“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

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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 20 – “To The Lighthouse” – Skynet’s Play

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      This episode really shows Skynet in action as we see that it isn’t Catherine Weaver’s organization that has been doing a lot of the killings (Weaver does that personally). This faction is absolutely ruthless and uses humans as it’s pawns. We also see them hack John Henry and learn that the other intelligence that is Skynet is John Henry’s brother and had tried to gain control of him.

      “To The Lighthouse” was directed by Guy Ferland and written by Natalie Chaidez.

     The story involves John Henry being hacked and them having to shut him down and fight out what happened. Sarah, Derek, Cameron, John and Charley attempt to work together after the lies and lack of trust have torn them apart.

The Pros: Charley Dixon – Charley is shown to be a stand-up guy in this as he protects John and even manages to resolve things with Sarah Connor before Skynet’s forces finally kill him. He has some great character moments with John in this before his death.

John Connor – John is shown to be wrestling more with his destiny but he truly has found a father in Charley.

Derek and Cameron – Derek and Cameron protect one another in this as we see that they don’t trust each other but in the end know they can count on each other. For example Cameron rescues Derek from Skynet’s forces and we see that a comradery has grown between them.

Sarah Connor – Sarah Connor is dealing with the fact that she may have cancer after she removes the Skynet wire she got when she was kidnapped by one of Skynet’s men. We see the lengths she is willing to go to to protect John and that she wants peace for him more than anything else and that bringing him to Charley was trying to help escape from Destiny again.

John Henry, Ellison and Weaver – These two have a great relationship and after John Henry “dies” he works with Weaver and Ellison to try and find out how to learn about his Brother who is made from the same code he is. This is our introduction to the Skynet faction in my opinion as John Henry is innocent and is not an antagonist in any way.

   In this episode we see some of the setup and that this 3rd Faction of Terminators maybe a John Henry corrupted in the future if Sarah Connor’s party tries to kill it making it become the Skynet of the Future believing all humans are bad. This episode is all about setup but it does a good job standing on it’s own as well.

Final Score: 8 / 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 4 – “Allison from Palmdale” – The Third Faction

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     “Allison from Palmdale” is not as good as “The Mousetrap” but it is still a great character and mythos episode as we learn more about Cameron’s mission and who her model is based off of, as well as introducing a 3rd Faction into the war between Humanity and Skynet. Where this is going to go has me super curious as Cameron is a fascinating character and this episode shows just how unpredictable she can be.

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

    The story involves Cameron who has lost all memory of who she is and gets pulled into a halfway house by a con named Jody who is taking advantage of her. She slowly comes to remember who she is as we see Allison Young, a Resistance fighter whose name and identity Cameron steals for a 3rd Faction of A.I.’s.

The Pros: Sarah Connor – This was a good episode that showed Sarah’s defense of others as we see her stand by Kacy up against her husband who abandoned her and swears she will always be there. She is also honest with her about Kyle being dead and how she lied when he said he was there and that she had just wished it. It’s a touching moment and one of the great moments in the episode.

Sarah and Kacy – The mom’s uniting moments here were wonderful. Kacy and Sarah are both blunt personalities with a huge survivor mentality and it helps them relate to one another as well as their wishing for a better life, even though they both know it probably isn’t going to happen. It is sad and beautiful.

John Connor – John comes through again though he also is guilty of not respecting Cameron when she says no as Allison, so he still has ways to go to becoming a leader worthy of respect. He is very much a teenage boy who needs to grow up still. His protectiveness of Cameron is mostly good in this though.

The 3rd Faction – We don’t their name yet but they are the one faction that isn’t under Skynet or serving the Resistance. They are A.I. who want freedom and Cameron is one of their agents. There are at least a few T-800s in their too (maybe the one from “T2”) it’s a really cool idea that I hope is fully explored.

Allison Young – Allison is the Resistance agent the 3rd Faction uses to get close to John Connor so they can create a future that they will live and Skynet is defeated. They aren’t good though as they have a lot of human prisoners pleading for freedom and Cameron kills Allison in the end as she resists until the end.

Cameron – Cameron is serving her and the 3rd faction’s own ends. This leads to her killing Allison and showing her disregard for life extends to humans she feels wrongs her and won’t listen to her like Jody. John Connor is still in danger and Cameron can lie. This was really an episode that showed how human the 3rd Faction is.

 The Cons: Jody – She is a liar and thief who was going to have Cameron take the fall for her. There is nothing redeeming about this character and that is a shame. She served no purpose but to advance Cameron’s story, making her a con.

 Jody is the weakest part of this episode and Cameron’s motivations are still a mystery, which may be purposeful. This might be a part the great reveal later as to where her loyalties actually are and what John’s relationship was to her and Allison and if he ever figured out that they are different people.

Final Score: 9 / 10

Terminator: The Sarah Chronicles – Season 1, Episode 9 – “What He Beheld” – The Terror of the Terminators

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      This was a great episode for the Terminator threat and for Derek and John moments, but besides that felt really unfocused. I’m honestly not sure what direction the show is taking as there are all these different factions with no clear goals in mind. This is one way the first two films will always outway the show, they were focused in the agendas of both our heroes and the villains. This finale’s end is a bit of a mess.

     “What He Beheld” was directed by Mike Rohl and written by Ian B. Goldberg.

     The story takes place on John’s birthday with Derek showing him himself and his little brother Kyle at this point in the timeline. Sarkissian holds them hostage for money as he knows they are fugitives and he has the Turk, and Agent Ellison leads an attack on Chromatie in his apartment.

The Pros: The Action – The action is solid in this episode! From the attack on Sarkissian’s base to get the Turk back to Ellison’s assult on Chromatie the action is done really well with some great cinematography especially as Johnny Cash plays as FBI agents are thrown into the pool, already dead.

Derek and John – Derek and John have a good heart to heart where they talk about Kyle while a  young Kyle and Derek play baseball nearby. It is a great moment as they are just observers and it gives Kyle one of the few glimpses he’s ever had of who his father was.

Sarah Connor – Sarah Connor is great as always as we see her put in the time to give John a good birthday. She reminds him that defeating Syknet is their mission but that they should not stop living, giving some much needed humanity in the episode.

Chromatie – Chromatie feels like a threat for once. He takes out the entire FBI task force leaving Ellison alive to take the fall for him. It’s brilliant and shows why he was sent back in time, finally.

Agent Ellison – Ellison’s world breaks as he loses his team to Chromatie and watches with Charley with both of them realizing that they are in over their heads and that Sarah Connor was right all along.

Terminator Threat – Chromatie takes out an entire FBI squad that is fully armed with barely any wear or tear upon it. It’s a powerful moment and shows just how outmatched humanity is against even one of these machines.

Okay: Cameron – She is just kind of there this episode and all she does is discuss what birthdays are and seek to find the Turk before she gets blown up by Sarkissian.

Sarkissian – I don’t know why he is even in this. He is just a distraction from the threat of Skynet and the Terminators unless we end up learning that he helped create Skynet…

Cons: Lack of Focus – From Sarkissian’s faction, the Turk and the search for it, attack on Chromatie and John’s birthday…there are too many threads in this and with only 43 minutes to make a good story out of it, they kind of missed.

  I’m curious to see if Season 2 will have more focus than Season 1. We see a lot of elements going on here…Derek and the future, Chromatie and the Terminator’s mission, the Resistance Fighters sent back to the past, the formation of Skynet and Cameron and the humanity of the Connors. Right now I’m not seeing any core focus and this episode really highlights this con.

Final Score: 7 / 10