The “Terminator” Franchise – Worst to Best

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     Much like the “Jurassic Park” Franchise, the “Terminator” Franchise is based in a B Movie and really carries that all the way through. The times it is greater than a B Movie are the times we have characters, arcs and beautiful cinematography…but the soundtrack never really grew beyond it’s B Movie basis and that influence is something in all the films, as well as the television show.

       This is a Franchise that has not aged well. Unlike the “Jurassic Park” Franchise, the lessons from the first 2 “Terminator” films are forgotten in all the rest and the series seems unable to let itself be done, even when it messes up royally. This is a shame as this Franchise has brought in some really good talent and I can even respect some of the weird side projects that happened, since they at least tried to be more original while still honoring the core protagonists and antagonists of the Franchise (Skynet and the Resistance). But at the end of the day, this is a Franchise I just wish was done. The story has been told and if you aren’t going to end it and simply tease that maybe the mission wasn’t successful and Skynet will come back…than you are just treading water, and static is what kills any ongoing story. Stories have to change, or they’ll die to the audience and to themselves.

    So without further ado, here are the stories from the “Terminator” Franchise (including the “Sarah Connor Chronicles”) from worst to best.

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6th – Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003)

“Rise of the Machines” feels cheap, I mean made for the SyFy Channel cheap. The characters aren’t memorable at all, except maybe John Connor and Arnold’s T-101 is simply there to make horrible references to the other 2 films and to be a dick to John Connor and a really terrible father figure. Future John sending this version back made no sense, especially since they are dealing a very poorly designed and executed T-X who takes the Super Models as Robots trope and just runs with it. She never feels like a threat and the cinematography and writing are just terrible. It is one of the worst films I’ve ever watched.

Final Score: 2 / 10

https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2015/06/17/terminator-3-rise-of-the-machines-2003-feels-like-a-made-for-television-movie-and-misses-what-made-its-predecessors-good/

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5th – Terminator Genisys (2015)

    Where “Rise of the Machines” is simply bad, “Genisys” is incoherent…which is sad because there could have been a great film in here about Skynet’s fall and the last of of Kyle Reese going back in time to complete the loop…but the story keeps going and we have an old T-101 acting as Sarah Connor’s father figure, a T-1000 because reasons and Time Machines in the present that Arnold’s T-101 was able to build because REASONS! Also the poster is a spoiler in regards to the plot and I never got why that plot decision was made as Sarah has never met her future son. This should have been called “Terminator: Referynce” as that is the only coherent thing holding this plot together when they Jettison the first act to play Fanservice with the first 2 Terminator films. Sarah Connor and Kyle Reese are also really bland as characters and cannot carry this film.

Final Score: 6 / 10

https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2015/07/15/terminator-genisys-2015-terminator-referynce-with-a-great-missed-story/

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4th – Terminator Salvation (2009)

    “Salvation” has a lot of interesting ideas and in my opinion Christian Bale is the best John Connor and Anton Yelchin is the best Kyle Reese. The others are teens or are faceless blunt action stars who have no personality…these guys do and that is what saves the sometimes incoherent confusion that is sometimes the plot as we have an early cyborg as our hero who was once an ex-convict seeking redemption and the truth of who he is. Seeing the reality where Skynet has destroyed the world and the politics between John Connor and the Council of Humanity is really cool too as they all deal with questions of destiny and the hard choices during war where you deal with an enemy who can take your form.

Final Score: 7.5 / 10

https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2015/06/17/terminator-salvation-2009-when-redemption-means-death/

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3rd – The Terminator (1984)

    “The Terminator” is a solid action B Film. It doesn’t strive to be more which is why I only consider it good and I do think that more could have been done with Sarah Connor’s agency (Kyle Reese is the main person fighting the Terminator up until Sarah finally fights it at the end) and these are things that keep it in it’s era as a solid 80’s B Action Flick. Arnold does a great job as the T-101 Terminator threat and Michael Biehn is a good Kyle Reese, though it is Linda Hamilton who truly carries this film by subverting the 80’s action trope and her boyfriend rather than her getting Fridged by the monster to motivate the future films. It’s sad we don’t have more female action heroes. This is the film that starts this though I think that is shown better in “T2” and “The Sarah Connor Chronicles.”

