Terminator: Samson & Delilah

Sarah Connor is back, with another strong episode, and a great follow-up to last season’s explosive finale! This season premiere reminded me very much of the pilot episode: it largely focused on intense, thrill-ride action, but also devoted time to the impact on the characters. It did a great job of setting up some new story directions, and it ended with a fantastic twist. Even though Shirley Manson was practically screaming, “I’m a terminator! I’m a terminator!”, I loved the ending revelation that she was a T-1000 model! I’d been wondering why none of the terminators we've encountered thus far were of the liquid metal variety.

The opening sequence was outstanding. The action picked up pretty much where we left off, then went in a direction I was not expecting. I definitely did not see the “Cameron goes bad” twist coming, and I loved the way it all played out. The slow motion shots of John and Sarah, intercut with Cameron’s slow journey to the top of the stairs, and set to the great “Samson and Delilah” song (performed by Shirley Manson) were very, very visceral. It really ramped up the intensity, and things didn’t let up much from that point on.

It seems pretty obvious to me that John is the one who killed Sarkissian, likely to protect his mother. It is having quite the impact on both him and Sarah. John went from stunned to angry to hard all in the course of the hour. He’s becoming the mythic John Connor we always hear about. He even cut off his boyish locks to signify the transition to manhood. The hair cutting was an interesting allusion to the title. Like Samson, John cuts off his hair, but instead of losing his strength, he seems to be gaining it. Finding his way. Happy Birthday, John. Happy birthday to the new you.

Sarah, on the other hand, may be on the edge of losing her way. She’s spent the last 16 years trying to keep John alive and get him ready for this role, but at the same time, she never really wanted it to become a reality. And now she doesn’t know how to deal with it. Lena Headey did an excellent job with the scene outside the bathroom door at the end. We’ve seen Sarah struggle so hard with her own reluctance to take a life. But Lena managed to show how John’s having to take a life is even more devastating for Sarah. It is absolutely tearing her up. She tried rationalizing what happened throughout the episode, and even went so far as to tell John she was proud of him, but I heard a catch in her voice as she said it. She never wanted this for John, and yet she can’t seem to change his future.

Even though Cameron was primarily a relentless killing machine this week, she also had some fascinating character moments. Her interest in the images of Jesus and the story of the resurrection tied in nicely with her past interest in the soul. I wonder more and more what’s so different about her model (aside from the fact that she sees in color) and what she’s fully capable of. Sarah and Derek keep saying the machines don’t have feelings, but in her case, I can’t help but wonder. The scene where she pleads for her life as she’s trapped between the trucks was completely unsettling. I am simply not accustomed to such outbursts of seeming emotion from Cameron. Even though her behavior was almost certainly a ploy to get John to spare her life, the desperation in her pleas and her startling outburst “I love you, John! I love you, and you love me!” were downright freaky. Was there truth to any of it? Were her tactics based on past experience with him or simple observations of late? How did she know exactly what buttons to push? Her pleas may not have worked in the moment, but in the end, John couldn’t let her go.

On that subject, I wasn’t overly keen on the resolution for Bad Cameron. They obviously weren’t going to destroy her; it was just a question of how she’d become “good” again. I’m not sure I like the route they took. It felt a bit cheesy and didn’t quite ring true. I can buy that John would go that far, given all that had happened that day. He may feel that Sarah failed to protect him or somehow let him down in the confrontation with Sarkissian, and so he couldn’t bear to give up the “person” he still viewed as a protector. He told Derek about Cameron, “She saved my life. She saves my life,” with an accusatory look at Sarah. He’s only 16 and the machines keep coming for him. I can understand why part of him still needs a protector, especially one with Cameron’s abilities. But it seemed completely ridiculous to me that the others just stood around and let him hand her a gun. I don’t believe Sarah and Derek would just wait to see how it played out.

As for our other characters, I’m really loving Agent Ellison more and more. He brings such an interesting perspective and dynamic to the show. He’s got this great combination of practicality and deeply held faith. Even though everything he’s seen in the last few weeks has got to be shaking him to his core, he still manages to be calm and collected. His demeanor in his confrontations with Cromartie was amazing. Calm acceptance of his fate and steady determination not give to Cromartie what he wants in exchange for sparing his life. “I’ll never do the Devil’s work.” Followed by that positively eerie “We’ll see.” Great, great line delivery by Garrett Dillahunt. I can’t wait to see where they go next with these two characters.

Other thoughts:

Derek really got shorted in the “great character moments” department this week. He was mostly played for laughs, which I found a bit jarring, given that his scenes in the season one finale were so emotionally resonant and this episode takes place on the same day.

I don’t like the new opening teaser. It comes across as very forced and cheesy. Kind of like a really bad movie trailer.

Lots of great visuals this week. All the action sequences were outstanding, especially the opening sequence. And even the quieter moments had some great visuals. I really liked the way you could see the people on the street reflected in the window in front of our newest terminator, flowing steadily along, as she was delivering her monologue about humans versus computers.

I wonder if Ms. Weaver is setting up the group that Wisher talked about in Derek’s future/past. He confessed he was part of a 10 to 15 member group that essentially created Skynet. He created the mind, which the Babylon project now has.

Final rating: 4 out of 5. The season premiere didn’t completely blow me away, but it had some fantastic moments and it kept me on the edge of my seat throughout. I look forward to seeing where the story goes from here.

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

4 comments:

Billie Doux said...

Another good review, Jess.

That moment where Cameron was trapped between the cars and was telling John she loved him was just so freaky. And it's so interesting that *she* knows what she meant, but John doesn't. Is Cameron a robotic replica of someone future John actually loved? That's an even creepier thought than Cameron trying to manipulate John.

Loved the urinal. I could just see every guy in the audience cringing.

I thought it was a terrific premiere and I'm jazzed about the coming season.

Eric said...

While I agree with most of your review, I have to disagree on the opening couple minutes. It is the season premiere and there was no dialog for 3 or 4 minutes. And the whole thing was semi/partial slow motion. I just sat and waited for them to get on with it. It seemed like a piece that belonged at the end of an episode, not the beginning of a season. That said it was some pretty nice footage.

And to answer your (unasked) question Billie, I was certainly cringing during the urinal scene. I also thought it was strange that he washed his hands BEFORE he went to the bathroom.

Nice review.

Jess Lynde said...

Eric's points about the opening feeling like it dragged on are well taken. It worked pretty well for me on first viewing, but I actually liked it better the second time I watched it. At that point it wasn't keeping me in suspense, and I like the overall effect much better.

celticmarc said...

Oh my. Now, THAT was intense.

Now, that eats me, but I've heard Shirley Manson's great song Samson and Delilah on another TV show....In Plain Sight ? Another one ? Darn. Great song. (And that really bugs me.)

Too bad, liked the new intro. And Max Perlich was quite different from what I remember from him on his time in the Gilmore Girls. A good actor is a versatile one.

"Call to him !" A nice shout out to the T2 movie. Summer Glau in the trucks squeezing scene was....fudge, what superlative should I use ? Wow, I still have the creeps.

"Faith isn't part of my programming." "It isn't part of mine either."

And a T 1000. Oh my.