27 January, 2012

21-Days of CHUCK! Day 21: Chuck Bartowski, the Nerd Becomes the Hero

21-Days of CHUCK articles ends here, on the day that the series itself comes to an end. It's been a great ride for these characters, the cast, crew, and the fans. This won't be the last article I ever write about the show, not even close. It's just the last article in this series. CHUCK will live on here, on this site, for as long as I still have breath left in my lungs or strength in my fingers. Now, let's get to it.

Some are born for greatness. Some achieve greatness. And some have greatness thrust upon them. Chuck Bartowski may qualify for all three.

Was CHUCK, the show, about the destiny of a hero? Was it about how a man, who thought he could be destined for greatness, fell only to rise up when he was mistakenly thrust into a new and dangerous world? Or was it about a man whose father built him for heroism, and whose college buddy thrust greatness upon because he believed in that idea?

Depending on who you ask, including the show runners, it could be all of those. Clearly, the show wasn't originally designed to be about a plan to have Chuck receive the Intersect. We were meant to think he received it accidentally. But as the show went on, the writers added an element of destiny, and the idea that this was all planned out by certain individuals. Whatever the case may be, what we saw over five seasons was a Chuck who went from a lost soul to someone who was a more than capable spy.

Chuck's story really begins when his mother left the family, when he was ten or eleven. As we later discovered, she did so as part of a spy mission, but Chuck and Ellie didn't know that and therefor suffered their own levels of abandonment issues because of it. Then some years later, dad left suddenly and Chuck was only left with his sister to take care of him. Even then, because of the foundation of love that surrounded him, from Ellie and his best friend Morgan, and likely from other people who were attracted to his amiable personality, he turned into a successful kid who then attended Stanford.

Stanford brought a whole other set of problems. First was becoming best college buddies with future super spy, Bryce Larkin. Then falling for future Fulcrum agent, Jill Roberts. Bryce would eventually get him expelled for "cheating," something we later discovered was part of Larkin's attempt to protect Chuck. Jill then told Chuck she was breaking up with him to be with Bryce, something we later discovered was a lie. These events essentially broke Chuck Bartowski and he would spend the next four years as an underachieving, if not very capable Nerd Herder at the Buy More. That is until his birthday in 2007 when he received the Intersect in an email from Bryce.

From that point on Chuck was on his way toward greatness. He was given a CIA handler in Sarah Walker. An NSA protector (and during season 1 and part of season 2, his supposed future assassin) in then Major John Casey. And a Castle fortress built underneath the Buy More to run operations from as given to the team by... well, it would seem via the NSA even though later it seems like it is the CIA. Yeah, so that part of the story is cloudy at best.

Chuck quickly fell for his beautifully deadly handler. She says she quickly fell for him, even with that goofy hair, ridiculous sideburns, and high pitched screams he was fond of displaying early in the series. And we, the audience, fell for him pretty hard too. The lovable nerd/geek who was so much more capable than he ever imagined and would do things seemingly far beyond his abilities whenever people he cared about were in danger.

Chuck became a moral compass for Sarah and Casey. He redefined, or reintroduced a method of behavior that may have been lost at some point in their training and/or due to having to survive in a cruel world where death is around every corner.

He helped socialize them, making their ability to adapt to a less deadly world easier because of their friendship and love for him and his family. And for Sarah, he gave her a world she had either never imagined she could have, or one that was something that deep down inside she always wanted but believed she would never have so she buried those feelings.

His love for her is pretty simple to understand. She is beautiful and sexy. She protected him countless times and he felt safe with her. Also, he had to pretend they were dating, for years, and so that would have an affect on him. And he is an emotionally perceptive guy who could sense her need for family and love.

Sarah could see all the things the audience could see about Chuck. His kindness. His protective nature. His massive potential. His bravery in the face of danger, even when scared to death and screaming like a girl. And perhaps most of all his need for her. She had spent her whole life looking for something to belong to, for someone to make her feel emotionally safe, and her parents missed the mark there. The government gave her that but then she experienced betrayal on that front as well. So Chuck Bartowski made her feel safe, needed, loved, and part of something important: His family.

Throughout the series, Chuck grew into a capable spy who got the girl. Who eventually brought his family and friends into the spy world, and who became his own boss. He went from a lost young man to a full-blown adult in a matter of five seasons.

He also watched his best friend from college die. Held his father as life left him. Had to arrest the girl he once loved, then let her escape. Burned an asset. Found his mother. Shot a former team member in the chest, with the intent to kill. Saved the day countless times. Was saved by his team countless times. Confessed the truth in variously exciting ways to members of his circle of trust. Hacked, kicked, punched, flipped, and often flashed his way in and out of danger. Kissed the girl, then did more, and got her to say "I do."

There is no easy to way sum up Chuck Bartowski, or the show. But he will always be one of my favorite TV lead characters and I will spend parts of whatever time I have left on this world introducing more and more people to this show, so that in ten years Warner Brothers will beg the cast to return to do a $100 million movie!