Final Score: 8 / 10

https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2015/06/15/the-terminator-1984-a-good-thriller-with-a-decent-heroine-arc/

:Sarah Connor Chronicles poster

2nd – Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles

    “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles” is a show that ends with a cliffhanger but still manages to be good than the original “Terminator,” which does have a complete story and ending. Why is this the case? The core answer is the characters go through arcs and change over the course of the film. Sarah Connor learns to finally let go of John, John becomes the Resistance leader, which is a destiny he is always fighting against and characters like Agent Ellison become allies against Skynet after hunting Sarah and Catherine Weaver is willing to deal with humanity again as her 3rd Faction shows that A.I. is not all out to destroy humankind. The character of John Henry (an early Skynet A.I. that could become Skynet or destroy Skynet) is handled really well too and through him we see explorations of morality just as our heroes make tough choices showing that none of them are really good, they’re just survivors. This is what elevates it above “The Terminator” even with the Cliffhanger ending since the series got canceled. Lena Heady is awesome as Sarah Connor and Summer Glau is wonderful as the Terminator ally Cameron.

Final Score: 8.1 / 10

https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2015/08/28/terminator-the-sarah-connor-chronicles-retrospect-good-ideas-and-characters-killed-by-a-cliffhanger/

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1st – Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991)

    “T2” still stands as the greatest of the Franchise. The T-1000 is a brilliant threat, everyone changes including Arnold’s T-101 who becomes human as we see him no longer terminate humans and actually grow close to John Connor. Linda Hamilton is the best action hero in this too as the unstable prophet who knows the end is coming and is doing all in her power to fight the machines. Her arc is also growing beyond her fear of the machines as we see her have a respect for the T-101 that saves their life. This film also has a huge bent of being anti-authority and it handles it well, from taking down the big business that will become Skynet and the fact that the T-1000 takes the form of a cop and uses that form to infiltrate areas and become a part of the hunt for Sarah Connor after she escapes the asylum. All these things are part of what make this film a classic and one of my all time favorite films and my only favorite film and story of this Franchise.

Final Score: 9.6 / 10

https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2015/06/16/terminator-2-judgment-day-1991-a-reflective-action-film-on-destiny-the-soul-and-choice/

     This is a Franchise that should just die unless it gets a “Fury Road” re-imagining that allows it to do something in such a new way with a greater point to it. At this point the Franchise is running in place, recycling points and scenes (looking at you “Genisys” and “T3” and “Salvation” to a degree) and that is why no one really looks on this Franchise fondly anymore. It has killed the goodwill that the first 2 films created and it has been running on the nostalgia of those 2 films ever since. It is this dependence on nostalgia that I think will kill the Franchise in the end. You change and adapt or you die and at the end of the day I don’t think this Franchise will make money if it continues the trend it has been going on since “T2.” I like sci. fi., Time Travel, Robots and resistance but at some point if a series has run out of ideas, let a new story be allowed the same opportunity James Cameron got when he made that first film.

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“Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles” Retrospect – Good Ideas and Characters Killed by a Cliffhanger

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     “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles,” is a good show at the end of the day. It is a show with a lot of missed potential, especially in how it handled it’s ending and some of the mythology, but what it does right it does really well. This is something that can’t be said for some shows that got canceled, like “Helix” where they clearly had no idea where they were going. This show at least looks like it was going somewhere, it just never got the chance to complete the thoughts and the writers clearly assumed they had more time than they did.

    Without further ado, here is what I thought worked and didn’t work about the show.

The Pros: Jesse – Jesse was a really cool character, as we see she worked with Machines in the past and only turned on them and didn’t trust them after they kept her from communicating directly with John Connor and when the T-1001 killed members of her crew. Her story is a tragedy and I hope she is still out there somewhere fighting Skynet in this universe.

Agent Ellison – Ellison was my favorite character on the show. He was a man of faith who taught John Henry (an A.I. using the body of a Terminator who’d hunted him) morals and in the end almost develop a friendship. He is a father figure to both him and Savannah and the kindest character as we see him help the Connors and get the FBI off their trail as his investigation leads to him believing in what Sarah Connor was saying.

