My unwavering love of NBC’s geeky spy show with a heart of a Pentium chip, Chuck, began one cramped and overly air-conditioned afternoon at the San Diego Comic-Con. Many of the straight-laced network honchos had their doubts, until that one fateful day at Comic-Con changed everything.
I sat in one of the smaller rooms surrounded by geeks of all ages and gender as the cast of Chuck impatiently stood to the side awaiting our response to the debut of NBC’s latest pilot. As the first scene began, the entire audience was hooked. They erupted in sounds ranging from fits of laughter to surprised exclamations. After the credits rolled, the audience roared in rapturous applause and took to their feet in a standing ovation. The cast then ran onto the stage like rock stars playing to a sold-out crowd.
Since that day I have been an avid Chuck supporter. Chuck sky-rocketed geeky spy splendor into the new millennium by fearlessly ripping pre-conceived molds to shreds. Chuck is a computer geek who seeks to prove he can also be a super secret spy. Agent Sarah Walker is a super secret spy pretending to be his girlfriend while working at a yogurt shop. It’s as refreshing as a vanilla scoop of Pinkberry goodness that Sarah wasn’t strictly relegated to the girlfriend role.
I love a good spy thriller but more often than not the woman is merely a clingy girlfriend. In the Bourne series, Jason drags an innocent bystander into his world who at every moment is frantically running from the bad guys. In the Bond series, women are used as either femme fatales or sexy diversions while the action is always created by Bond, James Bond. While I realize both stories are about the main characters, hence their titles, they always wuss out and stick to the same formulaic types when it comes to supporting roles- not so in the case of Chuck.
Picture a super spy, who’s past is clouded in a fog of mystery. This secret agent never allows themselves to fall in love or get attached for fear of causing an untimely end. This same agent is sent to protect a normal citizen who is in way over their heads and manages to get into trouble at every turn. This agent’s a fighter. Someone not to be messed with and forced to live a double-life in pure service to their country. Most would picture a certain man in a tuxedo with a fondness for alcoholic consumption. The witty writers of Chuck instead chose to flip the stereotype on its head creating a spy capable of so much more.
Agent Sarah Walker, delightfully played by Yvonne Stahovski, is neither the damsel in distress, the femme fatale, or the sexy diversion. She’s just herself. Yeah, she’s plenty sexy, but solely there as window dressing? Never. While Chuck clumsily fumbles into action, Sarah uses her formative spy skills to save the day. She tells him to stay in the car. She’s the one who teaches Chuck how to perfectly time a punch and she does it while in heels. She doesn’t need super powers to take down the baddies, although her highly dependable gun does come in handy.
As a girl I was glued to the abundant on-screen antics in the TV show Get Smart. I always relished the mod outfits of Agent 99 and admired her calmness and cleverness under pressure. I find it funny a mock version of the spy trade offered up a fun, flirty femme one can admire and that many so-serious films failed to fashion.
Agent 99 was clearly far smarter than Maxwell, nevertheless, she still managed to get saved by him time and time again and would often poof up his ego in front of the chief (it was in a time of Mad Men after all). Agent Sarah Walker is like Agent 99’s kick-ass daughter who never apologizes for her numerous talents. Good Idea 99.
The writers bravely play her femininity for strength. Sure she uses her good looks and sly sexiness to her benefit, often flirting her way to get the job done, but men are oh so easy. Many a gal have flounced their locks and batted their eyes to get out of a ticket, get to the front of line, or have the bigger slice of cake. Sarah may use sex appeal as a weapon, but the fact it’s only one weapon in her arsenal makes her remarkably well-rounded.
Kudos to Chuck for falling head-over-heels in love with a woman who makes him a better man instead of making him feel like a bigger one. In the latest season, Chuck downloads the spy skills necessary to put himself on a somewhat even playing field in the brave new world he’s found himself in.
Although he is no longer told to stay in the car, he still chooses to astutely listen to Sarah’s words of wisdom instead of relegating his crush to the minors. Maybe if Bond or Bourne had fought with a real woman by their side instead of just a fraction of one, their missions would have been over lickety-split with enough time for a vacay in Monte Carlo.
In a time of bouncing schedules, NBC has done something right in keeping Chuck on the air, at least for the time being. So, please eat your Subway sandwiches and keep watching the thrilling adventures of Agent Sarah Walker and her boy wonder-in-training Chuck.