“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 1, Episode 3 – “The Turk” – Reasons to Care

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     This was an episode that had a good idea in exploring how the Connors are becoming more akin to Terminators like Cameron as they are either forced or are going about ending life that is a potential threat, but it isn’t fully explored which is why I can’t call it a great episode. The FBI is still pretty blank too as far as characterization and drama goes as well.

   The episode was directed by Paul Edwards and written by John Wirth.

   The story involves Sarah’s investigation of Andy Goode, a possible creator of Skynet who has a chess A.I. called the Turk as Cameron and John experience drama at school and Cameron’s protection of John leads to choices that show the cost of remaining hidden.

The Pros: Andy Goode – Andy is an awkward nerd who is passionate about chess and A.I. I like his interactions with Sarah as he comes off as genuine and someone who could be a friend after even if the relationship never worked.

Sarah Connor – Sarah is faced with a dilemma that isn’t answered at the end of the episode as “The Turk” A.I. has the potential to become Skynet but Any is good person. This leaves her torn on what to do especially after John denounces her and Cameron for their disregard for human life in their pursuit of their final end.

Cameron – Cameron is great at trying to blend in but just making situations worse as she takes everything literally. Her protecting John, though it makes sense also pushes her further away from her charge, just as Sarah’s actions have done.

John Connor – John cares for life and it is a huge carry over from “Terminator 2” where he taught the T-800 as much. Future John is obviously not as concerned as Cameron keeps him from saving a girl about to jump from the building and this leads him to calling out Cameron and Sarah on them becoming Terminators so what’s the point of the war?

Okay: Cromartie – He kidnaps a scientist to grow him a new skin, and that is cool and it is great seeing Cromartie’s true metal interior but still doesn’t feel fully like a threat. He’s just kind of there.

   The issue of choosing to take a life and how it makes one like a Terminator is never fully explored and that’s what brings the episode down the most, though all the characters get some great exploration and I’m curious to see how and if they change over the course of this and next season.

Final Score: 8.2 / 10

Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles – Season 1, Episode 2 – “Gnothi Seauton” – Trust No One

SCC_102_cromarties_skull

    “Gnothi Seauton” is a great episode that shows the price of forever being on the run and lying to people is having on the Connors, as well as how much they just want to be able to live a normal life and human relationships. From this John likes getting new identities while Sarah enjoys the time where she has no name as it lets her be free and get in touch with old contacts.

   The episode was directed by David Nutter and written by Josh Friedman.

   The story kicks off with them nearly getting killed by a T-888 who killed a Resistance Cell that was going to help them. It is then they realize they are alone again and Sarah gets in touch with Enrique to establish new identities. He sends her to his nephew Carlos and from here the story unfolds as she must get 20K to pay for the new papers and identities. The Terminator Cromartie also returns having survived the Time Travel Machine and retrieves it’s skull to continue the hunt for the Connors.

The Pros: Time War – We learn in this episode that Resistance fighters have been sent back in time to fight Terminators in the past. This is a little confusing as it shows at one point they get full control of a Time Machine but I guess it makes sense if Arnold’s T-800 in “T2” could get sent back, I just thought the technology would be more rare and wouldn’t be used so much but since it is, I like that it is used in the war and that the war is throughout time against Skynet.

Carlos and his Gang – Carlos and his gang are great where we see they understandably distrust strangers but come around and are true to their word. Carlos is also right about Enrique being a snitch, as he was ready to sell out the Connors to the FBI for money.

Cameron – Cameron mimics humans more in this and we learn that she only follows orders from the John of the future. She knows all about Resistance cells and locations and is able to read well too as she kills Enrique for lying to them about not being a snitch.

John Connor – John is trying to hold onto the life he had not realizing it is gone…from searching his history at a mall and later visiting Charley Dixon, Sarah’s ex-fiance. He is having trouble letting go and it is eating away at him.

Sarah Connor – Sarah Connor is feeling more isolated and alone and is fearful of Cameron as Cameron is out of her control. Her arc in this is making sense of all of that and we learn that she doesn’t know herself when she is on the run and in survival mode or what she is capable of…she only wants to protect herself and John.

Enrique – Enrique is Sarah’s friend from “Terminator 2” and in this we learn he found a working relationship with the FBI. This ends up costing him his life though when he is ready to sell off the Connors and Enrique kills him. Tony Amendola does a great job as him! He has been in a lot of sci. fi. shows so it is great seeing him again here.

Okay: The FBI – The FBI is still just kind of there and don’t feel fully fleshed out as an organization. For example I care nothing for the main investigator because I haven’t been given a reason too.

Charley Dixon – Dixon is also just kind of there as a plot device for John to show the life he could have lived. Plot device and not a fully fleshed out character yet.

