A Piece Of The Terminator Action

Top ho! It's a 1920s Terminator speakeasy party, with flappers doing the Charleston and some positively ripping cocktails. I've been excited for the killing-machine-meets-Valentino episode of Sarah Connor Chronicles since I read some pages from the script, and it was just as mold-breaking as I'd hoped. I'm beginning to think this show's at its best when it's doing a weird digression, rather than trying to push the overall plot forward.

Think about it: the best episodes of the Sarah Connor Chronicles have been the weird one-offs that didn't actually tie in to anything much. Like the I-married-a-Terminator episode in season one, where we get to see a woman's marriage to a deadly robot unfold through the robot's eyes. Or the military academy story and the torturer-from-the-future episode, earlier this season. Those are the episodes where you get the impression the writers sat down and thought, "We're making a show about time-traveling and robots. What are some of the crazy things we can do with that premise?"

Last night's episode wasn't quite as satisfying as either of the three I mentioned above. The 1920s plot felt a little bit slight, and didn't make much sense if you thought about it for a while. (If the Terminator just wanted to kill one guy in 2010, did it really need to make sure a particular building was built?) But it was still super fun, and all the 1920s sequences were a blast. Plus it was great to see the mystery unraveling.

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And meanwhile, the whole relationship between Summer Glau's bot and the cancer-stricken librarian was pretty great. This episode was mostly great for all the extra dimensions it managed to bring to Summer's character, without humanizing her at all. She's curious about stuff, perhaps because knowledge has strategic value for its own sake. She discovers the thing about the 1920s Terminator because she's doing research on other stuff. She seems genuinely concerned about the librarian guy, maybe just because he's an asset to her. And as always, she gets a gleam in her eye when she's talking about mayhem and killing. (The scene where she tells her friend about the trip to Mexico and the break-in is pretty fantastic. Plus, the bit where she teaches him to fire a gun.)

Plus, it seems more likely that Summer is on "our" side, even if her agenda is more complicated than just protecting John. She goes out of her way to find out about Myron Stark and then dig him out, so she can deactivate him.

Illustration for article titled A Piece Of The Terminator Action
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Really, the less said about this episode's "B" plot, the better. I honestly didn't even understand what was supposed to be happening about half the time. Riley the cat-fancy girl even admits to John that she's kind of a manipulative skank, and he just keeps on letting himself be manipulated. "We do that kind of thing to guys we like." Umm... eww?

At least they finally made out. I think I get what we're supposed to be seeing here — John senses a kindred spirit in Riley because she's as messed up as he is, coming from foster homes and bad situations, yadda yadda. Unfortunately, none of that comes across on the screen at all. I'm still mildly curious to see what Riley's secret agenda is, after last week's revelations, but I'd like to find out sooner rather than later.

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Illustration for article titled A Piece Of The Terminator Action

As for the rest of the cast? Well, Brian Austin Green was on top form, tearing a hole in the screen with his raw charisma and then sending sparks flying into your mouth like pop rocks. Oh wait. There was no BAG. In fact, it was pretty much a week off for almost everyone, which was definitely a cause for grouchiness. The show found an ingenious solution to the whole batshit-Sarah-Connor issue, by sidelining the show's title character. It wouldn't have been bad, except that Cat Fancy rushed into the void left by all those other characters.

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Other stuff that jumped out at me:

In the Terminator universe, Arnold Schwarzenegger is not the governor of California! Instead it's someone named Mark Wyman. In-joke? The only Mark Wyman I can find is an astrophysicist.

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Apparently video games really do lead to real-life violence.

I liked the whole sequence where John watches soul-patch boy be mean to his mom, and maybe some small piece of John's self-absorbed little heart is thinking that he should be nicer to Sarah.

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Is there a website somewhere that's tracking all the Wizard Of Oz references in this show? There was another one last night.

What did you guys think?

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DISCUSSION

Briareosdx
Briareosdx

I think that there were some crucial bits that were quite subtle, but very thematic for an episode themed around Cameron.

The time-lost terminator "Myron Stark"'s bizarre odyssey was awesome because of how hard he tried to follow his orders. He was probably programmed to kill the governor at that point, and he did everything he could to bend reality to make that point happen, all so that he could finish his mission. But look at all that he did. He robbed banks, he became a successful businessman, he (accidentally) promoted racial tolerance, he met Rudolf Valentino, he basically had this incredible life! But because he was only focused on his one goal, he didn't (or couldn't) even realize it, and then it's all undone by chance. It's bizarre and tragic and hilarious and it's all about being a "terminator". About defining yourself by objectives instead of by life. Which played into the plot about Cameron and the Librarian.

There were two pivitol scenes. The first was in the bathroom, when Cameron asks him about suicide. Note that she was looking into a mirror. And the "last time on..." scenes included bits about her damaged chip to drive it home. Cameron wasn't really asking him about killing himself because he was "damaged". She was asking if she should terminate herself because she's damaged. Her chip's so borked the Beastwizard noticed it, and she's wondering if that makes her a such liability to her own mission that she should be removed from it. We in the audience like Cameron, but the character still sees herself as a tool. And as a tool, she's not sure she still works, a terrifying though to a mind like that.

The second pivotal scene was where she tries to warn him about his cancer's re-emergence. We know she's pretty awkward socially, but the important thing is that 1 - she tries to tell him, even though it's of marginal utility to her, and 2 - that she fails to realize the one little white lie that they were building up for her that could have paved things over. It took her some time to get those measurements, so this is something she was actively watching for. As for the second point, was I the only one who was surprised that she didn't tell him that she was brain damaged? A line or two about how she'd been stabbed in the head by a scredriver (heh) and didn't sleep and had trouble with people because of it, and that conversation would have ended differently. They totally built it up for her, too. But she missed the cue. And I think it was intentional on the writer's part that she did.