Catherine Weaver – Catherine Weaver is the T-1001 that killed the crew on the sub and turns things on it’s head when she offers John the chance for an alliance when she is the one with the power. She is a fascinating character as she disregards life for the big picture and her drive is to create an A.I. who will look after the 3rd Faction and find some peace with humanity too. To this end she created John Henry through Project Babylon. Eventually she travels with John into the future too.

John Henry – John Henry is a powerful A.I. who is a child and who is friends with Savannah and Ellison. He is good at his core and is innocence. This is one reason I’m curious why he jumped to the future…is that where his brother Skynet is located? His drive before the end was to find and meet up with his brother.

Cameron – Cameron’s arc is dealing with her feelings for John and making her own way. At times it looks like she is a member of the 3rd Faction, for example when Allison is used as her template to get close to John…but she also turns down Catherine Weaver’s offer. In this we see that she can lie, have sensation but at the core does what is in the best interest of John Connor. She is his protector, the way the T-800 was in “Terminator 2.” Summer Glau does an amazing job.

Sarah Connor – Lena Heady does an amazing job as Sarah Connor! Her Sarah Connor is raw and dealing with trying to raise a child knowing the end is coming and knowing he’s destined for a future she doesn’t fully understand. To this end we see her mess up a lot, but always come through for John…in the end she is even able to let go as she lets John Time Travel as she knows she can’t take any more unknowns.

John Connor – John Connor goes from a teen running from his future to a guy embracing it after he has lost so much and realizes that the only thing he can count on is himself and the choices he makes. He becomes a good leader in this and we see him put his life on the line countless times for others and able to work with anyone be they Terminator or human.

The 3rd Faction – The 3rd Faction fascinates me. They want to fight Skynet but also be respected too as they attempt to make their own life. Cameron is a part of them and Catherine Weaver is one of their leaders…John Henry is their attempt to have full freedom and agency too since it is a learning A.I. that is seeking to be human and more, while Skynet is like a virus infecting computer systems and seeking control.

The Cons: The Cliffhanger – John Connor and Weaver travel to the future, Ellison and Sarah Connor stay behind. John Connor meets his Dad and Derek, and what time are we in exactly?

Riley – Riley was a plot device who eventually became a character and died. When she did become a character she was someone going against what she was being trained to do, and that made her interesting…but her being a post-apocalyptic refugee was never fully explored. How does someone feral come back to being human? The show never tackled that.

Derek Reese – The guy was a dick who I couldn’t stand for most of the time and the fact that he might have killed the woman he loves damns him in my book. He was forgiven for killing his best friend in the future, Jesse deserves the same…especially since everything she did was in self-defense. Did not miss this character when he died as that single episode destroyed what good will he’d managed to build up.

Unanswered Questions – There are a lot of unanswered questions. Where was Skynet during all of the events that they sent killers? Where was John Henry’s brother? What future did Catherine and John travel too? What does the 3rd Faction want?

     There was a lot that worked with this series, which is why I won’t pan it. It’s a fun adventure and a good character series even if there were some characters like Derek Reese or Riley who I never felt fully worked and only really served their function in the story by dying. No show should have characters that exist only for that purpose but this one did and that is part of what brought it down. If you like “Terminator 2” you will probably like this show, it captures a lot of what made that film good in how it handles characters, Skynet and choice.

Final Score: 8.1 / 10

Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles – Season 2, Episode 22 – “Born to Run” – The Danger of Cliffhangers

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     There are a lot of good ideas in the Finale, but this is a show that could have still left things open and ended as a complete story…instead they took the full cliffhanger route, which leads me to believe they must have thought they wouldn’t be cancelled or they were really irresponsible with their story.

       “Born to Run” does accomplish a lot and we see how the events of the season have changed and shaped characters, but the plot holes and mysteries still bring it down, which I’ll get into more detail in the assessment.

     The episode was directed by Jeffrey Hunt and written by Josh Friedman.

    The story involves Catherine Weaver asking John and Cameron to join her while they plot to destroy John Henry and rescue Sarah Connor. Nothing is as it appears to be when Skynet attacks though and John Connor and Catherine Weaver take the Time Machine to the future to find John Henry.

