Well, after last week’s episode, a few commenters were upset with the idea that Sarah’s memory had been erased, and that all her character growth we had spent the last five seasons was for naught. What would you say to that?
It started with how we broke that episode. For a long time, that was one of the longest breaks ever for a Chuck episode, since it was the last one. We weren’t quite certain. How do we make this big enough? How do we make it about this season but also to echo all the seasons of the show? Once we realized that with act 2, and throughout the episode, there would be moments that echoed the pilot and other seasons of the show and our bad guys, that really helped me wrap my head around what this episode would do. My wife is a giant fan of the “remember when?” episodes. We didn’t want to do that. We didn’t want to give a lot of flashbacks – there aren’t very many in the episodes – but infuse into the story the history of the show. That helped me break the episode as a writer. And when it came to things we wanted to see in there, the first idea was, “Well, we’re in Berlin,” and it was El Compadre, which we shot at the real El Compadre in the pilot, which is a famous restaurant in Los Angeles. We shot there, and there’s a terrible photo of Josh and myself with sombreros on. Once you start thinking about it, you go, “What if in Germany there’s a restaurant that looks exactly like El Compadre?” And that was the first moment where we knew, “Okay, this would be a great thing for all of these scenes,” from Sarah and Chuck dancing at the Russian consulate to the Wienerlicious scene. We wanted to echo seasons past, as well as deal with all of the issues that Chuck and Sarah have been through. And, in a way, have them fall in love again.
No, it wasn’t the most important thing to me. That was something that we discovered as we went through the process. The way the story laid out, we began to see that it was important that he be given a decision. The idea of using the Intersect to give Sarah her memories back was a beautifully-structured thing: it makes sense, Ellie gets to help Sarah. But in that moment, Chuck has to make a tough decision, and he knows that saving the day is the thing he had to do. That was fundamental to the story. But from an overarcing perspective, looking at the last episode, Chuck putting the Intersect back into his head was not the most important thing to me.
We built it, the reference point is the Albert Hall sequence in “The Man Who Knew Too Much.” In this version, it’s Jeff and Lester with the cymbals, but they’re going to use the cymbals to save the day.
The other thing, too, is that early on in the season, there’s a moment where Casey hugs Alex and tells her, “I’ll always be here for you.” And the moment he said that was the moment I thought we were going to kill him. I thought we were going to do a “Star Trek II” thing. And Adam was pushing for that. He was of a mind that that was a good way to go, kind of like the Han Solo logic of “Return of the Jedi,” where it was clearly time for this person to die. I think in the end, the Gertrude Verbanski story was such a great story for the season, and Carrie-Anne Moss and Adam gave such life and energy to that, that that became his future.
When we started looking at this season, the Intersect became this thing that would jump from Morgan, then we’d also see Shaw, then see Sarah with it, and realize just how dangerous it is and how it affects people. But it was also a great opportunity to see Morgan be a super spy, and see Sarah be an even greater super spy. I thought the strip kick action sequence inside the bullet train car was pretty amazing, and the final moments of “Chuck vs. Bo” where she goes crazy kung fu on all of those soldiers was just a great sequence shot by Jeremiah Chechik, one of our directors.
That’s the thing, too. We had to think about that quite a bit. She doesn’t have the Intersect in episodes 12 & 13, but she’s still an amazing spy in her own right. When we were doing the two scenes where she does fight with the Intersect, we had to cut them in a different way. We sped up the cuts. How do you differentiate between Sarah Walker with just her normal skills and Sarah who has the Intersect in her head? We brought more and more soldiers into the final scene of “Bo” for that reason.
I don’t know. I couldn’t be happier with what we’ve done over 91 episodes of the show, and all our different finale. We talked, in your incredibly long interview – which was egregriously long! – with Josh and me, when we spoke, I think that the one thing I thought about, looking at season 4, we could have brought Ellie into the spy world more quickly. That was something where bringing Sarah Lancaster into the spy side of the show was an outstanding secret that we could have done earlier.
Yeah, and it was also so much fun to bring back Linda Hamilton for a spot on the show.
One of the things we’re working on for the DVD is a longer version of the finale. The episode was rather big, so you’ll get a longer cut on the DVD.
Just more of everything. It was an epic episode. We did a lot of stuff. There’s a little more family, and a little more Awesome and Ellie.
Alan Sepinwall may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org