Monday, September 08, 2008

Terminator, "Samson and Delilah": Girls in the men's room

Quick spoilers for the "Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles" season two premiere coming up just as soon as I find out what happened to the urinal cake...

I already said a lot about the premiere in today's column, so I'm going to do some quick bullet points on the good, the bad and the silly:


• It is just a pleasure to watch Summer Glau and figure out what weird thing she's going to do next. On a purely physical level, there are few performances I'm enjoying more on TV these days, and seeing Cameron both physically and mentally damaged for an hour gave her a chance to do more interesting things. (And it allowed the producers to do their own small-scale version of the original "Terminator" film.)

• They gave Thomas Dekker a haircut. I don't necessarily buy him as a stronger John just yet, but at least he looks less wimpy.

• I'm not exactly sure what they're doing with Cromartie trying to subvert Agent Ellison, but I liked Ellison's reaction to Cromartie framing the actor (just shut it down to avoid more bloodshed), and anything that gives Garret Dillahunt more to do is okay in my book.

• I'm glad they let John be tough enough to let Cameron be turned off even when she was doing the fake "I love you!" bit. Step in the right direction, at least.


• I'm not sure how John refusing in the end to burn Cameron's body ties into the new hardcore version of the character. I suppose it shows he has faith where his mother doesn't, and that's what's going to make him qualified to lead humanity against the machines in what seems like a hopeless battle, but if Glau wasn't so essential to the show being good, John should've let her stay dead.

• Still not totally on board with Lena Headey, I'm sorry to say. But since they gave the parts of movie-Sarah that I found interesting to Derek, and since The Notorious BAG is still around, I guess I can live with it.


• Shirley Manson turned into a urinal! Or, if you prefer, a urinal turned into Shirley Manson! Either way, goofy beyond belief for a show that's ordinarily as somber as it gets. Beyond that, I don't like introducing the Robert Patrick-issue T-1000's to this show's universe, or to the idea that the Terminators are themselves trying to ensure the creation of SkyNet and have control (even if it's through a doppleganger) of a massive technology company. I suppose having the machines trying a plan other than "Kill John Connor! Kill John Connor!" would make sense after John and Sarah had eluded their grasp and messed up their creation so many times in the past, but I still don't like it. The more Terminators and other time travelers you have wandering around present-day LA, the more it dilutes the concept. I know the producers have to take a long view and find a way to turn what's essentially a simple chase movie into a long-running series, but I wish this wasn't the route they chose -- especially since Manson is beyond stiff, particularly for someone playing a metal morpher.

What did everybody else think?


J said...

Shirley Manson turned into a urinal!

Given the quality of the last couple Garbage albums, I saw this as part of a natural progression.

Anonymous said...

Oh my god. I thought that was an absolutely awesome season opener. Totally exciting, cool effects, woo hoo! I had forgotten how much I looked forward to this show every week, I'm glad it came back strong. I hope that they give Dean Winters more to do this season than last season.

And, to echo what "j" said above, SHIRLEY MANSON TURNED INTO A URINAL.

Anonymous said...

Does anybody know the name of the song that was playing at the beginning of the episode? I've been trying to track it down and having no luck. I thought maybe it was a Garbage song because of SM, but dunno. Help me out?

Anonymous said...

You missed the most important of the Worst:

Killing off Dr. Venture without even giving him a line.

Matt said...

This was the first show to get dropped for me this year due to the pile up that is Mondays at 8 (Gossip Girl, Chuck, HIMYM, Terminator). Gossip Girl (due to regular Sunday repeats and good online options) loses out next, despite my admiration for Glau's deeply weird performance.

Mo Ryan said...

Shirley Manson's performance is almost in the 'so bad it's good' category. I almost want to laugh out loud every time she does whatever she does on screen. Take whatever bad acting you've seen by the corporate villain of the week on Doctor Who and you're not even in the ballpark of how bad she is.

"Given the quality of the last couple Garbage albums, I saw this as part of a natural progression."

j, as the kids say, lol.

Myles said...

I think that Manson's performance will be even worse tomorrow when a mass audience sees the Fringe premiere and the far more interesting and similar role played by Blair Brown. The comparison is not going to do Manson any favours...and I have to wonder what, exactly compelled this casting.

It's not even stuntcasting - is anyone REALLY watching for Shirley Manson?

Otherwise, a couple of really strong scenes and some strong action that builds to the more emotional moments makes this a continued upward swing for the series, even if I have my skepticism in much the same areas as you, Alan.

Sara Ann said...

I think it kind of worked out - Manson's noticeably self-conscious and stilted performance sort of clicked when she turned out to be a killer robot. My only question is, what happened to the urinal that was supposed to be there?

Cheers to the action-packed opener, though it felt more like last season's finale (I wonder if, under other circumstances, it would've been). My only real, serious gripe: I wish they'd thrown in a line about John taking the bullets out of the gun before handing it to the probably hostile terminator. Faith is great, but knowing the protagonist is exercising the most obvious, basic precautions would really help me get behind him.

-M said...

I think Dekker would look less wimpy if they let him keep his skirt on.

-M said...

Oops...I mean his shirt. Or did I?

Anonymous said...

It's not even stuntcasting - is anyone REALLY watching for Shirley Manson?

