Chuck 4.1 Review (spoilers)

"Why would she?"

I have become convinced that creators of shows should either a) write all the episodes (ala Aaron Sorkin) or b) not write any episodes.  The initial basis for this opinion came from Battlestar Galactica, a show with a staff full of great writers, many of whom, I have to imagine, had to have found fault with creator Ron Moore's script for the series finale.  Working under that assumption, then, it's an easy trip to figure that none of said great writers said anything to Moore about the awfulness of what he'd written or, if they did, they were shot down, as Moore was one of their bosses, after all.

I like to think that the writing room on a TV show is less dictatorial than that, so I choose to think that the great writers on the staff simply choose not to say anything at all, for fear of insulting the guy who pays them.

This leads me to last night's season premier of Chuck, written by co-creator Chris Fedak and featuring the second most painful contrivance in Chuck history.

On two separate occasions in last night's episode, Chuck states that he isn't telling Sarah about his quest for his mother because she would try to stop him.

This would be the same Sarah that spent much of three years being a spy with him, and at least six weeks of last season embracing his role as a spy.  This is the same Sarah that involves him in dangerous activities for things that mean much less to Chuck than his family.  This is the same Sarah who loves Chuck and is no longer afraid to say it.

So, in the writers' room, when that script was read and Chuck said (for the first of two times) that Sarah would try to stop him, the question someone (ANYONE) would have asked is: "Why would she?"

Because she wouldn't.  No, she would help him.  There wouldn't even be hesitation on her part.  In fact, the only way to prevent Sarah from jumping right in to help would be by, say, manufacturing a horrible excuse that was out of character for pretty much everyone.

Now, sure, you could chalk it up to Chuck being stupid when he made such an assumption about Sarah.  And while that's really flimsy in and of itself, it's also taken off the table when Sarah actually agrees with Chuck that she would have tried to stop him.

Again, "Why would she?"

Because it served the plot.  And I hate inorganic elements that are forced into a story for the sake of servicing plot.  It's always obvious and it's always jarring and it makes the show seem bad and, even worse, the writers either willfully ignorant or of the belief that their audience is stupid.

Deja Vu

Name the Chuck premiere: Chuck is out of the spy game, the team is broken up, and Chuck and Morgan no longer work at the Buy More.  But, by the end of the episode, Chuck is back in, the team is back together, and Chuck and Morgan are back to work at the Buy More.

Last night's episode?  No, that was the season three premiere.  And, as I said last season, it is a Josh Schwartz trope, something he began with The OC.  Each premiere becomes a throwaway episode because it establishes a status quo that it completely flips by the end of the episode, when it could have just started off that way.  And while this season's premiere didn't include the horror that was the train station scene played over and over again, it still felt like a wasted opportunity to do more.

For a show that is surely on its last 13 episodes, treading water for an episode really hurts.  Even worse, I can't imagine last night's frantic pace did much in the way of attracting new viewers, something even more painful considering how much press the show following Chuck got.

Not All Bad

I know it seems like I'm being harsh, but I really care about this show and I want it to be around for a long time.  I also tend to see the flaws in it because they stick out like a sore thumb.  They stick out like a sore thumb because they're surrounded by gold (how about that for mixing similes).  Even the worst episode of Chuck is still better than almost everything else on television.

What did I love?  I loved the scenes in Moscow.  Cliche as it might have been, everything from Chuck's "death" on was great.  Sarah's reaction was great.  Casey's reaction was great.  Chuck being a bad ass is always great.  Even better, was Casey's reaction when they knew Chuck was alive, the way he was almost bragging about Chuck's bad assery.  That was all great.

The second sexting scene.  By my count, there were four, which was probably one too many.  The initial introduction of the idea was funny, because Chuck and Morgan are almost always funny together.  The second time it comes up -- this time between Chuck and Sarah -- was comedy gold.  The third time, when Sarah decides to snap some pics, was probably more fanservice than anything else.  The last time, in Moscow, was a bit much, mostly because it went on for so long.  It was mildly amusing at first, but seemed forced as it went on.  Also, just how talented are Sarah's toes?  And what are the odds an iPhone gets reception in that place?

Chuck and Sarah were great.  While I loved the "will they/won't they" dymaic of the first two seasons (and loathed in in the third season), it was clear from the last six episodes of last season that they can really work as a couple.  Their relationship actually adds to the show without taking anything away.  It's a testament to the characters that the show hasn't lost anything with the end of that romantic tension, and a testament to the show that it doesn't need that to survive.

Linda Hamilton is going to be great as Chuck's, particularly since we really don't know which end of the spy spectrum she's going to fall on.  If nothing else, we know she's not afraid to kill people, but then again, neither is Sarah.  It sets up a nice dynamic, as Chuck's dad was a computer nerd who married a spy, and Chuck is a computer nerd who's dating one.  I can't imagine that Chuck's reunion with his mom is going to be nearly as happy as the one with his father was.

The new Buy More is fantastic, even without the Buy Morons, although I'm looking forward to seeing how they fit in.  Only good things can come from having more General Beckman on the show and her scenes with Chuck were great.  I'm looking forward to more of that.

The Best For Last

This will sound bad, but the best part of last night's premiere was the ending...or what came after the ending, rather.  The preview for this season was fantastic and hinted at what appeared to be some great stories.  I am thrilled that Chuck is going to tell Ellie what's going on.  I can understand why he didn't tell her in this episode, but I was going to be really annoyed if we returned to Chuck lying to his sister again.  And, as I mentioned, Chuck's mom doesn't seem to be so nice.

So, yeah, not great, but good enough for now, particularly since it looks like it's only going to get better.