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The Mother of All Fears: An Advance Review of Next Week's Episode of Chuck

Halloween is nearly upon us and that means a slew of scary-themed programming heading to the airwaves over the next week and a half or so, along with several zombie-related storylines and series.

There aren't any zombies turning up on next week's episode of Chuck ("Chuck Versus the Aisle of Terror"), but the Halloween-centric installment does play up a number of fears swirling around several of the characters and deals perhaps with the most frightening thing of all: family.

The concept of family has been at the heart of the series since Chuck began, examining the way that groups bond together in the name of collective goals, whether that's a workplace environment or centered around hearth and home. Throughout the four seasons thus far, Chuck has explored the way that Team Bartowski has formed a makeshift family of its own, spilling out from siblings and lovers to include even curmudgeonly John Casey in the mix.

Picking up where the previous episode left off, the happiness and community experienced by the group is shattered when Chuck receives an unexpected call from Mary Bartowski (Linda Hamilton), the mother he's been searching for and who walked out on him and Ellie when they were kids. What he's learned since his investigation began makes him question just why their mom walked out in the first place and her sudden reappearance in his life brings with it a whole host of new queries and dilemmas.

While I don't want to give away too much about this fun and fantastic installment, I will say that Mary's reappearance isn't without consequences for several of the characters and that it coincides with the arrival in Los Angeles of a fear toxin that's rather like that used by DC Comics' Scarecrow, Dr. Jonathan Crane. This compound has the potential to be a deadly weapon if it falls into the wrong hands, which is where our Intersect comes into the plot.

What else did I think about next week's episode? Read on, but--as always--please do not reproduce this review in full on any websites, message boards, or the like.

While we've only known about the whereabouts of Mary Elizabeth Bartowski for a bit, it was only matter of time before she would have to cross paths with Chuck in the present day. But is Mary a prisoner of Alexi Volkoff? Or is she working with this international terrorist and arms dealer? The truth, when it comes to the spy game, is a mercurial and slippery thing and it certainly seemed as though Chuck had finally learned that his missing mama was very bad indeed.

But this is Chuck, after all, so there are more than a few twists ahead for this complicated mother-son relationship. Mary's true agenda becomes clear over the course of the episode and I won't be spoiling that bit of information here. You'll have to wait to see exactly how things play out between Chuck and Mary, but I'll hint and say that Mary might be very good at a whole number of things, but the ability to give warm hugs doesn't seem to be one of them anymore.

What you will see is Chuck questioning the role his mother played in his early childhood and why she's turned up now to make contact with him after disappearing into the ether twenty years ago. And this internal debate will manifest itself externally as well, driving a wedge between Chuck and those around him.

Family is a funny thing, after all. As filmmaker Hal Hartley once wrote in his film Trust, "A family is like a gun: you point it in the wrong direction, you're gonna kill someone."

Team Bartowski is, after all, a tight-knit family based on bonds of friendship and love rather than blood. But family is family and we look out for our kin and do everything we can to protect them, even if it means protecting them from themselves. But sometimes the lengths we go to in order to ensure the safety of our loved ones splinters the very relationships we're so desperate to safeguard in the first place.

So what does that mean exactly? You'll have to wait until Monday to find out, though I can tease some other details from the episode: the most unscary "scary" Halloween display, courtesy of Lester and the seriously psychotic Jeff (think a baby in a snail costume); some hysterical moments between Casey and Morgan; the worst lunch meeting ever; deserted playgrounds are creepy; and the "magnet."

All this, plus a host of secrets and lies in the mix and the always terrifying Robert Englund. Two guesses on who he's playing...

All in all, "Chuck Versus the Aisle of Terror" is a sensational episode of Chuck that balances heart and humor, and proves that the only thing we need fear when it comes to this winning action-comedy series is fear itself.

Chuck airs Monday evening at 8 pm ET/PT on NBC.

Comments

MJ said…
No direct comments about Ellie that I saw. Interesting.... I'm very excited to see what role she plays in all of this. I can't imagine the roller coaster of feelings her and Chuck must have, should be a great arc!
Katie said…
So... Sarah will try to protect Chuck from his mom (standoff at playground) and will in turn drive him away, leading towards their "First Fight"?
Ask Rachel said…
Sounds like a fun one. Looking forward to seeing more Linda Hamilton!

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