Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Terminator, "Self-Made Man": History lessons

Spoilers for last night's "Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles" coming up just as soon as I pick up someone to weigh them...

Odd little episode, that one. Of the regulars, only John, Cameron and Riley had any screentime of note (if Sarah popped in briefly, I blanked on it), and we spent much of it on Cameron involved in, as Daniel from Television Without Pity put it, the "Terminator" equivalent of a "Cold Case" plot.

I was never bored. The production team has really mastered a way to create an unsettling mood that makes even random scenes at a high school party seem like trouble's coming, and Billy Lush (Trombley from "Generation Kill") played well off the typically excellent Summer Glau.

But at some point, I'd like to start getting at least a few answers about why all these Terminators are coming back in time, how many SkyNet and human factions there are, etc. The show has been consistently entertaining on an episode-by-episode basis for most of the season such that it's not an urgent need for answers. But at some point, I would like a sign that the writers know where this is all going -- even if the ratings probably won't be strong enough to get us there.

What did everybody else think?


Anonymous said...

Sarah was in the episode's opening scene, telling Cameron to do the laundry, but that was it. Normally I would guess that this episode was designed to save on the budget, but then all those 1920s flashbacks with the period cars probably weren't cheap. I was also disappointed that we didn't get to see that 80 year old Tommy gun get used during the robot fight.

Mrglass said...

I would watch Summer Glau read the phonebook for 1 hour. Hopefully she can get her own spin-off after John is tragically tortured to death (wishful thinking).

jcpdiesel21 said...

I either didn't "get" this episode or my interest in this show is seriously waning because I thought this episode was awful. The John/Riley typical teenager storyline was incredibly dull. While I appreciated a look at what Cameron does while up at night and a glimpse into her developing personality, I thought the storyline with the terminator who went to the wrong time was really ridiculous.

Anonymous said...

For me, this was the first completely disposable episode. Entertaining, but what was the point, other than to showcase Cameron's inability to form a real friendship (and her unintentional cruelty, besides)?

Why isn't Cameron protecting John at night? Also, Riley's strategy is odd. Why not get him away from Cameron by simply saturating him with sex? Maybe because this show stupidly airs at 8PM.

How did the Roaring Terminator have himself walled in, anyway? And why's that 80YO Tommy gun and its ammo working so well - maybe RT wakes himself up every few years to lube it? ;-)

A cameo by Arnold as FutureGov would have given the episode a needed boost.

Ah, well... can't all be gems!

Anonymous said...

I REALLY enjoyed this one. I thought that Summer Glau and Billy Lush were very good onscreen together, and it is always interesting watching Cameron interact with folks who don't know that she's a robot. And the backstory of the terminator who went to the wrong time was interesting, how appropriate that he became a cutthroat corporate land developer. The whole assimilation of the robots thing is one of the most interesting elements of the show, IMO (I'm still laughing about Cameron rolling Ellison over like a turtle a couple episodes back!).

Also, shots of Cameron walking from behind? Always a nice touch, always appreciated. That girl can totally rock a pair of jeans.

Also, I couldn't find confirmation on IMDB, but I'm pretty sure that the dude who played the wrong-time terminator is Todd Stashwick, who is totally awesome - I've seen him in several things lately (The Riches, Supernatural, Psych, The Middleman). He's quickly becoming one of my very favorite supporting TV actors, and he's demonstrated that he's very versatile in the kinds of roles that he can pull off.

@alan - I would also like to get some big picture answers by the end of the season - the show has gotten quite good at what its doing, but one of the big reasons I'm so on board is that I have faith that there is an interesting big picture that will eventually be revealed. There are several threads that the show is keeping in the air - the Jessie-Riley stuff, the Shirley Manson-Babylon stuff, the time-traveling paradox stuff, Derek's past (when he was held with the other guys underground with the piano music), the extent of Cameron's history with Future John, the extent to which Cameron's chip is damaged (subquestions - the extent to which Cameron is stable as a long-term ally, the extent to which Cameron is "different" from other Terminators, and the extent to which Cameron is capable of independent thought).

Anonymous said...

@Andrew - maybe I'm remembering wrong, but I thought the gun did get used in the robot fight, and that Cameron shot Dude several times with it (not that it did a lot of good). Nice move with the elevator she pulled. That was awesome.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, that was Todd. He's awesome.

I'm somewhere in the middle on this one. I was *very* entertained, but as soon as it was over it was pretty much over. I definitely like a Cameron-centric ep and Billy Lush quietly rocked it, but the John/Riley bit just annoyed. I thought they were going to go for a little twist of her having a change of heart on the whole whatever that she and Jesse are involved in, but it seems that nothing happened. She distracted him for awhile, but from what? The assumption is that Cameron is the problem in the future, I know, but whether it's Cameron or Sarah, it's not like she dragged him away from either. It was all totally pointless and we wound right back where we started. That part needs to be wrapped up quickly.

