Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Terminator, "Allison from Palmdale": Who am I?

Quick spoilers for last night's "Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles" coming up just as soon as I stare at a balloon...

Given what an odd character Cameron is (and what a wonderfully odd performance Summer Glau gives as her), it makes some sense that the first real Cameron spotlight episode would be such a strange, off-format hour. No Derek, no real action, even in the flashbacks(*), just Cameron disappearing inside her own head, until we discovered those weren't her memories at all, but those of the titular Allison from Palmdale(**).

(*) Is it a flashback if it takes place in the chronological future, even though, thanks to time-travel, it takes place in a specific character's past?

(**) Have they previously established that SkyNet has the ability to download human memories into Terminator brains? And do you think the episode was in some way a cheat because the flashback POV really wasn't Cameron's?


I want to get back to the issue of the show's timeline that we've been talking about the last few weeks. It's been established at various points in the franchise that when Future John sends Kyle Reese back in time, he knows that he's sending Kyle to father him and then die, and that Future John was so interested in befriending Kyle in the first place because he knew he was his father. But with all the time travel of the later films and now this show, exactly what does Future John know? Does he have memories of what's happening here in 2008 (which would suggest SkyNet is still inevitable) and, if so, did he specifically recruit Allison to join his inner circle because he knew SkyNet would replace her with Cameron, whom he would then reprogram and send back to protect himself as a teenager?

Excuse me while I go take some Advil.

I have to think that either Cameron no longer has the Kill John Connor directive, or that if she's secretly evil, there's some other directive that's even more important, because she's had plenty of opportunities to kill him. On the other hands, the TV version of Terminators seem a lot cagier and more interested in long-term planning, as evidenced by whatever Shirley Manson's doing. (And is the little girl supposed to be the daughter of the real Weaver, whom Manson replaced, or is she a Terminator, too?) So I don't know.

Sorry if my thoughts on this one feel as unfocused as Cameron was throughout it. I promise I don't want to put anybody's head on a pike.

What did everybody else think?

22 comments:

Anonymous said...

I've never understood how John could send Kyle back to father him because Kyle would have had to have gone back without John's influence in order for John to have existed and sent him back in the first place.

studda said...

alan,how can you like this show better than heroes?

Alan Sepinwall said...

alan,how can you like this show better than heroes?

Because it doesn't insult my intelligence?

Chris said...

I think the kid was a piece of Manson. Shes probably took the form of a younger version of her or the human Manson really had a family that this terminator version killed. Either way the kid was another thing to fool Ellison. Manson probably wants to eliminate fool him as much as possible so he can trust her and get more information for her. I believe that Manson was sent back not to kill anyone but to actually help build the skynet army.

Anonymous said...

The only reason the episode was good is because it was a Cameron-centric episode and she is clearly the best character. All that stuff with Sarah and Ellison was stupid. Next week and every following week, this show is going to get lost in all the better shows out there.

Mrglass said...

Summer Glau should get her own show already. John Connor here is a complete wimp, and the actor is horrible. Every scene between him and the new girl reminds me of 'Dawson's Creek', and not in a good way.

Hopefully John will fall in a coma or something so we can have a few episodes with Sarah and Cameron kicking butt before this thing is canceled.

Kristin said...

I loved this one. What I am VERY curious about is when John and Cameron meet in the future, how he changes her into a 'good' terminator. I am thinking at that point he does inject memories into her somehow. I don't know...maybe teach her what he knew about Allison? It's obvious from her statement weeks ago that John and Allison were likely in love before the terminators captured her. And in his grief (?) he decided to recreate Allison? I'm not sure. But I can't wait to find out more about this story.

Cameron is a singular Terminator. I don't compare her in any way to what we know about other terminators, because John 'made' her and sent her back specifically to guard his younger self. There's something more going on here...but not just your typical terminator thing.

Personally, I'm finding Sarah to be pretty dull right now. Kyle is fabulous. I wish they'd use him more than Sarah! John...I want this to be more about his journey to becoming this future leader rather then the son of Sarah.

Still love the show. And, yes, this is WAY better than "Heroes." My Tivo screwed up last night and didn't record "Heroes," and I must say, I didn't really miss it much. I'm not even sure I'll look up the episode online at this point.

Jennifer said...

What a tour de force for Summer Glau. I miss watching her play a non-robot, so I enjoyed last night's episode. I still wonder where the heck the Allison memories came from, but I suspect they won't explain it, especially since they seem to be unable/unwilling to show Future John and what he's up to.

M.Chavez said...

IIRC, she spells her name 'Alison' when she wrote it down on the form.

pgillan said...

I thought this episode was a large step up for the series. Here are my thoughts on the plot:

1. She specifically said she was an infiltrator, which implies that she has different programming, and her goal and purpose is to be able to pass as human. This would also explain some of her weird behavior anomalies.

