Sunday, March 08, 2009

Terminator, "Ourselves Alone": A bird in the hand

Quick spoilers for Friday night's "Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles" coming up just as soon as I clean my chimney...

Well, that was a step in the right direction, at least.

"Ourselves Alone" didn't move much faster than any of the previous batch of episodes, but the problem with them wasn't so much the pace as the ever-narrowing focus on the bland Sarah. This one was also a meditation, but it was a meditation on what it's like to have to put so much of your trust in the kind of machine you know is destined to enslave humanity. It gave us a lot more of Cameron and Derek than we've had in a long time (factoring in the mid-season hiatus), and it finally did some interesting things with Jesse and Riley -- albeit by killing Riley off.

(Ain't it so often the way that boring fifth-wheel TV characters only become compelling in the episode where they die? See also Tasha Yar from "Star Trek: The Next Generation," or any other examples you can feel free to name.)

We still need to get some movement on what's going on with Shirley Manson and John Henry, and whether she's working with or against the folks who built the hover ship, how many different alternate futures we're dealing with now, etc. But despite the measured pace, this was the first episode of the show in 2009 that didn't have me checking my watch. That's a start.

What did everybody else think?

17 comments:

spiderpig said...

First and foremost, I'm really glad that Riley is gone. She was one the worst annoyances on the show (heh besides Sarah but it's her show so I do my best to like her). Now if they can just get rid of Jesse I think the show will get better - more storylines about the Shirley Manson and her agenda and even more stuff about Derek who I still think has some secret agendas of his own we don't know about.

I really like where they are going with the diverging timelines. I like that the actions they take in the "present" actually can affect the "future". If it were like Lost and their "you can't change anything" theory then what would be the point of this show?

Can't wait until Present John starts acting more like the Future John.

Is it the chip malfunctioning that caused Cameron to kill the bird or just a malfunction in her arm? Is her whole machine body going to pot or what?

Mattson Tomlin said...

I've never watched TSCC, but I've been a bit curious about it. The first two Terminators are among my favorites, and the new one I am extremely looking forward to.

Now that I'm dabbling in a post-apocalyptic film of my own, I am a bit curious about this show. How does it hold up in terms of the feel of the movies?

Tony Dayoub said...

(Ain't it so often the way that boring fifth-wheel TV characters only become compelling in the episode where they die? See also Tasha Yar from "Star Trek: The Next Generation," or any other examples you can feel free to name.)

Yes, Alan. I'm thinking of a character that you're very familiar with who was written into a corner before he was killed off. Det. Danny Sorensen on NYPD Blue.

Alan Sepinwall said...

But Sorensen wasn't any better in death than he was in life. Nor did he appear in the episode in which he died.

Didn't mean to stir you up.

Chris said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Chris said...

I have SO missed seeing Summer Glau in this show. Don't get me wrong, I think the spectacularly bland Lena Headey is beautiful too*, but I can't even remember the last episode where Summer was kicking some ass. The worst part is that I'd bet you Glau is a way better actress than Eliza Dushku - and might be able to pull off the various script demands much better than Dushku does on Dollhouse.

I also have to give some credit to the show for making Brian '90210' Greene kind of a badass. At least, this was when he was introduced in the show's first season. Now that he's running around with the crazy hot Jesse, it's really killed off the crazy/instable edge he seemed to have when he was first introduced. Dare I say the show jumped the shark when Riley was introduced?

Maybe the deterioration in quality is a good thing for Chronicles - it will make its inevitable Fox cancellation much more tolerable...unless perhaps by some miracle Fox thinks that Terminator: Salvation may help the ratings a little and perhaps grant the show a reprieve.

And while we're doing this walk down NYPD Blue Memory Lane, for the love of god, someone find me some paperclips to put in my shirt pocket!

*Who would win a "Beautiful But Spectacularly Bland Leading Lady on a Fox TV Show" contest, Anna Torv or Lena Headey?

Anonymous said...

Good episode. Didn't see Jesse's plan to have Cameron kill Riley in order to drive that final wedge between Cameron and John coming. Now we know Jesse's plans to keep John away from "her" referred to Cameron and not Sarah.

I have the sneaking suspicion that Jesse will die by Derek's hand if he figures things out. Looks like the Terminators aren't the only ones in the future divided by competing ideas and factions.

Cameron's solution to not being able to self-terminate was both a nice reference to T2, and a potential bombshell (sorry) in an upcoming episode.

Happened upon this the other day - The Sarah Connor Comicals... inventive, funny stuff:

http://www.roxybisquaint.com/tsccomicals/

Greg said...

" Now we know Jesse's plans to keep John away from "her" referred to Cameron and not Sarah."

Wasn't that always known? I never knew there was suspicion it meant anyone besides Cameron.

