Last week, I said that if the show went to shit from there, I’d have no problem mentally considering that episode to be an acceptable series finale. After this week’s stinker, I might seriously have to adopt that position. Ranting, complaining, and cursing follow after the jump.

Like many other Chuck viewers, I’ve always wanted to find out more about Sarah’s family, specifically her mother. But only if it was going to be handled properly. Not if Cheryl Ladd was going to deliver a flat performance in about two minutes of screen time. Not if the dialogue was going to be constructed solely out of clichés. Not if it was going to happen in a humourless, emotionally manipulative, flashback-laden slog. Short of turning her into an evil flatulent cyborg, I don’t see how the introduction of Sarah’s mother could have been handled worse than this.

Look, Chuck has never been a subtle show. Indeed, that’s one of its strengths, as subtlety has a tendency to devolve into pointless ambiguity. That being said, the show rarely feels the need to treat its audience like a bunch of morons with a 24-hour memory span, so on the occasions that it does, like in this episode, it’s all the more egregious. Every second line in “Baby” was an anvil about how much Sarah had changed, how lonely she used to be, or how she didn’t have a normal childhood. And at every second line, I wanted to yell, “I’M NOT A FUCKING IDIOT, CHUCK.” I’ve watched four and a half seasons of this show. I’ve seen Sarah’s evolution. I don’t need it spelled out for me fifty gazillion times. And even then, the anvils didn’t make much sense. In fact, they stated the opposite of what was being depicted on screen. Almost immediately, Sarah showed compassion for the baby and tried to take care of her. How does that track with her supposed evolution from cold spy to loving, caring woman? From what I could see, that evolution occurred the second she strapped the damn kid to her chest with a makeshift Baby Björn.

The portion of the plot in the present day didn’t fare well either. I’m willing to overlook how nonsensical it was that Sarah never told Chuck about the baby or her mother until this episode, but what was the point of her keeping it a secret until midway through? I suppose it was to save the “big reveal” that the baby was with Sarah’s mom for the episode’s halfway mark, but I’m pretty sure everyone guessed what was going on from the phone call at the beginning of the installment. Unfortunately, this continued the trend of pointless secret-keeping between the show’s characters, and it made Sarah look a fucking idiot. Chuck and Casey didn’t come off much better; not checking Sarah for bugs was pretty damn dumb.

The subplot this week also got on my nerves. Like the rest of the episode, it was steeped in cliché and predictability, like the groan-worthy scene with the dual Ellie/Morgan and Devon/Alex conversations, but it annoyed me in other ways too. Morgan came off as more irritating than at any point during his “douche” arc, and the Woodcombs’ spy fetish still made no sense. For heaven’s sake, DEVON DOESN’T WANT TO HAVE ANYTHING TO DO WITH THE SPY WORLD. Are we clear, Chuck writers? Good. Then let’s move on to other disappointments in this episode.

The reunion of Sarah and her mother was a huge letdown, fizzling into nothing but a vacuous indie rock montage. At the end of this episode, I barely knew anything more about Sarah’s relationship with her mother than when “Baby” began. Compared to how much better-drawn every other parent-child relationship on this show is, this one just felt-tossed off, turned into a warm, fuzzy mother-daughter bond for no other reason than to fit it into the episode’s running time. Furthermore, Cheryl Ladd phoned it in with a dull, lifeless performance that made Scott Holroyd (the guy who played Justin in season 3) seem like a master thespian by comparison.

The worst part about this episode is that it wasn’t built on a set of terrible ideas; it was just awfully executed. Take away the anvilicious dialogue and the unnecessary secret-keeping, and “Baby” becomes at worst a slightly subpar episode of Chuck. I really liked the idea of Sarah having to confront a corrupt handler – especially one played by the phenomenal Tim DeKay. I really was interested in seeing Sarah confront her past demons. I really did want to meet Sarah’s mom. But not like this. And with DeKay’s character dead by Sarah’s hand, I have no clue where the show goes from here, but I know they killed off the potential for a great recurring villain.

At least “Baby” got some of the little moments right. Zachary Levi was fantastic in the scene where he told Sarah that she was “wrong,” and the part of the final scene where Sarah and Chuck decided not to accept the CIA job felt more honest and real than anything that had happened in the episode up until that point. (Of course, they then had to go and ruin it with that cloying bit about Chuck and Sarah carving their names into the door frame, which made me want to yell, “YOU’RE DEFACING PROPERTY THAT YOU DON’T OWN, YOU DUMB FUCKHEADS.”)

Consider this: a secret plan concocted by a madman to implant a virus in another man’s brain and then use another virus to escape from jail and construct a supercomputer that he would then upload into his own brain made more sense, character-wise, and had more emotional potency than anything that happened this week. That’s about as strong a condemnation as I can write about this episode, short of saying that I consider “Santa Suit” to be the real series finale. If the show puts out a couple more duds like this, though, then I may have to invoke that stronger condemnation.

Advertisements