The month of May brings many a season finale to our airwaves; over the last week or so, I have been recapping the finales a few of our favorite shows here at Collider, and using that as a jumping off point to discuss the direction of the season and the show as a whole. This Monday night, we got the 2-hour finale of NBC’s Chuck, as well as the season sendoffs for the CBS comedies How I Met Your Mother and The Big Bang Theory.
Hit the jump for a spoiler-filled dissection of the finale and overall season arc of each show.
Chuck, “Chuck Versus the Subway” and “Chuck Versus the Ring Part II”
It will be difficult for Chuck to ever reach the heights it did in the last stretch of episodes of episodes of season two, but the creative team assembled some darn good efforts this season. Though I liked what Kristin Kreuk and Brandon Routh brought to the series more than most fans, their role as obstacle to the Chuck/Sarah romance was perhaps a hindrance to the quality of the first half of the season. And so the (apparently faked) death of Shaw which brought Chuck and Sarah together in “Chuck Versus the Good Guy”, instead of impeding on dramatic tension, made the show instantly better.
Specifically, the first episode with Chuck and Sarah as a couple, “Chuck Versus the Honeymooners”, was terrific. Zachary Levi and Yvonne Strahovski recalled William Powell and Myrna Loy with their Thin Man style banter, and proved that the series could continue to entertain as the story of a functional spy couple rather than a tale of star-crossed spy lovers.
The show has introduced a couple of promising storylines in recent episodes. That the intersect could muddle up the brain of its owner makes perfect sense, and opens up a lot of narrative opportunities if Schwartz and Co. are willing to take it to that level. In her brief screentime, Mekenna Melvin made a good impression as Casey’s daughter, and should make for a solid recurring character as a potential love interest for Morgan. Likewise, I think the idea of Shaw as an evil intersect will work well in providing an “other side of the coin” arch-rival for Chuck (à la the Evil Leaper on Quantum Leap). After all, the imprisonment of Shaw in the Chuck universe is about as definitive as taking The Joker to Arkham Asylum.
Speaking of Quantum Leap, I really will miss Scott Bakula on the show (save for a flashback here and there, I suppose). He brought a lot to the character of Father Bartowski, be it physical tics or emotional gravitas, and it will make me happy to see him back on TV when Men of a Certain Age returns for season two. His death scene was heartbreaking, especially with the sight of an already overwhelmed Ellie start to tear up.
Now that Morgan, Captain Awesome, and Ellie have discovered Chuck’s secret, is there anyone of consequence left who remains in the dark? I don’t think Jeffster or Big Mike count. More to the point, does it even matter? How much does Chuck lose if that foundational component of the show is absent? Oh, and with regard to the explosion of the Buy More, that’s an expensive set to stop using for a show that’s light on budget. Do you think that the Buy More (or at least a similar electronics store suited to the antics of Jeffster) will be rebuilt for next season?
I’m not sure what the revelation that an early version of the intersect was planted in Chuck at a very young age means for the show, but I don’t have any immediate issues with it, even if it requires some retcon work to coincide with other events depicted in the show (for instance, the Stanford flashbacks). And if the introduction of Chuck’s mom is handled half as well as that of his dad, I’m on board. Per Scott Bakula’s closing voiceover, Chuck’s story is “only just beginning.” I have no idea what’s in store for season four, but I headed into season three knowing similarly little about how Intersect 2.0 would play out. It appears that co-creators Josh Scwhartz and Chris Fedak have set up some pretty fertile groundwork for next season, and I can hardly wait.
Even if Big Mike has to literally recite the company’s slogan, I choose to smile at the blatant Subway product placement for what it represents to the show financially. We were lucky to get a season three (nineteen episodes, even!), and we’re lucky to get a season four. It’s not all that unlikely that next season will be the last, and while there’s a part of me that wish the fun would continue forever and ever, I’ll count my blessings that we’ll have at least 67 episodes of Chuck to look back on. With the finales of this season and last, Schwartz and Fedak have proven they give good sendoff. Imagine what they’ll do to mark the end of the series.
