As promised last night, I spoke today with "Chuck" co-creator Chris Fedak about the revelations from last night's episode, where the rest of the season is going (don't worry: no real spoilers, except for last night's show), and what, if anything, fans can do to help influence NBC to order a third season.
How long ago did you decide that Chuck's father would be the creator of the Intersect?
We were on that page last season. At the earliest consideration of the show and the idea of who Chuck is, we thought about the mythology and asked ourselves: is Chuck Peter Parker or is he Luke Skywalker? Is he someone who randomly stumbled into this, or someone who was destined to get this power? For Chuck Bartowski, even though his father's kept him away from it, that is the family business. It was a decision we made early on, going back to the conception of the series.
Well, while most of the reaction to last night's show has been positive, there have definitely been people saying they'd much rather you stuck with the Peter Parker model.
I think the conceit of our show, going back to the Hellmouth logic of "Buffy," is in some ways there's a whirlpool of espionage that surrounds Chuck. It only goes so far -- there won't be a time where you find out that Ellie or Captain Awesome are spies as well -- but there are things about his backstory, the idea that there was this larger story involving Stanford and Bryce and Jill, and Chuck is in some ways the Rosencrantz and Guildenstern of that story. Our story is about a guy who, in most spy stories, isn't the hero of the story, but in this crazy tale, he is.
How does knowing what we now know about Chuck's dad change the series? Or does it?
I don't know if it exactly changes the series. Chuck is still a regular guy, other than his gifts of intelligence. He has regular guy dreams: to be with the girl he loves, to have a family. In some ways, the spy life is still pulling away from being the regular guy. I think that he does have potential. People talk about the fact that Chuck is slowly but surely getting better at this spy life, his skills are improving. We've always looked at the show as the origin of a hero. We're getting the first taste.
Well, there's that scene last night where Chuck's dad shows him that the Intersect is more powerful than he had realized, which is a staple of a lot of Joseph Campbell-style hero stories.
That's a big moment. Since Stephen Bartowski was the designer of all the cool stuff in the Intersect, we knew that he would know more about the way it works. In the script, there's a term we use called the Feistel code, Chuck has the ability, when he looks at that monitor, he can see the code and figure out how to get the door open. There's definitely kind of secrets and possibilities within that knowledge.
Without spoiling much, what can you tell me about the rest of the season and how it's going to end.
We're ending the season with a big game-changer that essentially redesigns the show for next season. Pushes us off into new territory.
(Some spoilers for next week's episode, "Chuck vs. the First Kill," redacted.)
Then episode 221 is "Chuck vs. the Colonel." For episode 221, we thought the episode is so big, has so many huge things in it, from an emotional as well as espionage in it, that we were worried people would thin it was the season finale. It's a huge episode. Our final episode, "Chuck vs. the Ring," is even bigger than that. There's even a point where you see an actual kitchen sink fly through frame.
If "Chuck vs. the Ring" winds up being the last episode of the series, how do you think the fans will react?
They're going to burn their living rooms. They're going to destroy their television sets. There could be chaos across the country.
My feeling is I always love endings that get you excited about the next part of the story. Even if, God forbid, we weren't brought back for the season, you would know there are great adventures out there going on for Chuck Bartowski, but it's not something I can wrap my head around. I want to be able to tell those stories.
Do you have an idea on what those stories will be?
We have most of the season broken. One of the things we really work on in the show is breaking out the seasons from a story perspective, from a one big story perspective. We definitely have a template for the whole show, how we would want to end season three. We've pitched it to the network and the studio and they love it.
What's it going to take for the show to come back, then?
It's the television gods in some ways. We're going to have to work with, hopefully our fans and critics can keep the drumbeat going, helping people realize how much people enjoy the show. NBC has been a real ally of the show. They're big fans of it. It's not like it's been one of those relationships where we've constantly been at odds with the nework. They love the story we're telling. There's a lot of good wishes and good feelings towards the show.
You said before that you like to break each season from the perspective of one big story. What would you say the story of seaso two has been?
I think the story is a kind of boy becomes man, in the simplest sense. Chuck, from the get go, has realized he wanted his old life back. He's wanted a life that other people could have, but being a spy has forced him down another road. With the realization that his father created the Intersect, and all that he's managed to do with Sarah and Casey, maybe there's a bit of a hero in this guy.
There was that game-changing episode a few weeks ago where Chuck takes the "Tron" poster off his wall and we realize he's been secretly working all this time to get the Intersect out of his head. How long ago did that come up?
At the beginning of seasons, we get the staff together and start talking about the general shape of the season. The "Tron" poster was something we talked about at that first meeting, as well as Chuck putting on the glasses in episode three so Bryce Larkin could give him the Intersect software upgrade. We knew we'd want Jill coming back into the story. Then we had the second half, which we knew would be focused around the return of Chuck's dad. And we knew we would finally have the Ellie and Awesome wedding. We knew we would have Ellie and Awesome getting married -- how that would affect Chuck, and Chuck trying to bring dad home. In next week's episode, we also have an escalation inside the Buy More story, with Morgan and Emmitt and Big Mike. Changes inside the Buy More are coming that are almost as big as the ones happening to Chuck.
Speaking of the Buy More, can you talk about the challenge of finding room for those stories every week?
There's three sets of stories. There's the Chuck spy story, the Buy More story and the Ellie and Awesome story. Based on the Chuck story, we figure out how the B story is going to fold into it. Last night was such a big Chuck story that there was very little Buy More in last night's episode. I think that that made sense. But there was also the Ellie and Awesome story was essentially the B story of that episode. Usually, we like to make the stories thematically tied together, so Morgan is having an issue inside the Buy More that Chuck is dealing with, be it trust, or growing up, or making life choices.
Fulcrum now knows that Chuck works at this Buy More where they've lost so many agents, that he was Bryce Larkin's roommate in college and dated Jill at the same time, and now they know that his father created the Intersect. At what point is someone in Fulcrum HQ going to do the math on this?
I think if you look at it from the Fulcrum perspective. Because we have so much story to tell in each episode, what we don't do is the scene where you cut back to the bad guy lair and hear them discussing their plans. Every time they've sent an agent inside the Buy More, they've lost that team; they look at the Buy More as a CIA station, probably everyone inside that store is a spy. In our next couple of episodes you're going to start seeing the Fulcrum plan come into focus.
Is there anything fans can do to help the show come back?
We're always looking at how fan reactions are to how episodes end.. I'd say just get the word out, tell friends and family to watch the show, as well as making their voices heard. Fans can be so helpful in getting the word out, letting people know how great the show is.
Well, do you think there's still the possibility of sending lots of one item to NBC, or did the "Jericho" situation kind of ruin that for fans of every other show?
Our fans are a creative bunch out there, so if they have any great ideas, go for it. Obviously, the "Jericho" fans took nuts and ran with that. Maybe there is a great idea, so yeah.
Looking back, is there anything you wish you had done differently this season?
We couldn't be happier with our season. Working on "Chuck," and with Josh and our writers and our cast and crew, it is a lot of fun and a great show to work on. We couldn't be happier with the season that we've created. We just look forward to doing more episodes in the future.