23. Chuck: Season 3 (2010)

It’s Got: Brandon Routh, Morgan catching on, Chuck and Sarah on their honeymoon.

Yeah. Two seasons of Chuck on here. And the far less well regarded Season 3 is ranked higher than Season 2. It’s not the first wacky placement, and it won’t be the last. I can’t help it. If Season 3 lacks Season 2’s breezy freshness, it makes up for it with a story I got… can’t believe I’m saying this… really invested in.

Chuck, I just root for the guy, you know? He’s a really idealized version of the sort of person I am. He starts out this season with no direction in life, and right from the start, I really want him to get his dream job, I want him to get his dream girl, I want him to become more open and honest with his family and best friends. The whole season is about Chuck picking himself up and fighting really hard to become the man he wants to be. It’s a really difficult journey for him this year with a lot of setbacks, but that makes it more fun, doesn’t it?

The season still does the whole mission-of-the-week thing with lots of James Bond-lite scenarios and fun guest stars, but there’s a strong overarching story this year too. Events from earlier episodes pay off later on, characters grow and change, and there are some big shake-ups to the formula at key points throughout the season. There’s a surprisingly good performance from Brandon Routh as a too-good-to-be-true addition to Operation Bartowski, way more screentime for Joshua Gomez’s Morgan (one of the more likeable best friends in TV) and, again, a really great arc for Chuck himself. The storytelling is so strong, in fact, that the season isn’t derailed by an additional order of six episodes. The show simply arrives at its intended finale in Episode 13, then keeps on ramping up to something even bigger and better.

I may be alone on this one. Season 2 is the almost universally called the best Chuck season, and if pressed, I have to admit that that season is slightly funnier. But I just really really loved how much Season 3 evolved the series and the character himself. I’d call it a perfect final season, in fact.

(Setting aside that the show went on for two more years, of course…)

If I Had to Nitpick… The Chuck and Sarah plot is pretty well played out by the end of Season 2, and it’s a bit tiring to see the two of them back where they started as the third season starts up. Things do get better eventually, but the episodes in the season’s first half that focus heavily on their Will-They-Won’t-They are below par compared to the rest.

Notable Episodes: “Chuck vs. the Beard,” which changes the whole show in an extremely welcome way. “Chuck vs. the Other Guy,” the original intended finale. And “Chuck vs. the Subway/Chuck vs. the Ring Part II,” possibly my favourite TV season finale of a more light hearted show.

#24 | THE LIST | #22

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