Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles started out as the show about women who kick robot ass and get the job done. Now it's the show about crazy chicks who can't keep their eye on the ball. Don't get me wrong — it's still one of my favorite shows, and last night's episode still left me eager to see what happens next. But it also left me a little worried about the women I was celebrating as "alpha females" just last week. Spoilers ahead. It's a bad sign when the only women who talk sense are robots. In last night's episode, Sarah Connor continued to come unhinged, after her breakdown in the Mexican episode and her weird dreams last week. She decided three random smudges were the crucial clues to the end of the world, and went on a wild robot chase throughout a maelstrom of Japanese cliches. (Sake, yakuza, toasts, nerdboys, Go, etc.) Sarah's been a little bit loony throughout this show, but it seems to be a building theme. And this was the first time she was crazy AND wrong. Until now, she's been crazy but right about everything. The whole wild-eyed, mirror smashing thing is a lot harder to take when she's also chasing phantoms.
Meanwhile, it turned out that Jesse (BSG's Stephanie Jacobsen) really is up to something nefarious: trying to fix John Connor up with Riley the crazy girl. I would be more excited about this plotline if it didn't involve Riley saying things like, "Have you ever noticed how many mirrors there are in the world?" or "Your skull will be bleached!" Sadly, I can't help noticing that Jacbosen's acting is a lot less thrilling when she's trying to be all lesbonic with Riley than when she's acting opposite Brian Austin Green. The show's two female robots, Summer Glau and Shirley "Garbage" Manson, were like the only voices of reason this time around. Summer tried to warn us, again and again, that Sarah Connor's crazy quest was crazy. Meanwhile, Manson actually sounded plausible as she talked about trying to teach her murderous little A.I. some morality — until we found out she'd hooked it up to the killer Terminator whom we all know as Beastwizard.
Basically, the men on the show, John Connor and Derek Reese, were just left scratching their heads the whole time while the women acted nuts or robotic. You just have to humor these chicks when they go around investing in tech start-ups or spying on your nephew. Even the women who are robots are just going to lead the men astray. Like Shirley, who is probably trying to steer FBI Agent Ellison towards moral turpitude and the befouling of his soul, or a grunge fashion revival, or something. And Summer Glau, who we're told is going to mess up John Connor's head in the future by making him too dependent on her robotic guidance. Don't get me wrong: I enjoyed last night's episode, and I'm super excited to see where this is going. Is there more to Jesse's plan than just getting John Connor laid so he'll be less of an assbag in the future? Is Ellison really going to be able to teach Baby Skynet some good-old Bible school morals? Or is hooking Baby Skynet up to Beastwizard really going to make it go berzerk faster? Does Derek really trust Jesse or is he just keeping tabs on her? Is John Connor really becoming too dependent on Summer Glau's Terminator, and how do you prevent that? I just wanted to sound the yellow alert — part of what I loved about this show was its competent female characters, and they're not very much in evidence lately. When I interviewed series producer Josh Friedman at Comic-Con, I asked him how you build up John Connor without tearing down Sarah Connor. Friedman responded, "I don't know that you don't."
I'm down with storylines that show John Connor stepping up and becoming the unfuckwittable resistance leader. My favorite episode this season so far was the "military school" one, where John showed actual leadership. But I'm not so much down with stories where John's main act of rebellion against his mom is dating Riley the "OMG fish being eatenz" chick. And I'd like to see his mom still kicking some ass and being awesome, even as John becomes more of a future leader. I'm very intrigued by the theme of John depending on robots too much, but I think you can build up that theme and show him becoming a future leader at the same time. The other thing that was really bugging me last night was this show's reliance on random macguffins. The chess-playing program ("The Turk") and the bloody mural that the dying future guy had time to scrawl are both feeling a bit contrived, honestly. I understand that there has to be a way to make the stop-Skynet plot last longer, but at this point we're all just waiting to see Sarah Connor face off with Shirley Manson. If Sarah hasn't become completely bug-fuck insane by then, of course.