“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 8 – “Mr. Furgeson is Ill Today” – The Team and Chromatie’s End

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    We finally have our full team working to prevent Judgement Day and them all teaming up and working together to stop the threat to John Connor and the future. Suffice to say the setup doesn’t always work, but I loved this episode’s payoff. These characters work.

     “Mr. Furgeson is Ill Today” was directed by Michael Nankin and written by Daniel Thomsen.

      The story involves John escaping to Mexico with Riley only to have Chromatie track him there leading to final showdown with Chromatie between John, Ellison, Sarah, Derek and Cameron.

The Pros: Dia De Los Muertos – The episode largely takes place during Day of the Dead and a tiny village in Mexico that John grew up in where he escapes to with Riley. This freedom intermixed with death creates some really great scenes, especially as the team arrives and the final showdown.

Chromatie – Chromatie has grown on me and the new actor they cast actually felt like a threat this season, so bringing him down in this episode was wonderful as it took all of them with Cameron mortally wounding him before John finishes him off. Great minor villain.

Derek Reese – Derek is quick to show up once he gets the call from John and we see he has secrets but is wholly there and in the team.

Cameron – Cameron is either attracted to John, is using him or a mixture of both as she tries to convince him to jump Riley as he is putting her at risk and will make stupid mistakes. It is wonderful seeing them interact and the sexual tension there, even if it is just John.

Sarah Connor – We see Sarah’s protectiveness and also her coming to terms with John’s agency and I think she realizes that they are all needed to prevent Judgement Day, even as she still pushes people like Agent Ellison away.

John Connor – John is facing destiny, responsiblity and coming into his own as a leader. In this he does leave Riley but only after Chromatie nearly kills her. It is powerful and shows how he has changed and can’t escape his destiny as a leader.

Agent Ellison – Ellison join the Team and we see him have a great relationship with Sarah who he had once been in conflit

The Ending – There is a final showdown in a church where all of them take out Chromatie and in the end there isn’t peace. Everyone is together but alone and we see the secrets eating away at them with Sarah losing it as she destroys Chromatie’s electronics. It is powerful and sad.

Okay: Riley – Was always just kind of there, at least she wasn’t stupid through all of this. She always struck me as more of an idea than a character though, which made the elements of the story involving her weaker.

Episode Format – I usually like the format of showing a story from different points of view, it just didn’t quite work this time and was hard to follow until the end and final payoff.

This was a great episode that really had a great ending. Chromatie reached an ending he deserved after going from an unmemorable Terminator to a great mini-boss and we see that his death changed things and character relationships. Can’t wait to see where it goes.

Final Score: 9.6 / 10

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

Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles – Season 2, Episode 3 – “The Mousetrap” – Skynet’s Traps

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     Skynet continues to show why it is an awesome foe. In this Charley’s wife is kidnapped and we see Chromatie act with an extremely high level of intelligence and we see Catherine Weaver getting her enemies in her court showing just how good she is at shaping the players in the game. It’s a really great episode and a lot of fun, with some great use of character loss and cost.

     “The Mousetrap” was directed by Brian Spicer and written by John Wirth.

     The story begins with Chromatie capturing Charley’s wife as they try to make their escape out of town. This leads to him bringing Sarah and Derek in to help save her while elsewhere John dates Riley as Cameron tracks them and Catherine Weaver reaches out to Agent Ellison for a job.

The Pros: Chromatie’s Trap – Chromatie’s trap is brilliant. Michelle, Charley’s wife is hooked to a fake bomb while the actual bomb is elsewhere in the building. In one fell swoop he gets rid of all of them leaving John with no protection. It nearly succeeds too if not for Derek finding the real bomb.

Catherine Weaver / T-1001 – Weaver is good at wearing masks and in this she tells a story about how she wants to find the creatures that shot down a plane she was connected too. She is empathetic and sympathetic…a complete contrast to the killing machine we’ve seen earlier.

Chromatie – Chromatie is deadly in this and manages to kill Michelle Dixon, injure our heroes and nearly kill John. The only reason he doesn’t win is he sinks to the bottom of the water when he attempts to jump in after John. Terminators can’t swim.

Charley Dixon – Charley’s world comes to a head in this and in the end he leaves reaching out to Sarah in anyway as she was ready to let Michelle die in order to save John. John is the one how reaches out after Michelle gets killed and it’s a powerful scene as we see just how deeply he loved her.

Michelle Dixon – Michelle’s a fighter. We see her attempt to escape and even at the end she runs when they don’t have a vehicle and she’s losing blood. In the end she dies in her husband’s arms. R.I.P. Michelle Dixon.

Derek Reese – Derek is smart and figures out Chromatie’s trap. He doesn’t think of the Dixon’s though and shows just how broken and bitter Sarah could become…he saves the day but he fights looking out for others all the way there. For him it is all about survival.

Sarah Connor – Sarah Connor is in her worst place in this as we see her lash out at the Dixon’s when she finds that Chromatie’s trap worked and they have to stop in order to save Michelle and get her to a hospital. Later we see her mourning Michelle but I wonder if she realized what she had become in those moments.

John Connor – John’s having a normal life and actually manages to look after himself. He outsmarts Chromatie and is there for Charley as Charley mourns his dead wife. He is a stand up guy in this episode.

Cameron – Cameron is the protector again and her role is finding balance with John as we see in this, John is fully capable of protecting himself against the Terminators at this point (including Cameron).

   This was the best episode so far. It had loss, we got to see that Skynet is always one step ahead and how they get one step ahead and that there is very little the Resistance can do against them except to survive. There is power in that and the loss of Charley’s wife you actually feel as she was powerless before all of these events out of her control.

