September 17, 2008

TV Review: Terminator - The Sarah Connor Chronicles: "Automatic for the People"

tscc-logoThe second season of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles aired its second episode this week. I have to say that for a series that I liked but was not immediately wowed by during its first season has really gotten off to a great start this year. Last week's premiere, "Samson and Delilah," was spectacular, from its explosive stunts, to the groundwork for the big story to the smaller character driven moments. If they can keep up that quality, who knows how far this will go? If the second episode, "Automatic for the People," is any judge, we are in for a wild ride.

Now, I am going to assume that anyone reading this has already seen the episode, as there will likely be spoilers as I share my thoughts on the show.

This episode picks up with our dysfunctional, non-traditional family unit still in the church where they found sanctuary in the premiere. The group leaves and finds a home for rent where they take up shelter and attempt to present themselves as normal, although we all know this quartet will never be normal.

As the story moves forward, John is sent off to school, don't want to be seen as a delinquent, you know. While at school, he skips class to sit outside, trapped in his mind, captive to his thoughts of what has happened, with the return of the machines, the reprogrammed friendly terminator, the subsequent malfunction that almost led to his death, all culminating in his fight to save her. This has left him seriously conflicted and distracted. He still manages to make friends with a girl from school named Riley.

202_5Meanwhile, the episodes bigger story kicks off when a man crashes through a glass door at the new Connor residence. The man is bleeding and on his way towards death. The man falls to the ground clutching Sarah and Derek, imploring that they stop Greenway at the nearby nuclear plant. I must admit, at this point I had to wonder how this guy knew where Sarah was, as he was obviously there for her, then it dawned on me. Duh, if he was sent by the future, he likely was told by John where they would be at that point. Damn the nuanced tales of time travel! (if you could see me, I am shaking my fist indignantly as I look to the sky, Wrath of Khan style)

Sarah and Cameron head off to the plant where they are able to acquire temp jobs with ease. Once inside, they need to find out what and who they are supposed to stop. This leads to a knock down drag out between Cameron and a terminator duplicate. With the end revealing another step to world domination by the T-1001 that was revealed last week, played by Shirley Manson.

In my eyes, this is another winning episode. While it did not further the bigger picture story in any big way, it was filled with more character moments. I believe these character moments and building of conflicts are what the young series needs. Make us care for the characters, draw us in and you will have us with plenty of time to allow the big picture to unfold. With the Terminator franchise to draw upon, there is a gigantic big picture from which to pick and choose from and grow into something truly spectacular.

I love the conflict brewing between Cameron and John. There is the bit between the two where Cameron says John can no longer be trusted because he fought to save her, despite what she could mean to him. While John is developing some sort of bond with the machine. That brings up another note, they do not refer to the terminators as terminators, rather they are always called machines. I wonder why? Not that it matters, but it is curious.

202_1John has the weight of his future upon him as he sees his childhood and freedom slipping away, leading him to try and make a connection with Riley. It will be interesting to see where this relationship leads, how far down the rabbit will she be allowed to go?

Meanwhile, Cameron seems to be developing in ways we have never seen in a machine before. She may not be programmed for feelings, but can they be developed? Taking a lead from the "I love you" moment from the premiere and coupling it with the more motherly way she protects John. Then there is the moment as we near the climax when she does nothing, telling Sarah that she's thinking. What? Since when do they think? Could the damage she has taken be affecting the way she operates?

Then there is Sarah, not quote the powerhouse I expected based on the portrayal by Linda Hamilton. This Sarah is definitely tough and not to be messed with, but she is vulnerable. She is also struggling with the knowledge of her death by cancer, which may not happen in this alternate take, although the time spent in the nuclear plant cannot make her feel an safer. Watch as she breaks down when questioning Cameron about it.

I didn't forget Derek, but he needs a bit more screen time. I am sure it is coming. What I did like was the flash forward to him at the nuclear plant in the future, leading a raid where the Resistance took control of the plant. This fades back to the present, where it is intact without a machine in sight. It was a nice moment.

Overall, I thought the episode was really good. So far, they are balancing the action, drama, with comic touches and a healthy dose of heart. I think it is the character interaction that is drawing me in, in addition to the recognizable Terminator dressing. Not to mention Summer Glau....


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