Saturday, April 04, 2009

Terminator, "Adam Raised a Cain": Family reunion

Spoilers for last night's "Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles" coming up just as soon as I find my trousers...

Wow.

Who ever would have thought I would be this startled -- not just startled, but sad -- about the death of a character played by Brian Austin Green? Or that a network TV show in this day and age would have the onions to bump off a significant regular character 15 minutes into an episode, with no time for heroics or big speeches or any of the other blaze-of-glory elements we expect from deaths on series television?

Instead, Derek -- who, thanks to Green and the writers, had quickly become the series' most compelling human character -- just comes around the wrong corner at the wrong time, takes a bullet between the eyes from the latest T-888 model, and that's all she wrote. There's some poetry to him winding up in an unmarked grave just like his brother Kyle -- and you could argue that the opening scene in the cemetery was Derek's real, hidden farewell scene -- but disappointed as I am that Derek won't be around anymore(*), it felt real and appropriate to the franchise to have a main character killed so easily by a Terminator. Frankly, it's amazing that John and his mom have survived as long as they have, with or without a reformed Terminator as a protector.

(*) For one episode, anyway, as it's fair to say odds of renewal are on the long side right now.

Really, the entire sequence at the Weaver house was gangbusters, from a concerned John Henry guiding Savannah away from the water delivery man (and calmly explaining that she wouldn't be going to the foyer to see her nanny) to John popping up in the garage to Cameron rolling the bad guy down a very long, steep hill to give them enough time to get away.

Last week's "To The Lighthouse" (which I never got around to reviewing) was another fairly slow, meditative outing until the last few minutes, where this one was pedal-to-the-metal from the start. The Skynet civil war became more overt as the Terminators went after Shirley Manson's "daughter," John Henry has started playing Ellison and Manson off each other (while his friendship with Savannah is doing a better job of humanizing him than anything Ellison has tried), and now Derek's dead, Sarah's in jail and John knows that someone is using Cromartie's body for a new purpose.

Josh Friedman(**) promised during the much-panned Sarah Goes Navel-Gazing arc that the season would end with a bang, and it looks like he's going to deliver on that promise.

(**) UPDATE:I contacted Toni Graphia, who wrote "Adam Raised a Cain," to ask who came up with the idea to bump off Derek in such a cold manner, and she said it was Friedman's:
As far as killing Derek, what I can tell you is that my boss Josh Friedman, whom I greatly respect for his instincts to "go against the grain" of traditional television, was the one who gave the mandate that Derek's death be true to life -- shocking, quick, with no time for tears. If I had even hinted at writing a big speech or heroic sacrifice, I would have been banned from the Warner Bros lot! LOL. Sarah's getting arrested was something I pushed for in the episode -- I was dying to see that "perp walk" and believe the fans would appreciate it too. Whenever something got cut, I would say, "as long as Sarah does the perp walk, I'm good." Killing Derek was Josh's idea and the way it was portrayed was exactly how he wanted -- the most realistic and therefore the most gut-wrenching and sad in its shocking simplicity. Yes, it's different than how deaths of main characters are usually portrayed, but to the credit of the Fox execs, they trust Josh's strong vision for the show and it has helped make Sarah Connor a unique experience.
Hell of an episode. Even if the show might end in a week, it's going out with a bang.

What did everybody else think?

34 comments:

joy said...

It was a very well done episode. You're right - it's definitely going out with a bang.

I'm supersad that poor Derek is no more, but even more surprised to realize that he was my biggest reason for still watching this show.

Ingrid said...

Both my husband and I were upset by how quickly Derek was dispatched. It was so random, so arbitrary. And yet, I agree with you that it felt real and appropriate in the context of the show's reality. Death can come at any time, and take us by surprise.

I will be sorry if this show is cancelled, but I think maybe the Sarah Connor chapter needs to end and they should continue the show (or create a new one) just with John Connor and Cameron.

Shan said...

