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Chuck's Fear of Death Left Me Cold

I always find it disappointing when an episode of Chuck fails to live up to my expectations and this week's episode ("Chuck Versus the Fear of Death"), written by Nicholas Wootton and directed by Robert Duncan McNeill, definitely did not live up to the momentum created in the wake of "Chuck Versus the First Fight."

I'm sure it wasn't helped by the fact that the series took a week off between installments but this week's episode also seemed all the more weak in comparison to the previous episode, which set up some new subplots and a potential new direction to the overarching mythology. This week's episode... felt more than a little like filler.

Way too much weight given to a flimsy Buy More plot involving this week's Greta, Summer Glau, who had little to do other than prance around angrily, flick open a knife concealed in a thigh holster, and eat some product placement. If I'm being brutally honest: it wasn't a good use of Glau at all and revealed just how irritating the revolving door that is Greta has become this season.

Had Glau stuck around for more than an episode (even for two episodes), her arc could have been paid off with Lester and Jeff's snooping and potential unmasking of her CIA affiliation. But here it was just an aside as Casey swooped in to rescue Greta and she walked off, tossing her Buy More badge on the table as she went. Cue the next Greta.

I can see why the Greta trope would initially make for some fun, allowing a slew of guest casting and stunt casting, but it hasn't really added up to anything tangible. The Gretas to date have gotten a handful of lines but haven't really added anything to the Buy More or to the momentum of the plot (in fact, I'd go so far as to say that they often drag it down). Glau's Greta had more to do than most but her storyline last night was of the flimsiest gossamer. Given that Chuck was lucky enough to get Glau to drop by, I would have hoped they would have more for her to do. (Or at least get to use her in a fight sequence.)

Much of the episode felt cobbled together from plot retreads and I felt myself losing interest with the diamond auction, Chuck's training, and a way too long opening sequence in which we learned that a month had passed since Chuck last flashed. Yes, it was all leading up to a grand reveal at the end of the episode in which Chuck was kidnapped by The Belgian (guest star Richard Chamberlain), who was aware of his identity as the Intersect and plucked him off of a Gstaad gondola before vanishing altogether.

It was the final moments of the episode, in fact, that made the rest of the episode tolerable. I'm curious to see the strike force team of Sarah, Casey, and Morgan attempt to track down Chuck and rescue him. And I'm also keen to see Sarah break down her boundaries and go all Wolverine-style berserk to save her boyfriend.

But I sadly could have done without the rest of the episode, which just felt entirely "off" to me. Certainly not as strong as "Chuck Versus the First Fight," but also not as strong as some of the weaker episodes in the series' run.

Am I alone in feeling this? Did the episode live up to your expectations and am I being too harsh? Head to the comments section to discuss.

Next week on Chuck ("Chuck Versus Phase Three"), Sarah, Chuck, Morgan and Casey head to the jungles of Southeast Asia when The Belgian (guest star Richard Chamberlain) tries to learn more about the Intersect; Ellie and Awesome try to decipher a secret her father left behind.


Xenaclone said…
Did anyone else spot the homage to 'Where Eagles Dare' in the cable car fight, or was that just me?

Has Sarah really forgotten about 'I know Kung Fu', Chuck dealing with Shaw [twice] and also being willing to use Casey as a deliberate lure for the old A Team [Chuck vs the Couch Lock]?
Unknown said…
Totally, xenaclone! I loved the Where Eagles Dare bit! (Great movie.)

To me, it felt off because of the incessant focus on "fear of death." We get it, now let's throw in some more story.

I have a problem with the Buy-More-cum-CIA-base in general. It's bad enough to have revolving-door-window-dressing Gretas, but what's the point of a huge CIA base that does nothing.

Summer Glau would've been a great temporary addition to the team. Perhaps she could be attracted to Chuck, evoke a bit of jealousy from Sarah (for once), and turn out to be a raving Fatal-Attraction-rabbit-boiler who's put down by Sarah (or they just become friends).

The parade of guest stars as Greta is silly, pandering, and more than a bit transparent. Chuck fans don't need babe-of-the-week guest spots to tune in. I love Summer Glau, but frankly, I'm more impressed they got Richard Chamberlain.
Geoff said…
Definitely disappointed!

I haven't been convinced yet that Rob Riggle is the type of comedic actor that you stand up and notice when they guest star on your favorite Tv show. His character could have been interesting, but he seemed so one dimensional; just getting excited everytime there's a dangerous situation is sort of more Adam Baldwin's job.

Summer Glau was indeed wasted in the episode. I could have lived with that, if they had given even a slight nod to the fact that her and Baldwin were costars in Firefly. Creators of Chuck: Understand your audience is comprised in large part of geeks! They are familiar with people like Glau, and deserve a payoff when you cast actors like her.

Only thing I enjoyed was Richard Chamberlain. He had almost as little to do this episode (hope he has more to do next week), yet he still commanded the screen. Sometimes this show's casting is incredible, even if the writing does very little.

I guess I'm saying that with filler episodes (is this a filler episode? It's in the middle of November, so it shouldn't), the audience needs pandering to, or else the formula becomes stale. If you're not going to push the story aches of these characters, give the audience something else to chew on! Throw us a bone!
Anonymous said…
Last moments of this episode definitely made up for this okay episode. I'm really excited to see next week, where Sarah goes kickass (and the promo does a VERY good job of hyping it up).
chuckster54 said…
I felt it raised some interesting questions and carry over from last episode Chuck concern that Sarah can't believe in him and accept him as equal partner in spy world. Am glad addressing what would their relationship be if Chuck no longer had the intersect

But I can see your concern with Buy more dragging down the episode Am glad they took time to address "what up with all these Greta's"
Could be Mr Wootton has yet gotten a grasp as to tying in Buy More with spy story Did he not also write 4.03? I actually had more of a problem with the Buy More story in that episode than this.

Hope next episode Chuck can rise up and show Sarah he can function as a spy without Intersect
Chris L said…
Oh, I don't know... I didn't think it was all that bad. I think there were more than a few good moments throughout this episode. I enjoyed the montage of psychological tests they put Chuck through, the scene where Lester and Jeff simply refuse to acknowledge Chuck's brand of "candor" since they pretty much worship the guy, the scene with Casey and Alex, the scene with Sarah yelling that Chuck was NOT a spy (ouch). There were a couple more I can't remember.

I liked the actor that played Chuck's Intersect Coach in this episode, even if his character came off a bit weird - but this is Chuck, and everybody's a bit larger than life, right?

All in all, I was pretty entertained for my one hour of television viewing, so I give Chuck vs. The Fear of Death a passing grade.

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