Chuck Ending Explained: Memory Versus A Magical Kiss

Long before Zachary Levi donned the famous thunderbolt worn by Shazam, the actor played an entirely different type of hero in "Chuck." The NBC series aired 91 episodes across five seasons from 2007-2012. Created by Josh Schwartz and Chris Fedak, the series was beloved by fans and critics, and yet, was always on the verge of cancellation. When the cast and crew reunited last year, Schwartz told EW the show was meant to appeal to "the fervent fanboy, the hopeless romantic, the action junky, the spy fan, the lover of underdog stories," and compared the genre mashup to a soufflé, before comparing it to a sandwich. This is particularly appropriate, considering fast food chain Subway's role in saving the series from being axed — though "Chuck" had an incredibly passionate fanbase that was also a major force in the show's renewal.

The series followed Chuck Bartowski, a nerd by trade who was shuffling through life working at a Buy More in Burbank, CA. His existence was forever changed when he opened an encoded email from a friend who, unbeknownst to him, had been a member of the CIA. The email downloaded something known as the Intersect into his brain, transforming him into a living database with every secret from both the CIA and the NSA — though a later upgrade would give him some pretty handy martial arts skills as well. With the computer originally holding that information destroyed, Chuck suddenly became the country's most valuable asset and was being pulled in opposite directions by each intelligence agency. Sarah Walker (Yvonne Strahovski) from the CIA and John Casey (Adam Baldwin) from the NSA were both sent to keep an eye on him, and the sensitive info in his head made him vital to spy missions.

"Chuck" took full advantage of an undeniably great premise, bringing its hero on a thrilling journey with countless twists and turns. The show's seamless blend of high-octane spy action with heart and humor has made it one of the most memorable shows of the early aughts. There were definitely some threads left dangling, and though Levi would love to reprise the role and the show's creators seem open to it, as of now, there are no real plans for a revival. So, how did "Chuck" end?

Who Are You Again?

One of the most polarizing aspects of the show's last season was the decision to have Sarah lose her memory ahead of the final episodes. The characters of "Chuck" had been through quite a bit by season 5 and they were all in very different places than where they began. Chuck was a full-fledged spy who no longer had the Intersect in his brain. He and formerly way-out-of-his-league super spy Sarah were now married and even considering starting a family. With the couple poised for a happy ending, erasing Sarah's memory was bound to be controversial.

After downloading a corrupted version of the Intersect into her mind in order to get her and Casey out of an impossible jam, Sarah began having issues with her memory. Nicolas Quinn (Angus Macfadyen) was a bit of an underwhelming villain present in the last several "Chuck" episodes, but he did accomplish something truly terrible: he not only caused Sarah to lose what remained of her memories, but also brainwashed her into believing her entire life with Chuck was never anything more than a mission. Upon returning home, Sarah's orders from Quinn (who she thought was her CIA handler) was to kill her husband and steal the glasses containing the Intersect, which Quinn desperately wanted to get his hands on. This set up a pretty gut-wrenching and exciting two-part finale with "Chuck Versus Sarah" and "Chuck Versus The Goodbye."

Does Sarah Get Her Memories Back?

Everyone but Chuck thinks Sarah is gone for good, and one of the most heartbreaking moments of the finale is thinking they might be right. The scene in which Chuck pours his heart out to Sarah in a desperate bid to bring her back to herself is absolutely brutal. For a brief moment, it seems Sarah may believe him, at least until she says, "I'm sorry. I did my job too well," and resumes trying to kill him. Enter Quinn, just in time to grab those Intersect glasses. Thankfully, he still needed a three-part key before he could use them. He also does a classic mustache-twirling villain overshare and tells Sarah he lied before trying to shoot her. Of course, Chuck jumped in front of her, getting shot in the process.