This was extraordinarily well acted all around, and the had the mix of action/sci-fi/character beats/plot movement that should be in most episodes. Special kudos to Garrett Dilahunt, who can play anything, and the young girl who played Savannah.

Derek's death, even though I enjoyed the character and BAG's performance, was a bold move, and one that paid off, showing the tenuous grip on life these folks have in an uphill battle to save the future. Having it come early in the ep, without the swelling music, lingering slo-mo and close ups added to the impact of the death.

It's sad episodes like these last few are coming too late in the game to save the ratings.

Alan, is there any chance that FOX might be patient with T:TSSC and Dollhouse for another year? I can't see it based purely on the numbers. What about a move to FX with a reduced episode order - say 10 - 12 per year? I can't understand why the big 4 (generously including NBC) networks keep commissioning sci-fi/fantasy skewing shows when there seems to be a ceiling on viewers. Heroes opened huge, but squandered that goodwill and is in the dumps. Many viewers got confused by Lost and tuned out (even though I think that show is terrific again). Buffy and Angel only got around 5 million (on the netlets) in their prime. X-Files, in a different viewing landscape, started cult, got big, then shed viewers toward the end. Why not have rabid and passionate, but small, fanbases tune in to FX, SyFy, USA, HBO and Showtime instead of consistently trying to make a genre show work amongst all the reality TV and procedurals?

Andrew said...

Would it be fair to refer to any major character death in this manner as "getting Omared" or is there another precursor we can go back to that predates him?

Anonymous said...

I think we should just say he was terminated.

Maxed out said...

I had the same reaction, the way Derek died was so matter-of-fact, it made it feel much more real. I liked the jolt.

Anonymous said...

I haven't been more shocked by something on a tv show since, well, never. After recovering from the shock (12 hours later), I was rational enough to know it was executed perfectly in the context of the show.
I still am a bit stunned that the show runner killed off the best character in the whole thing though. Going out with a bang most certainly.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, this episode was very good, indeed!

Makes you wonder where the show would be today if all of season 2 was like this? The Sarah focused slow episodes really hurt imo...

Intresting thought about skipping Sarah and make a new show focusing on John! Who knows, if the show ends maybe someday we get a John Connor Chronicles?

To be honest, all I want is more of Cameron/Summer Glau and John manning up as he starts to do now. Can never get enough of Summer and would be cool if they let her play more of human Allison and show how truly talented she is with emotions.

sirona7 said...

Echoing other commenters--the shock of Derek's death was perfect in the context of the show. Also thought arresting Sarah was smart storytelling and really appreciated the shot of the door closing between Sarah and John and Cameron turning and running. Okay, this chapter is closing, it's time to bring on the John Connor Chronicles!

Damien said...

Nice ep, liked it a lot. Wow, they killed Derek - you bastards! I fear it's because they're been told to wrap things up as next week's ep may well be the last one. If so, it would be a pity.

The little girl that plays Savannah is just awesome - such a cool performance tonight. Also loved the line that Weaver (Shirley Manson) can't sing! LOL.

On the down side, I'm really getting sick of religious quotes, symbolism and metaphors that's creeping into sci-fi these days. It's one of the main reasons I stopped watching BSG. It's like the writers think it's cool or profound to do so. It isn't, so stop it!

spiderpig said...

Oh geez, I am so glad you decided to have a post about this show, Alan. I kept checking to see if there'd be a review and here it is! This show really doesn't get enough love. You are absolutely right, the whole scene at Weaver's house was great! I was at the edge of my seat the whole time.

I CAN NOT believe they killed off Derek. First Charlie last week and now Derek! UGH! Those are the best characters on the show. John could have learned a little bit on being a tough guy from Derek. I was complete surprised when he was shot just like that in the first 15 minutes. I kept hoping it was a dream sequence and there would be a do-over. I will definitely miss the Notorious B.A.G. RIP, Derek Reese (or anonymous 2009 head stone).

I know the show has little chance of getting renewed, but I think it was finally getting good after all the build up. Bummer.