Not exactly, but hearing she was added to the cast did help in my decision to watch tonight. I didn't think she was as bad as the rest of y'all. The urinal thing did crack me up, heh. Totally do not like the T-1000 showing up, either, but eh, it's TV. I'm not even going to consider it canon once the new trilogy comes out (seriously, this kid doesn't grow up to be Jurgen Prochnow, let alone Christian Bale) :-D

Rachel said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Wow, I'm really glad I decided to skip this for Gossip Girl.

Myles said...

Not exactly, but hearing she was added to the cast did help in my decision to watch tonight.

I said that it wasn't really effective stuntcasting, and then check my blog stats an hour later and find numerous hits coming from "Shirley Manson." So, I'll eat those words.

Anonymous said...

Well I've never heard of this Manson person and just wondered when she would get off my screen.

what happened to the urinal that was supposed to be there?
There was a urinal on the wall behind her, where she was just a urinal herself! I thought they should have edited it out.

K J Gillenwater said...

I loved the Shirley Manson character (I don't know who she is either). I thought they gave her some great lines about the people crossing the street, etc. They totally got me with the T-1000 urinal!!!!

Alan, I thought John *was* affected by what Cameron told him while squashed between the trucks. His mother couldn't hear Cameron who suddenly became emotional and spoke of 'love.' I think John brought her back to find out more about what she claimed the future John and she felt for each other. Why speak of him loving her? All very curious.

Personally, I thought the first 5 minutes was badly done. The long music sequence with the slo-mo took away a lot of the drama a season premiere should have. It worked last season with the pool sequence, but this time it didn't. I wanted to see the events in real time.

**Total girly comment: I was SO hoping BAG would take off his shirt in the ambulance. Sigh.**

Anonymous said...

I really enjoyed the episode, I got into the show over the summer when FOX reaired last season over the course of a week or so and was captivated by seeing that BAG could actually act.
As for John putting Cameron's chip back in, I attribute it to his finally having faith in himself as a future leader- he kept saying "I made her. She saves my life." And he finally defied his mother and started to strike out as a man in the world- which is the first step of any guy's journey into adulthood.
I agree about Lena's performance, it has always been a letdown for me- but in this episode she got it right twice- when she was yelling at John and asking if he was hurt in the car and more importantly the crazy pride she had when she told Cameron, "he won't come!" Sarah needs to be a lot more crazy for me to truly believe her character.
My new pet theory is that Cromartie isn't killing Ellison because Ellison has some important role to play in Judgement Day and killing him would screw up the timeline.

JMC said...

I bet that John killed Sarkissian.

Anonymous said...

I don't think Shirley would have been too happy if it rained.

Anonymous said...

I agree that John's choice to go against his mom and have faith in the fact that he chose Summer to be reprogrammed and come back was a way of showing he was beginning to step into his own.

I thought it was a dorky choice though, obviously necessary for plot.

I liked the arrival of Manson as the new breed of terminators, but the way it was done "Oh yes, get all my guys in here for a special meeting tonight just to tell them I'm cannbalizing their teams for a special project and then kill the guy who is in charge of my best and most important team just because he grumbles and asks logical questions because geniuses like that are so easy to come by"

Um yeah, didn't get that at all. Sure I KNEW he was marked for death, but the death didn't make sense.

Overall though, the opening sequence was better than half of last season.

Michael said...

Bear McCreary (also of Battlestar Galactica) discusses the music from this episode on Bear's Battlestar Blog.

The opening song is a spiritual called "Samson and Delilah", sung by Shirley Manson, and inspired by Bruce Springsteen on his "Seeger Sessions" tour a few years ago. He reinvented that one like he did to "All Along the Watchtower" for BSG.

Anonymous said...

I like Garbage (and Shirley Manson in particular) so I ended up watching this episode out of curiousity even though I had given up on this series last season out of boredom. Surprisingly, I kinda enjoyed it. Nothing earth-shattering but it kept my attention for the hour.

Still, the whole urinal thing was kind of gross and funny at the same time. Was I the only one flashing back to Manson's lyrics about enjoying "golden showers" from a Garbage song?

Unknown said...

This first ep confirmed my dislike for the series. But to the point:

There was a urinal on the wall behind her, where she was just a urinal herself! I thought they should have edited it out.

Ignore for the moment that the most plausible reason for why she would be there in the first place has nothing to do with plot but only, "It would be a cool way to end the hour and a way to hook people into watching the series."

It certainly doesn't make sense that she would destroy the urinal just to take its place. In the movie, the T-1000 mimics the floor, to "sample" the guard. (But unless the guard just licked the bottom of his shoe or something, that doesn't quite track, but anyway....)

It's possible that she was a thin veneer over the urinal, but the extra mass has to go somewhere. Maybe it was down the drain, in the pipes.

She made a lucky guess as to which urinal he would pick, though. It did not appear that she was covering all of them, just that one.

I will use a stronger adjective: it wasn't silly, it was stupid.

Anonymous said...

Was that Garbage playing during the slow motion opening scene?

Masters of Humility said...

Much as I love your blog, I disagree with your comment that "The more Terminators and other time travelers you have wandering around present-day LA, the more it dilutes the concept." I think have Sarah and John thrust into the middle of this weird temporal cold war where both Skynet and the Resistance are sending agents into our present in order to manipulate the future really opens up the series and gives it somewhere to go beyond always staying one step ahead of the unstoppable killing machine of the week, which might be great for an action movie, but in the series has gotten tedious pretty quick.