Spoilers for the season (and maybe series) finale of "Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles" coming up just as soon as I pick up my daughter from gymnastics...
Well-played, Josh Friedman. Well-played.
Friedman made a lot of errors this season, most of them to do with pacing (the four-episode Sarah's angst arc, that it took us the entire season for Shirley Manson to meet the Connors, etc.), but I give him full credit for coming up with a terrific finale that I think works whether or not the show gets renewed. (And I'm guessing the chances of that aren't very good, unless they believe "Terminator: Salvation" will be a huge hit that might drive more people to the TV show.)
If there's a third season, then there's tons of potential in John being stuck in a version of the future where -- because he traveled straight there without living the years in between -- no one knows he's supposed to be the savior of humanity, and where he gets to hang out with different versions of Derek and Cameron(*) than the ones he knew, not to mention his own father, while Sarah and Ellison are still working in the present-day to prevent Judgment Day from ever happening. (And there would be the added kick, in theory, that Sarah might realize preventing Judgment Day might erase John from existence, which would put her two obsessions -- protecting her son and stopping SkyNet -- at odds for the first time.)
(*) Or was that supposed to be Alison? Note that the dog was fine being around her.
And if there's not a third season, this isn't one of those cliffhanger endings that's going to leave me feeling mad that I'll never get to see the resolution. That's because there isn't a simple resolution, and at the rate this show likes to move, I know it could be years before John gets back to the present, and/or until Judgment Day gets averted once and for all. This sets up lots of possibilities, brings Derek back into the storyline without really undermining last week's stunning bullet-to-the-head moment, etc., but for once I feel like my imagination can have fun filling in some blanks if it has to.
And if this was the finale, then Friedman pulled out all the stops. Manson and the Connors finally come face to face, and Ellison finds out he's been working for metal all along (in a moment that also clarifies that the SkyNet drone wasn't her handiwork, and that she destroyed the factory to stop the building of more, not to cover things up). Cameron gets to play Arnold from the first "Terminator" movie(**) with her raid on the jail, down to the amount of physical damage she suffers (which is another reason why it was necessary to shift over to a different version of Cameron; this one was too messed-up to pass as human anymore). We revisit older characters like the Latina gangbanger and the priest from the season premiere, and we had the closest -- and creepiest -- we're ever likely to get to a John/Cameron sex scene, as it turns out her nuclear diagnostics are conveniently located inside her chest.
(**) Speaking of which, I think Jeffrey Pierce, who played the T-888 in the last two episodes, was easily the best of our guest villain Terminators. His scene at the gun store, and his reaction to Manson's non-death, both felt very much in Arnold mold while also echoing Summer Glau's work in seeming something other than human.
Assuming this is the end, I would have to say the things I admired about "The Sarah Connor Chronicles" -- the performances by Glau, Brian Austin Green and Garret Dillahunt; the commitment to showing the emotional toll of knowing the Apocalypse is coming and you're the only ones who can prevent it, some of the action -- outweigh the things I didn't (the sluggish pace, the acting and writing of Sarah and John). I'd be glad if there were more episodes, but I'd also understand why if there weren't.
What did everybody else think?