Chuck 5.13 “Chuck Vs. The Goodbye” Series Finale Review

Kevin Fitzpatrick January 27, 2012 42

Chuck - Season 5Chuck season 5 and the series itself comes to a close with its ultimate thirteenth entry in tonight’s “Chuck Vs. The Goodbye,” as Team Bartowski races to retrieve the final Intersect from Nicholas Quinn (Angus Macfadyen), and restore Sarah’s lost memories of the last five years. “Chuck Vs. The Goodbye” closes the series on a high note, balancing both the sweet with the bittersweet in the manner the show has come to employ so very well over the last few years.

Wow. Thus endeth Chuck. I don’t often have a lot to say when it comes to TV finales, and it’s been a good long while since a series I actually cared about managed to wrap things up on its own terms, but this one got to me. I actually saw both “Chuck Vs. Sarah” and “Chuck Vs. The Goodbye’a few nights ago when NBC decided to release the screeners, and since watching I’ve likely listened to The Head and the Heart’s ‘Rivers and Roads‘about forty times, if only to relive such wonderful sentiment that caps off five years of sweet memories.

I first started watching Chuck about midway through its second season, powering through old episodes as often as I could, though I don’t quite remember what turned me on to the series in the first place. Mostly what I remember was the warmth, lying there on my door room bed dreaming of that wonderful world where nerdery and dead-end jobs could end up the adventure of a lifetime, provided you never lose the heart that made you yearn for them in the first place. Even after Chuck‘s second season finished, and NBC listened enough to Subway sandwich purchases to grant the series a budget-reduced season 3, it never lost that sense of childish wonderment and enthusiastic glee. We love Chuck, because we are Chuck. Chuck Bartowski consistently surprised everyone around him with his intelligence, his heart, and his willingness to risk anything for those he loved, and so too did Chuck as a series keep on braving insurmountable odds to come back year after year.

To be honest, I’m not even sure how I’d go about putting into words a goodbye to Chuck, let alone an in-depth response to ‘Chuck Vs. The Goodbye,’but I’ll do my best.

Chuck - Chuck Vs. The GoodbyeIn a way, “Chuck Vs. The Goodbye” is all about bringing everyone back to the beginning. I wish I’d had a chance to go back and watch the series again from its very first episode in time for tonight’s finale, but writing about TV can be a harsh mistress. Instead, ‘The Goodbye’does most of the work for us, with Sarah’s memory erasure bringing her in line her badass 2007 self, Chuck an unremarkable layabout with a girl on his mind and no supercomputer powers to speak of, and Casey a career military man trying to eschew any emotional ties. In that way we get to re-live Chuck all over again, discovering how Chuck’s heart and Sarah’s skill make them the perfect team, and Casey’s emotional entanglements actually made him a better agent in the end. By going back to Chuck‘s roots, we learn along with the character that after five years, life isn’t so much about how things have changed, but why they’ve changed, and how to take those lessons into the future.

Still, Chuck wouldn’t be Chuck without it’s nostalgia. And that’s why all of ‘Chuck Vs. The Goodbye’s'many, many callbacks feel like enthusiastic celebrations rather than rehashes. Whether it’s one last epic Jeffster performance, an unceremonious reappearance from an old Fulcrum agent (Mark Pellegrino) or Chuck and Sarah re-living the most memorable of their early missions (Wienerlicious outfit alert!) in succession, everything about Chuck‘s finale feels as thrilling as it does familiar. In truth, I practically jumped out of my chair cheering once I realized that a Jeffster performance was on the way to keep Nicholas Quinn’s bomb from killing our heroes. And if you’re not at least on the edge of tears when Chuck and Sarah once again meet on the beach to discuss their future, flashing through five years laughter and love, then your Intersect must be broken.

Really, most of the little things don’t even matter. Chuck does re-Intersect-ize himself (and presumably keeps it) by the end of the hour, but the Intersect only serves a base role in unraveling the final threat. In the end, it’s Sarah’s fleeting memory of Chuck’s past ingenuity that saves the day with a welcome, if surprising callback to the ‘Irena Demova Virus.’Nor does the villainy of Angus Macfadyen’s four-episode turn as Nicholas Quinn really amount to anything, considering Sarah just kind of, well…shoots him. Chuck‘s climax lies in bringing together its players to do what they do best by working together; Chuck as the brains, Sarah and Casey the muscle, Morgan the plucky support, and Jeffster the soundtrack.

