Logan: I’m sorry about last summer. You know, if I could do it over…
Veronica: Come on. Ruined lives? Bloodshed? You really think a relationship should be that hard?
Logan: No one writes songs about the ones that come easy.
Season 3 is one of the most beloved seasons of Chuck but is also quite controversial and confusing, and Sarah’s motives and actions are often misunderstood as hypocritical or unlikable when she’s really loving to the point of self-sacrifice; it requires a little spy work to suss out the situation with her and Chuck.
Schwedak said they had a few goals with the first 13 episodes of season 3:
- Turn Chuck into a hero. (Hero’s Journey)
- Have Chuck walk in Sarah’s shoes and Sarah walk in Chuck’s shoes (romantic and spy role reversals from the first two seasons).
- Give Sarah a real choice in regards to a love interest, unencumbered by a cover relationship with Chuck.
- End up with Chuck and Sarah together in Paris.
Another unstated goal is to address the issue of feelings as a liability in the spy world, which will continue to be explored into 4.18 A-Team.
As a consequence of these goals, the season has multiple thematic layers that intersect throughout its episodes and finally merge at the end of 3.13 and into 3.14.
- The Romantic Reversal layer in Chuck and Sarah’s relationship.
- The Spy Reversal layer: the S3 reversal of the S1-2 reversal of the damsel in distress theme.
- The Love vs Duty layer
- The Feelings as a Liability layer
- The Red Test layer.
- The Hero’s Journey layer (its 12 stages are almost perfectly tracked by S3’s first 12 episodes) :
- Act 1. The ordinary world: The hero is introduced in his ordinary world. Polarity in the hero’s life as source of uneasiness.
- The call to adventure: Pressure to change comes from within or without.
- Refusal of the call: fear of the unknown felt by the hero or by another character close to the hero.
- Meeting with the mentor: The hero meets an expert mentor from the special world.
- Act 2. Crossing the threshold: The hero leaves the ordinary world and steps into the special world.
- Tests, allies, enemies: The hero is tested in the special world and finds allies and enemies.
- Approach (aka descent into hell): Major challenge in the special world.
- Ordeal (aka death and resurrection): The hero faces literal or metaphorical death and springs to new life.
- Reward: After facing death, the hero wins the treasure.
- Act 3. 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.
- Resurrection: The climax of the story. In his book The Writer’s Journey, Christopher Vogler calls this moment the final exam for the hero, who is tested once more in the ultimate moment of death and rebirth to see if he or she has really learned the lessons of the Ordeal.
- Return with the elixir: Having passed his final test, the hero returns home with the elixir that has changed his or her life.