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

Sarah Connor Chronicles poster

     “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

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Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles – Season 2, Episodes 18-19 – “Today is the Day” Parts 1 and 2 – To Be John Connor

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      These episodes made me realize again why I have hated the character of Derek Reese. He is a bit of a hypocrite and the fact that it is left ambiguous that he did a horrible act does not reflect well on his character as a person. He is clearly no Kyle Reese and never was.

   The episodes were directed by Guy Norman Bee and written by Ashley E. Miller and Zack Stentz.

      The story involves Jesse’s backstory as we learn what happened when she was sent on a secret mission that was being run by a Machine working for the Resistance. In the present the lie of what happened comes to the surface as distrust of Cameron continues to grow.

The Pros: The Mission – The mission is to do a pick up at a Oil Rig and deliver it to John Connor. Distrust of the machine in control of the mission leads to the crew rebelling and the T-1001 in the case being released and killing one of the crew in self-defense. It ends with the T-1001 telling Jesse there will be no Alliance with them. It’s sad but it shows why Jesse no longer trusts “Metal.” I really liked how they handled this two-parter episode.

Sarah Connor – Sarah Connor is the one trying to protect John from Cameron and is onboard with killing her until they learn the truth about Jesse being the one to have killed Riley. We see just how much her distrust has grown.

Cameron – Cameron is shown to have a good core again in this as she does everything to show she is trustworthy and we get to see why John trusts her as they share more tender moments together. It’s a great relationship.

John Connor – This episode is really about John Connor embracing his role as we see that he did not protect Riley but let her make her own choices and he does the same with Riley, Derek and everyone else. He has become the detached leader with the only real close person to him being Cameron.

Jesse – Jesse’s story is a tragedy and in my opinion she is one of the best characters on the show. It took the 3rd Faction of machines killing her people on the sub for her to turn against them fully as we see she had no problem working with them prior. In the end she loses her’s and Derek’s baby in the miscarriage but is never given the chance to share that with Derek as he has gone all paranoid. She is a flawed character but is no more better or worse than any other character. They should have still used her as part of the team not exiled/killed her.

The Cons: Derek Reese – Not even the suggestion of killing Jesse…Jesse was flawed but everything she did in the fight was in self-defense, she was also one of the few allies they had against Skynet…great going hero, if you did shoot her you stabbed yourself in the foot and killed the person you love. What sympathy I had for this character went away since there is only the possibility he didn’t kill her and that isn’t enough to save how much the alternative makes this character a bastard.

 This was a solidly great episode and one that really shows what the future is like and how the work camps have made humanity raw and angry and that things are not as they appear…from Jesse learning she was pregnant from Cameron, the T-1001 being a possible ally against Skynet. This was a beautifully tragic episode that really illustrated the best this episode had to offer.

Final Score: 9 / 10

Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles – Season 2, Episode 17 – “Ourselves Alone” – Jesse’s Plan

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    “Ourselves Alone” finally reveals Jesse’s endgame and shows the promise in John Connor in regards to the future, as well as how different people view him and just how isolated Riley is becoming and the price of all the lies and half lives.

    The episode was directed by Jeff Woolnough and written by Toni Graphia and Daniel T. Thomsen.

      The story involves Riley fearing Cameron has discovered her secret as Cameron’s glitch has returned and Sarah Connor begins to fear that they have stayed in one place for too long of time and just how out of the loop she is in her son’s life.

The Pros: Sarah Connor – Sarah Connor is trying to return to stability again in this and we see just how out of the loop she is. In some ways she pushes herself further away from John but we also see how much she truly cares about Riley. There are some good character moments of her just trying to be a mom.

Cameron – Cameron is shown to have a human side in this as we see her let John fix her glitch and that she does have feelings for him. It’s a powerful moment and we see she is at the point where she respects John’s feelings for Riley and won’t interfere. This is huge and plays a part in the next episode.

Riley – Riley’s life is being manipulated by Jesse so that Cameron will kill her and turn John against the Machines. It’s tragic and when she finds out she fights Jesse for ruining her life. This ends in her death. I actually felt it too as she was finally developed enough as a character in the last few episodes.

Jesse – Jesse’s plan is revealed in this though we don’t know her motivation for turning John against Cameron. We see how devoted and like a Terminator she has become in the process though she isn’t heartless as she never meant to kill Riley and only does so accidentally in self defense and we see how much that breaks her.

