Chuck creator and star: This episode changes everything
BY FRED TOPEL
MILD SPOILER ALERT
Last week’s Chuck ended with a major reveal for both viewers and the character of Agent Shaw (Brandon Routh). Sarah (Yvonne Strahovski) was the agent who killed Shaw’s wife, on her very final test for becoming a spy. Shaw drove Sarah off on a “mission” that seems rather sketchy, so we’re worried about her safety. Series co-creator Chris Fedak only stokes the fires of our concern.
“Let me put it this way,” Fedak said in an interview at Wondercon in San Francisco. “Sarah will be alive at the beginning of the episode, but there’s a good chance she might not be alive at the end. Really, this episode is an amazing – I’m going to use this term we overuse on the show – game changing episode of Chuck. Everything is on the table. It is huge. Momentous things are about to happen on the show.”
Wow, is he really going to consider offing a leading character? Even if she did assassinate her current lover’s wife, there’s probably a perfectly good explanation for it. “I think what we find in the world of spies is there’s not always a perfectly good tied up in a little bow reason for everything,” Fedak continued. “The most important thing is she found herself in that position so many years ago not knowing what she was about to do and it happened. There are not always answers for everything, but they will be discussed.”
Maybe some of the fans want Sarah to just die already. They’ve been watching her “will they/won’t they” romance with Chuck (Zachary Levi) drag on for three years. Levi assures us that it will pay off this year.
“Everyone should know that in the broad strokes of how everything comes together and the things that I think make up the show and that people love about the show, the writers do too,” Levi said. “I don’t think that they want to do anything that the masses wouldn’t want them to do. They’re trying to make it as compelling as possible along the way. If Chuck and Sarah just got together at the beginning of the third season, I think you’d have nowhere to go. One could make the argument, it’s strung out for two seasons, isn’t that the time to do it? You’ve got to build to these places but the end result is one that I think is going to be fulfilling for everybody, but you’ve got to stay for it. You’ve got to stay for the journey. Patience is a virtue. There are things I’ve been waiting for for six years on Lost but I still go. I still come back because how can you not with Locke? He can walk, he can’t walk. He’s dead, he’s not dead.”
Chuck and Sarah became the focal point of this season because Fedak and co-creator Josh Schwartz thought it could be their last chance to resolve it. NBC ordered 13 episodes, largely at the prompting of loyal Chuck fans. Then they added six more episodes, so if you’re tired of Chuck and Sarah, there’s a whole new story coming next week.
“For us the season when we were looking at it very much could be the last season of the show,” Fedak said. “We only had 13 episodes and at the heart of the show was the Chuck/Sarah relationship. So we designed the season for 13 episodes that deal with that relationship and to take it to a resolution. The next six are going to be different. It’s less focused on the Sarah/Chuck relationship. It’s more about the spy side of the show, the family side of the show and with Scott Bakula’s return, the Chuck/dad relationship, the Bartowski family relationship. So there’s a lot of things going on, but for us, we were designing this whole thing but once you’re in the middle of it, I can see how there’s a lot of anxiety. We’re going to a very emotional place.”
Bakula was a guest star last year as Chuck’s father, Steve Bartowski. Steve doesn’t want to see his son go into a life of spying. His reappearance will again upset the balance of Chuck.
“When Steven J. Bartowski comes back into the show it’s a huge thing for the show and things are never the same when he leaves,” Fedak said. “So there will be epic emotional changes to the show.”
If you didn’t like the last 13 episodes of Chuck, maybe you’ll like the next six. And if you did like them, you’ll still like the next six. “We got to do a lot of cool stuff in the last six episodes,” Levi said. “I think that some of the fans are frustrated with how some of the relationship stuff went down between Chuck and Sarah, Chuck and Hannah, Sarah and Shaw. I understand especially with a show like ours, where the fans are and should feel so connected to it because they were such a part of saving us and us being back. I could understand why they’d be like, ‘Hey, we fought. Don’t toy with us.’ I would just say we’re not. We’re not toying with you. We’re just trying to make the best decisions we can with the orders as they came down and just stay with us. It’s okay. It’s all going to work out in a way that everybody’s going to be super stoked.”
You also get two major finales this year. Monday night’s episode would have been the season finale of the original 13 episode order. That’s a doozy, and now there’s an even bigger one coming up.
“We’ve only just completed the first hour of it and it’s emotionally, action-wise, everything is on the table,” Fedak said. “We have set high standards for our season finales. I think if you watch episode 13, you’ll even see that here in this episode which was designed as a season finale that we leave nothing on the table. We will mess with our show. We will change things. We will explode the idea of the show. Nobody is safe and nothing is off the table. Nothing is off limits. Going into episode 19 we kind of knew that. We had one season finale we were really happy about, congratulations, high five and then NBC’s like six more episodes. Now we have to go what are we going to do? Do we tell more story? So we told more story and we had to come up with an even bigger, crazier season finale. We’ve kind of done that. We’re in the midst of editing it now so it’s crazy.”
The end of episode 19 still leave the door open for more adventures of Chuck. If NBC gives Fedak and co. more time on their fall schedule, they have stories to tell. Even if they don’t, Fedak would rather end with possibility than finality.
“My feeling in regard to even if we come back or don’t come back, I like instead of epilogues, I like prologues,” Fedak said. “So there’s a prologue component to our season finale this year, episode 19. I always get excited by that. There’s definitely that part of the show. I don’t think I would ever simply turn off the lights and be like ‘What a great way to end the story.’ No, I want to know what’s going to happen next. I want to know what I’m supposed to get excited about. I want Commissioner Gordon on the roof talking about there’s another guy, The Joker, I need you to check into that, Batman. Wonderful. I’m so excited going forward. Claude Rains and Humphrey Bogart walking off into the mist, what are they doing? That’s fun for me.”
If they get the word that there’s no more Chuck after this year, maybe they can just add texts to the end of the finale telling us what happened to everyone, like in Animal House. “Just one sentence, everyone lived happily ever after?” Fedak pondered. “Morgan went into construction in Orlando, FL. Casey’s still somewhere in south Vietnam? First off, I wouldn’t consider that as my first choice of action. Last season there was a good chance we were not going to come back for season three and we still put To Be Continued at the end which is crazy a little bit. But for me, it was not my first inclination to do those little titles at the end. However, I love Animal House. I love any John Landis movie. I could see how it could be like a reference to that and maybe I would be kind of open to it.”
Chuck airs Monday nights on NBC.
Photo by NBC.