This episode was better than the last two at least. I think the prior episode was the worst of the series. I don't know if the show is going to last much longer. They need to start moving the plot along.

Anonymous said...

This was definitely a return to form, in the sense of having a sense of foreboding an tension despite the fact that not a tremendous amount was happening. If it were a show on solid footing it would be the type of episode I would welcome, but since it's in danger of running out of time, I agree that they need to speed up the action a bit. But hopefully it's a sign that they're past whatever they were trying to do the past few weeks and back to permanently doing what made this show enjoyable.

Billiam said...

Maybe this was influenced by the relative blandness of the previous few episodes, but I very much enjoyed this one.
I like the fact that Jessie's plan was very simple, but not quite obvious (although it made so much sense, that I felt dumb for not figuring it out).
I didn't completely follow Derek's plot. But Summer Glau was wonderful, and I was sad when Riley died (even though the outcome to that fight was inevitable, and didn't really think she should be able to hold her own against Jessie).

dez said...

*Who would win a "Beautiful But Spectacularly Bland Leading Lady on a Fox TV Show" contest, Anna Torv or Lena Headey?

Depends. If Beauty is the main category, I'd give it to Lena, but if it's Bland, Anna for the win!

I liked this ep much more than the previous three, although I was a bit confused about the latest glitch with Cameron. I'm hoping they get back to Shirley Manson's Terminatrix and John Henry next week.

shara says said...

@Greg - I was definitely one of the ones who had thought that "her" might refer to Sarah. It was just because it seemed strange for her to say (it was some episodes back) "you're here to keep him away from HER", as if that might be a clue that she was referring to someone other than Cameron (who she would be more likely to call "it" or "the metal" rather than a humanized pronoun). Apparantly not, though!

All in all, I totally enjoyed this episode. It was good to finally see more Cameron, and to get more of a sense of what's going on in her head of late. I'll never complain about more Derek, and I also think that Thomas Dekker has stepped up the "strong and capable" for John lately - since his mom started deteriorating he's seemed to be more ready to step up.

I did like the reveal of Jesse's endgame, I'm just expecting her to take the body and frame Cameron now.

Redsmom said...

I missed a bunch of episodes - do we know that Jesse is not a terminator herself? Or do we know that she IS one? Where was that scary Scottish lady (Mansen) this week. She is creepily great. I'm not much on the home life of the Conner-Baums. Terminator, for me, is about the action. The love story of SC and Reese was just gravy.

Joe Beach said...

Redsmom - I've been pondering Jesse's terminator status myself, because as far as I can remember, they've never made it official either way. However, I suspect that she must be human, because the fight between her & Riley would've been much shorter if she were a 'bot, ya know?

Joey from Jersey said...

Agreed Alan; this was the 1st episode in a while that I didn't find myself watching the clock.

I've read a number of anti-Riley comments, but I've always enjoyed her appearances. On the one hand she brought a shred of normalcy to teenage John's life, and on the other, she's born in the apocolyptic future, her true motives are gray, and the question of if her feelings for John would deter whatever 'plan' she and Jesse had in store raised the suspense level for me.

I also like Jesse; she could say 'blah blah blah,' and I'll still enjoy her accent, lol. . . . She has a beef w/ Cameron, a chip on her shoulder about John, and a relationship w/ Reese unbeknownst to Sarah -- that's drama in my book!

I thoroughly enjoy this show -- when Sarah doesn't dominate the screen. The Sarah-centric episodes bore me. I thought of giving up on the series since it's felt so lackluster since its return, but last week's episode reminded me why I look forward to this show, and why I will be disappointed if the writers don't get to put their own end on it.

Greg, I too was always under the impression that Jesse wanted John away from Cameron, not Sarah. I'm not sure of the episode #, but there was a scene where Jesse complains that John and Cameron become too close in the future, and that she (Jesse) hates mankind's leader confiding to metal, therefore leading me to infer that the "her" is Cameron, not Sarah.

Eugene Freedman said...

Yes, Alan. I'm thinking of a character that you're very familiar with who was written into a corner before he was killed off. Det. Danny Sorensen on NYPD Blue.

Better example is Dolores Mayo. Danny was stunted from day one until his last. Dolores was in the scenes, but not much of a character, until she died.

ToastyKen said...

I cringed a lot in this episode because of the "idiot plot" trope where the plot only moves the way they do because the characters are not being as smart as they should be. The scene where John and Riley could've cleared everything up with each other but didn't reminded me of an episode of Three's Company or something. It just seemed like a lazy plot device to me.

I do like that they did something interesting with Jesse and Riley, too, but I think they could have led up to it better without resorting to that tired "if only she had told him or he had told her the truth" gimmick.