John Connor – John Connor is shown to becoming John of the future as he is distant from Riley and lets people make their own choices, even if it ends in their own destruction. In this he is so distant when he could speak up and be honest, but he never does. He’s afraid of getting hurt and becoming the man alone with Cameron as his only confidant.

The Cons: Derek Reese – He is just kind of there. He only exists so Jesse cannot tell him the truth of who she is and what she knows. Sadly this doesn’t go anywhere at all. Wasted character.

   This was a good episode but not a favorite. There was more that could have been done with Derek and even with Sarah Connor too as they are doing side quests while the main story revolves around the Jesse and Riley and Riley and John drama. The ending is good though and is sadly the only way it could have gone. Things are coming to a head and the story needs to refocus on the threat of Catherine Weaver and Skynet.

Final Score: 8 / 10

Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles – Season 2, Episode 13 – “Earthlings Welcome Here” – Price of Deception and Truth

SCC Season 2 Ep 13

    “Earthlings Welcome Here” is really illustrating a problem I’m having with this series. It’s enjoyable but it keeps bringing up ideas that it never follows up on, especially in regards to Sarah Connor and her visions. The John Henry Arc is going really well at least and now we finally find out what Riley’s purpose is too and she gets development!

     The episode was directed by  Felix Enriquez Alcalá and written by Natalie Chaidez.

    The story involves Sarah Connor tracking a blogger from the UFO convention who has posted pictures of alien ships with the 3 dot symbol Sarah has been seeing everywhere. Things get more complicated as the blogger is hunted and Riley’s history and connection to Jesse is revealed.

The Pros: Sarah Connor – Sarah Connor investigates a blogger and we see how her drive and alienness from others leads to her being more isolated among the UFO folks and from herself. This episode is great at exploring her psychology.

Riley – Riley is tired of lying to John and more the more questions John and Cameron ask and her lack of support from Jesse lead to her attempting to take her life. She was a refugee in the Apocalypse chosen only to keep Cameron away from John…poor girl.

Cameron – Cameron is the protector once more and we see her being right about Riley lying. I’m not sure Cameron has met Jesse yet, but I don’t expect it to go well when they do eventually meet.

John Henry and Ellison – John is trying to counter what Jesse’s approach is as he teaches John Henry morality. His approach of saying “God is the reason and created people as sacred.” Doesn’t really give a reason wholly though. I really want him to go into philosophy.

Jesse – Jesse is cruel but her purpose makes sense. Her goal is to protect John from Cameron and from that a future where there can be any understanding between machines and humanity. I like it since it is the future she came from so fear is all she knows.

The Cons: John Connor – He’s stubborn, doesn’t listen to anyone and was really difficult to sympathize with at all this episode.

Aliens? – So Aliens are connected to Terminators and humanity…I’m confused. Are we in the X-Files?

Lack of Focus and Answers – I really hope we find out what the deal is with those dots are because I am really confused after this episode. If Sarah is going crazy, do more to show that. She’s a POV character so that is hard to pull off I get, but have her revelations lead to new information or change.

   The lack of focus and answers is really getting to me and how Sarah’s arc seems to be going nowhere…thankfully there was Ellison talking morality with John Henry and Riley’s backstory to offset these factors leading to a confusing but enjoyable episode.

Final Score: 7 / 10

Terminator: The Sarah Chronicles – Season 2, Episode 12 – “Alpine Fields” – The Potential of Every Human Life

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      “Alpine Fields” has really grown on me. In this episode we have some pretty fascinating minor characters as well as having Jesse and Derek fleshed out further, along with Sarah Connor being the visionary and leader guiding the survivors into the future. Hearing about the weapons the Terminators are using on people was powerful too and showed just how in over their heads our characters are in stopping them.

      The episode was directed by Charles Beeson and Bryan Spicer and written by John Enbom.

      The story takes place in 3 time periods. Present day, 6 months later and the future. In the future the robots have created a pathogen that is killing humans and Derek and Jesse enter the zone to find a possible survivor and cure. In the present Sarah Connor protects the Fields from a Terminator and 6 months later Anne Fields is pregnant with the daughter that will save humanity from the pathogen the machines created.

The Pros: Episode Layout – I really liked that the story was told in 3 areas of time. It captured the time travel nature of the show really well and how powerful and significant each life can be. It also gave us time to know the characters.

