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/

The Terminator Poster

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, 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 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 11 – “Self Made Man” – Good Ideas but Unfocused

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      “Self Made Man” was an interesting episode but it didn’t really good. I liked Cameron making a friend and them researching the past, but it feels like following a T-888 is stupid when there is Catherine Weaver out there, it’s like a filler side quest related to an enemy who was never interesting to start with. Still, it was interesting but unfocused.

    The episode was directed by Holly Dale and written by Toni Graphia.

     The story involves Cameron recognizing a T-888 they defeated in the 1920’s and figuring out why it was there as well as Riley and John’s relationship getting fleshed out more when Riley pulls John into a party.

The Pros: Cameron – Cameron is invesitating a fire at a Speakeasy from the 1920’s when she recognizes a T-888, over the course of the time she makes friends with Eric, the nigh shift guy who works there and does what she can to help him but her bluntness ends up pushing him away as well as her reminders of mortality in her attempts to connect. She is still focused on the mission though and when he isn’t there she offers donuts to the next night shift worker. She also takes out the T-888 for good.

The Investigation – The investigation leads to them learning about the rise of gangs in the 20’s and that Stark, the T-888 was sent to kill the Governor in 2010. This leads to a confrontation and her taking out the T-888 as well as learning that the 3 points are a point in time as Stark saw them in the stars.

Eric – Eric is a nice guy who is pretty insecure in himself having just dealt with his mortality through cancer but does all he can to help Cameron until her honesty is too much for him. He felt like a full character and his arc was done by the end, I just hope he’s alive in that universe.

Okay: John Connor – John goes to a party believing Riley to be in trouble and is used by him as we see her steal and John’s PTSD come out…all of this to get close to him and get him to reveal what he knows about the future. I hate Riley and John should be smarter.

The Cons: Riley – Riley is super manipulative as she fakes being in danger and steals the host’s lighter at a party in order to start a fight. All this just to get close to John. God I hate this character.

  This was an okay episode, definitly one of the weaker ones. The 1920’s plot felt like it was going nowhere even though it was fascinating and time with Riley and John was just weak…why couldn’t we have had time with John Henry and Agent Ellison or more Catherine Weaver plots? Ah, well. This was filler and felt like it.

Final Score: 5 / 10

Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles – Season 2, Episode 6 – “The Tower is Tall but the Fall is Short” – The Ways We Face Trauma

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    This was an intelligent episode, though I am very confused about Catherine Weaver’s motivations now to some degree. Is she trying to be human and thinks that is the goal of the Terminators or is it something more sinister? Hopefully we get that question answered later. The thing this episode does really well is deal with trauma, which I will get into in the review further down.

     The episode was directed by Tawnia McKieman and written by Denise The.

     The story involves John and Sarah Connor investigating a psychologist who is on the machines list to kill. Over the course of the investigation though John finds he is hurting and needs healing and Sarah comes to terms with the fact that she’s finally taken a human life. A former lover returns into Derek’s life as well.

The Pros: Jesse and Derek – This mini-subplot is fascinating and Jesse was injured in an attack as we learn that John is working with “good” Terminators in the future though the Resistance disagrees and it is causing conflict. Jesse leaves the war to run away and we find that she lives by escapes as her hookup with Derek implies it won’t go anywhere even though they are lovers…partially because Derek never allows anyone close because of how hard the war has made him. He only lives for the fight.

Sarah and John – Sarah and John are like Jesse and Derek. John doesn’t allow anyone close and he doesn’t trust his mom with his feelings due to her reactions has trouble dealing with the fact that she killed and someday he will have to as well. It’s powerful seeing him talk to the psychologist about it.

Catherine Weaver – Weaver is trying to make a perfect A.I. and we see that her model was based off a woman who lived and had a child who Weaver is now raising. It’s tragic as she tries to understand her child but she doesn’t feel or get jokes so feels lost in the world she is trying to control and shape.

Cameron versus Terminator Rosie – This was a fight that happened when Rosie was sent back in time to kill Dr. Sherman. The fight is quick and fast and the Terminator terminates herself so John can’t hack the chip. They are adapting and Cameron is getting better at fighting them.

Dealing with Trauma – This episode is all about dealing with trauma. All of our characters are soldiers and that has made them hard and broken…they are Terminators trying to feel again, like Catherine’s quest for humanity. It’s presented really well too.

Dr. Sherman – Dr. Sherman is a great character. He doesn’t judge and he helps all the characters who interact with him better understand themselves or humanity. This gives him a much needed outside perspective and a character who isn’t so far adversarial.

 I would highly recommend this episode. It deals with trauma, growth and healing and how difficult that process is and there are great character moments all around, even for Derek who is my least favorite character on the show. If you like good sci. fi. so far I’d judge you’ll probably enjoy this series as much as I have been.

Final Score: 9.4 / 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