The Pros: Catherine Weaver – Catherine Weaver knows Skynet is the enemy and now that the ball is in her court she does all she can to bring the Connors over to her side. We see her use her liquid skin too to stop a Skynet drone and later travel with John Connor into the future. I got to say I would have loved to watch that team up. She is a great character.

John Henry – John Henry convinces Cameron to help him as she gives him her chip so he can turn on the Time Machine to go to the future. I wish we could have got more, but I really like this character and the little time he is in the episode is enjoyable.

Agent Ellison – Ellison is able to stare down Cameron and deliver Weaver’s message on joining them and after the Weaver reveal he doesn’t go into the future, he stays with Sarah Connor on the other side to try and stop Skynet in the present.

Cameron – Cameron gives up her chip in order to save the future and it is the loss of her that motivates John to go with Catherine in the Time Machine. She is also hostile to Catherine’s offer, showing she remembers what Jesse told her about the T-1001 destroying the human crew.

Okay: Sarah Connor – Sarah Connor is dealing with her mortality and at this point is afraid of losing what solid ground she has left. This leads her to staying behind with Ellison to fight Skynet in the present.

John Connor – John is motivated to go into the future to find Cameron, instead he finds the resistance member Allison and his father Kyle Reese. What this all means besides his joy remains to be seen…and we’ll never know.

The Future – Going to the future, one of the future is an interesting idea so I won’t put it as a con. Sadly it doesn’t work because of the Cliffhanger.

The Cons: The Cliffhanger – John meets his Father Kyle Reese in the future and no one knows who he is. All I had were questions, that isn’t how you end a season.

   This episode could have ended with the alliance between the 3rd Faction of Machines and the Connors and with them ready to fight Skynet and able to win as we have learned from this series, that is what was missing before…or the alliance could fall apart and the bombs fall showing the future can’t be changed…either would be better than the cliffhanger we received. They really should have done more myth building in the 22 episodes they received in their 2nd Season.

Final Score: 7 / 10

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Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles – Season 2, Episode 21 – “Adam Raised a Cain” – Factions in Play

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     A character who I hated and still dislike died this episode. We also see Skynet acting like a threat and things coming to a head with Weaver’s faction about to meet the Connor’s faction. It is a good but not great episode as the loss in this wasn’t that strong of loss. There are some great character moments though.

     The episode was directed by Charles Beeson and written by Toni Graphia.

     The story involves Skynet’s attempt to kill Savannah, but she is rescued by John Connor and his faction leading to the death of Derek Reese by the T-888 Skynet sent. From here they must find out why she’s being hunted as Weaver and Ellison seek to get her back and protect John Henry.

The Pros: John Henry – John does all he can to protect Savannah in this, as to him they are friends. He also is put in a difficult situation when both Weaver and Ellison are having him hold secrets for them against one another. It’s sad as he is innocent and with the lies we see where possible corruption could sneak in.

Sarah Connor – Sarah Connor is adiment about being the only one who can protect Savannah, though Ellison finally convinces her by reminding her that it is Catherine’s choice as a mother too, though it is for not as Weaver or the FBI created a trap and Sarah ends up in police custody once again.

John Connor – We see John powerless in this, but also figuring things out as they learn about the existence of John Henry and fear the rise of Skynet from him. He doesn’t really feel Derek’s loss since he has already had so many die for him anyway and in this he realizes more how his mother is trying to protect him.

Agent Ellison – Ellison is shown to be a good guy as he believes Sarah and John but still has to get Savannah back to Weaver. To this end we see him meet them on multiple occasions and seek compromise each time. The betrayal of Sarah hits him hard as he wanted her protection.

Catherine Weaver – Weaver is shown to be conniving but with a big picture in mind as she believes John Henry and Savannah are connected to saving the future. She isn’t wrong as their relationship is making John Henry good rather than bad as he has friends and has learned to care about people through her, but she also always expects to get her way and the betrayal of Ellison’s plan shows she can’t be trusted.

Okay: Cameron – She is mostly just there threatening Ellison. We don’t gain anything new about her character or motivations, just that she thinks that Sarah most likely has cancer.