Final Score: 10 / 10

Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles – Season 2, Episode 1 – “Samson & Delilah” – John and Cameron and Skynet Revealed

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    Season 2 starts out being great! Which is wonderful considering so many threads from last season combined with the writers strike lead to the weakest episode of the series prior. I got ot say, I like the T-1001 Catherine Weaver and I like that Cameron was shown to have free will and be more than her programming. This is an example of what the show can do when it remembers it’s themes and focuses on character development.

   “Samson & Delilah” was directed by David Nutter and written by Josh Friedman.

    The story picks up where we left off with Agent Ellison choosing silence as Derek works with Charley to find John and Sarah as Cameron hunts them as her chip is injured and she has returned to old programming. We also meet Catherine Weaver who is seeking the Turk for her corporation.

The Pros: The Opening – As Cameron hunts Sarah and John “Samson & Delilah” plays and it is an awesome song that shows the intimacy of the fight that is going on as the Connors run from the one who was their protector.

Agent Ellison – Ellison chooses to go silent but not help the machines as he realizes that no one will believe the truth. It is realistic and it is great seeing him face Chromatie and tell him no. It shows that even when he is scarred and in over his head, he won’t cave to monsters.

Derek Reese – Derek is the one testing everyone on their loyalty…be it Cameron and wanting her destroyed to seeing if Charley is willing to go all the way to join the team and how serious he is about his marriage. It’s nice to see him in this role as he is just a minor character and not major, as he should be if they won’t kill his character off.

Sarah Connor – This is a good Sarah Connor episode. She is ready to die for John on multiple occasions but shows that she will listen to the other side if it comes down to it as she doesn’t stop John when John decides to save Cameron (who is hunting them) rather than destroy her. It is powerful and shows she respects her son’s choices. She finally kills in this when her and John fight Sarkissian.

John Connor – He gets the look that John has in “Terminator: Salvation.” I like the look better on Christian Bale, but it at least works for the character, and it shows how he is dealing with all the trauma of being hunted by his own creation and having to fight his Uncle and Mom to save her life. That would take a toll on anyone. He kills for the first time when he and Sarah murder Sarkissian in self defense. This makes him harder than who he was before showing echoes of the Resistance Fighter to be.

Cameron – Cameron is in old Terminator mode after the attack on the jeep. She nearly kills John a few times before Sarah and John trap her and John removes the chip. During that times she claims to be fixed and that she loves John. We never know if he believes her or not, but he pulls the chip out. Later he puts it back in when he realizes how much they need Cameron and that he loves her too.

Catherine Weaver / T-1001 – Is the CEO of the Zeira Corporation and with a new team plans to use the Turk to create Skynet. She is a Skynet agent from the future and a Liquid Terminator like the T-1000, though she is a slightly more upgraded model being a T-1001, she also has feelings as we see her kill someone who she hated after the meeting. She is deadly and I like her as an enemy.

This was the first time the show felt like more than a test run. If the rest of the season is like this it will be one of my favorite shows. All the buildup in Season 1 lead somewhere. Sarkissian lead to the Connors killing a human, the Turk now is in Skynet hands and Ellison is going underground and refusing not to fight them. Cameron is also back as an ally once more. This is good television.

Final Score: 9.7 / 10

Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles – Season 1, episode 8 – “Vick’s Chip” – Terminator Illusion

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    This is an episode’s whose theme is about breaking down masks. Specifically we see the mask Vick was using fall as well as Derek’s too as he is much more of an infiltrator, Terminator and liar than Cameron is. We also see John Connor taking the lead again and being that bridge between both Terminators and humanity.

     The episode was directed by J. Miller Tobin and written by Daniel T. Thomson.

     The story involves hacking Vick’s chip and seeing the life he was faking, an attack by Sarah and Derek on destroying ARTIE, the system Vick was having his wife build. Chromatie also shows up at school to hunt John and Cameron goes under to see and understand Vick’s full mission.

The Pros: Sarah Connor – Sarah Connor is once again the moral center of this series as we see her value human life and not act like a Terminator, while still understandably having distrust of Cameron. In this way she is the most well rounded as her experiences haven’t made her bitter or traumatized but realistic in the situations they face. Her threatening Derek Reese for killing Andy Goode was great too.

Cameron – Cameron is honest, upfront and is incapable of lying unless ordered too. This helps her shine a light on the Terminators but also folks like Derek Reese in how they treat her. In this she is the one who takes the risk to jump into Vick’s mind to find out what Skynet’s agenda was with him. It’s a great moment she was with John when she does it.

Skynet is Everywhere – Skynet is everywhere. Every advanced system could become part of Skynet is what I realized in this episode. ARTIE is just a traffic control A.I. but Sarah and Derek go to destroy it. This is traffic control, which needs a lot of computing but there are things much more complex and things that aren’t complex that could become complex, “The Turk” for example. This is the power in the episode, and a theme of the show.

Masks We Wear – Masks is the other theme as we see Derek ready to kill two cops for trying to stop them and from his actions the reveal that he killed Andy and lied about it. Vick also murders his wife who was his cover and in both of them we see how the war made them into monsters, one by circumstances, the other by design.

Okay: Derek Reese – He is still an angry and bitter man who is only so good by how other characters interact with him. When Sarah or Cameron interact with him, things happen but he as a character is weak.

Chromatie – He appears, he kills the principle and leaves. He does feel threatening this episode so I won’t put him as a con.

Memories from Vick – Vick’s memories are alright but could have been better if he’d actually talked to his wife. The memories of him being silent didn’t make me believe it was an actual relationship that would have worked. Cool idea though.

   This was a good episode that is really only brought down by the Terminators who aren’t Cameron and Derek Reese (who is one of the weakest elements on the show). Next episode is the Season 1 Finale and after that we’ll start on Season 2…and see if this show had any idea where it was going.

Final Score: 8.2 / 10