The Fields Family – The Fields are really interesting. you have Anne who is cheating on her husband who looks down on her being a mom and is also super insecure. You have Lauren their lesbian daughter who learns the value of the small moments building birdhouses with her dad but is also the most prepared for the end as she listens to Sarah Connor and conects with her and later Sydney who is immune to the pathogen and pretty detached as she was born when her mother died and has always lived under threat. It’s a powerful story and I cared about all of them and how they saved humanity, Derek and Jesse from the pathogen.

Derek Reese – Derek is shown to be really afraid of the machines, especially since there was the option to send one in to save Syndey. Instead he took a risk that put humanity at risk because of his fear. He connects to Jesse during that time as they are both survivors trying to get by.

Jesse – Jesse is pretty cynical but also shows there is hope as in Australia they have finally gotten to the point where they can grow food again. It is wonderful hearing about the state of the world and she is tough.

Sarah Connor – Everyone sees Sarah as crazy until she is right as the Fields do but when they know she’s right they do all she says. It is powerful hearing her words, that close does not mean love…it really defines her relationship to Derek and John really well. Their trauma unites them more than anything else, just like it did with Derek and Jesse.

Okay: Cameron – Cameron is there mostly to keep the T-888 at bay and is only really there as an action piece. We don’t really get to know her that well this episode at all.

  This was a solidly great episode that shows the power people can have in the future. It also gave us some great exploration of Sarah Connor and I really liked the Fields family. If the show can continue to do this it will no doubt be a favorite show by the end.

Final Score: 9 / 10

Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles – Season 2, Episode 9 – “Complications” – Good Intentions Creating a Bad Future

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     “Complications” is a really good episode that shows how hopeless it is to change things. Everything that is setup looks like we are marching to Judgement Day, even though the characters are acting to prevent Judgement Day from occurring from the information they know.

    The episode was directed by Steven DePaul and written by John Wirth and Ian Goldberg.

    The story involves Jessie’s capture of Charles Fischer who experimented on her and Derek and was a human who chose to work against humanity with the machines. Cameron and John are also find Chromatie is missing and Sarah Connor is haunted by visions and nightmares.

The Pros: Charles Fischer – Fischer is fascinating as he is a criminal who was created by his future self screwing him over. He sets up his younger self to go to prison when he frames for a crime, making sure he will be a servant of the machines teaching them how to mimic humanity. What a fascinating s bastard. Future one is killed by Jessie when what they should have done was kill the one in current time.

Agent Ellis – Ellis steals Chromatie and is working with Catherine Weaver, not realizing she is using him. I feel bad for the guy as John and Cameron beat him up when all he has is good intentions. I hope we see him work with them again as Weaver is up to no good.

Sarah Connor and Dr. Sherman – This dynamic is fascinating. Sherman is one of the few people laying down boundaries with her and she is actually getting help from him when he listens to her. She is haunted by her dreams and her fear of losing John and everything and I think part of all this for her is learning to let go, which Sherman can help her do.

Sarah Connor’s Dreams – They are trippy, with metallic cacti holding John and her climbing down into what looks like a tomb. Curious to see if these dreams will go anywhere, but it fits her role as a prophet on the show.

Cameron and John Connor – Cameron and John hunt down Ellis and we learn that machines feel sensation even if they don’t know emotion which is something John never considered. He also keeps mercy going as Cameron is ready to kill Ellis for betraying them by keeping Chromatie’s body.

Jesse and Derek Reese – These two have a Cameron and John thing going on where Derek has lost all memory as he might be from a different timeline and doesn’t remember Derek Fischer where he and Jessie were both victims traumatized by him and the machines who victimized them to learn how to mimic humanity. They come together at the end though, even though their relationship stays complicated.

Destiny – Destiny is the theme of this episode as we see Charlies Fischer become who he will be in the future by his current self being framed by his future self…Cromartie’s body ending up at Catherine Weaver’s corporation and under the control of the machines and Sarah’s nightmares which may become self fulfilling prophecies. This theme of the franchise is captured best in this episode better than it was in any of the films.

  Great character work, actually dealing with destiny, an A.I.’s ability to feel (Cameron) and moral dilemmas as Charles Fischer is partially created in their attempts to stop his future self who has traveled to the past. It’s haunting, terrible and wonderful and all around great science fiction. Best episode of the series so far.

Final Score: 10 / 10