Chuck 3.1. and 3.2 Review (spoilers!)

Warning: here there be spoilers! While I'm not going to go into a great deal of detail about the first two episodes in question, I am going to address the general changes to the show, as well as make some wild speculation as to the direction it will go in over the next few months, much of which comes from things learned in the first two episodes of the season. So if you didn't tune in last night, you might want to hold off on reading this.

Also, you should know that my speculation has no concrete evidence, but feels pretty freaking dead on to me, and I'll be happy if I'm right, not just because I get to be right, but because I think it will make for a great storyline.

You have been warned!

Some additional space, as I don't know how far this will format on Facebook...

And some more...

And we're there.

On the surface, the third season premiere of Chuck was about as Josh Schwartzian as you can get. As anyone who has followed his other shows knows, Schwartz has made a habit of upending the status quo at the end of a season, only to re-establish the status quo after only a single episode of the following season. And that seems to be what he's done with Chuck, not that I'm complaining, mind you, as I rather enjoy the status quo on this show.

But he didn't exactly do that.

The Bad

First, my main complaint for the start of the season can be summed up by one word: "Prague."

I realize that they wanted to punch up the drama of Chuck and Sarah's relationship given it had reached a boiling point at the end of last season, but the "Prague incident" just felt forced. Chuck's new abilities were going to cause problems between them -- huge problems, really -- so it seemed unnecessary to add this single, dramatic moment where Chuck had to choose between being a spy and running away with Sarah. It was also a bit nonsensical, as running away with Sarah required going into hiding and changing his identity, something Chuck wouldn't have done given how close he is with his sister. It was a weak, needless, artificial moment of drama that was reference possibly more than the Intersect over the course of the first two hours.

The Bad That Is Actually Good Upon Further Analysis

Aside from "Prague," and the Intersect, the point that was hammered home on a regular basis during Chuck's first two episodes was "feelings." According to what we were told, Chuck's feelings get in the way of the new Intersect in his head. The implication is that Chuck can't use the Intersect if he's being emotional.

I hated this idea and, in fact, thought the opposite idea would have been much better -- the idea that sometimes neurotic Chuck could ONLY use the Intersect if he gave into his emotions.

And then, of course, I realized that they were doing exactly that. Some food for thought:
  1. Chuck accidentally attacks the assassin in the first episode after flashing on kung fu, which is not his intent, and only happens as he's angrily trying to get back into the club
  2. General Beckman informs Sarah that her main assignment is to keep Chuck calm so that he can use the Intersect
  3. A preview clip for this season has Chuck yelling at a woman in the Buy More in her native tongue, learned from the Intersect
  4. Another clip has Chuck kung fu kicking Lester, something Chuck would never do on his own
  5. Another clip has Chuck getting angry with guest start Brandon Routh and apparently punching him
  6. Neither Casey nor Sarah were with Chuck during his training in Prague
  7. General Beckman pleads with a hidden figure named "Shaw," that the Chuck team needs to be told what they're dealing with
What does all this mean? It means that the Intersect has a mind of its own and that it's directly connected to Chuck's emotions. Sarah isn't so much there to keep him calm so the Intersect will work, as much as she's there to keep him calm so the Intersect doesn't work through his negative emotions.
This is a great way of reframing the original dynamic of Team Chuck. Sarah and Casey are even more handlers than they were before, and while both are still there to help him, Sarah's focus will now be on keeping him calm and focused, while Casey will help train him. On the flip side, Sarah is obviously going to have to delve into how she feels for him, while Casey will, as he was originally, be there to put a bullet in his brain if Chuck goes off -- because he IS dangerous.
This also gives some info on the "super" guest stars coming in the future. At some point, they're going to have to decide if Sarah's history with Chuck is helping or hurting her efforts to keep him at ease. One way of testing that is by introducing other agents into the mix, namely another male agent who makes a play for Sarah and another female agent who might have better luck keeping Chuck under control. What's nice about this is that, while we've seen these types of guest stars before, it will be different this time around.
Finally, I think this storyline is going to play itself in a dramatic way, one that will make the initial scene of the first episode all the more significant. Chuck's failure as an agent comes up right away by the simple fact that he's unwilling to shoot someone. The new Intersect will not have the same qualms. I would expect, late in the season, to see a moment where Chuck has to choose whether or not to shot someone, and perhaps lose that fight with the Intersect, then left to figure out whether he made the decision to fire or the computer in his head did.
As I mentioned before, I LOVE this storyline, and I'm looking forward to it (if it happens).
I will admit that I was a little disappointed they didn't make these ideas more prominent, as even a Chuck fan like myself had to piece the above together. I'm worried that anyone tuning in for the first time is going to be bored and see no real future story. But let's hope we get more on that tonight to hook people in.