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Chuck: The Complete Second Season

(NBC; US DVD: 5 Jan 2009)

The second season of Chuck finds the series coming into its own with its unique balance of humor, action, and drama. Where the first season found Chuck (Zachary Levi) and his handlers, Sarah (Yvonne Starhovski) and Casey (Adam Baldwin) constantly battling unrelated bad guys, the second season made a huge leap forward in establishing a larger mythology.


Chuck spent much of its second season under a cloud of possible cancellation and in turn, mobilized a rabid fan base and critics to plead for its renewal. Throughout all the uncertainty, it seemed as if creators Josh Schwartz and Chris Fedak were pulling out all the stops to set the series up for a larger shift in its storytelling and in then end, the series did receive the go-ahead from the network for a third season.


Chuck is an untrained asset to the CIA, as he has the intersect, a high-tech system of classified images and information that Chuck flashes on during their missions; coupled with his lack of spy skills make him equal parts a liability and an advantage. Initially, his bumbling attempts to help out in missions were played more for laughs, while the second season finds Chuck, along with Sarah and Casey, more comfortable in their roles. The show always benefited from its casting of the three leads, as well as a wonderful supporting cast, but in the second season they were given more fleshed out characterizations. The partnership between the three leads is deeper and more complex, especially as it relates to Chuck and Sarah’s cover as a couple and the show is all the better for it.


Ramping up the will-they-won’t-they tension between Chuck and Sarah, the series has managed to create a much stronger emotional component that has led to more investment in the characters. As Chuck becomes improved in his role as the intersect, the missions are framed in the larger context of the reasons behind Chuck being chosen as the intersect in the first place. As it becomes clearer that Chuck was not picked at random, but that there are connections, family and otherwise, that have placed him in the position of reluctant hero. While Chuck continues to want a normal life, he begins to realize that the work he is doing is about something greater than himself and it is this understanding that makes Chuck more proactive and involved in the spy world. 


The supporting cast of Chuck’s co-workers at the Buy More: Morgan (Joshua Gomez), his best friend, and Jeff (Scott Krinsky) and Lester (Vik Sahay), two socially awkward oddballs; along with his sister, Ellie (Sarah Lancaster), and her fiancé, Devon, also known as Captain Awesome (Ryan McPartlin), are all uniformly good and add a healthy dose of humor to the show. The second season has them becoming more enmeshed in Chuck’s secret life, albeit usually without their knowledge. This melding of Chuck’s real and secret lives has created more tension and greater investment for the viewer. 


The action sequences have also improved considerably since the first season. There are more elaborate and creative sequences that again, speak to how comfortable the writers and actors have gotten in penning and playing the scenes. Essentially, the second season finds the creative team behind Chuck upping their game and quite successfully. 


Chuck may have started as a much lighter action comedy, but its second season, and the set-up for the third season, show how much the series has grown. It has managed to create more intricately layered storytelling without taking away much of what made it such a charming show in the first place. Chuck is at its core escapist television at its finest and despite adding more involved and emotional layers in its second season, the series is as fun as it ever was.


The special edition of the DVD release contains quite a few extras, such as deleted scenes for nearly every episode, webisodes, several featurettes, and a gag reel. Along with the additional content, the set also includes two sets of 3-D glasses for viewing the special 3-D episode that aired around the time of the Super Bowl.

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J.M. Suarez has been a contributing writer at PopMatters since 2008. She's happy to talk about TV any time, any place. Really.


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