In one of the interviews when the show aired, Chris Fedak mentioned that they had the outline of the Hero’s Journey in the back of their mind when plotting season 3. Well, it seems they followed it pretty well.
Chuck’s S3 hero’s journey: 12 stages in 14 episodes.
- The ordinary world: The hero is introduced in his ordinary world. Polarity in the hero’s life as source of uneasiness. 3.01 Pink Slip. Chuck is introduced in his ordinary world after his failure in Prague, separated from Sarah and Casey and trying to reconnect with them.
- The call to adventure: Pressure to change comes from within or without. 3.02 Three Words. After Beckman assembles Team Bartowski 2.0, Chuck starts working with Sarah and Casey. Carina acts as the herald archetype who introduces the rules of engagement (no feelings allowed) for Chuck and Sarah in the special world.
- Refusal of the call: fear of the unknown felt by the hero or by another character close to the hero. 3.03 Angel de la Muerte. Chuck is the willing hero who embraces the call to adventure but Devon, acting as the threshold guardian archetype, expresses the dangers and downsides of spies living only half of a real life.
- Meeting with the mentor: The hero meets an expert mentor from the special world. 3.04 Operation Awesome. Chuck meets Shaw.
- Crossing the threshold: The hero leaves the ordinary world and steps into the special world. 3.05 First Class. Encouraged by his new mentor, Chuck commits to his spy journey and crosses the threshold (his first solo mission) into the spy world.
- Tests, allies, enemies: The hero is tested in the special world and finds allies and enemies. 3.06 Nacho Sampler. Chuck develops an asset, has allies in Sarah and Casey, enemies in the members of the Ring, and his commitment is tested again by having to burn his asset, which in the hero’s journey represents the hero’s initiation into the special world.
- Approach (aka descent into hell): Major challenge in the special world. 3.07 Mask. Chuck and Sarah are about to approach their personal and relational hell.
- Ordeal (aka death and resurrection): The hero faces literal or metaphorical death and springs to new life. 3.08 Fake Name. Chuck reaches rock bottom and loses Sarah. The Ordeal is the lowest point in the hero’s journey, the dark night of the soul. The only way is up.
- Reward: After facing death, the hero wins the treasure. 3.09 Beard. Chuck starts on his path of redemption and is rewarded with Morgan’s friendship, a functioning Intersect, and acceptance of his feelings for Sarah.
- The road back: The hero returns to the ordinary world but it’s not over yet. He must face the consequences of his Act 2 actions. 3.10 Tic Tac. By choosing Casey over his spy ambitions, Chuck is back and regains Sarah’s trust but must face the fact she’s now with Shaw.
- Atonement (aka resurrection or final exam): The climax of the story. 3.11 Final Exam and 3.12 American Hero. The lesson Chuck learned about himself during the Ordeal stage in Fake Name is tested one final time in the ultimate trial.
- Return: Having passed his final test, the hero returns home victorious. 3.13 Other Guy and 3.14 Honeymooners. Chuck, who was metaphorically dead to Sarah, rises from the dead in her eyes and saves her from Shaw.