Television Series DVD
Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles: Season 2
Distributed By: Warner Bros. Home Entertainment
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
Okay, I confess, I am a lover of all things Terminator and as such have seen the movies, read the books, read the comic books, have collected some of the soundtracks and the trading cards and have had countless discussions about the possibilities of alternate timelines created by John Connor thanks to his actions throughout the many movies, etc. Having recently heard about a “reboot” of the original Terminator film, I was in shock. I love the spin-offs from the movies and can forgive them for some continuity flaws there, but redoing a classic? No way! I’ve already decided I won’t see it. Not while I have some great Terminator spin-offs I can watch at home.
One such spin-off is Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, a television series that took place during John Connor’s teen years and stars Thomas Dekker as John Connor and Lena Headey as Sarah Connor. Wrongfully cancelled after only two seasons, I found this show to be quite the credible continuation of the tales of John and Sarah Connor as they elude various impediments thrown in their way in an effort to protect the future savior of the universe, now a pre-occupied teenager mourning the lack of a real childhood and the possibility of a daunting future.
In the first season of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, John Connor is a bit defiant, but willing to concede that he needs some protection from the monsters his future sees fit to throw back at him. Sarah and John have teamed up with a female Terminator named Cameron (Summer Glau), sent back by John to protect him. Along the way, they picked up Derek Reese (Brian Austin Green), John’s uncle sent back from the future to hunt other Terminators who could bring John harm. The season ends on John Connor’s birthday with an explosion leaving Cameron’s fate open.
Season Two begins where Season One ended. After tracking down the Turk, a chess-playing computer which may be the beginnings of a Skynet prototype, to a Russian gang and attempting to retrieve it and destroy it, their leader Mr. Sarkissian decides to send his goons to erase his problem. Cameron is caught in a car explosion while Sarah and John find themselves fighting for their lives against Sarkissian’s goons. John marks his first kill while protecting his mother. Meanwhile, Cameron’s chip has been damaged in the explosion, causing her to revert to her old Terminator programming. Mother and son team up to stop her from terminating John and he eventually finds a way to fix Cameron’s programming…but is it really fixed.
Soon after this incident, a wounded future soldier makes his way to the Connors to impart a message about various targets that may aide Skynet in the future. Meanwhile, John meets Riley (Leven Rambin), an adopted teenager who understands John in ways he can’t imagine. As their relationship grows, Sarah becomes concerned, worrying that John may reveal too much about himself to this girl in more ways than one. The relationship also bothers Cameron who feels Riley can be a risk to their mission.
John isn’t the only one with a potential love interest this season. Derek runs into an old lover who found a way to escape the future, presumably to hunt targets that may be essential to preventing Skynet from ever happening. But Jesse appears to have great interest in John Connor and his new Terminator friend Cameron. Perhaps John is becoming too close to the “Metal,” the cause of misery for the entire Earth’s population in the future.
While Cromartie, the Terminator who was a main cause of grief for the Connors in the first season, is still active in this season, things take a very interesting turn for the killing machine thanks to a showdown in Mexico and the mysterious CEO of the technology company known as ZeiraCorp. Agent Ellison, Sarah Connor’s sometimes nemesis and sometimes ally, is offered a job at ZeiraCorp and soon learns that he may have made a very serious error in career choices.
In Season One, John Connor is still a rebellious teenager who is disturbed by all this talk of his being the savior of the future. In Season Two, John gets a glimpse of what he is expected to do and what people are willing to do for him. Sure, he knew that people had died to protect him in the past, but he was just a kid then. Now, as a teenager approaching adulthood, John realizes that these people may die not simply because of a Terminator sent to kill him, but because of decisions he may make or missions he may lead them on.
In Season One, John starts a walk toward adulthood, but is still very much the rebellious teen. In Season Two, John takes that very important step towards accepting his destiny and all the pain that comes with it. The moment that pushes him over the line - killing the thug in his home while attempting to prevent him from harming Sarah. His first kill makes John realize that his actions have very real and lasting consequences, something that all teenagers realize eventually, but those teenagers don’t have the weight of a post-apocalyptic rebellion waiting in the future for them. John realizes that every decision he makes…every man he kills…every Terminator he decides to scrap or save may mean the extermination of the human race if he’s not careful.