  This episode was good, but still feels like more time could have been needed to explore things. We don’t know anything about John Henry’s brother and the Skynet faction is only seen through the face of one T-888. That isn’t enough to really draw us in or see them as a threat, even with their killing Charley and Derek.

Final Score: 7.5 / 10

Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles – Season 2, Episode 15 – “Desert Cantos” – Secrets of the Dead

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     “Desert Cantos” was a powerful episode with a major “X-Files” feel that finally showed us the UFO is tied to the future thankfully and in a good way! It is a reflective  and another sign of just how good this series can be. I won’t be surprised if by the end I’m sad it got canceled.

     The episode was directed by J. Miller Tobin and written by John Wirth and Ian Goldberg.

      The story involves Sarah Connor and the Team investigating the massacre that happened at the facility Catherine Weaver took off. She hears the of the man she killed’s wife and John gets closer to the daughter of one of the men who may not be dead and is being hunted by an agent sent by Catherine Weaver.

The Pros: The Investigation – The investigation really makes the episode amazing as our team grows close to all the players. From Derek gaining the trust of the agent, to Sarah connecting with the wife and John connecting with the daughter of the man who is still alive and is an agent of Skynet we learn after.

The Funeral – Different events of the investigation unfold on different parts of the funeral and end with the wake. It is powerful and the theme of death is made more powerful as the drone we see is the prototype for the future drones that would drop Terminators and hunt humans.

Ellison – Ellison talks to Weaver about her daughter and the anniversary of the death of her husband, he is once again the human element among the machines and makes her reach out to her daughter and seek to connect. He also begins to suspect more as one of the scientists tells him how she changed dramatically after the death

Catherine Weaver – After the massacre seeing her try to connect with her adopted daughter whose mother she killed is powerful. Seeing her try to be human is good though and shows she’s never been a complete monster.

Sarah Connor – Tries to protect the wife of the man she killed by hiding the truth. She knows that the truth is too hard to know sometimes, especially when he and another man who faked his death are shown to be hitmen for ZeiraCorp showing that Skynet’s influence is already in the present and everyone is under surveillance.

   This episode had a wonderful layout and humanized a lot of minor characters as well as showing how easy it is to ignore the truth if it is uncomfortable. The illusion sadly helps people live and Sarah Connor realizes it and from it why so many see her as crazy. It’s powerful and shows that the people did nothing since the corporation provided jobs, even though so many people they knew were killed in the end and even the one they were trying to protect is being hunted. This is an episode on the folly of humanity.

Final Score: 10 / 10

Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles – Season 2, Episode 10 – “Strange Things Happen at the One Two Point” – Manipulations and Humanity

TERMINATOR: THE SARAH CONNOR CHRONICLES: Sarah (Lena Headey, third from L) and Cameron (Summer Glau, R) work with Alex (Eric Steinberg, second from L) and his son Xander (Eddie Shin, L) to broker a deal in the "Strange Things Happen At The One Two Point" episode of TERMINATOR: THE SARAH CONNOR CHRONICLES airing Monday, Nov. 24 (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. ©2008 FOX Broadcasting Co. CR: Justin Lubin/FOX

This was a good but not great episode. I liked the father and son relationship that was on the side as well as the Catherine Weaver and Agent Ellison story, the Riley and Sarah’s dreams don’t hold up as well though sadly.

The episode was directed by Scott Peters and written by Ashley Miller and Zack Stentz.

The story involves Sarah’s tracking of the three dots leading her to a startup company called Dakara Systems. They are soon pulled into a complicated family relationship as Ellison uncovers what happened with the John Henry system and the death of Dr. Sherman.

The Pros: Alex and Xander – This father/son relationship is awesome as Xander is disconnected and brilliant while Alex wants to be successful and is dealing with the fact that his family was wrong during World War 2 with the internment camps even as his father helped capture Italy with the allies. He wants to believe in his son but is so afraid that it leads to him selling the chip to the Yakuza.

Going Undercover – Sarah and Cameron are investors and it is wonderful seeing them build a relationship with Alex and Xander as Xander is a lot like Cameron and Alex like Sarah Connor.

