Sarah Connor's uppercut to her ex-shrink's jaw was one of the most satisfying moments in last night's episode of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. That annoying psychiatrist who kept Sarah drugged and locked up in Terminator 2 finally apologizes to her for being such a jack-ass (after he's just torched an FBI agent) and she decks him. Awesome. The rest of the episode was scattershot, but actually pretty great. Click through for a recap, with spoilers.
This definitely felt like another water-treading episode of Sarah Connor, but at least this time around all the characters felt true, and everybody got a nice bit of character development. Sarah and her pet Terminator Cameron are still searching for the dumb chess-playing computer that may possibly become Skynet, and they have to dispose of the last piece of the Terminator that hunted Brian Austin Green a few weeks ago. And Agent Ellison (now with 1000 times more Bible-thumping, which comes from actor Richard T. Jones' real-life Christianity) runs into Sarah's ex-shrink, now a nutcase himself.
I really liked the stuff about Sarah freaking out in the mental institution, and signing away her right to be John's mom. It makes the present-day wound-up-tight Sarah seem more impressive by comparison, and yet you know she's still freaking out somewhere deep down inside. (But maybe with better drugs now.) When John sees the tape of her relinquishing parenthood, Thomas Dekker's acting actually worked for me this time around. And then when he and Sarah re-bond, I could sort of believe they were related and cared for each other, which was a major weakness in earlier episodes.
Meanwhile, Brian Austin Green continues to be a bad houseguest. He messes up Sarah Connor's bedroom. He fucks around with her guns. He's a paranoid maniac who doesn't trust Sarah's ex-boyfriend or her robot pet. He won't eat his pancakes at the breakfast table like a civilized adult. Was he raised in a barn or something?
I was dreading the Terminator-learns-ballet stuff in advance. It was mercifully brief, but pretty much just as awful as I'd feared. We're obviously supposed to think Cameron (Summer Glau) is growing a "soul" because we see her randomly practicing ballet at the end of the episode. And Sarah's voice-over talks about how if the machines learn to appreciate art and beauty the way we do, they can replace us and become us instead of just wiping us out. It all points to a major weakness in this show, which is that it wants to be Battlestar Galactica. It wants Summer Glau to be like a Cylon, with emotions and a conflicted soul, instead of just a machine with a single purpose. Or at least, it wants to toy with the idea that Summer Glau has a soul.
All in all, this episode was way better than I was expecting, and much better than the last couple of episodes. I'm keeping my fingers crossed for next week's final two episodes, airing back to back. Sadly, the show's ratings continue to drop, and Hollywood insiders are saying a second season still isn't a sure thing.