Today has certainly been one of those contrasting TV experiences for me. I’ve sat through the horribly disconnected Heroes, reviewed here. And then, like anti-venom to that snake bite, The Sarah Connor Chronicles delivers this fantastic episode as if to underline the superiority of its scriptwriting with a thick red marker.
Episode 8, which also holds a passport in the name of ‘Mr Ferguson is Ill Today’, is great story telling, superbly acted and an emotionally gripping ride in places.
It all starts in a curious way, with much the same events seen from a different perspective. So, in sequence, we see ‘Sarah’s Story’, ‘Cameron’s Story’ and then ‘John’s Story’. What happens here isn’t especially significant. It has much to do with John’s girlfriend Riley, and how she’s both in danger and a security risk in one cute and bubbly package.
Sarah is annoyed by John’s interest in her. But how Cameron reacts is quite disturbing. She goes upstairs and removes her jacket before walking into John’s room and lying alongside him on the bed. John appears less creeped out than I expected, but he does make a comment that if Riley saw them she’d be ‘totally scarred’ for the rest of her life. What’s going on in this Terminator’s inner workings?
After this unsettling scene, John’s story really throws a spanner in the works when you realise he’s running away with Riley, back to a Mexican village where he spent time in the period between the two first movies. If that wasn’t wild enough, Cromartie comes to the house and abducts Sarah. The brakes are now let off this rollercoaster, and it’s time to hold your arms up and scream for all you’re worth.
It’s all going reasonably well for John and Riley in a Mexican bar until a photographer takes a picture, and then recognises John. A fight breaks out that ends with them both in jail, and John’s picture posted to the FBI, which ultimately links to Ellison. Everyone is heading to Mexico for a spaghetti western showdown, cue that music.
This is far too enjoyable for me to dissect it scene by scene, but it has some classic Sarah Connor moments, and it’s certainly a plot marker episode. Ellison teams up with the Connors (at last!), and lures Cromartie to an old church, where they ambush him in classic western style.
I have to say, the effects on Cromartie’s face when he gets blasted with a shotgun are much better than anything we’ve seen in any of the movies; they’re amazing.
He’s repeatedly shot from all directions while a soulful Ennio Morricone-inspired trumpet solo plays. Eventually, under the hail of bullets he falls, and it’s left to John to deliver the coup de grâce. They bury what’s left of Cromartie, and Sarah smashes his chip before suffering a complete nervous breakdown. The emotional toll of their struggle is telling on her, and probably everyone with the exception of Cameron.
After 45 minutes I felt both drained and excited. TV shouldn’t really be this good, should it? I may need to watch Chuck soon to calm my nerves.
If you never got the reference, the title ‘Mr Ferguson is Ill Today’ comes from the pilot episode, and is the first thing that Cromartie says when he enters the classroom to kill John.
The writing and directing team on Sarah Connor deserve some awards for this quality. It is outstanding work and it should be celebrated.
Read a review of the episode 7 here.