Romantic Comedy Done Right

I’ve been an avid Chuck fan for the entire time the series was on the air. When I first heard the concept — nerdy guy becomes living database of national security secrets who has to be protected by a beautiful spy — I thought it was nuts.

But there was something sweet and touching about it, buried within the silliness. Not to mention frequent moments of fabulous pop culture comedy. So I was hooked.

As the show’s creator himself acknowledged, the story was originally supposed to be a riff on geekiness. But it quickly grew into a new take on a classic love story, first unrequited, then denied, finally acknowledged…and then destroyed. But with the possibility of rebirth. Along the way it got into some deep issues, like the role of memory and experience in shaping lives, and the consequences of altering those experiences after the fact (the “intersect” technology which turns people into living databases can also, deliberately or accidentally, corrupt, overwrite or erase memory).

This all came together in the last few episodes. After finally achieving the life together they had struggled to create, Sarah ends up losing her memory of the five years spent with Chuck. I know of few more painful scenes, particularly in a comedy, than the one in the penultimate episode where Sarah tells her husband “I believe now all of what you’ve been telling me about how we fell in love and what we meant to each other. But I just don’t feel it.”

In fact, it was so wrenching I put off watching the finale for months. I couldn’t bear thinking about how it all might end. Particularly when, despite working hard not to read about it online, it was clear the ending was not a classic Hollywood “everything worked out fine”.

I finally decided that getting that warped by a TV show was dumb, so I recently watched the finale (spoiler alert: I’m about to reveal what happens).

In the end, we don’t know if Chuck and Sarah made it back to what they had built. But there is reason to hope. Chuck is given one last chance to restore Sarah’s memory using the intersect technology. But he chooses to abandon it, because the blood price — the deaths of hundreds of innocents, as well as his friends — is too high. Which sense of decency and justice is what caused a cold-hearted killer to fall in love with him in the first place.

And the very last scene, where a┬ádevastated┬áChuck puts it all on the line and tells Sarah that he wants nothing from her, but will always be there for her, whenever and wherever she may need him, was one of the most moving bits of television I’ve ever seen.

The hope? It develops out of that moment of tragedy and release. Sarah asks Chuck to tell her their story. Which he does, bringing laughter and tears to both of them as the audience watches flashbacks from throughout the show’s run. And, when he’s done and they’re sitting their wondering what happens next he tells her about his buddy Morgan’s crazy ass idea that one kiss might bring back all her memories (there are hints throughout the finale that she hasn’t lost everything, or that maybe some or all of it is suppressed rather than erased). Being a fundamentally rational nerd he tees up the idea and then starts to dismiss it…only to be interrupted by Sarah saying three short words: “Chuck; kiss me.”

And as the camera pans back and the image fades to black the room got very dusty.

Definitely worth watching if you at all enjoy romantic comedy done right.

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