After the special-effect laden episode last week, the producers of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles must have looked at their budget sheets and thought, “Yea, so, let’s scale it back a bit lest our season finale look like the Be Kind, Rewind version of Terminator.” How else to explain the small (although far from uninteresting) episode that followed last week’s expansive, futuristic iteration?
That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy tonight’s episode, by any stretch. It just felt like a chamber drama compared with last week’s Brian Austin-Green-centric ep. (Did you ever think you’d ever read that sentence again? Honestly.) We had a bendy fence and some fire, with the greatest effect coming from Summer Glau’s limber self in the ballet scenes. (Loved how they wrote a script that featured her innate dancing skills as a plot point.)
What this show lacked it special effects it more than made up for in Bruce Davidson. I couldn’t figure out why they would cast Davidson in the role of Sarah’s former psychologist, until he gave that INCREDIBLE speech of his POV the day Aaahnold fought Robert Patrick in the asylum. Just a fantastic scene, and made up for the “psychologist as Connor acolyte” plot twist being so blippin’ obvious.
As far as 90210 Reese, props to Greene for more than holding his own. I think, in a strange way, the fact that no one on the show overtly steals the show helps his cause. Everyone’s doing work in the B to B+ range, so him stepping in has never felt like he had to overachieve. The strength of the show lies in the plotting (surprisingly consistent, and faithful to the T1/T2 mythology), decent writing, and performances that compliment (if not overshadow) the material. But I still couldn’t help but look at Reese gawking at River-Nator dancing at the end of tonight’s episode and muttering, “I still can’t believe I’ve revived my career…suck it, Spelling!”
Davidson’s speech (and all around nuttiness) more than made up for the lack of flash-forwards, which I found endlessly fascinating (finally explaining the “kill Goode” plot, explaining the bar code tattoos, and giving River-Nator/Reese backstory in equal dollops). I’m not looking for Emmy-worthy acting in these shows (though as mentioned, all more than acquit themselves); I want a killer Terminator story, and so long as they don’t mess up the “River-Nator kept the final bolt” storyline, they are on pace to get through Season 1 unscathed from a mythology perspective.
This final bolt plot point is one of two problems with the show right now. In the world of Terminator, Judgement Day is always inevitable: we know this, but the Connors don’t. As such, when watching the show, we’re watching people essentially telling the sun to not set. Especially with the film franchise set to launch a trilogy of Terminator movies featuring future John Connor in wartime, we know the show won’t stop the apocalypse. Now, I’m all for a show that is brave enough to refuse its audience a happy ending in service of its own story, but I do wonder how long they can pull off a “no matter what the Connors do, Judgement Day will always happen” storyline.
The second problem? John Connor himself. I’ve no problem with Thomas Dekker in the role; rather, Sarah and Cameron have absolutely dominated this season in terms of action and audience interest. Now, we know John can’t truly come into his own until Skynet goes live, but a little more active participation in the plot wouldn’t hurt, either. As it stands now, we’ve seen a mere sliver of the hero to come. I understand the need to give John an arc, but c’mon, Terminator: step it up in the finale, will ya?
Predictions for next week’s season finale: The location of The Turk is determined. River-Nator and Cromartie engage in a pad de deux of violence. John takes his first step towards his hero-dom. FBI Agent Ellison saves the Connors at a moment in which all hope seems lost. And Judgement Day looms ever larger.