The Terminators – Cromartie and the T-888 are just kind of there and they don’t have the level of the threat Arnold’s T-800 had or the T-1000. So far they are pretty weak and only feel powerful because they are robots not because they are Terminators.

  This was a great episode and the show is getting better. The theme of trust is huge with Enrique being a snitch who would have sold them out if Sarah hadn’t shot and also the fact that John and Sarah are taking new identities again in order to bring the war to Skynet. It’s a sad episode with strength to it.

Final Score: 8.7 / 10

Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles – Season 1, Episode 1 – “Pilot” – Bringing the War to Skynet

Sarah Connor Chronicles Pilot

    The “Sarah Connor Chronicles” Pilot is good. It isn’t great as at times it lags and there are some characters who don’t feel fully fleshed out yet, but when it comes to the leads of Sarah, John and Cameron I am drawn in and curious to see how their story unfolds in their war against Skynet and stopping it from becoming a reality.

     The pilot was directed by David Nutter and written by Josh Friedman.

    The story involves Sarah Connor who is on the run with John Connor from the Terminators that continue to hunt them. Things come to a head when the FBI tracks Sarah Connor to New Mexico around the time of the arrival of the Terminator Cameron who has arrived to protect and an enemy Terminator sent to kill John Connor.

The Pros: John Connor – Thomas Dekker does alright. I believe he is stressed and doesn’t want to be the savior of humanity. He is a kid in high school who has never gotten the chance to live or be in a relationship. This gives him a reason to want to end the fight with Skynet as soon as possible as he understands that his Mom is the warrior, he’s just the survivor.

Cameron – This Terminator has the problem of Pops in “Genisys” where we don’t know who designed her or for what purpose beyond protecting John and Sarah Connor. She is a great character and Summer Glau gives the character a lot of life as well as making her feel dangerous and a threat, as well as having humanity about her too. It is the time machine a mysterious engineer built that sends them to the time of Skynet’s creation in 2007.

Sarah Connor – Lena Headey is wonderful as the overprotective mom with a major edge as she is willing to do anything to protect her son but is worried that everything she does is pushing him away. This makes her both strong and vulnerable and compelling to watch. She also is driven and is willing to trust Cameron to take her and John to the future to destroy Skynet before it can be born.

The Plan – Trusting an unknown Engineer Sarah, Cameron and John travel to 2007 to try and stop Skynet before it is born. I like the idea as it is the first time we see jumping into the future with Time Travel in this series which isn’t used again until “Genisys.”

Okay: The Terminator of the Pilot – He’s generic but tough. Not even Cameron can kill him and it takes an Isotopic weapon she has hiding in the vault combined with the energy of the Time Machine to finally kill it.

The Cons: Pacing – Pacing starts out slow and reflective but picks up once Cameron joins the team. After that it is a race against the FBI and the Terminator to get into the vault and be transported to the future.

   The Pilot is promising as we have yet to find out who is now building Skynet and with that have mystery as well as a reason for Sarah, John and Cameron to fight and something to drive the plot for the next two seasons. Within this there is the fight with destiny and if they can stop it or if the  Skynet’s rise is inevitable and the most they can do is limit the future threat. Regardless, excited to see what they do.

Final Score: 8 / 10

Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles – Upcoming Reviews

Sarah Connor Chronicles poster

  After watching “Terminator Genisys” my completionist side is coming out. I really want to finish up all the “Terminator Franchise” properties that are television or film so that I can rate them from Worst to Best. Also I really like Lena Headey and Summer Glau and seeing them in action out of their respected “Firefly” and “Game of Thrones” shows will be fun to review. After this I will also be able to do a rating of the different Sarah Connors, John Connors and Kyle Reeses and Antagonists of the Franchise so here is to that after that.

     I know full well that this series confuses the Franchise of the movie, but for all intents purposes “Terminator 3” did that with having Sarah Connor born in the 50s and “Genisys” did that will I guess opening up different timelines and having Skynet be defeated but not defeated? Essentially this series is confusing and doesn’t have much coherence as an overall whole so we’re just going to run with it and make it about the characters.

     The series aired on Fox, was created by Josh Friedman and was produced by 20th Century Fox and Warner Brothers Television.

    The story takes place between films as Sarah Connor (Lena Headey) trains John Connor (Thomas Dekker) for the coming Judgement Day while getting help from a Terminator Cameron (Summer Glau) sent back in the past to protect her and John from the Terminator’s already in the Timeline bent on destroying them.

     It’s been a while since I’ve reviewed a Drama show episode by Episode with the last one being “Carnival” so it will be great to get back into that while doing the animated shows and movies on the side to balance it out.

Here is to the next story adventure.