Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Terminator: Sarah Connor Chronicles: Season 1

I’ve just finished watching the first series of “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles”, and have been quite enjoying the series – so much that I viewed the entire six-odd hours of the first series over two days. It’s an exciting show, manages to build up suspense quite well, and has some interesting characters and the characters are played out quite well. As an extension of the Terminator franchise, it adds some interesting ideas upon the original movies without invalidating the original ideas, which is always appreciated, and for a television series, has serviceable special effects and action scenes.

As with all Terminator movies, particularly the second and third, the series itself is full of logic problems that you shouldn’t pay too close attention to in case the façade falls away. No character needs hair dye or coloured contact lenses to disguise themselves when they relocate, or when they decide to undertake a task which is both dangerous and illegal, for example. I could go on, but it’s pretty obvious that this is not the most consistent or logical of shows. The show would be better if this was considered more carefully, but there are so many other things to like about this show that this is not a huge concern for me.

The series is set after the second Terminator movie, and the pilot of the episode explains the chronology of the story, including that the show negates the third movie entirely. This is much appreciated; I enjoyed the first movie both as an SF movie and an action movie, I enjoyed the second movie as an action movie, but didn’t really enjoy the third movie at in either regard.

The acting in the show is really good, and worth discussing. Summer Glau plays the role of Cameron, the terminator sent back to protect John, extremely well. When she has to fight, she looks extremely capable in her role, and you actually believe that her personality is that of a well-honed combat robot. In social situations, she adds a touch of humour to the show which is quite hard to explain. It might be seen with Cameron making brutally honest comments, mimicking a person and making the person copied look foolish without a pretence of self-dignity, or any other number of things. Summer Glau is really a standout, and the best character in the show.

As for the rest of the characters, Lena Headey as Sarah Connor is done well; her character is pretty much identical to that of Sarah Connor from Terminator 2. She’s the tough and capable lady who always puts her son’s safety first, and is trying to meld him into a military commander. Brian Green works quite well as Derek, and is introduced in the middle of the season. He is a human soldier from the future, hating all machines, whether they are allies or not, and has few moral scruples in achieving his goals. FBI Agent James Ellison is a serviceable character, and mainly provides the “outsider looking in” to give some perspective as to what the authorities think is actually happening, and to help explain what the Terminator was actually up to in the previous scenes.

Probably the only character that I have misgivings about right now is Thomas Dekker, as John Connor, surprisingly enough. He’s fifteen, and for a show that is meant to be about John Connor rising up to become a military leader, only has a minor role through the current show for the most part, and is either guarded by Cameron or offering what little support he can to more experienced warriors around him, occasionally doing things like computer hacking and the like. I know that he is only a teenager, and not yet ready to be a military commander, but his character does not really excite me in any way at this stage in the television series. Surely the son of Sarah Connor is better than this? I hope that he improves in the next season.

For someone interested in the series, I would recommend you take a look at the episode called “Pilot”, which is the first show in the series. It gives you a fairly good idea about what the rest of the series would be like, in terms of plotlines, acting and storylines (although several plotlines are revealed later, obviously). And since this series has a progressive storyline, and each new episode depends on that of the prior show, it’s hard to jump in the middle of the season and really understand what exactly is going on.

Here’s a quick summary of the episodes within the television series, which contains spoilers.

“Pilot” – we meet Cameron, a terminator sent back to save John, and Cameron takes them into a bank vault which has had a time machine built inside, taking them forward to 2007, which removes the third movie from the Terminator chronology. FBI Agent James Ellison is on the case to solve the mystery that Sarah Connor poses.

“Gnothi Seauton” – the terminator from the pilot needs to rebuild itself, leaving a grisly trail behind it for Ellison to follow. Sarah, Cameron and John need fake identification, and this will cost a lot of money.

“The Turk” – Andy, who originally worked for Cyberdine, is working on building a robot called “The Turk.”, which might become Skynet in the future. John and Cameron settle into school.

“Heavy Metal” – there is a plan to reconstruct terminators with a stolen shipment of a particular metal alloy, and Connor decides to stop this from happening. Connor is actually an interesting character in this show, doing several things of his own initiative.

“Queen’s Gambit” – Andy’s computer is in a chess competition to win against other computers, and the winner gets a military contract. After the chess competition, and the events that follow, Sarah finds a man, Derek, whom happens to be John’s uncle. Derek is being tracked by a Terminator.

“Dungeons and Dragons”- Derek has been rescued, and is being operated on at home in order to save him from his wounds. There’s a few scenes from the future (Derek’s flashbacks) which are actually not as exciting as you would expect, but we find out that the future has already been changed because Derek encountered Andy in the future, whom he killed in this timeline. Cameron has to completely dispose of the Terminator they killed.

“The Demon Hand” – the group need to find the missing hand of the Terminator, otherwise the Terminator might rebuild itself. FBI Agent James Ellison goes for a visit to Dr. Peter Silberman (mental health psychiatrist of Terminator 2 fame), whom has become a convert to Sarah Connor's futuristic visions.

“Vick’s Chip” – Derek has a computer chip from the disposed Terminator which needs to be examined in order to find out more about the activities of the Terminator that was chasing Derek. FBI Agent Ellison is on the trail of the Terminator.

“What He Beheld” – The chess computer that Andy built is for sale, and the group need to obtain this through any method possible. Ellison finds out where the missing Terminator might be, and sends a tactical response team after it. The show ends on something of a cliff-hanger, and is wide open for the next entry in the series.

All up, “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles” is quite an exciting show, with good special effects, action scenes, and good acting. It also manages to add some new and interesting ideas to the Terminator franchise without destroying the mythology of the Terminator universe created in the first two movies - just don’t expect too much in the way of logic in the show. Start with the “Pilot” episode, and if you enjoy that episode, I think you will enjoy the rest of the shows. 4.5/5.


Elizabeth said...

I'm totally addicted to this show. In my opinion, John Connor gets much better as the show progresses - he's now doing things totally on his own initiative, much to the dismay of Sarah and Derek. =)

Rojse said...

Thanks for responding. Nice to know that John actually does more important things; it's quite hard to believe that his character leads the resistance from what he does right now.

I'll definitely be watching Season 2 of Terminator. As for most science fiction shows on free TV (and often on Pay TV), the show gets scheduled on the worst hours if it gets on the screen at all, so I will be watching S2 when it comes out on DVD.