The spy game just got a lot more crowded. Monday’s episode of Chuck, "Chuck vs. Operation Awesome," brought a new player into the mix—Brandon Routh’s mysterious Agent Shaw—while amping up the role of Chuck’s brother-in-law Captain Awesome. We even got a new (and apparently one-shot) villain, Ring bad-ass Sydney, played by Law & Order’s Angie Harmon. And we’re starting to see our man Chuck ball up.
The dynamic between Chuck, Sarah, and Casey was set up in the first episode of the series: Sarah and Casey are Chuck’s handlers. They protect him from outside threats while helping him use his special skills effectively. But we were thrown a curve ball when Chuck downloaded the Intersect 2.0, which gave him impressive fighting abilities in addition to his encyclopedic knowledge of the spy world. So then the question became: Will his emotions be his constant foil? Are they his ultimate weakness?
Monday’s episode made the case that maybe they’re his strength. Having his bro-in-law in trouble with the Ring brought out Chuck’s strong sense of loyalty and protectiveness for his friends and family. And the mysterious Shaw, cool, calculating, even ruthless, was the perfect contrast. Shaw, who got one of the coolest introductions ever, immediately dominated our happy little trio. As a formidable expert on the Ring, he seemed to know more than Chuck, Sarah, and Casey combined. And he showed a personality not only vastly different from Chuck’s, but from Casey’s and Sarah’s too. I liked that we were ladled out tasty hints about his background without learning too much (what was up with that ring he put on at the end?!). And I liked—OK, loved—that Shaw was played by the undeniably hunky Routh, who never got his proper due for a surprisingly good portrayal of Superman.
When Awesome was forced into performing a mission for the Ring, Chuck stepped it up, getting his enjoyably spazzing brother-in-law through it. Maybe Devon’s not cut out for full-time spying after all? Shaw’s “death” and return to life was also fun, especially with the violent needle-to-the-heart nod to Pulp Fiction.
And then later Chuck basically went rogue, luring Sydney and her goons to the Buy More... where, OK, he had no real plan and spent a good deal of time hiding. And then he couldn’t pull the trigger when he got the drop on Sydney.
But it’s a start, right?
With all due apologies to Chuck/Sarah worshippers, I’m kind of hoping Shaw swoops in and picks up Agent Walker. It would be nice to see Chuck get his mind off Sarah. For a few episodes, at least.
Shaw and Walker off to the submarine races. What do you think?
Follow TV.com writer Louis Peitzman on Twitter: @LouisAtTVDotCom