The Art of Happy Ever After (with Chuck Spoilers!)

The Art of Happy Ever After (with Chuck Spoilers!)

I love to binge watch television, and my recent obsession has been Chuck, which I finished last night. If you haven’t watched Chuck and think you might want to watch Chuck, turn back now. Cuz I’m going to spoil the crap out of it.

Chuck, which aired for 91 episodes on NBC between 2007-2012, followed a brilliant but shiftless computer pro who works in electronic service repair. His life changes when his subconscious is unwittingly programmed with a CIA database. Chuck, and his collection of misfit nerd friends, are drawn into a life of espionage by Sarah, the beautiful spy sent to turn him into a government asset.

Chuck and Sarah’s relationship deepens from mistrust to mutual respect and affection and finally, to love. They marry and embrace a partnership at work and in the home. Over five years, Chuck helps Sarah develop empathy, and she grows to love his uncompromising goodness. In return, Sarah gives Chuck drive and purpose, an outlet for all the brilliant potential he’s wasted.

There’s more to it, of course, but their relationship was the cornerstone of the show. So that’s why it was so shocking when, in the series finale, Sarah is hit with amnesia and forgets everything about the last five years. In the remaining hour of the show, Chuck attempts to woo Sarah into remembering her feelings for him and their past together. While it appears she has the occasional hint of a memory, she does not recover her past. A secondary character suggests that a kiss might jog her memory, and the final scene is of them kissing and a fade to black.

I have a lot of respect for endings that allows the audience to draw the conclusion of what happens next, even as I despair over not knowing. The ending is designed to engage the audience and strengthen their connection to the story by making them responsible for its conclusion.

Compare this to Jane Austen’s endings, where we are often given very definitive glimpses into the future relationship not only of the primary couple but the rest of the characters. The kind of endings that in today’s market might not make it past an editor for fear of being too much neat exposition. Austen gave us our Happily Ever Afters, and yet the need to continue her stories, to further the characters’ journeys, endures.

The disparity in these endings, while both being satisfying, made me search for what makes a good ending – and after perusing articles and lists and message boards, the conclusion was the same: an ending is perfect if it honors the story that came before it.

Chuck is a story about two people trusting each other against all odds, so a final scene that demands the same, even at the expense of one character’s memories, feels right and true to the story.

Jane Austen’s narrators often described the simple mundaneness of life in a way that was important and beautiful, so an ending that did the same seems appropriate.

The happily of happily ever after is relative. In fact, when I looked at my Favorites shelf (we all have one, yes?), the first ten titles stuck out as having ambiguous endings – or HEAs that weren’t typically H.

Life of Pi
What I Saw and How I Lied
Code Name Verity
The Time Traveler’s Wife
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate
Daughter of Smoke and Bone
The Book Thief
The Tiger’s Wife
The Dust of 100 Dogs

Check out your shelves and lemme know where you stand!



12 Responses to The Art of Happy Ever After (with Chuck Spoilers!)

  1. I very much enjoyed “Chuck.” It’s surprising it was only 91 episodes. I liked the whole downloading vast info into the brain theme. Now, if only that could be combined with nanobots to make one super-strong….

  2. I loved the series Chuck! I watched it from beginning to end when it was airing. I was so sad when it ended and was not happy about the ending…

    As a reader and viewer, I appreciate when the writer wraps up the story so there’s no questions but leaves enough room to make the reader/viewer think. All the season finale of Chuck was done in that way except for the series finale in my opinion. It was why the fans loved it to much.

    I’ve heard of some of the titles you’ve listed but haven’t read any of them yet.

  3. Okay, I didn’t read the whole blog, I admit, because Chuck is on my future binge-watch list. I LOVE binge watching! To me, the creation of Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, etc. is not just the freedom from commercials and making sure the DVR is programmed correctly, it is the joy of catching up on shows I missed in the past. Right now I am working my way through Merlin, and also catching up on a few seasons of America’s Top Model. Before that I worked through MASH, and Parks and Recreation (for the tenth time at least!). I also rather wait to make sure a series is going to end without being canceled before the story is resolved. I can’t count the number of TV shows I have loved that were unceremoniously axed. I’m still fuming over Firefly!

    When it comes to an HEA ending, I really am not a fan of stories that leave it vague, or worse yet have a “they don’t get together” ending. I hated Cold Mountain for that reason, and only barely accepted Sommersby because there was a sound reason for it (although I would have written it different anyway! LOL!). I want the kiss and ride off into the sunset, or wedding altar!

  4. Gah! I hate most shows where the character gets amnesia. It’s just such an easy crutch. I can’t believe how many TV shows stoop to that. Castle did it last season for example. I did love Chuck in general, though. I’ve seen most of the shows, but I’m not sure I ever saw the ending.

  5. I don’t binge read, unless you count my lifelong addiction to reading historical romance, but with NETFLIX, I binge watch…. Dr. Who, Star Trek, Inspector Morse and Ripper Street. Want to watch the Three Musketeers….I am a Dumas fan among many others. An HEA is a necessity.

    • Before I got Netflix and HULU I found the second season of Ripper Street. Since I missed the first season I went out and bought it on DVD b/c I was so fascinated and had to know the whole story. Have you watched Penny Dreadful? It combines many of our horror figures…Dorian Grey, Dracula, etc.

  6. With HULU and Netflix it has been a joy to watch shows from the beginning of Season 1 to the end of Season ?. I am presently binge watching 2 British shows, MI5 and Inspector Morse. The former one b/c it stars a couple of the men who are in movie adaptations of Jane Austen’s books, i.e., Matthew Macfadyen, Rupert Penry Jones and then Richard Armitage who, of course, starred in North and South. As for books – I MUST have a happy ending. I read for escapism thus no matter what struggles ODCs go through they must live happily ever after. Never heard of Chuck…is this an American or a British show?

  7. I can be a binge watcher (or reader) if I stumble upon something I really like . . . for instance Pride and Prejudice! As for HEAs I have to have them in what I read and write. Life has held too many disappointments for me, I suppose. So I insist that whatever I spend my time doing makes me happy! That’s just me! Lovely post!

  8. I could be a binge watcher and have done so in the past. Right now, I’m just to busy keeping up with JAFF in general which includes the D&L forum. Oh yes, and work. Did someone mention writing?

    • Writing??? What writing? :P:P

      I recently adopted a new kitten which has made binge watching even MORE attractive because we cuddle up together under the blankets <3. How can I resist?

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