after last season's surprising turn of events and unexpected renewal, there were, at least in my mind, a lot of questions about what would happen next on "chuck". how would this show manage to evolve without losing what made it so charming in the first place? i have a well-documented love of spy shows, see "alias", and it's also no secret that when i was little, in the height of the cold war, i thought that being a spy would be a cool career. which all feeds into why i love "chuck" so much. the premise that a regular guy gets involved with a spy world that is over his head is an excellent fodder for both drama and comedy.
but when chuck downloaded the intersect 2.0 into his brain, giving himself a whole new set of abilities that make him an even more powerful asset for the u.s. government, you had to wonder where it was all going to go. what is great about the writing staff on this show is that they recognized that their characters needed to evolve in order to further the story, but they didn't force change on them that wasn't natural or organic to who their characters were. and having watch so many hours of television in my life, and seen many a writer force a character into acting completely out of character for a simple plot point, this was a wonderful turn of events.
the first six hours of the third season have been phenomenal. chuck still has to prove himself as a spy, but is clearly growing into his role and getting better at it all the time. but he still needs casey and sarah, it is interesting to watch his former handlers manage chuck's transition into the full-time spy world. casey is both protective and ready to throw chuck out into the world, willing to give him a chance to prove himself, but always ready to be there as back-up should he fail. and because chuck's emotions often get in his way, he is certainly lucky that he has casey there as back-up. sarah's role as handler is even more complicated. in many ways she is like a mother hen, refusing to let her chick leave the nest. but both sarah and casey's superiors, the general and the mysterious shaw, believe that it is past time for chuck to step up to the spy world he wants to be a part of.
this provides some interesting conflict. from the first two episodes we learn that sarah tried to escape with chuck. she commits the ultimate no-no in the spy business, falling in love with her asset, and she wants to protect and preserve the things that make chuck, chuck. she knows that the more time he spends in the spy world, he will lose something of himself, and she knows this because she has lost so much of herself in this life that she's chosen. but chuck isn't ready to give up on the spy world, not because he thinks it's cool and badass after so many years of being a lovable loser at the buy more, but rather because he understands that what he can do, can serve the greater good, he can't turn his back on his responsibilities, not for his own personal gain. because he does love sarah. and she loves him in spite of herself. but because everything has changed, they can't go back to where they were.
and so they forge on ahead. but the conflict between them, and between their emotions, lies just beneath the surface. and it has been fascinating to watch. it has also been endlessly satisfying to see chuck grow into his own as a spy. yes, he isn't ever going to be the best. chuck is no james bond. but he gets things done in his own offbeat way and his ingenuity and ability to complete missions are things that the cia should be happy with.
but the more involved he gets with the spy world, the more his personal relationships suffer. by necessity he must lie to everyone, needs to keep his nearest and dearest in the dark. the sole exception, awesome, who found out about chuck's double life in the finale. watching devon deal with his knowledge of chuck's second career has been great, because we learn that there is one thing that devon is not good at. he is a terrible liar. and as chuck gets him through some sticky situations, awesome comes to appreciate chuck's abilities.
devon's initial reaction to chuck's spy life was to see it as something cool and exciting. but then when he's accidentally involved in a mission, and he begins to see the downsides and the complications that this spy life brings into his own life, and realizes that there are a lot of reasons not to envy chuck for it.
chuck as spy versus chuck as regular guy. chuck's spy life versus chuck's personal life. and how the people around him react to these conflicts will chart the course of the season. what a wonderful season it has been so far.