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Terminator: Pilot

This was a great pilot. It did exactly what it needed to do: set the tone, established the world and the basic characters, and told just enough of the story to leave the audience wanting more. It was intense and action packed, and even though it was chock full of bullets, broken walls, and explosions, it never seemed to lose sight of the emotional toll on the characters. The potential promise of good story and good, developed characters is certainly enough to get me to tune in again.

Now, I say all this from the perspective of a long-time Terminator fan. I didn’t need a lot of background on the world or the characters. I already knew who Sarah and John Connor were, their history, and their motivations. I basically just needed to know where the story was picking up, and what was driving it forward from this point. And in that respect, the pilot did a great job. I was very pleased that they didn’t try to reboot the series with some sort of re-hashing or re-imagining. Instead, they built on the established universe (through the first two movies), fully integrating it into the story. It certainly wasn’t much of a stretch for me to believe that, even though the Terminators were “destroyed” at the end of the second movie, the machines would find another way to rise and bring about doomsday.

I was also pleased that when the writers needed to do a little recapping for the uninitiated, they did it in a way that felt natural rather than a forced exposition dump (with the possible exception of Sarah’s voiceovers). For instance, the scene with Agent Ellison and Sarah’s recently jilted fiancĂ©e was a great, organic way to bring everyone up to speed on Sarah’s overall past. The voiceover monologues, on the other hand, feel a bit clunky and heavy-handed to me. Given that the show is called the Sarah Connor Chronicles, thematically these introspective pieces make perfect sense, but I’m not crazy about them.

I was impressed with the cast, especially Lena Headey. It must have been a pretty daunting task to take on Sarah Connor—after all, Linda Hamilton’s Sarah is iconic, especially in T2. But Lena is up to the challenge, and makes the role her own. Lena’s Sarah is every bit the tough-as-nails, scrappy fighter, but a lot less psychotic. Sarah is now much more subdued in her quiet moments. She’s haunted, and, in many ways, vulnerable. It seems a logical progression for the character given that two years have passed since her escape from the mental ward. I think toning down the psychosis makes Sarah much more sympathetic, and much more scary in her dark moments. Lena was particularly strong in the less action-oriented moments of the pilot, managing to convey her love for John, her fear, and her desperation with a few words and a subtle shift in expression. I loved the scene when she confessed to Cameron her fear that John would leave her. I can’t remember if I was completely sold on Lena as Sarah the first time I saw the pilot, but she has certainly won me over since.

I also enjoyed Summer Glau as Cameron. As a fan of Firefly, I was very excited about her casting. I knew she’d be a great fit as a tough, largely emotionless (and yet somehow fragile) machine. And she didn’t disappoint. It was lots of fun watching Cameron beat the tar out of Cromartie and assorted others. But it was even more fun watching her interactions with Sarah --- feeling each other out and working together (reluctantly on Sarah’s part) to protect John. I’m certainly intrigued to know more about Cameron and her connection to future John. And I’m looking forward to more tense collaborations with Sarah.

The musical score in the pilot was also excellent. It echoed the music and the main theme from the movies, but added some new elements. I liked the quieter, melancholy music, in particular. It was slightly haunting and suits Sarah perfectly.

Final rating: 4 out of 5. I really enjoyed the pilot and am eager for the next episode.

Jess Lynde is a highly engaged television viewer. Probably a bit too engaged.


  1. Cromartie, in this episode at least, was played by the AWESOME Owain Yeoman, from Kitchen Confidential and The Mentalist. Dude's great.

  2. Well, well, well, agreeing with you Jess all over.

    Loved T2, a bit less T1 and the 2 following movies were useless. Eyes rolling. Dearest Hollywood.

    Anyway, after purchasing the 2 season sets on DVD at a very good price, I've just watched the pilot. Excellent. And I'm very pleased to see (hear) that the music is made by Bear McCreary. Love his style a lot.

    And with only 31 eps, this is surely a new cult TV show to be added to the list.


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