September 9, 2008

TV Review: Terminator - The Sarah Connor Chronicles: "Samson and Delilah"

Wow! Now this is how you start a season, decisively, with action, and even a touch of emotion. When Terminator: The Sarah Chronicles was announced in 2007, I was definitely intrigued. The franchise certainly offers plenty of potential for drama. Of course, you have to be willing to play with the timeline a bit, and considering the time travel roots that shouldn't be too much of a problem. The series premiered in Spring 2008 to good ratings, despite the distinct shortening of the season due to the writer's strike. I liked it, but did not love it immediately, but it is growing on me. With the start of the second season I am hooked.

In the first season we were introduced to this new take on Sarah Connor, now played by Lena Headey (300). The toughness of Linda Hamilton's performance is there, although it is tempered more with a motherly influence. Playing opposite her is Thomas Dekker, as John Connor, who rose to prominence on Heroes, where he famously videotaped Claire Bennett's fall. Rounding out the main trio is Summer Glau, of Firefly and The 4400, as Cameron the Terminator. She is a decidedly different Terminator model, but one sharing the traits of the second two Arnie outings, protect John Connor. Let's not forget Brian Austin Green as Derek Reece, John's uncle from the future.

"Samson and Delilah" picks up right where the first season finale left off, they are looking for the Terk and a deal to get closer to it was going bad. John and Sarah are trapped in a house with some very bad guys while Cameron was getting blown up in a jeep outside. Cameron extricates herself from the wreckage, calmly walks into the house, picks up a gun and resumes her original programming objective: Terminate John Connor.

What follows is a big chase, Cameron after John and Sarah, John and Sarah after Cameron, Derek after Sarah, and a variety of combinations therein. Meanwhile, Cromartie, the truly bad terminator has his own methods of pursuit, but his story is very secondary to what is going on within our core group.

I have to say that I really love how this season got started. We are reintroduced to our characters, there is big, explosive action, there are strong personal moments, as well as some story arc building going on in the background.

After watching Prison Break's premiere last week, I was half expecting to have similar issues with this episode. I know, I know, the show is completely different in terms of staff and talent. I can't explain it, I was just expecting some disappointment. Fortunately my worries were for naught, this is as tight and strong an opening as you are likely to find in an action series.

I absolutely love what is going on with the John and Cameron characters. Just watch as they try to take Cameron down, John feels loyalty to the machine because she saved his life, but he is torn as he knows what she is capable of. Follow this up with the earlier scene with John and Sarah running away from the newly evil Cameron, the sulking of the teen just feels so right considering the circumstances.

However, above all of these sequences, the one when they trap Cameron between the trucks. There she is, unable to move as John climbs onto the hood of the truck, positioning himself to take out her main chip board. He is wavering, that loyalty thing again, but he still knows how dangerous she is. Meanwhile, Cameron is pleading with him that she is all right, that she is back to normal. The emotion and desperation in this scene is just fantastic. This was, by far, the best scene of the episode and one of the best of the series thus far.

While the bulk of the episode is focused on Sarah, John, and Cameron, it is not the whole story. We get some further information on Ellison and the knowledge that he harbors and his interactions with Cromartie. These are good, but then there are the scenes with newcomer Shirley Manson (vocalist for the group Garbage) as Catherine Weaver, the head of a technology firm with a special project called Babylon. She is definitely going to be a person of interest as the season moves forward, and her biggest secret? She's a.... nope, not going to tell you. You have to go watch the episode. I am sure Fox or will have it available soon.


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