Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles season 2 episode 17 review

Is Cameron about to turn killer robot, again? Billy checks out the latest episode of The Sarah Connor Chronicles

I’m going to post a warning at the top of this review. Because something crucial happens in this episode that alters plenty, so if you don’t want to spoil your enjoyment of that reveal then stop reading now.

For those still onboard, what an amazing episode! While I enjoyed the last few stories, they seem to be loading chambers, but for what? Ourselves Alone, is one of the darkest Terminator stories we’d yet seen, and gets to the very heart of what this series is really all about. The darkness that lies in every person’s (and robot’s) heart.

Derek has run a dual existence for some time, where he hasn’t told Sarah and John about the existence of Jesse, and she in turn hasn’t revealed to him her connection to Riley. And now all those things start to converge, like trucks on an interstate without brakes. And if that wasn’t enough, there’s another element, a hangover from the season one finale, where Cameron is damaged. She isn’t fully fixed, and possibly she’s returning to factory settings.

The opening scene shows her trying to get a pigeon that’s nesting in the chimney out of the house. She catches it and then takes it outside to release it. Except, when she goes to let it go she kills it unintentionally. Her hand seems to be making its own choices, and it’s in pigeon killing mode. Creepy.

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Meanwhile, Sarah is cleaning up the stain left by Riley’s attempted suicide, when she turns up. Sarah isn’t comfortable with Riley, and is determined to find our more about why she tried to kill herself, starting by talking to her foster father.The answers she gets there don’t make her any less concerned; Riley’s ranting about Armageddon suggests to her that John’s said too much.

Cameron decides to open up her arm and see if she can work out what’s wrong, but is seen by Riley who is getting very concerned that her cover might be blown. She knows that if that happens, Cameron will terminate her directly.

John finds Cameron with her arm open and tries to help, he then discovers that Cameron has hoarded spares from Terminators they’ve previously trashed. She tells him that ‘future John’ told her to do this. They set about repairing her.

Sarah is also worried about a Councillor Riley’s foster-father told her about, and has a meeting with none other than Jesse, who plays the role for all it’s worth. We’re edging now towards the real reason for Riley’s appearance, and the plan that Jesse is actually executing.

Riley turns up again at the house, trying to defuse the situation, but another social worker at the door notches up the tension to the next setting. Riley is now a liability, and both Cameron and Sarah can see that. Cameron takes Riley out to the shed, and her hand starts to twitch uncontrollably. Riley keeps repeating that Cameron is John’s sister, like this is a code phrase to make her back off. I really thought she was toast at this point, as Cameron was getting monosyllabic, which is never a good sign.She’s saved by John who appears and ushers her out before having a conversation with Cameron. She’s aware that she’s malfunctioning, but can’t sense what’s happening to her.

But I’ve held back with the sledgehammer, and here it comes. Riley returns to Jesse and confronts her with what’s being played out. She was told that she was to befriend John and get him to fall in love with her, which, to a point, was true. But Jesse wants John to stop trusting Cameron, so the next part of the plan was to have Riley killed by her creating that mistrust! When Riley realises that, the only next step is for Jesse and Riley to have a massive and brutal girl fight.

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At one point you think that Riley will actually win this rumble, as she’s got Jesse pinned on the floor and is beating her with a heavy blunt object. At the last moment Jesse finds a hidden silenced automatic and shoots Riley through the heart, killing her before she hits the floor.

The death of a main character isn’t something that happens all the time, and even if Riley’s longevity had been in doubt for a while, how she exited was quite shocking.

Even before the end of the story the blame for Riley’s disappearance is falling on Cameron, who has her own issues. At the end of the episode she fashions a pocket watch into a kill switch so that John can destroy her if it’s necessary. John finds another dead bird outside, more of her handiwork.

This was an incredibly tense and tight story that managed to pack a massive amount into the time allocated. I’ve left some less important story parts out, because I was in danger of turning this into the novelised version. But that’s difficult, because almost everything that happens has significance in this show, even if it isn’t immediately apparent why.

If they don’t make a third series, I’ll be massively disappointed, and wonder if there is a future for smartly written TV.

Next week the story is Today Is The Day, the first part of a double episode that concludes the following Friday with Last Voyage Of The Jimmy Carter.

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Personally, I can’t wait!

Read a review of the episode 16 here.