Holy closure, Batman!

As many Chuck fans know, “Chuck Versus the Push Mix” was supposed to serve as the season (and possibly the series) finale before NBC ordered a back 11 episodes. For that reason, it ties up everything in a neat package with a nice little bow. It’s nice that Chuck is willing to provide closure on occasion, in contrast to shows like How I Met Your Mother and Burn Notice1, which seem to thrive on leaving everything open. But there’s also the other extreme of trying to resolve too much at once, and unfortunately, “Push Mix” fell into that trap. The result was a decent episode of Chuck (at least by season 4 standards), but because of the fast pace and the lack of explanations, it was one that left me feeling disconnected from everything that was going on.

“Push Mix” got off on the wrong foot by completely ignoring the emotional fallout of last week’s episode. After being devastated at seeing Sarah’s actions in “Gobbler,” Chuck barely seemed distraught, and he went straight to taking the mission into his own hands. For Sarah’s part, even with the belief that she had killed Casey, she was right back to doing her job, which I would have been fine with if the previous episode’s ending hadn’t emphasized that Sarah was having difficulty compartmentalizing. Because I had difficulty ascertaining Chuck and Sarah’s emotional states, I felt detached from everything they were doing.2 But the show had to plow on because resolution was king in this episode.

On the spy front, the show was also determined to wrap up the Volkoff storyline in this episode. While I’m not going to harp on Sarah expediting the takedown of the organization faster than Mary could – 2 people can do more than 1 person can; it’s called synergy – I do feel as if the spy plot suffered in other, more obvious ways. We still don’t know for whom Mary was working, for instance. Alexei Volkoff also never felt like a credible threat. In fact, his organization never really did anything. They had no goals or objectives. “Gobbler” hinted at Volkoff having some sort of Hydra-related agenda, but that was never expanded upon here.

So, when it came down to the final confrontation between Chuck and Alexei Volkoff, I wondered if Volkoff really had anything to do other than terrorizing the people that Chuck loves. In a sense, that scene illuminated the many ways in which Volkoff has been a misfire of a villain. One can’t build an enemy out of a personality. An enemy, just like a hero, has to be driven by something. The only thing that seemed to be driving Volkoff was his insanity, and it’s the only thing that could stupidly drive him to confront someone he thought was Orion alone. So, once you factor in his insanity and his ineptitude, and you realize that he’s killed more of his own henchmen than CIA agents, you already know that there’s no way he’ll be able to garner even a small victory. Anything more would have hinted to a level of planning and intelligence that he hasn’t been shown to possess since “First Fight.”3 As such, the stakes never felt very high, but raising those stakes higher would have created a situation that couldn’t be resolved within this episode. The other major problem with this scene was Timothy Dalton’s tendency to overact and mumble his lines. The scene hinged on Zac Levi and Dalton being able to play off each other, but Chuck’s calm demeanour didn’t fit with Dalton’s over-the-top portrayal of Volkoff, and what resulted was an awkward, lengthy scene that wasn’t fun to watch.

On the bright side, Chuck’s plan did give us something that has been lacking from this season: Chuck using his brain! So, while I was less than impressed with the mechanics of the scene, I did enjoy watching Chuck’s plan to capture Volkoff come to fruition. It was also nice to see that he got everyone involved, and I gave a little mental “hooray!” when I saw that Casey had detached his monitor to fool Armand into thinking that he’d died.

The rest of the episode was fun too. It gave us the Bartowski bathroom as an interrogation room, and there were some nice action sequences for Sarah and Mary. I also laughed out loud at Ellie prescribing herself meds while giving birth.4 Morgan’s wetsuit and laser mishaps were a bit much, to be honest, but I rolled with them. And to be honest, though I felt detached from what I was watching, I rolled with most of what was happening in this episode…

…until the last few minutes. Like I said earlier, this episode was focused on providing closure. Unfortunately, it was focused on providing closure for everybody, even where it wasn’t needed. Casey’s speech to Devon about not abandoning his kid rang false because it has never before even been hinted that Devon would consider running away from fatherhood. There were also a couple of moments between Alex, Morgan, and Casey that felt a little forced. We know that Alex won’t be going anywhere; we didn’t need to be reminded of that here.

Speaking of things we didn’t need: another Jeffster! performance. Didn’t we have one two episodes ago? I’m not a Jeff-and-Lester hater, and I will continue to argue that they and the Buy More should remain a part of this show, but ouch! That was possibly the worst Jeff/Lester subplot of the entire series. It was annoying, it wasn’t funny, and it gobbled up precious screen time in an episode that was already trying to fit too much resolution into its running time. Worse still, the subplot made a big deal about how Lester thought that indie rock was lame, and then what did we get at the end? An indie rock montage! The show piled on so many “aww” moments in a row, including the aforementioned moment between Alex, Morgan, and Casey, that the montage felt like self-parody, especially in light of Lester’s words.

The one moment in that montage that unequivocally worked? Surprisingly, Chuck proposing to Sarah. There was a lot of time wasted earlier this season on the idea of a proposal, and I say “wasted” because those plot lines were often useless or downright aggravating. But the way that this unfolded was perfect. Everything that could have been said about their proposal had already been said, so it was fitting that the proposal was wordless. It happened without fanfare, but at a time that felt right. It was also beautifully shot, with the camera zooming out to show Chuck and Sarah in the background behind a janitor using a scuff mark remover. All in all, I appreciated that this enjoyable but somewhat lackluster episode ended on a high note.

It will be interesting to see where the show will go from here. I’m curious to find out whether it will launch into Hydra-related plot lines immediately, or whether it will wait by putting out a few standalones. In any case, I’m glad that the Volkoff arc has been resolved. It never really amounted to anything, and Alexei Volkoff annoyed the crap out of me.5 Hopefully, we get some more compelling villains in the second half of this season. It’s been a rocky half-season for Chuck, but I’m glad that it’s starting the second half of its season with a clean slate. The show just needs to recalibrate a bit. Dialling back the romance and putting the emphasis back on Chuck and his journey can help make this show great again. Let’s hope that the writers, directors, cast, and crew are up to the task.

 

1 Maybe Burn Notice has changed its ways. I wouldn’t know; I stopped watching midway through the second season when I got frustrated with the convoluted, meaningless plot and the utter lack of character development.

2 That has been an unfortunate trend with Chuck this season. I have no idea why he does what he does or where he’s coming from anymore.

3 And his plan in that episode could have gone wrong in so many ways. He was lucky that Chuck was such an idiot.

4 So unethical, yet so hilarious.

5 I still don’t get what’s so great about this guy. Can someone please explain to me why he’s supposedly the best Chuck villain ever? Because it can’t be Timothy Dalton’s hammy performance.

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