Many viewers love Chuck (2007-12) only look at the surface—Chuck and Sarah’s relationship and love story, the spy action, the chemistry between the characters, and the comedy of the Buy More. But if we were to do that, we would miss out because the show is more than what we see on the surface. Chuck is like an iceberg: what makes it impressive is the 90% that is under the surface.

What makes Chuck special?

Here is a partial list:

  • It’s a double hero’s journey and a double redemption story; Chuck and Sarah’s togetherness tutors their individualities and will turn them into the best versions of themselves; as Chuck says in the pilot episode, it’s a five-year plan;
  • It’s an insightful analysis of the possibility of true love in the spy world of lies and deception, of reality versus appearance, a story of faith in each other against all odds, a story of hope and despondency, of self-deception and self-denial versus self-revelation, a story of love versus duty;
  • It’s a layered story of a couple who walks the tightrope of a double lie—they really love each other but they have to pretend to pretend to love each other because it’s the only way they can be together;
  • It’s a show of echoes and patterns and counterpoint; what happens to Chuck will happen to Sarah and vice versa, in a narrative dance that will swap their roles so that they can experience things from each other’s perspective before they can finally come together for real;
  • It’s a celebration of the nerd—a story of nerds for nerds by nerds;
  • It’s a celebration of pop culture. You may have noticed every episode has a reference to a movie or another TV show, and the reference is woven into the narrative fabric of the story; the show’s creators wanted to make “the best TV show of 1985” with lots of references, and you’ll miss a lot of them unless you’ve seen every movie and TV show out there;
  • It’s a layered story where the music and the visual symbolism aid in the understanding of a scene. Few other shows have songs that are so perfect for a scene. Here’s an example from season 1.
  • It’s an exploration of ethics, from the Utilitarian (greater good) ethics of the traditional spy world to Chuck’s virtue ethics (always do the right thing);
  • It’s a philosophical exploration of being (Parmenides, Sarah) versus change (Heraclitus, Chuck), where they both harmonize into their Aristotelian conclusion that, yes, life may be a river of change but love is the constant being. This will be obvious at the beginning of season 4;
  • It’s a story where each love triangle matters. Both Chuck and Sarah must face the ghost from their past, the temptation from their present, and a glimpse of their future with partners who mirror their past selves before they can finally realize they are perfect for each other.
  • It’s a story about spies, and the story doesn’t explain everything behind the characters’ actions. It gives us viewers clues to follow so that we can do some spy work to understand the actions of the spies in the story, thus pulling us into the story.

Chuck is like a modern-day Frodo in The Lord of the Rings, and the Intersect is like the one ring, a burden that can only be carried by a person with the right temperament, one who’s not likely to be tempted by its power. This will become more obvious as the story goes on.

We can skim the surface of the story and stop there, or we can take the red pill and see how deep the rabbit hole goes.

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