Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Terminator, "Desert Cantos": Burial of the plot

Brief, belated spoilers for Friday night's "Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles" coming up just as soon as I put on some plaid...

My interest in "Terminator" is really waning these days, and not even the surprise appearance of the SkyNet drone (wee though it was), nor the brief glimpse of Shirley Manson trying to be a better mom to Catherine Weaver's daughter, was enough to compensate for yet another episode that dragged on forever for little purpose.

The use of the title cards (referring to different stages in the funeral process) at the start of each act implied that -- like the Mexico-set "Mr. Ferguson Is Ill Today" -- the production team believed they were making something more ambitious, or profound, than they actually were. I've been a fan of the episodes that have dealt with the psychological toll of time travel and knowing the apocalypse is coming, but those episodes have focused on the regular characters we know well and care about. This was largely about that burden falling on a bunch of unsuspecting new guest characters, and so it felt that we, like John and Cameron, were crashing a funeral where we had no business being. It was extremely, extremely dull.

They're clearly heading in a direction where SkyNet is now trying to establish itself years before the new Judgment Day -- and possibly one where Shirley Manson is working against them -- but they really, really, really need to get to the point already. Or, failing that, they need to give us a lot more Cameron and Derek in the weeks to come.

I did find it a nice touch that the Max Perlich character claimed to be a former cop from Baltimore, since Perlich spent a couple of seasons on the Baltimore-based "Homicide" as squad videographer J.H. Brodie. But again, not enough to make me like that hour.

What did everybody else think?

31 comments:

waterboy100 said...

i am a hug terminator fan and i am going to finish out the season. but if it does not get better i will be dropping the show. the show is moving so slowly considering that it seems to be on the edge of cancellation.

waterboy100 said...

whoops. hit enter too soon.
anyways i meant huge fan.
the show reminds me of (the bad stretch of) lost in the sense that there are a lot of episodes that seem to have nothing to do with each other and that there might, possibly, maybe, be a payoff down the road. but for now it is just supremely frustrating and it makes the show feel like it is 2 hours of boringness.

Alex said...

Alan, did you watch last night's snoozefest Thirteen MD?

Alan Sepinwall said...

Not yet. If I had, I'd have written about it.

Alex said...

Damn! now that I spoiled the episode for you I think you won't be watching it :)

life-on-queen said...

I was going to reply at The NJ Star-Ledger but for some reason it rejected my gmail address as invalid. What century is the IT side of your paper working from?

As for TSCC, yeah, it was a slow episode but it seemed to be setting the season up for the final run of episodes. And it was at least more exciting than this week's episode of HOUSE. Gotta agree with Alex about that. I liked the character work, I liked that the end of the episode seems to have put all the characters back on the same page (ie the "Sarah Connor is not crazy and you should listen to her page").

Mrglass said...

OT, but Heroes is actually becoming decent again, after two awful seasons. I wonder if anybody is still watching...

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I don't get it. Terminator really needs viewers right now (like SERIOUSLY needs them. I have major doubts that if the ratings continue it'll be picked up next year), and they go and run two of the slowest most dull episodes in a row after a 74 week hiatus. *sigh*
I'll still watch, of course, for as long as Fox wants to continue airing it (or if it moves to another network, I'll follow it there) but they're truly making it a struggle to want to. The show needs much more focus on Cameron and/or Derek, and much less on Sarah's psyche (not that that's not an important factor, but it can't be the *only* thing moving the story forward).

Karen said...

On the plus side, no Riley.

Patricia said...

I am going to agree with Alan and everyone here 100% on the T:TSCC episode as being boring and not advancing the plot. I too fear for my viewership of the show, if not for the show itself, if things don't pick up and soon.

However, I have to disagree a lot with those who commented that last night's House wasn't good. I really thought it was a return to form, and one of the best episodes since the show became All About Thirteen (which I hate as much as everyone else). I'm really looking forward to your thoughts on it, Alan.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Guys, seriously? Cool it on the "House" talk until I put up a post about it. Okay?

Chief said...

Based on the ratings and timeslot and ratings received on Friday, this show isn't getting another season. I'll also add that the cost of the show must be enormous with such a minimal return. How many eps are left and will there be enough left to wrap up the story into a resolution?

tabernacle said...

Getting back to _Terminator_ -- AHEM -- I don't know how many episodes have already been filmed, but I think (agree) that they should do something big soon, a milestone-type thing, a game-changer. What have they got to lose? No point saving the big cards if they're never going to get to play them. In a word, yes, hurry it up a bit, the larger-arc progress. Answer all the current questions quickly--once and for all, Shirley Manson's agenda--and move on to asking new ones.

And it's criminal to use Cameron so little. Again, she is the best part of the show. Sure, there might be the danger of overdoing it, of burning her out, so to speak, but, once more, what have they got to lose?

Anonymous said...

I guess I am alone but I liked this episode. It was weird enough that it intrigued me.

barney said...

This is the first time I've been motivated to post, and I agree almost entirely with Alan's review. I cannot understand why the showrunners didn't understand going into the second season that Cameron was the only character that was going to generate any outside interest. Derek has become an interesting character (to a large extent due to being written and acted well), but BAG is not going to attract new viewers. As good as this show was early in the second season, they have had way too many meandering episodes that did not drive the plot forward, despite the fact that this show is a serial. Summer Glau is not only hot, but when given actual material to work with, has proven to be a skilled dramatic and comedic actress (not to mention a serious ass-kicker). The only episode that I can think of from this year that really used her was the one that time-shifted back to show that terminator ending up arriving too early in history. Regardless, Alan, keep up the great work. I really dig your blog.

