DVDs in Review: #99: Chuck: The Complete Second Season

Chuck's been something of an underdog success story since I wrote about the complete first season boxed set, it's skirted alongside cancellation and instead managed to ensure itself a third season thanks to some exceptionally clever fan activity. Purchasing Subways (a prominent product featured on the show) was a great way to show support.

Chuck's first season was a solid affair which I felt delivered on both the funnies and the spy action but in some ways felt a little limited by it's location. Much like Burn Notice it's a spy show which is mostly set in and around the same places, this is quite understandable it's cheaper to run a show which isn't jetting all over the place and instead has a considerable amount of scenes set in the same location - the Buy More.

The Buy More is also the source of the main secondary plot in most episodes, providing a contrast between the life of the spy and the more mundane lives of Chuck's co-workers. Joining the Buy More cast this season is the most excellent Tony Hale, who's character Emmett Milbarge plays to Tony's strengths as an actor but also managed to surprise me somewhat. My previous experience with Tony is from Arrested Development where he plays the hapless Buster Bluth, Arrested Development - needless to say Emmett is nothing like Buster, and that's a good thing for the plot.

But the most important thing, as I've written many times before, is there must be an improvement in the show when compared to the previous season. What's the point of having another season if you're not going to try and raise the bar? Well, I can safely say with confidence that the second season of Chuck takes everything that was good about the first season and improves on it. Exciting guest stars (even though Chevy Chase and Arnold Vosloo are mishandled as their talents are woefully underused when they're on screen), more action, more fun, more Buy More, more Jeff, more Casey - just about everything you wanted turned up a notch from the first season is. And then the season finale's dial goes all the way to 11 and leaves you wanting more.

[Mild Spoiler alert hidden below about the season finale - highlight to read on the page, if you're reading this with a white background all I can say is tough!]
I will say one thing, I do hope that Mr Levi has had some decent kung fu training in between the second and third season (I've not watched any of the third season yet, so I don't need to know) because his martial arts were a little rough in the season finale. Don't get me wrong, the moment was brilliant fun - but no amount of clever camera work could disguise Zachary Levi's lack of speed and precision. I don't know what it was like for non-martial artists to watch, but as a practicioner of kung fu myself I wasn't convinced, especially as the scene itself clearly draws on a mild homage of The Matrix.

That said, it was a pretty f'ing awesome moment which leaves me somewhat miffed that it'll be about a year before the third season is out on DVD.
[End spoiler]

The pop culture references keep coming thick and fast, it's immense fun to see men in their late twenties obsess about childhood films and just to go one better the show even casts people like Bruce Boxleitner (TRON), Scott Bakula and many more besides in what seems to be a non-stop homage to all the things which made the previous couple of decades so great.

If I had a major complaint it would actually be the continued will they/won't they between Chuck and Sarah Walker. It doesn't help that I find Sarah to be the most boring character in the show, it's not Yvonne Strahovski's fault as such, she's there as eye candy, to get into fights and to look occasionally "emotionally tortured" about her situation with Chuck. But as I've written previously, I'm tired of the will they/won't they trope and the faster it's retired from our screens the better. At least in Chuck's case it isn't to offensive and annoying, but it does hamper Sarah's character to the point that I'm pretty bored with her role in the show right now.

Sarah Lancaster is likewise a little hamstrung as a character, she just exists to do the same thing each week. But the fact that her scenes normally contain Captain Awesome (Ryan McPartlin) make them a lot more palatable for me. Still I hope there's growth in her character's situation in the third season - there seems to be room for it.

Suffice to say I think it's easy to recommend picking up and watching Chuck, if you've seen the first season then you know what to expect from the second one - similar stuff but better. And if you haven't, you can do yourself a favour and pick up the first season, they've changed the packaging now - the original boxed set was really difficult to open.

Special Features:
Exploring the Mythology of Chuck
Dude in Distress
Chuck vs. the Webisodes
Chuck: A Real-Life Captain Awesome's Tips for Being Awesome
John Casey Presents: So You Want to Be a Deadly Spy
Declassified Scenes
Gag Reel

Aspect Ratio: 16:9
Languages: English, French
Rating: 15
Region: 2
Run Time: 15 Hours 14 Minutes
Subtitles: English, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French, Norwegian, Portuguese, Swedish


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