Episode 3.18 – Chuck Vs The Subway
”Two Bartowski’s. Double the fun.’
Wow! Whew! Catch your breath yet? It has taken me awhile. Already intellectually and emotionally fatigued by the Lost series finale the night before – fantastic BTW – approaching the Chuck Season 3 Finale included some trepidation. Heading into the Chuck double header in a fatigued state is not the best situation. My fears prove unfounded as Chuck delivered its best season finale of the series. Chuck Versus The Subway is the perfect episode. The events contained within it were truly series’s defining and character changing ones for all the Bartowski clan.
So, with apologies to the theme song of the Rocky Horror picture and its fans plus my occasional lapse into bad puns ie Shaw instead of Show, let us dive into the goodness that episodes 3.18 and 3.19 gave Chuck fans. The title of this review is most fitting because these two episodes had a real SF vibe to them as the tech of the Intersect and PapaB was mixed with the tension of Chuck unravelling mentally all while the menancing spectre of Daniel Shaw lurked as a dangerous presence to the members of Team Bartowski and their loved ones. Cap off all of that with the expansion of the Bartowski family backstory and the genesis – or the continuation of the Orion legacy – of Chuck’s next step in his heroic journey. What more can a fan ask for?
At the end of Chuck Vs The Tooth Chuck was experiencing Intersect fueled dreams about Daniel Shaw being alive. We knew those dreams were true. We also knew that Shaw had downloaded a Ring version of Intersect; Ringtersect anyone? Chuck Versus The Subway is the swansong for writers Ali Addler, Matt Miller, and Phil Klemmer. And what a swansong it is. Subway is brimming with emotion, action, drama, and revelations. It is also the swansong episode for PapaB. We may get to see him in future episodes in Jor-El type videos but it is doubtful that Orion will be brought back from the dead. Even more so than Shaw and Bryce it would not feel right to do so. The finale is about the passing of the torch from a father to his children. Mainly Chuck and, I hope the showrunners see it that way, Ellie as well.
This episode did so many things right with the pinnacle being the strengthening of the bonds between the main players of the cast. What precipitated that was the truth of the spy world revealed to Ellie. With everyone in the know the barriers between characters have been finally lowered. Instead of deflection the characters can share mutual reflection. Instead of being kept at arm’s length to hide the truth, characters can now reaffirm bonds that existed before Bryce sent Chuck the email in the pilot. The benefits of finally allowing Chuck and Ellie to have open conversations again is immediately apparent. Sarah Lancaster was finally given some new material to work with and it is a development the show would be well advised to continue.
Mercifully the resurrection of Shaw as the villain worked for the most part. There were even flashes of above adequate enjoyable bits from Shaw from the knocking on the subway car door to his evil guy laugh. The disdain that the fandom had for the character and his history with Chuck and Sarah added that extra level of tension needed for a nemesis. The weak part of his return is the undercooked aspect of Shaw’s motivation of going totally Ring and becoming fixated on killing Chuck. This does not jibe with his arc of revenge for his wife’s death and wanting to punish the person responsible; Sarah.
What more can be said about Scott Bakula as Stephen J. Bartowski? Scott brought so many things to the character and he will be sorely missed. PapaB’s actions during the Subway episode illustrated the bluerprint for how Chuck, and Team Bartowski, should handle things. His smarts are dramatized over and over again in identifying Shaw at the Subway station, using Ellie to find the Ring Base, breaking Chuck out of the CIA holding cell, and the building of the Governor.
Above all that was his heart and the premium he placed on family and keeping them safe. We knew what he had done for Ellie and Chuck. It was not until the final scenes that the true scope of what PapaB had done, and sacrificed, became known. PapaB’s approach to how to protect his family may not have been the best one but it worked for him. What worked for him does not mean it would work for Chuck and Ellie. Plus they have an advantage. They have each other and the rest of Team Barktowski to watch their backs.
Episode Flashes: (Lots of them. Proof these episodes were packed with goodies):
- Chuck hovering over his father’s shoulder as PapaB works on Chuck’s Governor
- PapaB ‘talking’ Chuck down
- Sarah’s touching extending to PapaB
- Awesome not looking as Awesome as usual
- Morgan breaking the news to Devon about Ellie – ‘How could she do this to us?’
- Casey surreptiously checking up on his daughter
- Chuck and Sarah sharing a blueberry in the Farmer’s Market – so…… normal
- Knock, knock, knock – Shaw reveal in the subway car
- PapaB working the Castle computers to track Shaw
- Jeff and Lester ‘consoling’ Devon
- ‘Its my dream come true. Ellie is exactly like Chuck but with lady parts.’ Jeff – creepy funny
- Sarah discovers TeamB is in a CIA not Ring building
- Chuck and Ellie come face to face – ‘Chuck, I thought you quit KungFu in the third grade.’
- Chuck barging into Beckman’s hearing on the value of the Intersect project
- Shaw walking into the hearing – he gets a slomo entrance – still waiting for Chuck’s BTW!
- Shaw playing the Hearing and Sarah’s reaction to learning Chuck’s mental condition
- Casey and Sarah go to the aid of their loved ones
- Devon accidentally spills the beans about Chuck to Ellie – Ellie takes charge!