Karen said...

I have, I guess, the good fortune of never having seen BAG in anything before this show, and I really liked him - as others have said, he's one of my main reasons for watching this show (or was... :-( ...). I thought the way he died was excellent because it was so quick, so un-telegraphed, so realistic, unlike so many deaths on TV and in the movies, where the character who is going to die makes a speech or a comment that lets you know right away that Something Bad Is About To Happen. The only other person I can think of who has deaths happen that realistically is Whedon.

But man, will I miss Derek. After he was killed, I just kept saying "I liked him... I liked him" (while the show was still on, which probably annoyed my husband).

And I thought we saw just how much of her humanity Sarah has been forced to sacrifice in her total lack of reaction to Derek's death. And how much John is beginning to sacrifice as well.

Agree totally on the awesomeness of the girl playing Savannah, and I've gotten used to Shirley Manson, or she's getting better as an actor. (Laughed out loud when Savannah told Weaver she couldn't sing, though... big fan of Garbage, myself.)

I'll miss this show if it doesn't come back.

Karen said...

P.S. Sorry, Damien - hadn't seen that you beat me to the comment about Weaver being told she's unable to sing!

K J Gillenwater said...

I hated that they killed off Derek, the best and most interesting character. It also means that there will be no more flashes to the future, unless we see them through Cameron's eyes...and I will miss that, too. I found those reveals about the future to be very intriguing.

I think that was a huge mistake. Now we are back to only three characters, really, to carry the show: John, Sarah, and Cameron. We all know that Sarah is the weak spot here, with John running a close second (although he pulls it out every now and again)....who do we have to root for that really deserves it at this point? Cameron????

I don't know what to think. After watching "Life on Mars" today, I'm just a little disappointed with some of my shows this past week.

Someone in Hollywood, please Hire BAG to play some hot spy/assassin man. PLEASE. I beg you!

Craig said...

This episode rocked.

This is the kind of episode I wish they did like, I don't know, 13 episodes ago. If they keep up with this kind pace the show has real potential.

I loved the final sequence. I also love the idea that John Connor is, at least briefly, on his own with only Cameron. Derek dead and Sarah in jail.

I know the show is called "The Sarah Connor Chronicles" but John is old enough that at this point the much more interesting storyline would be to follow John Connor transforming into the future leader we know him to be.

The Derek death was pretty crazy, but it's real. Not everyone gets to have some kind of heroic death that saves everyone else or holds the enemy off. A lot of times you just get shot walking around a corner.

Anonymous said...

Wow.

Killing off Derek within the first 15 mins took balls!

Not as shocking as Kenard blasting Omar on The Wire but it was definitely a surprise. I loved that it was so real and unexpected... yet strangely fitting for his character.

Derek had come full circle. He murdered his best friend Andy Goode in cold blood. He murdered his girlfriend Jesse in cold blood. Both Andy and Jesse were unarmed. Sarah and John ordered Derek not to kill them but he disobeyed. In the end, Derek lost his own humanity. He also started to get careless. I think he may have sub-consciously wanted to die.

RIP Derek. Great character, excellent arc. Nice work from Brian Austin Green.

I can't wait to see the finale. The John Henry/Savannah friendship is very intriguing. It has become the most compelling storyline. I hope we get some answers regarding their futures in the last episode.

Anonymous said...

Gee I thought we were going to find out what happened to Derek in the mysterious music basement. Perhaps we'll see it through Cameron's vantage point since I suspect she was the one down there with him. Or did I miss that revelation already?
anonymoose

Jennifer said...

I spent a good chunk of today searching tvtropes.com, trying to find some kind of "unexpected, dead within the first fifteen minutes with no fanfare, of a major character" sort of entry. I could not find one. I guess yes, it is THAT rare. If anyone thinks of what would count as that (beyond "Anyone Can Die"), let me know!

Anyway, show has balls for doing that, even though they have one episode left probably ever so it's not like the show will suffer much for it in the future.

