Chuck, “Chuck Versus The Muuurder”

Sometimes, Twitter is not your friend.

Last night during the first 15-20 minutes of my viewing of “Chuck Versus The Muuurder,” I tweeted something along the lines of “Chuck is getting kind of good again.” And at that point, I really meant it. Despite some of the middling reviews, I actually thought last week’s episode was wonderfully fun and in the early goings of this episode, I had similar feelings. Finding another Intersect wasn’t the most original idea of all-time, but at least it gave the series some direction. And in general, Chuck seems to work better when it’s dealing with Intersect-related things than when it’s not.

But by the time “Muuurder” finished, I realized that I should have never sent that tweet and I probably shouldn’t have been that excited about last week’s episode either. While both “A-Team” and “Muuurder” work as individual episodes with some high-mark moments, the way that they quickly introduce new ideas and subsequently discard them is staggeringly stupid. Because of that, this little makeshift two-parter becomes just as frivolous as the two episodes earlier in the season where Chuck couldn’t access the Intersect and then quickly had it again. For whatever reason, Fedak, Schwartz and company have no desire to let any of their interesting narrative developments breathe, even just a bit and it’s so frustrating for me as a viewer.

The developments in “A-Team,” with Chuck and Sarah being sidelined a bit for stronger, more calculating agents couldn’t have stretched across multiple episodes itself. It would have given Casey more things to do, deepened this character poorly played by Robin Givens and forced Chuck and Sarah to examine their place a bit more, especially in relationship to their personal lives. I’m not one for a lot of Chuck-Sarah melodrama, but forcing them to deal with some of the consequences of being in love while working — i.e. Sarah’s less calculating and perhaps less successful in her work — could have been interesting for at least two episodes.

And I feel just the same about the narrative introduced here. Chuck being put in charge of the search for a new Intersect is a plot that lends itself to multiple episodes of exploration. Instead, it’s given a quick hook by the time this episode ends with Chuck really not having to deal with much real stress of being in charge. Sure, there’s a murder mystery unraveling and all his picks for the new Intersect are being killed one by one, but there is never any sense in this episode that anything bad is really going to happen.

Chuck is a series that works so much better when its lead characters aren’t in such control of the circumstances around them and even though the last two episodes of presented opportunities for the characters to reach that place, the episodes haven’t fully gone there. Instead, this episode, while fun, ends up being an excuse for the writers to pen a murder mystery-style effort and apparently try to deepen the character being played by Givens. And that’s it. The hunt for the new Intersect is already over, Chuck isn’t really in charge anymore and now apparently Volkov’s daughter is coming for Chuck. So just like those two Intersect-less episodes in the first half of the season, what could have honestly been a whole mini-arc of 3-5 episodes gets quickly introduced and discarded so that the season can get back to Volkov-ian things that I don’t really care about. This is just so unfortunate.

Again, I still enjoyed these last two episodes on the most basic of levels. Both “A-Team” and “Muuurder” had a number of enjoyable moments in them and if they were produced and viewed in a vacuum, they’d probably be two of my favorites this season. But I just don’t understand why the advancements here weren’t handled better or extended for more examination. I know folks have been arguing that the series has lost the ability to properly raise the stakes this season, but episodes like this are the most frustrating because they actually suggest that the producers do know how to do those kind of things, but are unwilling to push themselves much further. Thus, Chuck is not getting kind of good again. I was wrong. Stupid Twitter.

Other thoughts:

  • The plot with Ellie and the computer has gotten progressively better and more interesting, but the ending here has me troubled. I think we’ve all been dreading the moment the series hints at giving Ellie an Intersect, and never has it hinted at such things so strongly as it did here. I really liked how the last few episodes have made Ellie’s search both personal and emotional without overdoing it, but I’m a bit terrified of where it goes from here.
  • As a murder mystery, this episode worked fairly well. I thought I knew who the killer was, but the episode tricked me for about two minutes until I realized I was right to begin with. That’s good enough for me, I guess.
  • The Buy More-Large Mart plot was fun as well. We haven’t had a Large Mart story in years and the more Big Mike, the better. Plus, I’m a sucker for tiny pigs. What do you want from me?
  • Seriously, Robin Givens is not good in this role. I have nothing against her nor did I really have an opinion on her to begin with, but yikes. Do not want.
  • The ratings are taking their usual spring tumble. I’m growing ever weary that NBC is going to cancel the series, or at best, wrangle a great 13-episode pickup with WB so that the series can reach syndication.
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One thought on “Chuck, “Chuck Versus The Muuurder”

  1. “…what could have honestly been a whole mini-arc of 3-5 episodes gets quickly introduced and discarded so that the season can get back to Volkov-ian things that I don’t really care about.” Yes.

    As for Givens’ poor performance, I could say the same about any number of guest stars dropped into the show. If it was just one of them I’d blame the actors, but the fact is that this show wanders like an un-parented teen, and the guest stars reflect that, turning in one undirected scene after another. I guess the idea is that a show-runner does what a show-runner does, while a series of mercenaries are brought in to direct it. But abandoning the actors like this just isn’t fair.

    Finally the writing (oy, the writing). With the exception of last week’s ep by the returning Phil Klemmer, and the earlier one where Sarah went all Lara Croft to rescue her Chuck, this season has been an undiluted swamp of meh. And for this I blame NBC: the lack of job security has made this an unattractive job posting to any writer who can find more reliable work anywhere else. So stories seem promising, broken by Schwartz & Fedak themselves, no doubt. But then the execution is so lousy…I honestly believe that any number of podcast-making, fanfic-writing fans could have done better.

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