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Terminator: Born to Run

Given Terminator: The Sarah Conner Chronicles’ ratings struggles this spring, it seems a near certainty that this episode wasn’t just the season finale, but also the series finale. If that’s the case, I think it performed ably on both counts. As a season ender, this was an outstanding episode with great emotional beats and some fantastic action sequences. Many of the slow-burning plot elements from this season were paid off, and it left us in a place rife with great possibilities for continuing the story. As a series ender, it wasn’t quite so successful, leaving us with many questions and no true sense of closure. However, I felt it effectively wove in bits from the full spectrum of the Terminator series (movies and television show) and, thankfully, didn’t leave us with a massive cliffhanger. It is certainly disappointing that we will likely never see where the story was heading, but the show ended on a strong note.

All of the major arcs of the season came to a head in this episode: Sarah’s struggle to accept that the best way to help John is to let him go; John slowly maturing into the John Connor of legend, losing his entire support system along the way; and the true purpose of Catherine Weaver and John Henry. Many of the elements introduced in earlier episodes came back into play, including the drone and the possible alliance between the Connor camp and the liquid metal. They even brought back numerous familiar players, from the priest and the girl from the forgery operation, to the Turk, the three dots, Derek, Kyle, and Allison from Palmdale.

The John and Sarah story arcs came to their natural conclusion, with both characters finally reaching the point where they could let go of each other. Sarah was the first to recognize that John needs to stand on his own, telling him to leave this place and not to come for her, and then refusing to go with him to save Cameron. Perhaps she knew she was dying and didn’t want John to see her weakened by cancer, but I like to think her choices were the result of all her experiences and soul-searching this season. John, on the other hand, wasn’t truly ready to let go just yet (as evidenced by his inability to let Cameron go), but he was starting to accept that he might be losing Sarah. Combined with his experiences this season---especially losing so many people he loved in recent weeks---this gave him the push he needed to leave without Sarah. It struck me as a step towards truly being able to stand on his own.

The Catherine and John Henry story arcs also came to a fitting conclusion, or at least to a good “end of the beginning” point. Catherine’s true nature was revealed to all and she confirmed that she was trying to build something to stop Skynet. “Your John may save the world, but he can’t do it without mine.” The various T888 and drone attacks seem to lend credence to her story. It was great to get confirmation of things we were starting to suspect, but the end sequence left me with a lot of questions. How did Catherine know John Henry went to the future? Was this always the plan? Did Cameron give him her chip so that he could download into it and become mobile? If so, is he really the same John Henry? Mr. Murch said that John Henry as we knew him was that specific combination of hardware and software in the Zeira Corp basement. Plus, if he downloaded into Cameron’s chip, is she gone?

Cameron had some truly great material this week. She got to be mysterious, quietly philosophical, and a badass prison breaker. Her tete-a-tete with John about her nature was fascinating, culminating in a very sexually charged moment between them on the hotel bed. She seemed to be trying very hard to convince him that she’s just a machine (whose shielded nuclear reactor was intact), but her methods only seemed to make him more emotionally attached to her (despite his logical misgivings).

I was pretty startled by the way things ended for Cameron. I’ve thought for awhile now that her mission was possibly to die, but I never suspected she would sacrifice herself in this way. I’m not even sure if this was her intended mission. Certainly, Weaver asking (via Ellison) “Will you join us?” got a very big reaction from her (and gave me a little thrill!), but I wonder if this was something she was always waiting for or a new path that unexpectedly presented itself. Either way, she completed the mission Sarah assigned her: make sure John leaves this place.

So things end with John at some indeterminate point in the future. What a fantastic twist for the final act. Strange, I never considered the idea of John Connor jumping past Judgment Day to become the man, the myth, the legend. I always thought that he survived Judgment Day and the legend built from there. I wonder if this is a new development, or something that always happened in some form or another. Based on what we’ve seen before, it seems like this might be a new wrinkle in time. I’m bummed that we’ll likely never know the answers, but I’m thrilled that we got those last few moments with John seeing Derek again, meeting Kyle for the first time, and then seeing Allison. I loved the subtle shift in his expression from joy at finding Cameron to confusion and then a little bit of horror when he realized he was actually looking at a human. It truly is those great character moments that hooked me on this series, and I’m really glad things ended on an emotionally resonant note.

Other thoughts:

I enjoyed the allusions to previous events in the series history, including John’s comments to Ellison about the fate of his last S.W.A.T. team, the scene with the T888 in the gunshop (similar to a scene from the original Terminator), and Cameron’s shoot ‘em up at the prison (very reminiscent of Arnie’s attack on the police station).

Catherine dispatching the T888 and protecting everyone from the drone attack were pretty rocking sequences. She’s such a cool customer. I especially loved the way Shirley Manson said “Sure” when the T888 asked if she was Catherine Weaver.

I liked the priest’s confession that he prays every day to understand what happened when the Connors came to his church. Plus, it looked like Cameron’s “friend” took over the document forging business run by Enrique and his nephew after they were all killed. Both these touches were a nice nod to the ongoing impacts of the Connors travails on others.

On that subject, I wonder what will happen to poor Savannah. She lost her father, the thing she thought was her mother, and her friend, John Henry. Who does she have left? Mr. Ellison?