- Casey protects Alex who seems pretty capable herself
- PapaB works his tech magic and frees Chuck from CIA lockdown
- Casey growling at Justin over apple pie
- Casey revealing to Alex that he is her father and protecting her escape
- ‘Oh and you can blame the CIA for my bachelor party. Stripper?. She was an agent. Told you I didn’t cheat. Faithful!’ Devon vindicated!
- ‘Morgan Grimes, the boy that took my pillow as his date to junior prom, knows more about my family being spies than I do.’
- Sarah clocking Shaw. Nice callback to Shaw clocking Rafe. New scumbag in town.
- Beckman’s desperate Princess Leia plea, ‘You are our only hope.’ Morgan and Devon not sure to whom she was pleading with. LOL!!
- The Bartowski’s playing it smart
- Shaw’s evil – ‘Moowahaha’
- McTiernan Industries – shoutout to action director John McTiernan(Die Hard, Predator)?
- Sarah and Casey’s pride at Chuck’s spy skills – ‘Picked a good one Walker. Finally’
- Ringtersect sure is slick looking
- Shaw puts down PapaB! ‘Always remember son. You’re special.’
- Is anyone more expressive than Ellie?
- ‘Check out the fresh fish’ – another Shawshank reference
- ‘You might want to stand back. This could explode. Ummm yeah…OK’ Morgan is priceless!
- ‘There is no one left to save us.’ Ellie, Devon, and Morgan jump to the rescue.
Episode Flashes for 3.19
- Ellie showing spy skills tailing the armored car
- little Chuck and Ellie and the seeds of why Ellie looks after Chuck so fiercely
- ‘No plan? That never stopped me before.’ LOL Morgan is so priceless!
- Casey’s Crown Vic could give the Green Hornet’s Black Beauty a run for its money – missile launcher!
- Ellie puts her foot down and keeping her promise to protect Chuck.
- Big Mike’s ‘Moses’ phone – shades of the Batphone.
- Chuck getting to tell Ellie that their dad was a great man.
- Chuck using PapaB-like skills to communicate with Beckman.
- ‘Who are the Elders? They sound scary. World of WarCraft scary.’ – Guess who!
- TeamB unites to take on Shaw and the Ring Elders.
- Chuck and Sarah in disguise sharing winks before putting the plan into action
- Morgan and Casey cracking the Conference database
- Morgan waking up Casey’s paternal instincts
- Chuck conning Shaw into a confession and capturing the Ring Elders – shades of Quantum of Solace anyone? Though Bond never used the Mexican Hat Dance ring tone!
- Muzzle down Morgan!
- Morgan breaking his thumbs for naught
- Morgan has mad nose touch iPhone skills!
- Pineapples! The Sequel.
- Chuck GETS his slomo entrance. Yay!
- Ewww! Shaw’s flash look is even creepy.
- Jeffster- Blaze of Glory!
- Shaw and Chuck square off.
- Wow – Chuck intersected as a young boy. Very intriguing.
- Sarah delivering the final blow to Shaw and racing to get the Governor back to Chuck and her look of relief at doing so.
- Morgan is all er no thumbs with the detonator.
- Lester- ‘Did we do that?’ Bye-bye Buy More.
- Jeffster! Fugitives! Band on the Run!
- TeamB family gathers to remember PapaB and welcomes Alex into the fold.
- The, ‘Oh boy,’ that Chuck mutters as the Orion signature screen comes up on his computer monitor? A subtle ‘passing of the torch’ moment. Love it.
- Chuck’s promise to Ellie about leaving the spy world will be short lived as he discovers the Bartowski legacy and the hope of finding MamaB.
- ChuckCave! Shades of the warehouse from the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark too.
- Orion and Hydra!
Stephen J. Bartowski to Chuck and Ellie – ‘There is nothing in this whole world you two can’t fix if you work together.’
Could that line be the Mission Statement for the series going forward? Three seasons in and the entertainment value in trying to perserve the barrier between the spy world and the real world have been played out. As each character found out about Chuck’s dual life more dramatic doors opened than the ones that were closed. With Ellie in the loop and the setup in the closing moments the more entertaining avenue now would be to bring everyone into the fold and pick up the mantle of Orion’s legacy rather than try to perpetuate a new series of lies.
With the Chuck and Sarah relationship resolved and all the characters free to talk openly to one another, there is much more story telling manuveuring room. With these obstacles removed and the attendant effort to maintain no longer necessary, those energies can now be turned towards creating a more fleshed out show mythology. Instead of maintaining divisive constructs the show can now focus on unifying ones.
Chuck works best when it balances all the elements equally. Chuck Vs The Subway is the showcase episode for doing that. With the exception of Chuck Vs Santa Claus has there been a better episode where all the main cast members are used so equally and effectively? This is my all time favorite episode of the series. Thanks to Ali Adler, Matt Miller & Phil Klemmer for gifting us with this episode before departing. Best of luck to each of you on your new endeavors!
So endeth the Third Season of Chuck. What a journey it has been. It is amazing to take the characters of this season and compare them against previous seasons. The growth and evolution has been fantastic. The execution of those changes faltered from time to time which is too bad. Fortunately the show righted itself and these final two episodes have the show pointed in a most promising direction.
As to what that direction might be, look for an upcoming article that explores the possibilities of Season 4.
I had a lot of fun writing these reviews and hope you enjoyed reading them. Thanks to Mel for giving me a place to put down my thoughts. Hope to do it again for Season 4.
Have a great summer everyone! See you in September.