Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles – Season 1, Episode 5 – “Queen’s Gambit” – Arraying the Board

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 Well the T-888 is finally gone and as is the more interesting character who is replaced with a more standard bitter hero. I really hope Derek Reese isn’t wasted, but I’m not having much hope on that, though I could be wrong…it’s just there wasn’t much with him this episode, he’s pretty much only there to cause drama.

    “Queen’s Gambit” was directed by Matt Earl Beesley and written by Natalie Chaidez.

     The plot unfolds when Andy is killed a Turk Chess competition as Derek Reese arrives on the scene and finds himself being tracked by Sarah Connor before he is captured by the police. Agent Ellison discovers past Terminator battles and seems willing to listen to what Derek has to say but the T-888 who killed the Resistance fighters appears to come finish the job it started.

The Pros: Agent Ellison – I’m starting to like this guy. He is after the truth no matter how crazy it is and is even willing to listen to Derek since he wants to know why there is synthetic blood at every crime scene. He loses his chance to learn the truth though after the Connor’s break Reese out.

Cameron – Cameron is ruthless and doesn’t get people but she also proves herself as an ally of the Resistance even when Derek Reese tries to kill her. She’s super alienated at school at this point though.

Sarah Connor – Sarah saves Derek as she sees family as all she has left. This leads to her being reckless but also gives her hope for the first time she’s had in a long time, especially after she learns Derek did not kill Andy.

The Battle – The battle to save Derek Reese is fantastic! The T-888 fights them at the prison, on a truck and later it’s chip is taken out by Cameron, which finally leads to it’s defeat.

Okay: John Connor – He’s just kind of there. He tries to be there for the girl whose sister killed herself but he is pushed away and he picks up a creepy friend who hits on Cameron.

The Cons: Cromatie – Cromatie questions Charley Dixon which is just to cause drama between him and his wife and we see him mimic Ellison’s words on getting back to him if they have more information. Just kind of there, doesn’t feel like a threat.

Derek Reese – He’s meant to be intense like Kyle Reese from the original “Terminator” film but he isn’t. He doesn’t do a bad job but he feels unnecessary and his character is wasted this episode as he is mistaken for the one who killed Andy and stole the Turk until the T-888 arrives on the scene.

  This was a good episode, though that has been the entire series so far…at the same time though there haven’t been any great episodes since they all lack focus. There are great character moments and events but nothing that really binds them all together which makes Sarah’s narration at the end have less power since it is hard to really place the theme of each episode since there isn’t focus.

Final Score: 8 / 10

Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles – Season 1, Episode 4 – “Heavy Metal” – First Strike in the Series

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     This is the episode where John Connor stops running and with that Sarah Connor begins to finally let go a little bit to let him develop into the leader he needs to be. It is a good episode as the stakes are high and we see Skynet in action laying the stakes for it’s future rise. We also see Cameron kick butt too.

     The episode was directed by Sergia Mimica-Gezzan and written by John Enbom.

     The story involves Cromatie adopting a new identity and another Terminator stealing a shipment of metal in preparation for Judgement Day. John chooses to fight rather than run away leading to a showdown in the Warehouse with Agent Ellison continues to research the mysterious events surrounding the deaths from the Terminators.

The Pros: Agent Ellison – He actually feels like a character this time as he questions the man whose identity Cromatie eventually steals and we see that he knows something is up giving the missing fingerpints and false blood.

Cameron – Cameron is great in this as we see her once again take on much larger Terminators than her and relate to Sarah Connor as she expresses she would have no purpose if anything happened to John, making Sarah realize how much of a psychological problem she has.

Sarah Connor – Sarah Connor goes through the process of starting to let go and let John become the hero he was born to be in this one. When John tracks the truck she allows it but panics later but later on is working with him to steal the metal that the Terminator is going to use to create more of it’s kind when Judgement Day arrives. It’s a powerful moment with good showing and not telling.

John Connor – John sets boundaries with him mom in this one and we see him be the leader and fighter everyone keeps talking about him becoming. From stealing the key to a hibernating Terminator and fighting it in the truck…in this he is coming to his own and is ready to fight.

The Cons: Cromatie – We see him creep and pretend to be human but he is still generic and the actor is no Arnold, just like the last guy who played this Terminator. He just isn’t compelling as a villain.

Terminators and Human Minions – The minions are stupid and don’t listen to John and the Terminator is a nameless soldier with nothing unique about it.

   The series still suffers from having villains that aren’t compelling but the leads are fantastic! Even John Connor begins to grow on you after a while even though Lena Headey and Summer Glau are clearly the ones carrying the drama and conflict and are the most compelling part of the show.

Final Score: 8.4 / 10

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

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    “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

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    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 Genisys (2015): Terminator Referynce With a Great Missed Story

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    “Terminator Genisys” had the potential to be the best of the story, wholly original and able to stand on it’s own, without referencing any of the past “Terminator” films. Sadly I’d be expecting too much from the studios and writers for that to become a reality and because the film tries to be all the Good Terminator films it fails to stand wholly on it’s own. It isn’t the worst of the “Terminator Franchise” by any means and it is enjoyable in it’s own right, but it falls short because it lacked the confidence to continue on threads that weren’t dependent on past films.

    The film was directed by Alan Taylor, written by Laeta Kalogridis and Patrick Lussier and produced by David Ellison and Dana Goldberg.

    The story involves John Connor (Jason Clarke) leading the final assault on Skynet headquarters in the Post-Apocalyptic future of 2029. He suceeds but not before Skynet sends back the T-800 (Arnold Schwarzenegger) to terminate Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke). He decides to send back Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) in order to protect her. When he returns to 1984 he finds a Terminator has already been sent back to protect Sarah and the timeline has changed. It is up to them to stop Skynet before it comes online as the Timeline is in flux and the future has changed.

