This hasn't been the best season of "Chuck". The show has had a strange obsession with guest stars, continued the "superhero-ing" of the main character and expanded the spy circle to include practically everyone in Chuck's life. Despite all that, Monday's penultimate episode of the season, "Chuck Versus the Last Details" clicked on nearly every level.
I don't think the episode was quite good enough to simply dismiss all the problems with the season, but without everything that all the characters had gone through this year, this episode wouldn't have worked quite as well. The episode centered around Chuck and Sarah attempting to focus on the final details of their wedding, while simultaneously recovering the rebuilt Norseman Device from Vivian Volkoff -- a mission that Chuck's mother had undertaken and failed at, resulting in her being taken custody by Volkoff.
The episode could have easily collapsed under its own weight, with multiple plots taking center stage at various points, but there was a perfect balance between the lightness of the interaction among the characters and the severity of the consequences of failure. Also, it didn't hurt that the episode was full of overt references to "Star Wars", which really helped to recapture some of the geeky charm the show had back in Season 1.
My favorite part of the episode was Morgan -- going undercover as an Italian arms dealer -- getting psyched up for the mission when Chuck started humming the Imperial March to him. Sarah had this look on her face like "Oh my God, I can't believe I'm marrying this dork", but Morgan and Chuck totally got into it. And Morgan's fake "evil" phone call ordering the kill of a puppy was so absurd that it actually worked.
In the end, everything seemed to have worked out nicely, despite some missteps along the way, but there are no happy endings in "second-to-last" episodes, and this one ends on a tragic cliffhanger: Vivian calls Chuck, pissed off about his and his family's betrayals, and tells him she's going to make him feel exactly like she does... then she uses the Norseman (the one that Chuck and Sarah DIDN'T recover) on Sarah. She starts bleeding from the nose and collapses into Chuck's arms and... TUNE IN NEXT WEEK FOR THE EXCITING CONCLUSION!
Now, do I think they're going to kill Sarah off permanently? Not at all. But a good show rises above the inevitability of the survival of the main characters to build drama in other ways, and I'll be interested to see if this show can do that next week.
For more coverage of the 2010-11 television season, visit the AdamReisinger.com TV Reviews home page.