'Chuck' finale: Co-creator Chris Fedak promises an 'emotionally epic' close to the series
"Chuck" has already had four or five episodes that could have served as a series finale if the perennially on-the-bubble show hadn't made it to another season. Now, though, the end really is at hand, and co-creator Chris Fedak says that changed his approach to writing this finale.
"We designed this season to answer a lot of questions and tell a final story," Fedak says during a break in filming of the finale in December. "So it's a little different than in seasons past, where I had a whole back pocket or secret door where I could push the story through and find new tales to tell. This is very much, we're closing out the 'Chuck' story, and we're telling a big, epic finale. So it's a little different this season.
"Now if someone were to say they wanted to do a 'Chuck' movie in the future, that would be awesome, but for the most part, this season from the get-go has been designed as the finale."
Fedak talked a lot more about bringing the series to a close, and a little bit about what fans will see on Friday (Jan. 27).
Q: Does this finale feel different than all the other possible finales you've done?
A: It's different. It's definitely a different type of ending. My instinct as a writer is always to -- especially as a television writer -- [say] you're going to want to see what happens next. That's not not a part of this, but it's constructed in a different way. It's definitely a final moment.
Q: When you say "big, epic finale" -- tell us about the scope of these final two episodes.
A: The last three episodes of the season -- we just finished the cut on episode 11, "Chuck vs. the Bullet Train," which is set on a Japanese bullet train. The ending is so epic ... it's emotionally epic. Not necessarily in regard to things exploding, because we've always found on our show that we can have bombs and explosions and a lot of really fun stuff like that, but really it's the emotions of these characters.
We mess with those emotions in such a big, huge, epic way at the end of episode 11 to tease the final two episodes. ... It's going to be not only a huge action-adventure -- here we are [on location] doing our big, "Man Who Knew Too Much" set piece for Act 4 of the finale -- but we're also going to have huge emotion. Everything is on the line ... it's a really emotional experience. I think we've all found that as we've been working on this episode, it's not just about blowing something up, it's really about where we've taken these characters over five years and just how different they are.
Q: We heard you had two and three units working on some days in the last week.
A: Yeah, I spent all the money. There will be no extra money I can give back to Warner Bros. at the end of this process. We've essentially blown it out. We have multiple units going on each day, we have set pieces. We were over at Universal the other night shooting Berlin. So we've gone a little international. For most of the season we've kept it pretty domestic. I like that idea, I like bringing it back to the States and making the show a little bit smaller. Now we're blowing it out. We're going back to the big tradition of Berlin, of Japanese bullet trains. But also, our second-to-last episode is very much an intimate thriller. A lot of very exciting things happen within our core, usual home bases.
Q: Are you purposely trying to make "Chuck" fans cry in the last episode?
A: No! That makes me sound like I'm a manipulative a**hole. Maybe I am a little bit. But I think this has always been a big, emotional show. These characters -- and Zac [Levi] and Yvonne [Strahovski] and the rest of our cast have made them such human beings -- they're such full characters that if this wasn't a tear-filled finale, we wouldn't be doing our job.
Q: Are there a lot of callbacks in the finale?
A: You know, it's very callback-y. It's an episode haunted by previous seasons. So you're going to find a lot of echoes. The first half of the night, episode 12, is very much a contained thriller. And episode 13, every act will have echoes of past seasons. You'll see how we fold that into the story and the narrative -- it all makes a lot of sense. But there was something about it where, as we were working on the episode, breaking it in the writers room, we wanted something that played to the entire show, not just this season.
Q: What is it about "Chuck" that makes the fans so devoted?
A: I think this is a show that speaks -- for people who love the show, it's a show they can get very passionate about. Not only do we have a great cast and crew and all that stuff, but it's a show that's very specific. If you're obsessed with the "Chuck" show, this is a show that was kind of designed for you. It's got action, it's got music, it's got comedy, and it's got a sensibility -- it's for people who enjoy media, who enjoy movies and music. So if we lock those people in, I think they stick around.
And they're very avid. It's very interactive. In Season 3, [co-creator] Josh [Schwartz] and I got in there, we talked to our fans, we listened to them. That's kind of a new thing in this day and age -- [producers] who read the blogs, read what people are saying about the show.
Q: How long have you known what the last scene was going to be?
A: It's been in the ether. The shape of that last scene came about at the end of last season. When we started thinking about Season 5, we kind of came up with a pitch of the show, and then we he had our shape. So Josh and I and [fellow executive producer] McG went to NBC and Warner Bros. and pitched them what we wanted to do, and this ending in one shape or another was always the ending, always kind of where we wanted to go. We knew it was our big final moment. So it's been a year in the making.
Q: How has it changed?
A: Very little. It's always been the heart of the thing.
Q: Going off of that, "The Wire" was a finale where they made sure everybody got their grace note in the end. Is that the kind of finale you guys wanted?
A: Yeah, we built that in. I wanted to make certain we got everybody. So we had Bonita [Friedericy] back for this episode, and I wanted to make certain that we had those wrap-ups and we know where everybody's going, or where they are. If they're still alive.
"Chuck's" finale airs at 8 p.m. ET Friday on NBC.