“Chuck Versus The Seduction”
October 6th, 2008
As mentioned last week for the show’s second season premiere, Chuck is just “on” right now. If there is anything that gave the show some problems in the first season, it was managing to handle all of the different elements of the series: the numerous settings (Buy More, Home, Missions), the various supporting characters, and worse of all the weekly storylines and the recurring plots, both romantic and unromantic.
With “Chuck Versus the Seduction” it becomes clear that the premiere was no fluke: flawlessly introducing a case that dredges up Chuck and Sarah’s relationship as well as the continued growth of Chuck as an actual agent as opposed to just an asset. Even though the show goes so far as to throw around the L-word as it relates to our central relationship, it still feels like a show that is letting things move organically. When a show can trot out John Larroquette and Melinda Clarke in the same episode and still not feel like it’s trying to hard, you have a show that is playing with the right themes at the right time.
In other words, the show is more or less seducing the audience in the same nature as the four-prong attack: as long as it doesn’t become a bastard, the show is on a very strong trajectory.
Roan Montgomery (Larroquette) is a spy of a different era, one that we haven’t yet seen in the show’s trajectory: he isn’t a super spy with technology or strength, but with the power of seduction (an art lost on Casey, who as we know isn’t exactly about getting people to like him). So when he is the prime source of information on the doings of Sasha Banacheck (Melinda Clarke), the Black Widow, it’s time for the show to investigate two things: whether or not Chuck is capable of seduction (and being a spy) at all, and whether or not Sarah is seduced enough to consider having a relationship with him.
The former issue is perhaps less important in a broader series context on the surface, but it’s actually even more valuable to the future episodes. The early episodes, outside of the pilot, had Chuck in too much of an inactive role. He was bumbling to the point of no longer being endearing, and it kind of dragged down the show when it was all “Place Chuck in danger, have Sarah and Casey save him, rinse and repeat.” Zachary Levi was still very engaging, but the show didn’t know how to get Chuck out of that position.
This episode, and last week’s, have done a lot to identify how best to use this character. Chuck demonstrates here that his skills, whether it’s last week’s Call of Duty setup decision or this week’s prowess throwing caution to the wind with his seduction, and takedown, of Sasha. It’s still not really spy potential, but he’s coming more into himself as to his role in this threesome of sorts.
And a lot of this does has to do with his relationship with Sarah, something that the show is smart to address head-on so early in the season. It is clear that Sarah does like Chuck, and that Chuck does love Sarah, so pussyfooting around it doesn’t seem like an ideal way for the show to spend time. Instead, what we see here is their relationship coming front and center in an effort to bring out the best in both characters. The seduction lessons give the show a good excuse to have them make out for a while, and no one can deny that Levi and Strahovski have a good deal of chemistry.
What both of these things did, though, was make this individual mission feel like an integral part of the show’s larger trajectory, along with it being mighty entertaining in its own right. Clarke, even with an accent, was as much of a seductress as ever, and Larroquette was great as the Martini-drinking/stewardess bedding Bond type. The story was just a lot of fun to watch, especially when it came to the variety of zingers and one-liners thrown around (For example, I loved Rone drinking the martini in the truck, and his various reactions to the conversation, in particular him mourning Gus). Or the various dialogue pieces between Chuck and Sasha, especially Clarke’s line of “Make Mad Passionate Sex to Me.” It’s just a lot of fun, along with advancing important storylines.
The more impressive thing is that this was possible even with two separate supporting subplots, with Awesome getting romance advice from Morgan, and Lester taking over the Assistant Managership at the Buy More. I love that even these storylines ended up being part of the main one: funny in their own right, that the former ended up being Chuck’s favour from the CIA, and the latter being the excuse for having the banner conveniently in place for the big finale, really helps to present a cohesive episode as opposed to A/B/C plot structure.
The big finale, of course, is what sets things up for the future, and was the one moment that felt completely predictable. As soon as it was clear that Chuck was about to make a grand romantic gesture, you had to know that there was going to be someone in his way: that it was Bryce only made sense, as the show went too far to give hope to Chuck and Sarah’s relationship. But this is a different scenario to our last experience with Bryce: Chuck is in a better place, Sarah is in a difference place, and I greatly look forward to next week’s episode as a result.
- Alan Sepinwall has a nice long article posted earlier this month about how this episode is all an homage to a classic Peter O’Toole film, “My Favorite Year” – you can check it out here. Sounds like something I would put on my Netflix if I, you know, had Netflix.
- Good to see that Chuck and Co. have some new digs that are a little bit more secretive than Casey’s apartment or the audio-visual room in the Buy More.
- Maybe the worst/best joke of the episode was Chuck’s explanation of why Sasha was called the Black Widow: “Her husband was African American and he died?”
- Morgan’s “I’m huge in Japan” shirt was a neat little touch, as was all of the little quirks for the Buy More staff – we don’t see Morgan and Anna out of uniform much if ever, so it’s good to see them humanizing the new Credits-folk.