The Pros:  The Action – The action is really good in this. From the battle to reach Skynet’s Time Machine and shut down the core, to Pops against The Terminator and Pops, Reese and Sarah against the T-1000 and later on the fights against John Connor as the T-3000. Each fight was really well done and a pleasure to watch.

The Special Effects – The Special Effects are the best they’ve been. When the original Terminator travels back in time he looks nearly like how Arnold looked as he did in 1984. The Terminators also look great too having a dangerous and sleek look to them.

The Final Assault on Skynet – This is the story that I wish the movie had been. I wish we could have witnessed the consequences of the war like we did in “Salvation” and how it had shaped John Connor into someone who was willing to take any risks to defeat the machines and to live. In the end the decision to send Kyle Reese back is made as Skynet’s Avatar attacks and turns John Connor into a Terminator. It’s really cool and if that had been the film with the resistance dealing with the consequences of that it would have been perfect and possibly the best in the series.

J.K. Simmons – Plays a cop who is saved by Reese and pays them back later when the T-3000 is trying to kill them all. His character is wonderful as the one who has seen the robots but no one believes him. I liked the character and it was a nice touch that was different from the other films. Detective O’Brien is a great character.

Arnold Scharzenegger – Arnold is the best part of this film. We see him save Sarah Connor at the beginning and that he has developed an affection for her. It is the most range I have seen Arnold do and he truly is great at this role (Minus “Terminator 3”).

Pops – Pops is the protector and Guardian of Sarah Connor and saved her as a child. We see that his goal is to protect her and stop Skynet (like the one sent back in “T2”) and to this end he trains and prepares her for the arrival of Kyle Reese and “The Terminator.” When the Terminator arrives together they kill it and later he gets upgraded when he falls into the liquid good of the T-1000s in the final battle against the T-3000. He develops an affection for Kyle Reese and a sense of humor too.

The Terminator/T-800/Pops – This role is small but Arnold is great at looking and acting threatening, beating down Pops and nearly killing him if not for Sarah Connor’s sniper shot. It was a great though his defeat kind of defeated the purpose of Skynet’s last ditch effort to save itself…though the writers kind of ignore that when they throw in the T-1000 in the same timeline and later the T-3000. He is called Pops by Sarah.

Jason Clarke – Jason Clarke is carrying this movie with Arnold and lends a lot of humanity to the role of John Connor as someone trying to make a difference and survive in a cruel world where humans are going extinct. This leads to some tough decisions that come back to bite him later. Clarke is great as the threatening T-3000 too.

John Connor – John Connor is a man on the brink who has lost so much and forced his soldiers to make tough choices. This has cost him a lot and at the end when he is victorious his one moment of joy costs him his conscience as he is turned into a Terminator and no doubt turned on his own men he was protecting.

T-3000 – The T-3000 is a Nano Terminator and is one of the best of them as he can mimic almost perfectly and has all the knowledge of Skynet and John Connor. It takes everything to defeat him including Skynet’s last resort Time Traveling Machine to finally end the threat.

Okay: The Ending – Pops gets upgraded and everyone is in 2017. It was way too happy for me as we see Sarah and John begin to hook up, Pops respect Reese and Reese talk to his younger self and give him hope for the future. If they have sequels planned I have no idea how they will pull it off. There are no evidence of Terminators and everything feels done now without opening more cans of worms in the Timeline(s). Also, somehow the Skynet system core survived? I guess it fits the theme of survival of the story but we shouldn’t need an after credits scene to know that it does. That’s a bit too important to leave until after the credits.

The Cons: Kyle Reese – Jai Courtney can’t act. He is super generic and dull as a character and either has a blank expression or annoyed expression (sadly like Emilia Clarke in this film too) and the focus on him just brings down the plot. I didn’t care about his character because he didn’t feel real. He felt like a plot device and not like an actual human being.

Sarah Connor – Emilia Clarke like Jai Courtney is terrible in this. She is flustered most of the time and she feels shoe horned in. We don’t see her arc to become a badass she just is that way because of Pops. She also doesn’t have much of an arc. She learns to love and not fear I guess but always loved Pops anyway so the arc is irrelevant and a poor attempt to hook her up with Reese for plot reasons.

Sarah Connor and Kyle Reese Romance – These two have no chemistry. Any times where there was supposed to be sexual tension felt contrived and tacked on and it felt like Emilia and Jai were just going through the motions.

Plot Holes – Who sent Pops back? How was the T-1000 around in 1984? How was  T-1000 sent back to kill Sarah Connor as a child? Are Time Machines around everywhere in the future? Are the Terminators from other Timelines? The plot is a mess if you think too hard on it, so major con.

Too Many Time Machines – See the plot holes above. Even Pops is able to build a Time Machine….which runs counter to the fact that in “Terminator 2” they were designed to only kill and couldn’t think on a deeper level. Now everyone has a Time Machine so story has no consequence. Everybody lives!

   This was a film that would have worked if we stayed in the future, or ended with Kyle Reese being sent back. From there the story would have been complete without having to explain the Old Terminator and hiding the fact that the writers don’t know who sent him back. We could have still had a good Terminator, the good Terminator could have protected John Connor after being reprogrammed and it having to kill John Connor after Skynet possess him, instead we get the entire timeline rebooted with Skynet pretty much destroyed and Reese and Pops alive. We get a story with no consequences with gaping plot holes, though I won’t deny the ride is enjoyable and Jason Clarke and Arnold are top of their game in their roles.

Final Score: 6 / 10. Would have been the best if we had just stuck to the future and consequences of the war on Skynet and filling in the blanks for “Terminator” and “T2,” without creating more plot holes in the Timeline (and creating more Timelines).