to EARN it. There has to be a legitimate effort made in making sure the tension is there so that when all these great things happen, I actually feel that emotion. Sure, I’m happy for Ellie-Awesome and Chuck-Sarah, but only inasmuch is I would have been at the end of season three. Nothing in the previous 12 episodes made me care and because of their messy execution, I’ve generally lost any emotional connection to anyone not named Morgan Grimes.
On Twitter, I compared this episode to the season one finale of Glee, and I stand by that argument. “Journey” fully relied on the idea that we in the audience cared enough about Rachel and Finn, Quinn’s baby or Will’s heroics to just disregard the fact that none of those plotlines were developed or handled properly in the episodes leading up to the finale. The same exact thing could apply here. Like with Rachel and Finn, I care about Chuck and Sarah in the macro sense, but I can’t buy the execution of those moments in this specific episode because things haven’t worked leading into it. And hell, I was more invested in Rachel and Finn in that episode than I was in Chuck and Sarah here because at least “Journey” tried to make me care instead of just assuming I would. This is especially troubling considering this episode was made with the intentions of it serving as a series finale.
I feel like I’ve probably been too angry and hard on this episode. But flooding the Twitterverse with hyperbole gets me going. My rage is sort of unfortunate because this was actually a pretty good episode for what it had to do. All the 2011 episodes have been rushed and problematic and if we recall all the problems I listed above, “Push Mix” had a lot of cleaning up to do. While I still think Mama Bartowski ended up being a misfire of a character (to no fault of Linda Hamilton’s, by the way), her interactions with Volkov were stellar here. Timothy Dalton, bless your heart. It’s disappointing that it took the series this long to come up with the idea to use just one big bad and it’s even more disappointing that Dalton and the writers crafted a really interesting character but only used him sparingly before discarding him. Nevertheless, Dalton was fantastic here and the final showdown between he and Chuck — which opened up THE GREATEST 10 MINUTES EVER — helped save those final moments from being completely ridiculous.
Despite my problems with this episode and the first 13 overall, I’m actually very optimistic for the next 11 episodes. I don’t envy the fact that Schwartz, Fedak and company had to handle all these major threads while introducing both Volkov and Mama Bartowski in only 13 episodes. They could have done a much better job, but still, I know it’s difficult. Now, the slate is wiped clean and I’m hoping that much like the final six last season, we will be given some really fantastic episodes. But I could completely wrong.
- Another horrible part of that final few minutes? Jeffster. More attempts at short-hand emotion based on nostalgia.We should probably just let that go now, right? And the series should stop trying to redo the S2 finale. I would have hated it more had it not been for that awesome line delivery from Adam Baldwin when he said “Jeffster.”
- I mentioned this a bit up top, but I really enjoyed Chuck’s plan. It’s about time that he gets a full-fledged victory over someone while at the helm.
- Isn’t it kind of pathetic that Morgan can get around the lasers when Chuck had to use the Intersect to accomplish the same task?
- I’m not the only one who wishes that Chuck’s dad never died right?