The first season of Chuck was like a male fantasy come true. A computer geek manages to become the most important person in the world with both the NSA and CIA’s intelligence files uploaded into his head. Oh, and his CIA handler is an angelic hottie who can kick almost anyone’s ass and appears to genuinely like Chuck. I’d say that a certain Nerd Herder’s life is looking up. The problem is that the intersect is keeping him from the girl of his dreams.
Despite a truncated season due to the writer’s strike, Chuck managed to get the go ahead for a second season. With months of extra time to craft the storyline for season two and a 22 episodes order, the writers found a way to come up with a season that managed to upgrade nearly every aspect of the show and let supporting characters have a chance to steal some of the spotlight that season one just didn’t have time for.
Season two begins where season one left off. Bryce Larkin, long thought dead since the pilot is revealed to be alive and well. The problem however is that with Bryce back, the blossoming relationship between Chuck and Sarah comes to a screeching halt. Bryce and Sarah were together prior to his supposed death and his return brings up complicated feelings.
Other threads running through the season include Chuck’s attempts to get the intersect out of his head, the return of his missing father, enemy organization Fulcrum’s attempts to build a new Intersect, and the goings on at the Buy More where Chuck works to maintain his cover.
Where season one was mostly just stand-alone mission episodes, season two takes great pains to expand it’s horizon. There are certainly enough of the stand-alone episodes, but mixed in are episodes that deal directly with both the overall mythology of the series, and the plot threads that run throughout the season.
Along with more complex story arcs, and better missions, the writers really begin to add layers and real depth to the characters. Each character is given his own chance to really shine, and supporting characters like Lester(Vik Sahay), Jeff(Scott Krinsky), Ellie(Sarah Lancaster), and Devon”Captain Awesome” are given much more screen time. They make it count too. There are even times when the surreal happenings of the Buy More are more interesting than the mission storylines.
Season two also began to blur the lines between Chuck’s spy life and his real life when Devon learns of his secret. Watching Devon nervously try to keep the secret from Ellie is hilarious. Chuck also finds lying to Ellie and the ones he loves about his absences to be extremely difficult.
As in the first season, the relationship between Chuck and Sarah is the main thread that runs through the season and indeed the entire series. It’s a relief to see that the chemistry between Zachary Levi and Yvonne Strahovsky is just as potent as ever and they use it to good effect. There may be a few too many long glances at times, but these two tortured lovers who long for one another is pulled off to great effect. Actually it’s quite amazing how well the writers have managed to put complicated and believable obstacles in the paths of these two. It can’t go on forever of course, but for now it’s done well.
There is a veritable laundry list of excellent guest stars in season two including Gary Cole as Sarah’s long lost father, Dominic Monaghan as a crazy rock star, John Larroquette as a washed up womanizing spy, Jordana Brewster as Chuck’s former college girlfriend Jill, Chevy Chase as an evil head of a corporation(and his best performance in years) and a surprisingly good Nicole Ritchie as a member of Fulcrum.
As usual, Josh Schwartz fills Chuck with a non-stop plethora of pop-culture references including Missle Comman, Rush’s “Tom Sawyer”, Transformers: The Movie, and many many more.
Season two also has some twists and turns that some other island-based, smoke monster filled shows would wish they had. These game-changing episodes really push Chuck further along as a show. While it may have started with a gimmick, the writers knew they had to really up the ante and craft a season that would service the show in the right ways and it did just that.
There may not be a more “fun” show on tv right now than Chuck. It’s a show that embraces it’s own surreal and often unbelievable premise. Despite this premise, the show focuses on the most important aspect; the characters.
Chuck may not be for everyone, but those who fall in love with it, will probably be faithful right to the very end.