That sweetly charming, nerd-friendly secret-agent series Chuck will end its five-year run with two back-to-back episodes called "Chuck Versus Sarah" and "Chuck Versus the Goodbye." But the finale could just as easily be named "Chuck Versus the Kleenex" because there's that much weeping and wailing and tissue-grabbing going on down at the set.
"We were all feeling a great big bag of emotions heading into this season, knowing it would be our last, and it's only gotten worse — there's real mourning going on here," says star Zachary Levi in between takes of a blazing gun battle on the backlot at Universal Studios. His character, computer geek-turned-spy Chuck Bartowski, and wife Sarah (Yvonne Strahovski) have tracked the show's final big baddie, Nicholas Quinn (Braveheart star Angus Macfadyen), to the local Weinerlicious in Berlin. Their goal is to kill him. Levi's goal is a bit more difficult.
"It's everything I can do to keep from losing my s--t," says Levi, his eyes welling, his words catching in his throat. "Almost every scene in the finale has been tough to handle. Chuck is saying goodbye to certain characters that mean the world to him. The last scene we shot at the Buy More — the very soul of our show — was so hard we couldn't go home. We all just sat around on the set in the dark for hours afterward sharing memories. I was a mess."
His leading lady isn't doing much better. "It's so sad it's crazy," says Strahovski as she reaches for a paper towel off the snack table and dabs at her eyes. "To think I won't have this show and these people — this family — in my life anymore! I was hoping to get away with maybe a tear or two, but I can't stop doing the ugly cry."
It doesn't help that the finale itself is packed with trauma and heartache. "It involves the very breakdown of the Chuck and Sarah relationship," reveals Strahovski. "It's just awful because they've become such a fun, loving, Mr. and Mrs. Smith-type couple. The last episode very much asks: Will they or won't they make it?"
Surely the writers won't tick off the fans by ending things with a Bartowski bust-up... uh, would they? "It's not our intent to have the audience coming after us with pitchforks and torches," says executive producer Chris Fedak. "But we wanted a finale that was perilous and scary, and not just in a spy-mission sort of way. Everything Chuck has achieved in the last five seasons will be in jeopardy. There is much more to worry about in the last two episodes than whether or not everyone makes it out alive."
Then again, Chuck has always been a pins-and-needles kind of show. "When we go to Comic-Con we're treated like the Beatles, but we've never been a hit in the ratings," notes Joshua Gomez, who plays Chuck's goofball BFF Morgan Grimes. "Every season we were on the bubble. Will NBC renew us? Are we dead in the water? And it always went down to the wire."
Much of the credit for all those eleventh-hour reprieves goes to the die-hard fans. "They've made noise, they've kept us going, they've been our life blood," says Levi. "When you're on the brink of cancellation every year, you can't help but wonder, 'Does anybody really care about us?' But then the fan love would kick in and everything would be all right." Adds Levi with a long, contented sigh: "We aren't just TV white noise, you know? We have really touched people's lives with this show. And that means we can all walk away from it deeply proud."
Chuck's series finale airs Friday at 8/7c on NBC.