2. I also don't recall that they said anything about transferring human memories into a Terminator, but I sort of got the impression that she was watching, observing, and recording Allison's responses. The storyline seemed to jump back and forth with the robot version repeating what the original said.

3. I don't think John "made" her in anyway, I think he just captured and reprogrammed her, after she attempted to infiltrate their camp. Why he'd do that with a robot who copied and killed a girl he loved, I don't know, but they may not have access to that many Terminators.

AlCar1481 said...

How do we know that Manson is a terminator? Yes, I know we saw that dude in the bathroom get impaled by a terminator that looked like Manson, but can't they morph into anything? Unless they are trying to play a switcheroo on us, I think they are trying to create doubt, otherwise introducing her daughter doesn't make any sense...

Eugene Freedman said...

There is an absolutely terrific site about movie time travel and the various wrinkles it creates. The first two Terminator movies are discussed in great detail including the sending back of Kyle Reese and how Terminator 2 can even happen given that "we smashed the grid" as Reese said, "we won."

It's called Temporal Anomolies in the Terminator Series. I would suggest reading it. The author also analyzes other time travel movies like 12 Monkeys and

http://www.mjyoung.net/time/terminat.html

patrick said...

Although it seems kind of gimmicky, I really wish they would use the flash-forward feature a lot more. I kind of dig the future storyline. They manage to make it come across as not entirely hokey. I'll admit it, I was very skeptical when I first the saw the trailer for this episode last week, but thus far, I found it to be one of the better episodes. Next week it looks like it is jumping back into the action, but I wouldn't mind a "quieter" character-driven story every once in a while.

Captain Dunzel said...

Hey, what about Cameron's line about a faction of the Skynet robots that want peace with the humans? Is that a lie? Is this a fact that future John exploits to become the savior of mankind?

Oh, and Terminators don't swim. Good to know.

LoopyChew said...

Captain Dunzel, it was apparently a lie. Alison lied about the bracelet and probably would have let Cameron know were her statement revealed as genuine.

Of course, since Cameron went into Alison's camp and killed them all, that never happened. And then Cameron killed Alison.

Alternatively: Was Alison on the run after being caught outside the camp, or was she the sole survivor and escaping the massacre? In which case, the only reason Cameron killed Alison was for the initial betrayal.

andythesaint said...

And do you think the episode was in some way a cheat because the flashback POV really wasn't Cameron's?

But a lot of it was, as Cameron was the voice on the other side of the table, witnessing Alison's reaction. In fact, since most of the scenes are focused on Alison herself, you could say that even the camera was Cameron's POV. (Sadly, this falls apart during Alison's escape attempts).

emeraldliz said...

I think it's based on what the characters time is. So if it's before that, it's a flashback, if it's after that, it's a flash forward. I enjoy this a lot as part of Dr. Who encountering things he has no idea about because he is THEIR past but HIS future.

I think the daughter is real- perhaps Shirley killed the woman, killed the husband in the helicopter and then took over her life?

And I'll point out that apparently the FBI is really fast on those things- less than a day and he already has a full dossier to go back with (same clothes) (and yes, it surprises me that NO ONE is suing her or the company for anything and that NO ONE notices one of the biggest employees who worked for her has gone missing?)

Oh well, just keep having more Summer!

spiderpig said...

I also don't recall that they said anything about transferring human memories into a Terminator, but I sort of got the impression that she was watching, observing, and recording Allison's responses

That's exactly what I was thinking. I was at first wondering how the heck Cameron was remembering things that happened to Allison, but then I realized that Cameron was the one interrogating Allison and observing her the whole time she was in captivity (and even during her "escape" when she jumped in the water) so that's how she had the "memories". Not because they "download human memories into Terminator brains".

I also don't think John and Allison were in love in the future. Cameron showed Allison the bracelets from other people in the camp so she's just another resistance fighter. Wouldn't futureJohn be way older than Allison anyway?

Anonymous said...

Sarah called John (when he was out looking for Cameron) and didn't do the "day, month" thing, and John didn't notice either. I mean, I thought it was stupid, but dropping it is kind of annoying.

Anonymous said...

Sarah called John (when he was out looking for Cameron) and didn't do the "day, month" thing, and John didn't notice either. I mean, I thought it was stupid, but dropping it is kind of annoying.

I noticed that too, but then I remembered the other terminator caught on to their little date and time thing last week. Maybe they have just decided to drop it entirely due to that.

Anonymous said...

So Cameron/Alison was able to go to two therapy sessions in one day? That youth shelter is amazing.

Jennifer said...

1. I think that the memories that Cameron are having are residual and perhaps something that didn't get completely erased when John reprogrammed the Terminator in the future.

2. I kind of assumed the girl was really the Weaver daughter but on an instinctual level knew that wasn't her mother.

3. Just an observation for House fans...

Can it be a coincidence that Cameron's human counterpart is named Allison...ala Allison Cameron on House?