How I Met Your Mother, “Dopplegangers”
Even if I wish that co-creators Carter Bays and Craig Thomas had pursued the Barney/Robin relationship for more than a handful of episodes, I have mostly enjoyed this season of How I Met Your Mother. We got a worthwhile entry in the ongoing slap bet gag on Thanksgiving, a pretty fantastic musical ode to suitssdfsdf from NPH, and the introduction of the duck-rabbit theory. But the last two episodes have been more annoying the funny. Even though “Robots Versus Wrestlers” had . . . um, robots versus wrestlers, the A-story completely gave in to the most obnoxious elements of Ted’s character, which makes for a less-than-agreeable viewing experience. Likewise, the baggage sight gag in “The Wedding Bride” was cute, but the titular fake film was depicted way broader than it needed to be, and in no way justified the yearlong tease planted at the end of season four.
So I headed into the finale hopeful that I would not fare the summer heat with a bad taste left in my mouth. In that sense, the episode delivered. I think the ongoing dopplegangers gag is vintage HIMYM, and I like its incorporation into the emotionally legitimate storyline of Lily’s inevitable pregnancy. (Ted’s “We all become our own dopplegangers speech? Not so much.)
I think the promise of Blonde Ted worked out as well as I would have hoped when the gang subliminally decided to implore Ted to bleach, in part because Josh Radnor actually pulled it off. Plus, it provided some of the best nicknames since “Swarley”:
- Billy Idol
- The Real Slim Shady
- Brigitte Nielsen from Rocky IV
- Dolph Lundgren from Rocky IV
- Ellen DeGeneres
Not only that, but the blonde mop kept Robin (and the writers) from making the mistake of kissing Ted. That dye job really carried its weight in this episode: I kind of hope Ted is blonde for at least the premiere of season six.
I was dreading that next season might the “Robin lured out of New York by a job offer” storyline, but instead the show zagged and used it to set up Robin and Don’s breakup. I thought Benjamin Koldyke was a good addition to the cast, but his storylines with Cobie Smolders were too removed from the rest of the group to be the highlight of any given episode.
So, the tease of unwise returns storylines from past seasons (Ted and Robin back together, Robin anchors the news elsewhere), they turned out to be just the kind of head fakes I should expect from HIMYM by now. Others may find that bait-and-switch annoying, but I had fun with it. Likewise, as this episode gave us Blonde Ted and a Lily ready to be impregnated, I had no need to fear a creative lapse. The prior two episodes were just an anomaly, and all indications suggest that season six will be splendid.
The Big Bang Theory, “The Lunar Excitation”
Unlike How I Met Your Mother, The Big Bang Theory was headed into the finale on a stretch of good episodes. “The Plimpton Stimulation” made good use of Judy Greer, which I would say is impossible to do until How I Met Your Mother wasted her just a couple weeks ago. And “The Staircase Implementation” was interesting if only by virtue of its flashback nature, even if the reality of the state of Sheldon’s antisocial qualities before Leonard domesticated him verged on depressing.
The finale was mostly pretty funny, and they even got some comedic mileage out of the tedious Leonard/Penny break-up (“Yee haw” earns its shameful chuckle). On the other hand, I think I’m supposed to like the idea of a female Sheldon inherently funny, and so find its execution uproarious. But I don’t necessarily buy the premise, so I was relatively unmoved the unveiling of Amy Farrah Fowler, the fairer sex’s answer to our beloved and vaguely autistic theoretical phyisicist. Mayim Bialik (Blossom!) sold the role just fine, so I suppose I’ll let the relationship play out — the brevity of her appearance did indicate that the show would revisit her character in the fall.
Note, though, that Jim Parson’s greatest comic foil on the show right now is Kaley Cuoco, a pairing that works based on their disparity. The uniqueness of Sheldon is one of his greatest qualities: maybe season three is a bit too early to dip into the well of bizarro versions of our beloved characters*.
After all, The Big Bang Theory has at the very least another five or six seasons ahead of it to explore that territory. It’s the top-rated sitcom on the air, and it’s mostly deserving of the title. Even if the character of Howard merits more eye rolls than giggles, the show as a whole is consistently good for plenty of belly laughs, and Sheldon Cooper will likely go down as one of the greatest sitcom characters of all time. Next fall, The Big Bang Theory moves to Thursdays; I, as well as most of Americans aged 18-49, will be watching as it crushes NBC’s Community in the timeslot (darn).
*When is the right time? I don’t know, but Seinfeld aired “The Bizarro Jerry” in season eight, while How I Met Your Mother waited until the fifth season to introduce the dopplegangers. Not exactly the same thing, I know, but comedically similar.