Chuck - Chuck Vs. The GoodbyeThe climax actually reminded me a bit of similarly heartful series Futurama‘s “ending” ‘The Devil’s Hands are Idle Playthings,’not merely for the operatic climax, but rather that it and Chuck were both wonderful series that never quite found their niche. They shared a relatively generous run, all things considered, and ended on a beautifully sweet note with just a hint of ambiguity. Unless Chris Fedak and Josh Schwartz want to out-right tell us, we’ll always cherish that fairy-tale ending of the magical kiss that may, or may not have rescued true love from the depth of Sarah’s memory. Either way, they’ll figure it out. We all will.

And no matter what, we’ve gotten a decent amount of closure to all our beloved characters; Morgan and Alex will move forward with their relationship, Casey will find Gertrude again, Ellie, Devon and Clara will move on to Chicago with Mama Bartowski (Linda Hamilton) in tow, and even Jeff and Lester ride off into the sunset toward the inevitable German superstardom of Jeffster. Hell, even Subway sandwiches have a happily ever after!

So, to Chuck I say goodnight, sweet prince, and flights of angels sing thee to thy rest. Who knows when we’ll see another series as nerd-celebratory, or full of heart as the Buy More boy who met a girl and became a secret agent? However Chuck goes down in history, I can’t wait for the day when I can share it’s effortless charm and soul with a leggy blonde of my very own.

And Another Thing…

  • After five long years, all the Buy More extras finally get lines! Really, really creepy lines!
  • If Chuck WEREN’T ending, I imagine Sarah hiring out Team Bartowski for missions might’ve been a new dynamic to explore in another season.
  • Sheesh, are Desert Eagles really that big?
  • There really wasn’t any need for Linda Hamilton to reprise her role as Mary Bartowski, but hey, a friendly famous face is a friendly famous face.
  • “I’m a Casey. I don’t run, I stalk my prey.” Well, technically you’re a Coburn.
  • Did anyone catch any fun easter eggs I failed to mention?
  • Sigh. Goodbye, Chuck. Aces.

What did YOU think? Give us your best Chuck memories in the comments below!

  • Trey

    I loved this finale. It had every sort of callback or shout-out you could imagine (LOVED Jeffster! and the final Subway nod– No sandwich chain will ever hold as much good will in my mind). The music was superb. The action was great (especially considering the budget). It reminded me of why I loved the show from the moment I tuned in 2 minutes into the Pilot in 2007. Now, great TV minds, when thinking about next season… give me something nerdy.

    • Tony

      There is no next season :(

      • Steven

        He meant "Now, great TV minds, when thinking about next season [and what to replace Chuck with]…give me something nerdy."

  • alice

    what easter eggs?

    • http://www.tvovermind.com/author/tvkevlance Kevin Fitzpatrick

      In-jokes, callbacks to previous Chuck episodes, etc!

      • PJM

        Such as the German fence Quinn shot in the Wienerlicious: Renny Deutch. (For directors Renny Harlin and Howard Deutch)

  • coffeeholic

    Thank you for this review. Good writing!!

    • http://www.tvovermind.com/author/tvkevlance Kevin Fitzpatrick

      Thank you for this comment. Good reading!!

  • Adam

    overall i enjoyed the finale the recaps of past seasons the emotion of the episode but seriously who dumb idea was it to take away sarah's memories… after 5 years of changing into the characters that make the show, and after 5 years of chasing after the girl who he finally gets only to loose her. if they brought back her memory in the last 10 minutes even it would have been great but to have him sitting there telling her about her life is annoying…all the recaps aside at the beach scene it still stands that after all the season at the end sarah's memories and most of her feelings for chuck are gone and even if they do start over and fall in love again the real sarah; the one with all the mission memories all the love for chuck and the memories of their lives together is GONE and everybody moves on leaving leaving chuck alone with a wife with borderline amnesia

    • Alissa

      But it's poetic. Not all endings are happy endings. Firefly ended with several main characters dying. Chuck at least leaves a hint that either the kiss brings back her memories or that they'll fall in love again (after all, she's the one who told him to kiss her). There's something to be said for not having everything fall into place. It keeps the audience thinking about the finale, even after its long over. Personally, I found it both thrilling and satisfying enough.

      Also, Chuck isn't alone. He still has Morgan!

      • Adam

        yes i agree that overall the episode was good its just that ending, but with firefly i felt they shouldnt have killed wash but after so many more years of getting to know the characters with chuck i just felt like loosing sarah defeated the last five years, and ur right i was hoping that the kiss would bring back her memories but they just left it ….. i need to know lol

    • http://www.tvovermind.com/author/tvkevlance Kevin Fitzpatrick

      I like the way the creators put it in various interviews, that "they get to fall in love all over again." Plus, obviously some of her memories remained and could likely return.