Watching Savannah in Terminatorville is just hypnotizing and disturbing to me. I cracked up at her chatting to John Henry in school and the We Don't Talk To Men On The Internet talk that ensued afterwards. Then I was touched by John Henry trying to save her and the aforementioned line of "We won't go in there." That kid does not suck as an actress, that's for sure.

(P.S. I keep thinking that if Brennan on Bones has a kid, somehow it would be a similar relationship to Weaver/Savannah. Creepy!)

Notice how everyone is lying in this episode and also calling everyone else on it? They're honest about their dishonesty!

Am interested in seeing what they do with Sarah in jail in the last episode.

BigTed said...

I thought Green's performance on this show was sort of like Rick Schroder and Mark-Paul Gosselaar's turns on "NYPD Blue" -- they're all sort of dorky teen stars who turned out to be surprisingly effective dramatic actors as adults. With luck, he'll have more of a chance to prove that in the future.

By the way, what with all the good, bad and series-ending dramas last week, I think the best hour of all was the next-to-last (of the season? the series?) episode of "Life." It was engrossing, quirky as always, and just solid all around. (And that was without Sarah Shahi.) That's one show that I really hope is coming back next year.

Sean said...

I think it really says something when they promote the MOVIE version of the latest take on the Terminator franchise DURING the TV show. It's like they're saying "Hey guys, we kinda sorta really know this show is a major turd, so here's some clips of the far-better Terminator movie! Please continue spending time and money on it!"

And the first thought I had when Derek got unceremoniously shot was "Ha ha, you lost Megan Fox and now you're own show is getting rid of you too!" But then I felt bad after...a little.

Kalin said...

[quote]Would it be fair to refer to any major character death in this manner as "getting Omared"[/quote]

This is exactly what I thought, too, so let's run with it!

nils said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Alan Sepinwall said...

No talking about the previews. Ever. No spoilers of any kind.

Alan Sepinwall said...

I spent a good chunk of today searching tvtropes.com, trying to find some kind of "unexpected, dead within the first fifteen minutes with no fanfare, of a major character" sort of entry. I could not find one. I guess yes, it is THAT rare.

Do we want to count Tasha Yar, who died relatively early in an episode of Star Trek: TNG? Or not, because there was so much time later in the episode spent angsting about her death, including her extended video will?

Alan Sepinwall said...

I've updated the post to add a comment from writer Toni Graphia on how they came up with the manner of Derek's death, so hit reload if you want.

SteveW said...

Alan - I would have counted Tasha's death--until this episode. By comparison, that was a mopey eulogy that lasted for the rest of the series' run (she kept popping up in various episodes with humorous regularity; though good ones, admittedly)

radiomd said...

Should have mentioned this in the recent "Life On Mars" comments, but there was so much to say about how dumb that reveal was that I left it out: it was a tough week for characters played by Dean Winters.

You see Dean Winters go near a dock, as Ken Harrelson would say, he gone.

Number Five said...

Yeah, the whole episode was terrific, with Derek's death elevating it to greatness. I especially liked the double foreshadowing, with the conversation at the graveyard followed by the babysitter getting shot in the exact same way Derek would (and it's something that frequently happens to extras and minor characters, so it was an effective link).

Unfortunately, it's yet another argument for definite end points, because I'm sure the writers killed him because they knew the show faced certain cancellation (or termination, if you prefer). And that's fair, because as amazing as this episode was, a third season of just Sarah, John, and Cameron is less interesting without a fourth character like Derek. Maybe Charlie or Ellison would have replaced him, but who knows.

I was going to ask about how rare this is, so thanks to everyone who checked, especially Jennifer - I'm now engrossed in reading TV Tropes. It does show that several shows will kill significant or even major characters, but always with some kind of build-up, and often the character isn't really dead. As for Tasha Yar, I'm sure if this show continued into next season there'd be an episode where they come to grips with Derek's death, although it wouldn't be as cheesy as Season 1 of Star Trek: TNG.

