Last night, Chuck was wrasslin' with Rassilon! Timothy Dalton's superb guest-starring turn managed to elevate an otherwise "meh" episode, at least until it took a startling turn in its final moments. Spoilers ahead!
It's no secret that this season of Chuck has felt a bit more blah than previous years — and I don't really think it's because Chuck and Sarah became a couple at last. They were a couple in the tail end of season three, and those were some great episodes. It's more that the constant need to show us the growing pains of Chuck and Sarah's relationship doesn't make for engrossing television — last night's episode wanted us to believe that this was their first big fight as a couple, but it felt like their hundredth fight to me, honestly.
The other big problem with the season, thus far, has been the utter lack of narrative zing in the "search for Chuck's mom" storyline — coupled with the lack of a strong antagonist like The Ring and/or Shaw.
So it's especially welcome that Timothy Dalton was there to liven up last night's episode. Honestly, he's never been so much fun to watch as he was as Tuttle, an MI6 agent and Chuck's mom's handler. With the plastic fork attack and the bumbling envy of field agents like Chuck and the obsessive quoting of manuals on how to be tortured and the Alias fan-boying, he was one of the most endearing guest stars the show has featured in yonks... and then, of course, the whole thing turns out to be a fake persona, and Tuttle is actually the mysterious enemy, Volkoff, who seems to have a thing going on with Chuck's mom. Boom — the show suddenly has a lot more oomph.
That doesn't even include the fact that Chuck's mom apparently found the device that neutralizes his Intersect programming — although I'm sure there's more to it than meets the eye — and now Chuck is totally useless as a spy. And (hopefully at least) the whole "is Chuck's mom a bad guy" question has been laid to rest forever. Although, of course, Mary Bartowski does at least save her son's life one more time. Here's a clip the network released:
The other thing that elevated this episode above being yet another "Chuck and Sarah are having a relationship issue that absolutely everybody has to talk about" episode, besides Dalton's great guest spot, was the whole sequence where Mary Bartowski finally reunites with her daughter, Ellie. Is this the first time Chuck has ever passed the Bechdel Test? Possibly not — Sarah has probably talked to General Beckman or Ellie about non-Chuck-related stuff before. But this felt like a rare, welcome moment of two peripheral characters actually feeling like real people, whose lives don't only revolve around Chuck, and Linda Hamilton seemed to be doing some acting, for the first time on this show. You could actually believe these people were mother and daughter, and they have a real, if damaged, relationship. (I also liked Chuck's mom recognizing Morgan and him reminiscing about her Rice Krispies squares.)
So let's hope that the big cliffhanger at the end of this episode actually leads to some more interesting stories — like, maybe Chuck won't get back the Intersect 2.0, but instead he has to activate some other version. (Maybe having to do with the glowy lights in the old 1968 Mustang that Ellie and Awesome found?) And let's hope that Timothy Dalton continues to liven up this old show with his twinkly-eyed menace. Most of all, let's hope that the cathartic scene where Sarah and Chuck beat up bad guys while working out their "first fight" actually does lead to a pause in their endless relationship issues. We can always hope, anyway.
What did you think?