Sarah may have come to her senses, but even after Casey gave her a copy of the old mission logs that prove she loved Chuck, she couldn't make herself feel feelings she doesn't even remember. Though she initially tries to take revenge on Quinn alone, Sarah is eventually backed by Chuck and Casey. Sarah does wind up killing him, but since he was ultimately little more than a plot device who was only around for a handful of episodes, it feels rather anticlimactic. In the end, Chuck is forced to download the Intersect himself in order to disarm a bomb (more on that in a minute). This was particularly rough, as there was only one upload and the Intersect was Chuck's only chance at restoring Sarah's memory.

What Becomes Of Team Bartowski?

Chuck's sister Ellie (Sarah Lancaster) and her husband Devon (Ryan McPartlin) do get their "happily ever after," riding off into the sunset to their prestigious jobs in Chicago, with daughter Clara in tow. This was kind of a strange choice, seeing as how Chuck and Ellie had always been so close, both emotionally and geographically. I would've liked to see them stay in the same place, but I'll forgive it. It's growth I suppose. Honestly, with the exception of our central couple, it's happy endings all around. Morgan (Joshua Gomez) finally moves in with his girlfriend Alex (Mekenna Melvin), with the blessing of her father. Speaking of Casey, he heads to Germany to be with fellow spy Gertrude Verbanski (Carrie-Anne Moss). Plus, Linda Hamilton briefly reprises her role as Chuck's mother, Mary.

Perhaps the most fun ending to any of the core casts' stories is Jeffster getting a record deal! Not only that, but the duo also got to be heroes. In an effort to steal another part of the key to the Intersect (the final piece he needed to alter and upload it himself) from General Diane Beckman (Bonita Friedericy) as she watched an orchestra performance, Quinn placed a bomb under her chair. The bomb would go off as soon as the music stopped, so who better to keep the beat going than Jeffster? Jeff (Scott Krinsky) and Lester (Vik Sahay) played a delightful version of the A-ha classic "Take on Me," which gave Chuck and co. the time they needed to stop the bomb. In a wonderful callback to the pilot, the day was saved by the Irene Demova virus.

A Kiss To Build A Dream On?

The finale was jam-packed with so much action and emotion, but what about Chuck and Sarah? Written by co-creator Chris Fedak and directed by Robert Duncan McNeill, the final hour of "Chuck" is a love letter to fans, with plenty of homages to the pilot. As Chuck and Sarah search for Quinn in Germany, they hit several locations strikingly similar to places the two visited when they were first getting to know one another. In these scenes, Chuck is so charming, it's easy to see Sarah beginning to fall for him all over again. It should be noted that both Levi and Strahovski gave incredible performances in these final episodes. There is even a moment or two when Sarah has minor recollections of her former life.

The series ends with them sitting on the beach together, much like they did at the pilot's conclusion, except instead of Sarah asking for Chuck's trust, the conversation goes the other way around. After some initial hesitance, Sarah is finally ready to hear Chuck recount their story, with flashbacks reminding fans of some lovely romantic moments between the two. Earlier in the episode, Morgan had pitched the idea of a "magical kiss" to Chuck, claiming that if he could just kiss Sarah, her memories would come flooding back, Disney movie-style. With Sarah's consent of course, Chuck kisses her and ... the screen fades to black!

The series finale of "Chuck" was divisive when it aired, as some fans were unhappy with the ambiguity of that final scene. Not everything about this episode was perfect, but I think this was a great choice. I prefer not to have such an epic love story tied up with a nice little bow. Both Fedak and Schwartz told TV Line they felt it was important to leave it open-ended, though Levi said at Fan Expo Canada (via Comic Book) that he thinks the kiss worked.

While we'll never know if Sarah gets her memory back, we do see her begin to develop feelings for Chuck. Plus, Chuck proved he was willing to sweep her off her feet all over again. After all, he's already done it once before! "Chuck" gave us an action-packed finale that brought the series full circle, and though I laughed out loud in certain moments, I can't be the only one who welled up with tears as Chuck and Sarah shared that final kiss. "Aces, Charles."