Wow. The would-be finale of Chuck’s third season (the episode was originally intended as the season’s last) was a pitch-perfect blend of action, comedy, and romance. It was also the most satisfying hour the series has offered to date. Here’s our glowing report card for Monday night’s episode—you’ll want to put this one up on the fridge.
Spy Training: This is the Chuck we’ve been waiting for all season. After all the talk of Chuck the real spy vs. “the old Chuck” (to borrow Sarah’s overused phrase), our hero found the middle ground. He was able to find and rescue Sarah using his innate abilities—as Casey pointed out, he was smart long before he was a spy. And to save the woman he loves, Chuck did finally fire a real gun, but only as a last resort. This was an integral moment for the character, showing that he will not compromise his ideals but that he’s learned to act quickly in a life-or-death situation. Nice work, Agent Bartowski.
The Handlers: Sarah’s about-face felt a little abrupt to me, but honestly, I’m ready to forget the wishy-washy Agent Walker we saw for much of this season. She’s smart and capable, but she’s also willing to admit her feelings. How satisfying to hear her admit that she’s been in love with Chuck for a very long time. And Casey once again showed how far he’s come: He was able to calm Chuck down with insightful and well-chosen words. In the end, he even got Morgan a gig with the government. I almost feel like he’s ready to hug it out.
The Romance: Look, it was no surprise things would end up this way. Chuck’s cast and crew reminded us to be patient and assured us that things would work out in the end. I never doubted Chuck and Sarah would share a curtain-closing kiss, but I did underestimate how good it would feel. While I’m not saying I agree with how the relationship was handled up 'til now, I will admit that the consummation feels earned. And those scenes of a newly coupled Chuck and Sarah working together on a mission—complete with light smooching—gave me a good feeling about the upcoming episodes. They can be lovers and spies. Finally.
Morgan: In a move that sounds too good to be true, Morgan was officially welcomed by Team Bartowski. I’m hard-pressed to believe General Beckman would ever let him in on things, despite Casey’s “blackmailing,” but I’ll go with it—if only because this new development gives Joshua Gomez more to do. Besides, the previews indicate that Casey will be training Agent Grimes, which should provide great comedic moments.
The Buy More: I’m allowed one complaint, right? (Actually, if I had to pick one, it would be that Shaw’s Ring takedown was obviously fake. I can’t believe it took Morgan to see that. But I digress.) The Buy More isn’t entirely working for me. I like Big Mike. I like Jeff and Lester. Still, these scenes always feel extraneous. The episode could have worked without Morgan quitting then asking for his job back. That said, I’m amused by the idea that the store now employs three undercover government employees. How long until Big Mike gets drafted?
The Guest Stars: I was delighted to see Mark Sheppard pop up again as the leader of The Ring. I was so worried he’d get killed off—first by Shaw, then by Casey—but it looks like he may be sticking around for a while. Sheppard is adept at playing a villain while retaining his charm, a blend that works especially well on a show like Chuck. And then, of course, there’s Brandon Routh, who felt like more of a regular than a guest. It appears as though his stint is over at least, and so to him I must say good riddance. Shaw just didn’t appeal to me after his first couple episodes, in part because Routh was, well, flat. Sorry, Brandon. I liked your Superman!
Overall Grade: A
Follow TV.com writer Louis Peitzman on Twitter: @LouisAtTVDotCom