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Chuck: The Complete Fifth and Final Season [DVD Review]

Here’s a few things about Chuck you might need to know or maybe you just forgot...

Four years ago, Chuck Bartowski was your average genius underachiever working at the BuyMore. Then he got the Intersect implanted in his brain -- an organic computer program that contained a collection of spy-worthy skill sets and the secrets of every government intelligence agency -- and was dragged into the world of international espionage. As season five begins, an Intersect-free Chuck is now the multimillionaire head of Carmichael Industries, working as a freelance spy with his lovely and lethal wife, Sarah (Yvonne Strahovski), and his former handler, John Casey (Adam Baldwin). And just to keep things interesting, a version of the Intersect is now in Chuck’s best friend, Morgan (Joshua Gomez). Morgan’s Intersect has a few glitches, though, and Chuck discovers, like so many before him, that it’s not that easy to get out of the spy game.

As always, the fifth season of Chuckmanages to score a huge number of nerdy guest stars, coming right out of the gate with Luke Skywalker himself, Mark Hamill, as an evil art collector. Casey finally gets a serious love interest in Gertrude Verbanski (Carrie Anne Moss). Brandon Routh returns as Chuck’s super-spy arch-nemesis, Shaw. And then there’s Linda Hamilton, Cheryl Ladd, Stan Lee, Bo Derek, Angus MacFayden, Rebecca Romjin, Craig Kilborn...the list just goes on and on.

That being said, this final set is definitely made for fans of the series and not a general audience. Many of the tie-ins and payoffs depend on you knowing the stories of the past three or four seasons. If you do, the stories are great. If you don’t, they’re probably going to feel a bit awkward. Plus, season five of Chuck is well written and well produced, but it’s also a great example of why sometimes stories just need to end. When the hero gets the girl, gets the life he always wanted, and even gets a cool billion in the bank as a bonus -- that’s a good place to stop, no matter how much we may all want more. That point was the end of last season. It’s the Moonlighting curse -- how do you keep the show going when you’ve achieved every goal the show’s been about?

Also, as I’ve said here before, at this point Chuck has its own kryptonite, and that glowing green rock is the BuyMore. I understand that it was originally a core aspect of the series, but now every time an episode cuts away from a massive NSA plot to show us some retail antics...well, the show downshifts at best, and more than once just grinds to a halt. The characters and subplots of the BuyMore are wonderful -- especially an ongoing one where Jeff and Lester (Scott Krinsky and Vik Sahay) finally discover the secrets under the store and then keep waking up on the side of the road between L.A. and Las Vegas -- but they also just feel kind of juvenile compared to the bigger issues Chuck and his team are dealing with.

In the end, though, the thing that’s given Chuck such staying power has been the family aspect of the show, and I have to give it props for ending on that and not the action-espionage elements. The closing scenes of Chuck are all about growing up and moving on. In fact, the show has the balls to go out on an ambiguous note, making the viewer decide if they want to believe in harsh realities or fairy-tale romance endings.

Despite containing only 13 episodes, these discs are loaded with special features. Unfortunately, they’re almost all geared towards long-time fans. “Sandwiches and Superfans” is about how the fanbase mobilized to save the show season after season (and made Subway such an integral part of the series in the process). “Chuck Versus the Final Episode” is a look at some of the last shots on each of the long-term sets. There are over half a dozen of these features, all in the same theme. The one standout is “Scoring the World of Chuck,” which finally gives some credit to Tim Jones, who did the music for this show for five years and didn’t even get a soundtrack release out of it.

It’s also worth noting the one flaw that’s plagued every one of the Chuck sets -- the “Declassified Scenes.” These are little cut bits from various episodes which went away for time or tone reasons. The problem is that these scenes are always presented with no context whatsoever. With the truncated nature of a cut scene, it’s tough to figure out what episode they’re from, let alone where in the episode they’re supposed to fall. It’s a bit sad to see this problem’s still here in the last season’s box set.

Chuck: The Complete Fifth and Final Season isn’t really for anyone except fans. If you happen to be one of them, this season rates a three-point-five or maybe even a solid four. For everyone else though, even with the loveable characters and some of the sharp story moments, it’s a three at best.

Length: 563 min.

Distributor: Warner Bros. Television

Release Date: 3/13/12

Starring: Zachary Levi, Yvonne Strahovski, Adam Baldwin, Joshua Gomez, Sarah Lancaster, Ryan McPartlin, Bonita Freidericy

Directed by: Robert Duncan McNeill, Paul Marks, Patrick Norris, Zachary Levi, Allan Kroeker, Michael Schultz, Peter Lauer, Jeremiah Chechik, Matt Barber, Fred Toye, Jay Chandrasekhar, Buzz Feitshans

Produced by: Josh Schwartz, Chris Fedak, Nicholas Wootton, Robert Duncan McNeill, McG

Written by: Chris Fedak, Rafe Judkins, Lauren LeFranc, Nicholas Wootton, Kristen Newman, Craig DiGregorio, Max Denby, Phil Klemmer, Alex Katsnelson, Amanda Kate Shuman