Chuck, Fringe, and Haven: Story arc similarities

I noticed a pattern.

Chuck, Fringe, and Haven all follow a similar story arc with their male and female lead characters.

The story arc goes like this: a female government agent arrives in town for a specific case. She teams up with a man who has secrets (some he knows about; some he isn’t aware of). They start off in a professional relationship. Later it turns romantic. Then, things change:

  • Man loses woman
  • Woman takes on a new identity
  • Woman returns (but is she still the same person?)

This cycle happens at least twice in each show, but despite these similarities, each show explores this story arc differently.

Let’s take a look, show by show. (Spoilers ahead. And for simplicity, I’m leaving out most of the sci-fi inner workings in these shows.)

The characters

Chuck and Sarah (Chuck)

The female government agent: Sarah (CIA) comes to Burbank to secure the Intersect.
The man with secrets: Chuck inadvertently uploads government intelligence into his brain, via secret technology called the Intersect. That’s the secret he knows about. The ones he doesn’t know about: His parents worked for the CIA, and his dad was part of the team that developed the Intersect.

Olivia and Peter (Fringe)

The female government agent: Olivia (FBI) goes to Boston to investigate deaths on a commercial flight.
The man with secrets: No one knows much about what Peter was doing right before he started working with the FBI. Those are his secrets. The secret he doesn’t know about: he was born in the Red Universe.

Nathan and Audrey (Haven)

The female government agent: Audrey (FBI) follows a federal prison escapee to Haven.
The man with secrets: Nathan can’t feel any physical sensation because of the Troubles. The secret he doesn’t know about: he is adopted.

The cycles

In Chuck, the first time Chuck loses Sarah is to a mission—she goes undercover at Volkoff Industries and pretends to turn against the CIA (new identity). After they capture Volkoff, Sarah returns to her life in Burbank. The second time, Chuck loses Sarah to a faulty Intersect she uploaded into her brain. In the aftermath, she loses her memories of him (new identity). The series ends with Sarah asking Chuck to tell her about everything they’ve been through together, so that implies that they’ll try to build their relationship again. So, woman returns but she’s not the same as before she left, and the relationship is different.

In Fringe, Peter loses Olivia the first time when she gets trapped in the Red Universe. But there’s a twist—Olivia’s double (let’s call her Altlivia) comes over to the Blue Universe and poses as Olivia. Peter doesn’t realize they switched, so he doesn’t know that he lost his Olivia. Meanwhile, Olivia pretends to be Altlivia in the Red Universe (new identity) but then she blows her cover and fights her way back to the Blue Universe. Olivia comes back safely but the dynamic between her and Peter is different because of the relationship he had with Altlivia in Olivia’s absence. The second time, William Bell’s consciousness takes over Olivia (new identity), and Peter loses her temporarily until the team can bring her back. Peter loses Olivia again briefly in season 5, because they are separated and then trapped in amber. But he finds her and frees her. (No new identity in this cycle.) So, woman returns as herself but the relationship changes a little each time.

In Haven, Nathan loses Audrey when she enters the Barn to stop a meteor shower that is destroying the town. Audrey comes back as Lexi (new identity), with a different personality and (seemingly) no memories of Nathan. Audrey is back to herself but later, Mara takes overs (loss #2 and another identity). And then Audrey returns but is ill; seemingly dies (loss #3, no new identity), but then Mara’s mother brings Audrey back. At the mid-break of season 5, Audrey seems to be back to herself. So, the woman returns and we’re not sure if anything is different.

Even though the lead characters in Chuck, Fringe, and Haven follow similar story arcs, the stories, their developments, and the outcomes are all different.

Images sources:
Chuck and Sarah
Olivia and Peter
Nathan and Audrey


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