Goodbye, Chuck Bartowski. It was a most adventurous ride. And thank you, Zachary Levi for all you have done that most fans will never know about, that showed you aren't too different from the character you played.

You rock. And so do the people around you. Be they fictional or be they real.


  1. Brilliant article. Love it.

  2. Oh shit... it ends today. It just hit me.

  3. Thank you very much for all your work on Chuck, Magnus. You've done more than anyone else I know and I've been with you every step of the way. The 21 days of articles helped me deal with the sadness of knowing it was coming to an end and I am happy you will not stop writing about Chuck anytime soon. Thank you for Chuckgasmic, Chuckyoutuesday, Chuckmemondays and the other twitter accounts and for Chuckfest and all the money you raised! And for how sweet you've always been to Littlechuckfan! It's amazing how much you have done for this fan base considering how much you say you never wanted to be involved. You're a lot like Chuck, you know that? You had greatness thrust upon you and you accepted it. I think that's beautiful. Do you see it?

    Love, Steph.

    1. Oh, wow. Thank you, Steph. I don't know if I've done more than anyone else but when you write it down it sure sounds like a lot more than I remember. ;)

      Chuckfest is my proudest part of it all. Just getting to that point was such a struggle. Getting through all the issues related to it... wow. From the day Laurie at WHC contacted me, to my meetings with her, Larry, Chucknut, and then Wendy. To getting Mark to join us after his issues with that sociopath on that other site... it was a crazy, sometimes fun ride.

      The rest of it, running the site, doing the podcast, the Twitter stuff and so on, was fun on a different level.

      I just thought about the time Wendy and I were running those viewing parties between seasons 2 and 3 on the NBC site. They had it so you could watch the episodes as a group and it was in beta testing. They eventually dropped it but we had a bunch of people join us and the room host could fast forward and rewind the video. And when we got to Colonel, it took us like 2-hours to finish watching it because the room hosts kept rewinding the motel room scene. It was so funny.

      Anyway, thanks for the kind words and for sticking with me. Stick around. I'm not done with CHUCK. :)

  4. I'm not going to lie , I got a little teary reading that .

  5. Okay, now you did it. Tears.

    Thank you so much for doing these articles.

  6. Well done, sir! Thanks for all the work... I'm glad it has been mostly fun. You have certainly helped this fan get through the final days. I promised a generous donation if you made it to 21, and it will follow. I've enjoyed your writing and will stick with you. Looking forward to what's to come.

    Long live Chuck (and Zachary Levi)!


  7. I mentioned it in my own farewell to the show, and I'll mention it here again. THANK YOU. Thank you HGF for all that you've done for this fan base. I'm going to miss ChuckGasmic and the Chuck You Podcasts just as much as I will miss watching the series! Never has being a part of a show's fan base been this fun, and you're a large part of what made it that way. Thanks for this fantastic article, thanks for 21 days of Chuck, and overall, thank you for everything you've done to keep this fan base unified! Enjoy the finale. :)

    1. Any time!

      And by any time I mean... I'm never doing this again. ;)

    2. Haha, perfectly understandable! Hoping the GF podcasts will continue though!!

  8. Thank you very much indeed! I'm catching up with these articles and it's been great fun reliving Chuck through your eyes. Chuck Bartowski is the first (if not one of two) protagonist in any medium that I consider to be my favorite character in the entire work. It's a tricky feat and a testament to the actor and person that Zachary Levi is.
    I began watching at the launch of season 3 because I had seen some coverage of what Zachary Levi did with the whole Subway campaign and I was really taken aback with how genuine and charming a person he seemed. From the little I've seen and read from you, Zachary Levi seems to be better than Chuck Bartowski in every way.
    Here's to a great series!

  9. Chuck is still our Chuck, and will be forever.

    Thanks for these 21 Days of memories before the finale.

  10. Thank you for everything you have done. I'm gonna miss this show so much! Can't believe it's ending tonight. I will read your articles a couple more times and rewatch all the episodes till i'm dead, i guess. An amazing show like this should be continued with a movie. Definetely gonna try. Thank you again. You did such an amazing job! Tonight's gonna make
    me cry. Probably the whole time. These 5 years have been wonderful.

  11. Thank you for all the work you did for our little show call Chuck and for us the fans! Merci!

  12. #6inchforseason6 ^^; Lets do it again!?

  13. I wrote this on 'Chuck vs the Hero's Journey' back in October 2009 :-


  14. Over a month has gone by since the finale (and the writing of this article) and I'm still having dificulties letting go. It was an awesome show and it truly had some very passionate fans. congrats on holding on for the 21 days, now the waiting begins for the 91 weeks. took me a while to discover you (what can I say, Brazil is far and all that), but I must say you won me over in one afternoon. :)

    1. Glad to have you on board!

      I finished the first of the 91 articles and just waiting for the right moment to sprint it upon the world.

      Granted, if the reaction is poor, then I am unlikely to finish the project. It takes a lot of time to do these. Though, others have offered their services, I am sure I will still write the majority.