  • Adam

    absolutely horrible ending to an all around awesome show ….. very disappointed in the writers

    • http://www.tvovermind.com/author/tvkevlance Kevin Fitzpatrick

      That's too bad! What didn't you like?

      • Adam

        the whole sarah loosing her memories and never regaining them everything that made her…her over the length of the series was taken from chuck and the viewers, and everyone splitting up…idk i just think it should ended more like it looked like it was going to with sarah getting pregnant and them finally settling down outside the spy life instead they more or less killed sarah off in my mind and i am still very upset about it

      • Adam

        or it just should have ended last year with the wedding

  • http://nickielson.com/ Nicki elson

    Jeffster rocked A-ha! And that was one of the few scenes that keeps me from marking this finale as a total failure. The last 15 minutes sucked—like Adam says, we spent 5 years seeing the growth in the relationship and characters, and pouf, gone. Although I choose to abide by Morgan's theory that the kiss will do wonders to bring her back, I would've liked to have gotten to SEE her before we said goodbye.

    And what's with everyone leaving? Seriously, Casey's going to abandon his daughter for that skank Gertrude? And Ellie's not only going to abandon Chuck, but ditch her desire to be a stay-at-home mom so she can make a lot of money and buy a house in Chicago? Where did that come from? And are there really no record labels in freaking California that could've picked up Jeffster? All of them leaving just seemed so pointless and sad.

    Okay, one last gripe – way to drop the ball on not bringing the invisibility cloak in to a mission.

    • http://www.tvovermind.com/author/tvkevlance Kevin Fitzpatrick

      "Take On Me" was great! And it wasn't all gone. Their great team dynamic was still there, and who knows? Maybe her memories will return.

      As for everyone else, at least they didn't kill Casey like they had talked about! And he won't be gone forever. Plus, Ellie's her own woman with her own family. With job offers for her and her husband, why not strike out on their own? Plus…Jeff and Lester are perfect riding off into German superstardom!

  • PJM

    I'm assuming Renny Deutch (the bad guy they chased through part of the finale) was an homage to Renny Harlin and Howard Deutch, the two directors of many a film in the 80s and 90s

    • http://www.tvovermind.com/author/tvkevlance Kevin Fitzpatrick

      Sounds like a classic Chuck reference!

  • maiteplummer

    I looooved the ending, I've never gone through so many emotions in one episode of a tv show. Honestly, by the time it ended, I was in tears. I honestly love Chuck and Sarah together, and the thought that she no longer remembered him and their love had me bawling ;(. Although, I was quite happy with the ending!

    Amazing show all around. Definitely buying Season 5 on DVD or Blueray once it's out.

    • Ryan

      I feel the exact same way. I have to believe that she got at least SOME of her memories back from the kiss, if not all of them. And if not all, then she'll eventually recover them like she did at the Weinerlicious and with the Irena Demova virus. It's just too sad for me to think that, even though she'll fall in love with him again, all of her memories of them together are gone. It can't be that way.

      Also, after thinking about it a little, I don't think using the intersect glasses to restore her memory would have worked that well anyways. Sure, she would have the pictures and videos of their experiences in her brain, but, for example, the wedding pictures, they wouldn't have Sarah's emotions with them. Sarah would use the intersect to remember the wedding and what happened, but it wouldn't help her FEEL the emotions she felt that day.

  • Sonja

    I really enjoyed reading your reviews after each episode, especially of someone like you who is able to articulate properly and feels the same way about what happened in the episodes.
    I was afraid before the finale two episodes that the ending would be a typical cheesy happily ever after Hollywood ending! But the ending was just perfect and I just can’t stop listening to “Rivers and Roads”! I am going to miss Chuck a lot, it was a very precious little TV show with the right mix of comedy, action and romance and of course, with an incredible talented cast you don’t get to see often.
    Well, I guess all we can now do is watch reruns from time to time and just be grateful that we have gotten five seasons…

    A big fan from Germany (and btw, I agree what Josh Schwarzt said in an interview. Jeffster would definitely rock Munich!!! )

    • http://www.tvovermind.com/author/tvkevlance Kevin Fitzpatrick

      Agreed on all counts, thanks for reading!

  • enjoi

    your review send chills to my spine as i recall chuck from start to finish. tnx bro!

