Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles season one episode one review

The pilot episode of Terminator: The Sarah Connor chronicles has made our Ron a very, very happy man. Hurray!

Of all the shows to have returned or been launched in the wake of the writer’s strike, the one that I’ve most been looking forward to is one that was originally planned as a midseason replacement, but has instead become one of the few hours of TV I’ll actually stop whatever I’m doing, wander over to the boob tube, and pay close attention to for its entire runtime. I’m a multitasker by nature, and the idea that I’d actually tear myself away from my other plans and pay rapt attention should suggest that the show is brilliant.

I had my doubts, as anyone would, in the days leading up to the premier. Terminator was one of the bloodiest movies of the 1980s, and Terminator 2 was a worthy sequel, which was also liberally soaked in human blood and hot brass. There’s no way the show could have as many killings as the movies, right?

Well, long story short, no.

The pilot episode, after an opening monologue and a trademark Sarah Connor holocaust nightmare, begins with Sarah and John (Thomas Dekker) settled into a life in the middle of Nebraska. Sarah’s got a fiancé named Charlie (Dean Winter), a nice job, and her son safe, so of course that means things are a little too settled. Once again Sarah (300’s Lena Headey) runs off on someone she to protect her son, the future leader of the Resistance and mankind’s only hope.

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This time, there’s another Terminator sent back to help protect John, who goes by the name Cameron (a cute nod to Terminator director James Cameron played by Serenity/Firefly’s Summer Glau). Unlike the last female model, and the machine made famous by Arnold, this one’s a Resistance-designed Terminator and perfectly designed to catch the attention of a 15-year-old boy. FBI Agent James Ellison (Richard T. Jones) is in hot pursuit of the woman he describes as a Grade-A Whack-a-mole.

Now that we’ve been introduced to the characters, let’s get to the problem of continuity. Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, takes place after the events of Terminator 2, and completely ignores Terminator 3. I wish I could ignore Terminator 3, too.

After John’s high school chemistry teacher pulls a gun out of a cavity in his leg and starts blowing kids away, we get John on the run, Sarah Connor used as a weapon against her son, and some delicious Terminator on Terminator violence. And finally we get a reasonable explanation for why a flimsy recliner can stop bullets from a high caliber handgun at reasonable closer range (Kevlar lining!).

The one good thing about the Terminator series is you can continue fooling around with the continuum, the dates and times, without actually damaging anything because of the butterfly effect. You know, a butterfly flaps its wings in China, and New York has a foot of snow? Well, a Terminator coming back in time to try to kill someone and getting stopped, then another Terminator gets stopped and people key to Skynet die, but none of these events could fully stop the event. Certainly the building and the artifacts were destroyed, but no corporation (especially one that makes experimental weapons) keeps one copy only of their backup material. That’s ludicrous.

So purists, get off the show’s back.

The more Terminators advance, like everything else, the better their programming becomes, they gain more skills, and they become, frighteningly, more capable of humour or acting. Summar Glau is a great little change in Terminator style, because as the movies have progressed, the Terminators have gotten smaller and more capable of blending in. Summer Glau is a reasonable heir to the Terminatrix, the Teen Terminatrix, who is cute and not threatening, while still being a lethal killing machine.

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We’re also given little hints as to the direction of the series, and where it could go. We get a glimpse at some of their future weapons, and we get the seeds for what are probably going to be key elements in future episodes. I imagine the presence of other time-traveling Resistance members and Terminators is going to be very important over the nest eleven episodes.

All in all, I was blown away by the premier episode of what is already my favourite new sci-fi series of the year. Lena Headey does a great American accent and has the acting chops, if not the rippling torso, to fill Linda Hamilton’s gun holster and ass-kicking boots. It’s already become a show I push everything aside to watch. It’s a hell of a treat.

How lucky is John Connor? He gets to play with guns, has a cool mom that encourages his hacking and stealing, and he’s had not one but two robots as friends! Ron Hogan has always wanted a robot for a friend! Find more by Ron at his blog, Subtle Bluntness, and daily at Shaktronics.