It’s too bad we didn’t have more time to delve into Ellison’s reaction to the Weaver reveal. It was clear he was thrown for a loop, but it would have been cool to explore it more.

I wonder where they were planning to go with the Danny Dyson thing. The fed mentioned he’s been missing for three months, but that was the only time it came up.

I loved the extended preview for Terminator: Salvation during the commercial breaks. Yet more apparent references to downloading into or becoming machines being the key to human salvation. It made me wonder if in the movie John Connor is a machine, but doesn’t know it.

Quotes:

Ellison about the Cameron and the Connors: “I told you before, she’ll never leave his side, and he’ll never leave his mother’s.”
Weaver and John Henry: “We’ll see.”

The Forger: “We lose everybody we love.”

Final Rating: 5 out of 5. If this is it for the series, I’m very glad it went out on a high note.

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

13 comments:

  1. A great review for a great episode, Jess.

    I wonder how the upcoming movie will incorporate the show...and I wonder if the upcoming movie was part of the decision to cancel the show (the future can only be re-written so many times).

    I also wonder if, in the hypothetical third season, Sarah, Ellison, and Savannah would all move in together and back cookies.

    But it looks like we'll never know.

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  2. Back cookies? :)

    This episode was a stunner. And it made me so frustrated. Yes, it gave us closure, but it also left us with so many intriguing and still open questions. I really want to see what John does in that future, with Kyle, Derek, and Allison. Damn.

    Thanks so much for your terrific reviews of this series, Jess. I hope it isn't the end, but it seems likely that it is.

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  3. I am so sad this show is (probably) over. :( I got tears in my eyes when first Derek, then Kyle, then Allison walked in. What fantastic possibilities that we will never see.

    ***sigh***

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  4. Yes, "back cookies."

    Like hurling and badminton, it's one of those secretive sports that no one really understands.

    (Hangs head in shame.)

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  5. Regarding the movie motivating the cancellation of the show, Josie, it's actually the other way around. WB reduced their licensing fee so Fox would continue airing the series for some synergic marketing.

    It's also worth noting that Sarah Connor Chronicles hasn't been cancelled just yet. The ratings aren't very promising, but if Terminator Salvation becomes a hit, it may prompt Fox to give the series one last chance to ride any buzz generated by the film. I suspect that's why Fox have advertised this episode as a season finale, not a series finale (which would generally get higher ratings). They still haven't made up their minds.

    Having said that, chances of a renewal look rather slim. I'm just crossing my fingers.

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  6. Oh, I almost forgot: Great review, Jess (as usual, even when we disagree, though this time I'm with you 100%).

    I'm happy you mentioned Sarah's willingness to let go of John, which is a huge step for her character. I think, if the story stops there, Sarah Connor Chronicles will have been all about a mother's journey to prepare her child for the big bad world out there. She spent the entire series teaching him and protecting him until he finally became the man she always knew he would become.

    The present time has alays been about Sarah, and the future time represents the world in which John thrives as an adult, so I think it's fitting she would let him go exactly when he was about to jump into that world.

    I love the last scene in which Sarah's "I love you too" echoes through time. Sarah cannot protect John in his adult life, but her love for him is somehow part of that world. It's such a poetic representation of the parent-child relationship.

    Here's hoping I'll be reading your reviews of season 3 next year, Jess.

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  7. Great Job as usual Jess, but...

    You passed over what I thought was just a crucial plot point.

    Weaver knew the plane was going to attack because Weaver was piloting the plane.

    Was this an attempt to get the Connors to trust her, or get John to the future with her, or, or, or... I don't know, but when she disappeared in the future it really made me question her motivations.

    Also I found myself questioning that if there are all these time threads going around, how can Weaver be sure she went to the same future as John Henry?

    And that 'sex' scene was just a wonderful piece of TV. erotic, uncomfortable, and driven by plot (Sarah's supposed cancer.)

    Just a great hour of TV and it is a shame that we'll miss it next year.

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  8. Didn't Ellison's marriage break up because he wanted children? He may now have a child.

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  9. great review Jess, but something piqued my interest about "Will you join us?", it's the same quote Cameron said to Jessie in "Today is the day part 2" when Jessie asked "What was the question?" it might be a bit off but may be Catherine is that liquid metal from future and returned back? and she's letting Cameron to know that the answer is now changed, may be..
    too sad that we won't know for sure =(

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  10. Just a passing thought/question: Why doesn't anyone reference T3? Is it becasue the movie was that bad or does not fit the tinmelines? I always see T1 and T2 references. Just saying...

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  11. Peter, I did not see T3, so that's part of the reason I never include any references to it in my reviews.

    But, for the television show at least, T3 does not fit the timeline anymore. The show began sometime after T2, but before the events of T3. By jumping ahead in time, they completely eliminated T3 in the context of the show. I believe Cameron noting that Sarah died of cancer in the previous timeline are the only oblique references to the events of T3.

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  12. Good ender, although I always get the feeling that it´s still average and has not taken a leap.
    But good review, nonetheless.

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  13. Whoah. Powerful ending. I'm still dumbstruck. What a jailbreak !

    "I don't know what to do !? You're a priest ! Pray !"

    "Ya. Bad John Connor. Ground me."

    Lightning. "I love you too."

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