If the Terminator Hand Fits . . .

Cameron's been framed for murder, but who's going to believe a Terminator? Especially one who says things like, "I lie sometimes, but I'm not lying now." Spoilers for last Friday's Sarah Connor Chronicles below...

Last Friday's Terminator episode was an odd beast. It was the first half of a two-parter, dealing with flashbacks to Jesse's life in the future, on board a nuclear submarine captained by a reprogrammed Terminator. But it also felt like the second half of the "Riley gets killed" storyline. Neither story quite took flight this week, but they both show a lot of promise. Much, naturally, depends on next week's conclusion to the submarine story.

In a nutshell, the circumstantial evidence is looking bad for Cameron, Summer Glau's Terminator. She's lied about hoarding spare parts from other Terminators, which could help speed up the creation of killer robots in this timeline. She's acted shifty and mysterious about her nocturnal activities. And it's not as if she wouldn't have killed John's girlfriend Riley, in the right circumstances. Her innocence is pretty much accidental.

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Meanwhile, and in a probably related development, Jesse - who actually did kill Riley - is picking bar fights with Naval officers and flashing back to her future days on a nuclear sub. Das Boot is one of my favorite movies, and I'm a sucker for claustrophobic underwater epics, so all of those scenes were pretty much pure awesome in my book. Also, the actor who's playing the Terminator sub captain could give Glau and Garret Dillahunt a run for their money. He seemed genuinely emotionless, but smooth and good at handling people.

And speaking of Dillahunt, he got a bit more to do this week. His Terminator body has been hooked up to a baby A.I. that may become Skynet, and this week he decided to play a game of Hide And Seek with Catherine Weaver's daughter, Savannah. The "let's play a game" part wasn't quite as creepy or scary as I was expecting, and the most interesting part was actually the contrasting reactions of Ellison and Catherine Weaver to the dilemma. Ellison was horrified, while Weaver was sort of amused and intrigued, since the child actually means nothing to her except part of her public cover.

I was mulling over what to say about this episode, because a lot of stuff feels like it might pay off terrifically in the coming weeks. But it's hard to evaluate on its own merits.

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I guess the most interesting thing is that all three segments of the episode were about people who've become dependent, in different ways, on machines, and they're not sure how much to trust them. It's a theme of the series, in general, but it seemed especially strong in this episode. John Connor can't bear to let go of Cameron - she's his bodyguard, but also in some weird way his security blanket. Even if he did think she killed Riley, he might not be able to blow up her brain. As for John Henry, he temporarily has power because he's the only one who knows where Savannah is. But it's also clear he's becoming more powerful and indispensible in general, and the lives of Ellison and everyone else around him are just toys in his hands. The metaphor of being trapped under the waves, a few centimeters from hull breach, in the hands of a "scrubbed triple eight" is sort of self-explanatory, and brings it all together nicely.

I think the main reason why I didn't love this episode quite as much as I wanted to has to do with Thomas Dekker. I feel like a broken record, but his portrayal of John Connor has never quite clicked for me, in the midst of an amazing ensemble cast. And this time around, he really had to carry the show. We had to believe he was a guy whose girlfriend - whom he at least liked, even if he didn't love her - was brutally murdered. And all the evidence points to the robot he's become friends with. His grief, his anger, and his pain needed to lift this episode up, and I just wasn't seeing it. It's really just a matter of personal taste, I guess.

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DISCUSSION

Briareosdx
Briareosdx

Dekker's okay by me. He's playing a teenage boy. I haven't been a teenager for some time, but I remember it well enough. It's bad enough when you feel like you have the weight of normal expectations on you, but everyone's been telling him that he's basically the anti-killer-robot messiah since he was a kid. He's had one of the most screwed up childhoods imaginable, and his mother would be an over-protective paranoid if it weren't for the fact that she's right about the killer robots from the future. Oh, and he just got dislocated in time, so there's that, too. So what I see is a teenage boy who's understandably frustrated, angry, and tired, but has to come to grips with the idea that it's only going to get worse.

Anyway, I have a theory about what's in that box. I think it's a character, and not the one you're probably thinking. Summer Glau's already done the "mint-in-box" routine, it's too predictable. But if that box has a deactivated T-1000 in it, a lot of weird things snap into focus.

If Weaver's an agent for Future John, sent back to set things up for the resistance or even create a separate time-line, many of her actions make sense. John Henry isn't THE Skynet, but a rival project. The Terminators sent after Ellison and the Therapist were direct attacks by Skynet on the plan to create that rival project and give it a morality. Just last episode they mentioned the Nuclear power plant again as a resistance base. And she didn't blow up the Air Conditioning plant because they broke security. When they broke their security it allowed her to find them.