Friday's Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles proved, once and for all, that the Riley storyline was worth hanging in there for. Not to mention, that a character-driven drama can also raise tough philosophical questions. Spoilers!

So it turns out Terminator's future war against Skynet is as much a metal-versus-metal battle as a flesh-versus-metal one. And maybe that's because of the changes our heroes have made to the timeline?


In Friday's episode, John Connor figures out the truth about Jesse — but Jesse also finds out the truth about John Connor. Neither one of them likes what he/she sees, and it's almost like they're both looking into a dark mirror.

John reveals that he knew for a while that Riley was from the future, but he didn't do anything to save her, probably because he wanted to have it all: be John Connor and get to enjoy a regular relationship. And then he tells Jesse that even if her plan had worked and Cameron had killed Riley, he still wouldn't have gotten rid of his pet Terminator. She's just too useful, and John is already becoming more ruthless in the desperate fight to stop Skynet.


And then Derek tells John what he probably already knows: everybody, in that future battle, looks up to John Connor and gives their lives for John Connor. But they don't agree with everything he does, and they don't all love him or even like him. That's part of what being the leader is about, and you have to turn off parts of yourself to do it. Yes, like a machine.

Meanwhile, we see the tail end of all of the flashbacks/forwards to Jesse's submarine mission, where she realized the machines are keeping too many secrets from the humans. And she stopped trusting those machines so much. Those submarine scenes were brutal and psychotic. And it seems like that liquid metal Terminator had a mission of its own — to deliver a message to John Connor that "they" won't join him. Is this a rogue splinter group from Skynet? Could the liquid metal Terminator actually be Catherine Weaver?

And speaking of Weaver, she's already making plans to wipe out former FBI Agent Ellison, as John Henry/Beastwizard discovers. It seems like a weird way to go about things — bring in a guy to teach John Henry the value of human life, and then kill that guy callously. But maybe John Henry wasn't supposed to find out?

So at this point it's pretty obvious that all of this time travel and heroic future-hacking has led to some unpredictable outcomes. John Connor traces his dependence on machines all the way back to Terminator 2, when he bonded with the hacked T-800 and wondered afterwards why his future self didn't send another human instead of a machine. (Answer: machines are expendable.)


And all of their attempts, since then, to avert Skynet have possibly made matters worse. The more we see of Jesse's version of the future, the nastier it looks. And Derek Reese realizes it's a future that he helped to shape, by killing "Billy Wisher" aka Andy Goode, among other things. (If Derek hadn't killed Andy Goode, would John Henry still have fallen into the hands of Catherine Weaver? I can't remember how that went down.)

And yet, in a way, it seems like a pretty logical outcome that the war against Skynet would eventually become a war between machines. The machines are just so much better at wholesale destruction. You're left wondering if John Connor is even still in control, or if he's only a figurehead now. (Of course, maybe having Cameron around throughout his teenage and young-adult years will make him less keen to depend on her kind later.)


Anyway, this episode was chock full of great character bits, especially the look on Sarah's face when John said, "I'm sorry I doubted you," and she realized he was talking to the Terminator, not to her. Sarah's attempt at playing a mind game with Cameron was also terrific, and so was the conversation between Sarah and John about the little hippie town where there were kids named Sequoia and Sage and whatnot. "I was getting in fights every day." "You won those fights." "That's one way of looking at it." It's nice to feel like they really do have a history together.

And yes, John Connor was pretty badass in the episode. He definitely made some strides towards convincing me that he's going to turn into the all-important future leader of humanity and savior of the human race. I still don't entirely buy Thomas Dekker's performance — he still seems petulant when he's shooting for resolute — but it's getting way better and there's a definite progression happening now. He had a lot of heavy lifting to do this time around, and he carried it off pretty well. (Including crying on his mom's lap at the end.) The episode's MVP, of course, was Brian Austin Green. As always. If he'd had any more screen time, he'd have stolen the whole episode.


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