Saturday, April 11, 2009

Thoughts on the "Terminator" season (series?) finale

Note: The following post contains major spoilers on the final two episodes of "Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles."
Last night, Fox aired the season (and possibly series) finale of its underrated, under-watched and yet deeply fascinating sci-fi drama "Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles." I'm the first to admit that I sneered a bit when I learned that Fox was doing a TV take on the popular set of films starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. How derivative, I thought. Can't they come up with some fresh ideas?
Two season later, I'm eating serious crow. As it turns out, "Sarah Connor" is one of the most intelligent shows on broadcast television. Despite its action roots, the show typically eschews run-and-gun heroics for complex character development and discussions on such weighty topics as the nature of humanity, the implications of time travel and our growing dependence on technology.
Yes, "Terminator" has its share of slam-bang action scenes (last night's harrowing jailbreak sequence was one of them), but, all in all, this is a complex psychological drama.
The show hit a bit of a slow patch this season, with a stretch of episodes focusing on Sarah (Lena Headey) and her increasingly fragile emotional state. I also found the supporting characters of time travelers Jessie and Riley grating and under-developed (though both of those characters' arcs came to surprisingly satisfying ends).
However, the series' last two episodes were excellent. The ambush that opened last week's episode (and left Brian Austin Green's Derek Reese quickly and undeniably dead) was absolutely gut-wrenching, as were all the scenes examining Catherine Weaver's (Shirley Manson) relationship with her human daughter and her "son," cyborg John Henry (Garrett Dillahunt).
This week was even better, presenting us with the most creepily intimate scene yet between cyborg protector Cameron (Summer Glau) and John Connor (Thomas Dekker). John climbing atop a topless Cameron to investigate her machinery was distressing, as we know the human feelings that a teenage boy like John would feel in such close proximity to a beautiful half-naked girl, cyborg or no. The final scenes, when the Connors, Catherine and Agent Ellison (Richard T. Jones) come upon Cameron's lifeless, chipless body, and John follows Weaver through time to save his robot crush, were also affecting. There was also a nice surprise when John, upon traveling in time, runs into Derek and his father...and Cameron (or possibly Allison, the human model for Cameron's body).
Though I don't have much hope that "Terminator" will get another season, I really hope it does. This show has come so far in its first two seasons, I'd love to see what they'd do if given more time.
Anyway, below is a bullet-speckled list of more of my thoughts on "Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles" and the second season finale, "Born to Run."
* Though Thomas Dekker's work as John was undeniably the show's weakest link in the first season, I've been impressed with the growth of both the character and the actor. The look on his face in the finale's last scene, when he glimpses Cameron/Allison and his father, Kyle Reese, is simply heartbreaking.
* Also loved the way they've developed the John/Cameron relationship. John's fixation on a non-human woman could have been creepy, but, due mainly to Glau's excellent work as Cameron, the character has just enough humanity (and more than enough physical attractiveness) to make us understand how John could fall for her.
* In addition to Glau, the show boasts a number of fine performances, mainly from Jones, as the conflicted Ellison, and the always-wonderful Dillahunt as John Henry. But this season's real surprise has been Garbage front woman Manson, who was absolutely chilling as molten-metal badass Catherine Weaver.
Well, what did you think? Would you like to see "Terminator" get another season, or do think the show never lived up to the movies?

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