Twitter informed me this morning that it’s the anniversary of Chuck's ending, and I apparently have more feelings about that than I, someone who can be described as a former fan at best, should.
I first started watching Chuck the summer before Season 4 began. No. Wait. That’s a lie. I first watched Chuck when it premiered. Madison from Everwood was in a new show, and I’ve always been a loyal-to-my-ladies kind of girl (and there were rumblings of a Veronica Mars appearance in a montage of clips. Someone must have known she’d one day make entertainment history because they put her in the original Intersect,) so I watched the pilot. I liked it fine, but something I was already invested in was on at the same time, and Chuck premiered in the Dark Days, the days before the TV Gods bestowed a DVR upon my house and I had to live within the confines of only watching one show per time slot, so Chuck fell to the wayside.
I returned to it a few years later, upon the urging of friends and the desire to see what exactly was so great about this Yvonne Strahovski person who beat my then-beloved Dr. Temperance Brennan in E! Online’s “Woman on Top” poll (my fury over this perceived calamity is now hilariously ironic considering I’m not sure you’d even be able to pay me to watch Bones, but I gleefully spent several hundred dollars to see Ms. Strahovski on Broadway a year ago.) I was about 3 discs in to Chuck on Neflix when I distinctly remember telling myself that I didn’t have to continue. I didn’t have to get Season 2. If I wasn’t into it, I wasn’t into it, and so far, it just wasn’t doing it for me.
Chuck, the character, scared me. Chuck still scares me. When I found this show, I was about to graduate from college with no job prospects on the horizon other than continuing at the rather dead-end, part-time retail job I had worked through school. Chuck was pushing 30 with no real career and a seeming inability to fully support himself. I can’t even count the number of tearful conversations with my mother that included the declaration of, “I just don’t want to be Chuck!” On the surface, he was everything I was, and still am, terrified of being a couple years down the road in my own life.
But I’ve always been drawn to strong leading ladies, so it came as no surprise that I liked Sarah. I really liked Sarah, so I decided maybe that was enough to continue. By the time she assassinated the federal agent at the end of Season 2’s Christmas episode, I was gone. Nothing else about the show mattered, because Sarah Walker (and the actress who portrayed her) was the greatest thing I’d ever seen.
With that in mind, to say Chuck's finale broke my heart is an understatement. It crushed it, mangled it, ripped it straight out of my chest and hung it at the end of a shooting range booth for John Casey to use as target practice. For a show so lighthearted and fun to end like that…that was not the ending I had fought for. The finale aired on a Friday, and after spending two hours observing the lost shell that was once my Sarah and the bleak future the finale offered her (not them. Her,) I spent most of the following weekend in hysterics, as if someone close to me had just been killed.
I haven’t watched an episode since.
Since then, it seems like every series finale I’ve watched has given way to controversy among the loyal fans. I’d never thought of series finales as hugely important, make-it-or-break-it episodes for a series before, but I’ve been on both sides of a controversial finale now, and there’s something to be said for the power behind that last chance to make an impression on the viewers. I never thought Chuck would go from a show I couldn’t wait to watch to a show I couldn’t bear to watch beyond 30 second clips on YouTube (and I haven’t even done that in probably a year) in the course of one night, but that’s the feeling the finale left me with, and I know there are others out there who still share my opinions of the episodes that aired two years ago tonight. Conversely, I’ve also walked away from a controversial finale loving the show twice as hard as I ever did when it was actually airing.
In the grand scheme of things, of course, the ones who leave a controversial finale upset don’t really matter. People will discover Chuck for years to come. They’ll find Yvonne on Dexter or 24 and want to see where she came from. They’ll find Zachary Levi in…well, whatever he’s up to now (I honestly don’t know) and want to watch the series where he was the star. The old fans who can’t bring themselves to watch anymore will be replaced. Eventually, those who hated the way a series ended quietly sink away and let those who still love it revel in their memories.
Immediately after the finale aired, I thought that, a few years down the line, I’d be able to watch it all again, but now, a few years down the line, I don’t want to. Chuck lives on in the friends I made because of that series and the experiences I’ve had and will have with them, but the show itself is a distant memory, and most of the time, I don’t even remember that Yvonne (whom I still adore) used to be Sarah Walker. I’m sure that wasn’t what Chris Fedak intended with his finale, but part of me believes he still succeeded because two years later, that anger and disappointment and utter devastation I felt on January 27th, 2012 is still with me, and all of those feelings, to a creator, are infinitely better than indifference.
Anyone who follows me can confirm that I don’t talk about Chuck much anymore, and when I do, it’s often negative. I’ll likely never watch the show again. But the Buy More key chain still dangles from my car keys, and the Sarah Walker figurine still sits prominently on my shelf.
And that should probably count for something, too.
Very nicely written and articulated. I see a lot of my own feelings in what you just wrote, especially your views on the finale. I shall never forgive Fedak for what he did to Sarah Walker (quite possibly my all-time favorite fictional character, at least on TV). And I will never forget. I too have not watched a single episode since the finale aired. I’m not sure I ever will again. Which is a real shame because I still love S1-2 (in my mind, Chuck the show is divided into two parts, the first two seasons being the show I fell in love with and still love to this day, and the last three seasons being a show I somewhat enjoyed but watched mostly for Yvonne Strahovski).
Anyway, basically, ditto.