‘Automatic for the People’ is the second episode of the new Sarah Connor Chronicles series, and it takes its foot briefly off the gas peddle from the season opener.
Well, actually it does that for about 10 minutes while John ponders how his life isn’t normal and what it might be like to be that way. And then once those ideas have surfaced it applies full throttle again with hobnailed boots.
This week’s story centres around a nuclear power plant, key to the resistance in the future, which is about to be brought online. A fatally injured resistance fighter comes through time and lives long enough to tell them that the site manager must be stopped. The part of the manager isn’t a big one, but they actually got Paul Schulze (Ryan Chappelle on 24) in to do it, which is nice.
The strengths of this episode are the performances of Lena Headey and Thomas Dekker who are occupying their characters of Sarah and John with increasing confidence. They’re good, but I’m less convinced by the Derek Reese persona, who’s now been elevated to the main cast. There seems little depth or subtlety to his character, but then that’s an opportunity for an interesting episode I’d suggest.
Summer Glau as the idiosyncratic Terminator Cameron carries on her good work, with her character now exhibiting much more unpredictable behaviour since she was damaged. At one point she tells John she can’t trust him any longer, since he made the poor tactical decision not to destroy her! You just can’t please some women, or robots, I guess.
While the action is limited to the later part of the show, it actually takes a back seat to some important plot building, about John, Sarah and their respective fates. Sarah is spooked about her death which confusingly comes in 2005, before the current timeline of the show. John’s found a new female ‘friend’ at school called Riley who he’s determined to have as normal a relationship with as possible. Meanwhile Agent Ellison has been bringing his own brand of happiness to Charlie and Michelle Dixon, who all look likely to remain important to the bigger story arc.
The most intriguing sub-plot that’s being developed is the intersection between Agent Ellison and Sarah. It’s obviously going to happen, but when? I think holding it out until the end of the season would be excessive, so I hope that don’t do that.
There’s a final tease with the brief reappearance of Shirley Manson as Weaver. She doesn’t actually get any lines this week, but she gets to do her party-piece, which is enough.
Overall this episode wasn’t as good as the season opener, but it wasn’t perfunctory either. What it did effectively was introduce a new character and set a few plot threads running, which more than keeps the wheels of this show turning.
Check out our review of the season opener here.