Shirley Manson has improved a lot over the season - her delivery of dialogue is less stilted/mannered and more appropriately flat, and her reactions to other characters have gotten more subtly expressive. For a child actress, the girl playing Savannah is also great. It's funny that she's the only character whose situation has improved over the course of the season. When we first met her, she had the immensely dark situation of instinctively knowing her only surviving parent wasn't real, and now she at least has a "friend" in John Henry. It's made it a lot easier to watch her.

I don't know would be the most satisfying finale in terms of resolution, so I just hope whatever we see is as compelling as this episode, regardless of what the end result is.

Girl Detective said...

I too thought this ep was great. Derek's death was all the more shocking because my husband and I had just had a discussion of how he was our favorite character on the show, then, literally, bam. Wow. I gave up on it a few weeks back, and came back to it and am glad I did. I just hope it can rally. We geeks need something to watch on Friday now that BSG is gone, and both this and Dollhouse are getting better!

Did Derek kill Jesse? I don't think he did--he said "John Connor let her go" which I took to mean he asked himself WWJCD and held his fire.

My guess is that Jesse is pregnant as she was in the flashbacks to the sub, and like Sarah will be on her own with a dead Reese for a baby daddy. It might be a good plot change, but I'm irritated because it means BAG, who was great, is gone, but that actress, with her artificial looks and one-note delivery, might be back if the show is.

Damien, there's an article at city magazine about the increased religion in sci fi, though it's got a history at least back to CS Lewis' space trilogy. link: http://www.city-journal.org/2009/19_1_urb-science-fiction.html

I think Shirley Manson has gotten better, plus the character is softening up. She's wearing grey, and her hair is down and styled more softly--I don't think this change is coincidence; I think she, like John Henry, is becoming human.

What I like about the show, when it's firing on all cylinders, is that it's not so much about the machines becoming human, an old story, but about how the humans become like the machines, as in Sarah and John's non reaction to Derek's death. That's much more scary and complex.

Champylose said...

I plugged around on the internet wondering if the actor who played Dereck had been fired or had a dispute for the manner which they disposed of him so quickly. As some clever TV fans cited, he was "Omared".

I've enjoyed the Terminator TV show but a complaint I've had as of late is any character introduced inevitably winds up dead, they've successively killed of every character, quite literally, be it the step dad, step dad's wife, girlfriend, Derek's girlfriend down to minor characters like the child psychologist. I was starting to get tired of the constant offing of any introduced character as my expectation became that any character introduced would soon dine on a bullet, so-why-should-I-care? Life is hard for nearly-post-adolescent saviors of mankind. *yawn*

Even if the show is on the verge of being another Fox causality they sorta sealed the fate of the show, when they've eliminated the most interesting of the characters. I wasn't emotionally invested in the show, but I've enjoyed it but killing off Derek? Goodbye Terminator: The TV Show.

Billiam said...

I wanted to comment on the brilliant exchange between Cameron and Sarah, where Cameron contemplates killing Ellison.
"You can't just kill everyone."
"But I only want to kill him."

And while I understand that people would be unhappy to watch future Derek-free episodes, I still feel the last few minutes of the episode set up some potentially great stuff. Almost too much stuff to wrap up in one episode...

Marlark said...

FINALLY this show is living up to the promise that the first several episodes gave us. But all too late. Very much like the final season of Enterprise that finally lived up to its promise...when all had abandoned it and its ratings fell off a cliff.

Too bad, too sad, too late.

Fox gonna bury T:TSCC in an unmarked grave called "2008-2009" and shovel on the dirt of indifference.

Sniff.

Anonymous said...

Derek's death was surprising - the death of Skulls in the BSG finale was just as quick and out of nowhere

Anonymous said...

Wow, I'm so glad that I decided to read this before having watched the 5th season of The Wire. It's especially great because I obviously wasn't thinking this place would be so lousy with spoilers for that show.