Anonymous said...

If it weren't for Dollhouse coming on after Terminator, I'd be done with this show now. But because I haven't yet given up on Dollhouse, I may still watch, but I really don't care anymore.

dez said...

I was out getting my computer worked on and didn't even think to set the DVR to catch this, nor have I bothered to seek it out on Hulu. Sounds like I can this ep a pass...and possibly the rest of the series :(

Anonymous said...

After seeing what it has done for
Lost and BSG, I think they should announce an end date for the show and plan the remaining episodes accordingly.

Jennifer said...

Mostly bored, bored, bored with this, not to mention thinking, "Why the hell would all these people suddenly act like the Connor Crew were their best friends and tell them everything?"

The only good bit was "Weaver" having to deal with her daughter. Creepy as ever!

Billiam said...

I was underwhelmed by last week's episode, but I actually enjoyed this one. I found the stuff about the secret factory to be pretty interesting, especially the last 15 minutes or so, with the not-dead Dad. And Weaver and Ellison's plot was quite good.
Though, I agree we need more Cameron and Derek.

Anonymous said...

i still dont know what the point is. whos shirley manson working for? why isnt ellison asking more questions? who are the real bad guys?

Talkias Jakabrien said...

Totally agree. What pisses me most about the show is their INSISTENCE on having 5-10 new characters in every episode. And not minor characters, no - they're always crucial to the plot but infuriatingly cliched. I wish for once they'd BELIEVE IN their main actors - they are all superb - and structure episodes around them. Forget about the half dozen new characters each week and go with what you know.

Anonymous said...

I'm surprised at how little happened in the last two episodes. It seems the main plot of each could have been presented in 15 minutes of air time but they they just plod along. This has to be the most poorly timed set of eps I have seen. I like a lot of season two but these two must have suffered from either budget constraints or different writing styles. They picked a bad time to be so slow.

K J Gillenwater said...

"BAG is not going to attract new viewers."

He would if he'd take his shirt off more often. Heh.

I keep giving this show a long leash, because I really love the Terminator franchise and the whole concept. I would say Cameron is my favorite character followed closely by Derek Reese.

Too bad they can't just reboot the concept and get rid of the "Sarah Connor" part of the title, kill her off, and have it be just the threesome of Derek, John, and Cameron. I think that would be a really cool dynamic.

Still willing to watch until it gets cancelled. Because we all know it will...

delow24 said...

I think the fault is the show is going to slow. Too much concentration on the "craziness" of Sarah. I think they should have combined last week with this week to make it faster and pay off the Skynet drone. That could have eliminated half of the standing around at a funeral part of this weeks episode and all of the "Sheriff Trip" story from last week. Elimiate those and you have a starting point for a tight episode that gets you moving on to some real storylines.

delow24 said...

Oh, and has anyone else noticed the product placements picking up? Between the Dodge and Chevrolet trucks and the huge pile of Dell boxes I don't know how they can not be making money even with poor ratings.

Brian said...

Well Chrysler couldn't afford to fund all of the shows vehicle needs, hence why the entire funeral procession was GM products. Kinda fitting if you ask me.

I agree with the poster regarding the mistake of naming it after Sarah, since she is the weakest on the show.

I could suggest changes to the show, but lets be real, the network will.... ahem... terminate the show soon.

Billy said...

The Weaver story is the only thing compelling me to continue watching this show, which is pretty sad considering it's named after Sarah Connor.

I do have to admit that Weaver/Ellison/John Henry are very intriguing. Enough so that I won't be dropping this off my DVR. Though I suspect Fox will cancel it soon anyway.

Anonymous said...

Have to disagree. I think that the ep moved the plot along nicely, while digging deeper into the the show's fatalistic groove.

SCC has a resignation, a sadness to it that I've not seen anywhere else on broadcast television, ever.

It's fun to have the machines destroying and eviscerating things, but this episode gave a sense of the real human costs, outside of the Connors' immediate circle.

And, the scenes with Catherine and daughter are so off-frequency that they make the thought of Cameron bedding John no big deal.

My only complaint is not enough Garrett Dillahunt. More, please, before Fox inevitably sends the series to Push Up Daisies.

(We've already lost Daisies this year, and will lose SCC, Life, and likely Life on Mars. Booooo.)

Kalin said...

For awhile there I thought you'd forgotten about the show entirely, Alan.

I agree with most of you; these episodes have been extremely frustrating and the whole "Sarah is crazy" arc should have been wrapped up as soon as she saw the drone above the barn.

I have been really enjoying this show - as Alan said many times, the atmosphere and tension they create within each episode is astounding - but the larger story direction is STILL completely invisible and dragging on terribly.

I'd really like to see them take us somewhere interesting before Fox axes the show. Because it certainly feels like a fast-approaching deadline.

Lee said...

Josh Friedman addresses some of the issues people have with the show in a post at the SCC blog, and drops some hints of things to come.

The show definitely does have an endgame, but it seems like taking the scenic route is all part of the plan.