    • http://www.tvovermind.com/author/tvkevlance Kevin Fitzpatrick

      No problem!

  • Andy

    Agreed – after a somewhat disappointing season 5, things picked up towards the end and we had several very strong episodes, capped with the excellent final 3. It has been a long time for me too to follow a series to the finale, and have it actually end and not be killed off by the networks – Buffy comes to mind. Nicely done, and the bittersweet feel only made it all that much better. A+.

    • http://www.tvovermind.com/author/tvkevlance Kevin Fitzpatrick

      It's great when a beloved sci-fi show like this gets a run as generous as five seasons. Glad you liked it!

  • Dodger97

    Wow this show meant a lot to me and i have to say they handled the ending as well as they could imho. I think with all the near cancellations and season enders that doubled as finales, not much else they really could have done. Would have liked to have seen Anna or Harry Tang back or the Cats (Spinoff anyone???WB are you listning??) but all in all well done. I read somewhere else they are pitching a TV movie or web movie so maybe the small ambiguity was for a reason. It would draw 5 mil viewers easy. Thanks Kevin great review

    • http://www.tvovermind.com/author/tvkevlance Kevin Fitzpatrick

      I'd like to have seen Harry Tang again, but Anna's season 3 reappearance was enough for me.

  • sofiasadas

    i loved the bittersweet ending. makes it more memorable, for me at least. overall the finale was great! it was fun to watch as the characters revisited plot devices, locations and even fight scenes. morgan made great geek quotes and casey was just being his awesome self. a lot of emotions in this finale.

  • c4e

    They really need to release the score for the series. I would buy it in a heartbeat.

    • http://www.tvovermind.com/author/tvkevlance Kevin Fitzpatrick

      Soundtrack, full series blu-ray, Chuck needs it all!

  • FLB

    I hate the ending.
    It kinda annoyed me that they had to ruin the perfect relationship.
    I mean, they used 5 years/100 episodes to build it up and they were going to have that nice house and kids, but NO. Instead of just letting them kill the last bad guy and destroy the intersect and let em' live happily ever after they had to make this mysterious ending – they could atleast have given us a confirmation wether the kiss brought back Sarah's memories or not (it betther be!)
    I hate NBC for not giving Chuck season 5 a real chance.
    I usually dont care that much, but since Chuck is maybe the most awesome show ever the ending rly annoyes me. None' the less – fantastic show, and very sad there wont be anymore Chuck.
    Ill start watching Supernatural again, but it bothers me that there wont be anymore Chuck episodes to tell us weather she got her memories back or not – but they should just have sticked with the "normal ending".
    PS: Great review Kevin Fitzpatrick

    • http://www.tvovermind.com/author/tvkevlance Kevin Fitzpatrick

      I thought the ending was a great balance between unpredictable and sweet. Sure, she isn't the same Sarah anymore, but they get to fall in love all over again, as some of Sarah's memories likely return.

    • Anthony

      The whole point is to believe that things are alright, and to let you imagine how things turned out. If they just ended it, you wouldn't be thinking about it in the back of your mind and let it soak in all that has happened. Its brilliant honestly. But if you like things to just end and not think about things then you are only stopping yourself from enjoying it. Open your mind, let it embrace you, and you will realize it makes you happy.

  • http://www.tvovermind.com/author/tvkevlance Kevin Fitzpatrick

    Yes, it was a great and subtle reference!

    • Chuck Lover

      Yeah i imagine it would have been in the intersect for some reason when Sarah uploaded it, maybe because Bryce would have been recorded as he broke in and stole the intersect so it would have been saved for future references??

  • Thomas

    Loved the series, hated the series finale. First and foremost,the reason fans watched and fought for this show was, The GeekGets The GIRL! Why leave that hanging on a magical kiss that we never saw? This was not 'Inception-The TV Series', it was CHUCK! Shame on the writers for doing such a cop out!

  • Chuck Lover

    I literally cried when i realised this was the finale of chuck, ive watched all the seasons about 10 times right the way through :( i guess i should be greatful that we even got a 5th season though.

  • Anthony

    I couldn't have put it any better myself, I don't know what I will do now… Chuck was a good series from start to finish. Out of all the series I watch, this was the best one I've actually enjoyed the most, and I watch a lot of series. So the finale came and went, I was even watching the clock to see how many more minutes were left hoping it was never going to end. Farewell Chuck! If there was ever an extension to this story I would indeed watch it or read it. I'm not a big fan of comic books but if there was ever a book to expand upon their adventures, I would read it.

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