Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles season 2 episode 20 review

The Sarah Connor Chronicles isn’t an ideal show for the depressed this week...

Before I watched To The Lighthouse I decided to re-examine the last four episodes, because I couldn’t decide in my mind if the show had just become ‘dark’ or was it on the cusp of actual depression. Then I watched this one and where that demarcation fell moved a notch in the manic direction.

It makes me wonder if the pressure the production team is under is influencing the writing, or they chose to make this show an antidote for all those feel-good plotlines some shows can’t resist running.

Whatever the reason this story wasn’t a tale of the carefree, as The Sarah Connor Chronicles’ second, and possibly final, season edges towards its finale.

The narrative is still indirectly absorbing: the fall-out from the death of Riley, and how this somewhat split the Connor gang into two teams, notionally the ‘trusted’ and ‘not-trusted’. Derek seems remarkably unperturbed that he’s put them all in danger with Jesse, although Cameron manages to get under his skin by revealing that she was carrying his child at one point. The Terminator isn’t twitching or killing things on impulse, although questions still exist about her actual operational status.

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At the start of the story they leave the house for the last time, and head to a new location in the desert. This show doesn’t usually flirt with product placement, but Dodge rather obviously gave them two matching vehicles that they left in, one an SUV, the other a truck, which didn’t really sell the idea that these people were under the radar for once.

With Sarah and John in one vehicle and Derek and Cameron in the other, the irony is that neither actually reach this destination, one through choice and the other through interception.

Sarah takes John to a secret location – the lighthouse – where she is intent on leaving him, with previous boyfriend Charlie Dixon. Given that their last meeting resulted in the death of his wife, he isn’t exactly thrilled when they turn up, as trouble isn’t usually too far behind.

He mellows slightly when he discovers that she’s found a lump in her breast and wants to secure John with him while she goes for a scan. Early in the show it was revealed that, until the timeline was skewed by Sarah, John and Cameron moving through time, she died of cancer in 2005, so this has been her personal nemesis.

Her concerns about where this might leave them are embodied in a series of flashbacks to when John was much younger, and she took him into the jungle to train him. These were nice scenes, with an excellent young actor playing John, slightly married by maybe an unconscious choice to dress Sarah like she was auditioning for Tomb Raider.

If I’m telling this like it’s a slow burn, then that’s a reasonable analysis, because all the of the action takes place in last ten minutes or so.

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The exception to this is an early scene which brings us up to speed on the development of John Henry. He’s the ultimate in artificial intelligence, and a solid gold geek. I know that because the only person I know who can name all the Bionicles and create such brilliant Lego sculptures is a geek. I rest my case.

When he appears he and Savannah are playing as kids and cybernetic organisms often do, with the divisive little scamp Savannah trying to introduce rubber ducks into the ordered world of John Henry. She convinces him to change the rules, which he does and then very strange things happen and he grabs her by the arm.

It’s not the ducks that unbalance him we later discover, but another computer system that invades his systems. They chop the power, which upsets John Henry, as it leaves him alone for a comparable eternity until normal service is resumed. He tells them that it was another ‘brother’ computer like him that tried to take control, offering the interesting possibility that Skynet has actually sent its own consciousness back in time. Can it do that? I guess so.

For a while now there’s been represented a shadow cast by an unseen force in this universe, a third corner to oppose the Catherine Weaver and Connors, other than the rogue elements that included Jesse. But this is the first time I think we’ve had proof it exists, or what it might be.

But the pivot around which this story flips is Sarah’s examination that reveals her lump is a transmitter, placed inside her when she was held in the van in The Good Wound. At this point she realises the danger she and John are in, and uses a handy defibrillator to destroy the device. The man tracking her isn’t up to the job and she escapes to head back to the lighthouse.

Meanwhile, Cameron and Derek are being pursued by similar grey coverall-dressed men, who burst a tyre on their Dodge. It looks like a normal puncture, but when Derek approaches their van he’s tasered and abducted. Cameron pursues in pure Terminator mode, and releases him, eventually. Back at the lighthouse, the same people have come for John, resulting in a big fire fight. He and Charlie retreat towards a docked boat, with Charlie having rigged the beach with high explosives.

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In the final scenes, Sarah reaches the lighthouse to find it a scene of carnage, with the boat and John missing. Sadly, Charlie is still there, floating face upwards in the sea, riddled with bullets. Sarah really is the touch of death.

Given that the ultimate fate of Jesse wasn’t detailed, this could be the third fatality in just a handful of stories, in a show that doesn’t have the same number of characters as, say, Heroes. That makes me think that if they do get a third season this show might be radically different, or at least have a major cast revision.

With just two stories to run now Catherine Weaver, the Connors and Skynet seem inevitably on a collision course, having been kept largely separated for the most of season two. My guess is that Ellison is somehow fundamental to how this all plays out, as it was predicated way back in season one.

Until next Friday, I’m going to keep happy thoughts in my head, and not let people with red glowing eyes invade my dreams.

Read a review of the episode 19 here.