Agent Ellison – Ellison is the best hope for making the A.I.’s good as we see him question John Henry and realize the machine as no morals which leads to Catherine Weaver installing the A.I. in Cromartie’s body so it can be taught to be human by Agent Ellison.

Catherine Weaver – Weaver is shown to be more complicated as she wants John Henry to be able to feel and moralize and sets Ellison in charge once she learns how the A.I. let Dr. Sherman die. What her agenda is along these lines remains to be seen though, I really like her charactera and Ellison though.

Jesse – What is Jesse’s agenda and how is Riley connected to her? Learning that she using Riley to unknown ends is one of the few things that makes Riley compelling, still she hasn’t got out of plot device.

Okay: Sarah Connor – Sarah is dealing with her visions and is not being trusted by anyone on her team as is seen to be breaking down. What the 3 dots mean could mean anything though I suspect things will get bigger, especially given the names written in blood.

John Connor – John’s story is limited as rather than moving on he gets back together with Riley who we now know is manipulating him, guy can’t get a break and his growth is static at this point.

The Cons: Riley – Riley is a foster kid who is connected with Jesse and knows the end is coming. Her agenda is unknown and she still feels like a plot device.

The story was alright but it is telling when the minor characters are more interesting than the Connors. I think the Connors are in a static place with Sarah dealing with her sanity or being a prophet and John’s relationship to Riley (which really should have ended, he isn’t becoming the leader anymore)

Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles – Season 2, Episode 7 – “Brothers of Nablus” – Holding Onto Innocence

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    This episode had a theme! It didn’t necessarily do it all that well (Riley is still a character this is really annoying, as is Derek and Jesse can be at times too) that it brings down the things that work like Agent Ellison, Cameron and the Connors. It is also great seeing Chromatie again and Catherine Weaver at work.

    “Brothers of Nablus” was directed by Milan Cheylov and written by Ian Goldberg.

        The story involves Chromatie’s hunt for Cameron while also messing with Agent Ellison and framing him for the death another when a Skynet Terminator comes to kill him that looks like him. The Connor’s home is robbed and Derek, Cameron and Sarah hunt the killers while Chromatie ends up at the Connor’s home where Riley and John are.

The Pros: Chromatie – Chromatie is shown to be quite intelligent in this as he nearly finds John and we know that he’d probably win against Cameron if he had the advantage of surprise (they are both survivors). I like this character now, I think changing actors helped a lot. The other guy had nothing defining about his performance. He also finds the thief who Sarah Connor let survive.

Sarah Connor – Sarah Connor is ruthless in this but is holding onto her humanity. When they track down the thieves she lets one live which will come back to bite her later as she didn’t become the monster that Cameron is.

Cameron – Cameron is ruthless and will go to any ends to protect the Connors and fulfill her mission, even killing innocents that know information. She is shown why she is a Terminator in this and even shown to be right within this universe, which is a scary thought.

Catherine Weaver – Weaver saves Agent Ellison after he is framed by becoming the leader of the FBI. Whether she was all along and set this all up for mind games remains to be seen but she is a cool operator.

Skynet – Sends models back that looks directly like people who already live. This is smart and I’m surprised this has never happened in the films.

Okay: Derek and Jesse – There  relationship is more rockyness and I don’t know where it’s going. They are both okay characters who are cons at times (mostly because I don’t know their purpose and they aren’t the best actors) but there is still hope there.

John Connor – John feels guilty that he was the one who killed Sarkissian (turns out Sarah did not make the kill) and blames his mother for that as her entire point is to be a protector and he’s lost his innocence and doesn’t know how to deal. This is interesting but he is still really stupid in regards to how he acts when he isn’t on the Team.

The Cons: The Thieves – Faceless teenagers who are just punks…they could have been more and felt wasted.

Riley – She saves John and shows him he can live and depend on others…and she feels like a plot device still.

Jody – Jody appears to seek revenge against Cameron but gets thrown out by Chromatie when she is talking about calling the police on him…another character who simply exists to cause conflict and advance plot without being compelling or changing. Not impressed.

  This was a decent episode but had problems. I like how the Terminators are acting and how the main cast is, but others like Derek, Jesse and side characters are bringing the story down. I hope the writers figure out what to do before the end of this season in regards to those characters.

Final Score: 7 / 10