One bit I did really like was the little mouth quirk thing that Cameron and John did at the end. Not a smile or a smirk, more like a little spasm, but pretty funny all the same.

bsangs said...

How is this show still on the air? Don't about 20 people watch it each week? I tried for a few episodes, but when I found myself thinking it made the writing on "Heroes" look strong, I decided to tune out. Has it gotten better?

Simon said...

Bsangs- it's got much better. Once they steered away from the "baddie-robot-of-the-week" approach, the questions raised by Cameron's interactions with humans are very interesting. Every time it looks like she might be getting humanity, Pinnoccio-style, she'll pull a stunt so jaw-droppingly cold and efficient (like the ending seconds of this ep) and your suspicions of the character return. Very well played by Glau, but well written too.

Anonymous said...

I think there was a leftover script from Journeyman. Cameron's plot was actually pretty interesting. But, what is her actual purpose of being at the library at night?

John/Riley=boring. John kicked a little ass, but he still looked pretty soft in so doing.

Anonymous said...

But, what is her actual purpose of being at the library at night?

I was wondering the same thing, as well as why she wasn't guarding John. He & Sarah could easily get killed and Cameron wouldn't even know.

Weird little placeholder ep with an effective performance by Billy Lush.

Bruce Reid said...

While the plot was no great shakes and is likely to stay self-contained*, thematically isn't this the first real confirmation (beyond the pilot's clumsy attempt to erase Terminator 3's cancer-death Connor) that all this time travel is rewriting history, like Green theorized recently? Being sent to the wrong time caused the terminator to inadvertently kill the person who built the tower in which he was supposed to kill the Governor, so he had to build it himself.

The library scenes (and the witty, and entirely logical, revelation that when not on their killing sprees Terminators make great bosses) made it worthwhile for me; the confirmation, as Simon points out, that Cameron hadn't really developed feelings for her "friend" was the type of sly, sad beat this show has really come to excel at.

A run-of-the-mill episode for this show; but it's now turned the corner where even the lackluster efforts feel, not "better" exactly, but richer and stranger than most other shows out there.

*Or not, if the stellar triangulation the Terminators use to tell time winds up connected to the mysterious company somehow haunting Sarah's dreams.

Anonymous said...

I find myself rather bored with the show. It's OK but if it got canceled, I wouldn't feel terrible about it. I like "Chuck" a 1,000X more.

I am mainly not liking the John-Riley plot because I don't like the actors. John is mopey.

Riley, and this maybe an un-P.C. thing to say, sorry, but is very unattractive. The only reason I mention her looks is because I am supposed to believe a good looking guy like John Conner, a future rebel leader, could be so easily swayed by such an unattractive girl?

Sorry, I don't think casting the hottest girl everytime out for every show is necessary, but in this case, I'd believe it more if John was being "lured" away from his house by a gal who looked more like Cameron or Veronica Mars.

Anonymous said...

I too have thought the show has gotten stronger, especially over the last 5-6 episodes. Cameron's character has really developed.

Last night's episode was interesting, yet boring.


Anonymous said...

@Zodin: I'm gonna have to disagree with you there, attractiveness is definitely a matter of personal taste, and I think Riley is very attractive. I think she has a beautiful face, striking eyes, and I like that she isn't skin and bones. And I can see John being drawn to her a lot more than he would be to some skinny superficial cheerleader (who would never give the weirdo loner a second look anyway).

Anonymous said...

This was the first episode I've watched in a while, and I was flummoxed by the decision to set the massacre on New Year's Eve, 1920. The scene in the speakeasy didn't seem to fit what I know about 1920 - the Charleston wasn't around yet, the fashions hadn't become so loose, and I'm not even sure if the speakeasies were such a grand social set yet. Prohibition started the year before, it took a while to really develop the whole speakeasy thing.

There seemed to be no reason to make the first sequence take place in 1920, except they really wanted to squeeze in the Rudolph Valentino scene taking place three years later. Since today's audience is probably every bit as unlikely to know that "The Sheik" came out in 1923 as they are to know anything else about the 20s, why couldn't they have had the terminator guy meet up with Garbo or Chaplin a couple years later?

Anonymous said...


A point of clarification: I am not remotely attracted to "skinny, bony" women. Doesn't interest me at all.

One of the sexiest women on Television is Christina Hendricks (all curves, a real woman!) on "Mad Men" and occassionally "Life".

So my point about Riley's looks was related to her face, not her bod. I don't think she has a pretty face. I guess it's a matter of personal taste though I know others who feel the same way.

Anonymous said...

@Zodin: I'm right there with you with Christina Hendricks (who will always be Our Mrs. Reynolds to me). The lady is drop dead gorgeous, and very talented too.

Anonymous said...

I don't watch any series or daily soap. so I don't know about it.