Saving Sarah 3 – Crisis of Faith
by Kevin Rigdon (@pralix1138)
I suppose it is inevitable, when there is a conversion experience in our lives, there will come a crisis of faith. There are events that make us not only question our conversion, they have the capability of completely destroying us. For Sarah Walker, the crisis comes in season three. She began the story as someone who desires to be saved. In season one, Sarah undergoes the conversion experience, and accepts the possibility of salvation. In season two, after the conversion, she progresses from desiring a normal life to the realization that the salvation she is to experience isn’t pretending to be normal. It is personal. She is to be saved through her participation in the life of Chuck Bartowski. Now, in season three, she undergoes her crisis of faith.
Now, setting aside my own personal issues with the writing and plot devices used in season three, it is pretty apparent that this season presents Sarah with a challenge to her acquisition of salvation: Chuck’s rejection. In the previous season, Sarah had been willing to give up her life as a spy to be with Chuck, to become what he is. Instead, it seems that he has decided to embrace the spy life; he will become what she is. This, of course, terrifies Sarah because she understands all too well that if Chuck fully commits to the spy life, he will lose himself. He will be fundamentally changed, and if Chuck changes, what happens to Sarah? How can she be saved?
Again, leaving aside the forced plot device that is Chuck’s falling for Hannah, we are witness to a type of incarnation on the part of Chuck. Let’s look at it this way: Chuck is the embodiment of good and innocence throughout the series up to this point. He is different. He’s more human than anyone Sarah Walker has ever met. This is immediately apparent from the very first episode. But now, in season three, with the Intersect 2.0 and all of the extenuating circumstances that have been building, Chuck decides to become a spy. In a very real sense, this is a descent into the underworld for Chuck. And it isn’t pretty.
The descent of Chuck Bartowski in season three happens like this: 1) he chooses to become a spy and not run away with Sarah in “Chuck vs. the Pink Slip.” 2) He burns an asset in “Chuck vs. the Nacho Sampler.” 3) He takes on a false identity and pulls out Casey’s tooth in “Chuck vs. the Fake Name.” (Interestingly, it is also in this episode where we are shown the growth in Sarah. As she witnesses Chuck’s descent into becoming a spy, and thereby becoming someone else, she realizes that she wants to regain who she was before the spy life). But Chuck comes to his senses; his descent is halted. He doesn’t lose himself. He comes back, and refuses to commit the cardinal sin of taking a human life. He stays Chuck.
Because he teeters on the verge of losing himself, Sarah seems to lose the stability of the soteriological hero. I would argue, however, that Sarah’s salvation would have been lacking if Chuck had not taken on the reality of becoming a spy, and remained true to himself. He experiences the degradation of that life. He descends to the ruthless efficiency of being a spy, and he comes back from the brink. This has a tremendous effect on Sarah. When she learns from Casey that Chuck didn’t kill the mole in “Chuck vs. the American Hero,” it deepens her faith in the reality of salvation. Because Chuck Bartowski, in his normalcy and goodness, has taken on the type of life she has known, and he has not lost himself but has come back, Sarah can be brought back to herself as well. She can, in fact, be made whole.
“He’s not like other people, he’s incredibly special. He needs to be okay; I need him to be okay.”
- Sarah, “Chuck vs. the Tooth”
Through Chuck’s assumption of the spy nature without the complete loss of himself and the things that make him great (for example: his refusal to take life, and his desire to help someone in need even if it costs him everything he’s worked for), Chuck Bartowski brings Sarah further along in the path of salvation. As is often the case with the crisis of faith, if we survive it and come through to the other side, we are stronger. Our faith is more secure, and our salvation more assured.
Throughout season three, Sarah not only experiences her crisis of faith, she comes through on the other side more certain in her conviction and faith. In the next post on season four, we see Sarah’s union with the soteriological hero as the last shades of doubt are swept away.