That knowledge weighs heavily on John and he now understands what his mother has been going through all these years. He understands when his mother becomes obsessed with hunting down the clues left by the dying soldier from the future. Because if he can stop the event from happening in the first place, he will never have to lead a rebellion of man versus machine in the future. And that ray of hope is much better than the future proposed to him, however unrealistic that ray may be.
Sarah Connor has always obsessed about protecting her son and stopping Skynet before it comes into power. In this season, a new obsession has been added. Ever since Cameron’s revelation that Sarah will die of cancer before long before John becomes a leader of the resistance and their subsequent jump to the future that negates the date of her death, Sarah has become obsessed with her own mortality. If she dies before destroying Skynet or at least giving her son the tools he needs to do so, she has failed in her self-proposed mission. Sarah Connor does not do failure well, therefore, she is constantly taking steps to make sure that never happens. And in the event it does, she is keeping people close that she would normally push away, hoping to leave the job of keeping John safe to them if she were to die.
We had already seen a softer side of Sarah in the first season of the series, but this season is rife with new revelations, including a glimpse into her previously unrevealed childhood. Sure, it’s just a glimpse, but that glimpse provides the audience with a view to Sarah’s mindset throughout the Terminator movies and the television series itself.
Derek loses a great deal in this season and, in doing so, reminds us that the Connors have been changing the future with every action they take. This is the first time that the idea has really been examined. We realize that Derek and the Connors may have changed Derek’s future by saving his life in Season One. This is especially driven home when Jesse talks to him about an event that supposedly involved both of them in the future that Derek has no memory of. Could it be that by altering some event in the here and now, Derek has changed the outcome of his future self? Quite an interesting concept.
Unfortunately, that concept never really gets fully examined thanks to the cancellation of the series. After watching the extras, including a number of featurettes, I still believe that the creators of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles had foreknowledge that they were about to be cancelled. According to the powers that be, they had planned on killing off certain characters to drive home the sacrifices people will make to allow John’s future self to be realized. Sure, I buy that with some of the deaths, but with the death of one of the main characters (I won’t spoil things by saying who), I think that the writers, et. al were trying to force a quick outcome. Dumping characters just before a series is cancelled is a favorite ploy of television show writers in an effort to bring the final focus on a main set toward the very end of a series. We’ve seen it happen on a number of shows in the past and I recognized the ploy immediately when this particular episode aired. It was then and there that I knew the show had been cancelled.
And that ending - anyone who watched that ending must have been saying, “What the hell?!” As I said, I don’t want to spoil things for anyone who hasn’t seen it, but I can say this - not only did I not see that one coming, but I have to wonder why it happened at all. It boggles the mind. The show’s writers don’t really explain it until long after the show’s demise and you have to wonder if there is any truth to what has been written on the Terminator Wiki as it pertains to the planned third season. As I said earlier, I believe that they knew the show was over long before we did and therefore I don’t believe this supposed third season premise ever existed.
There was no resolution to the series…not even in the last Terminator film and that leaves me wondering why reboot the movie…but I digress.
Despite hating the ending and being angry at a termination or two, I have to say that Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles was an incredibly thought-provoking, well-written and well-thought out series. The second season of the series was even more clever than the first and I believe, had the series not been cancelled, things would have been even more enjoyable. There was plenty of action and suspense and lots of special effects, which, in the end, may have caused the show to be cancelled due to budget issues.
The casting of this series was spot on and I thought the actors were incredible throughout. They made present tense and future characters extremely believable. Other than Linda Hamilton, I can never see anyone else in the role of Sarah Connor other than Lena Headey. Thomas Dekker was truly believable as a teenage John Connor. I loved the idea of Kyle Reese’s brother Derek being a part of the series and Brian Austin Green brought a brooding sexiness to the character that I never could have imagined coming from the guy I used to watch on Beverly Hills 90210 (yeah, I watched it - so what?!). Richard T. Jones was perfect as the god-fearing former FBI agent trying to instill some values in an individual that makes little sense to him. Garret Dillahunt, otherwise known as Cromartie, actually becomes lovable by the end of the series, if you can believe that.
The second season additions also did a great job. Leven Rambin was truly believable as John’s love interest and the confusion and anguish she portrays is enough to make you want at once want to hug her and slap her into reality. Stephanie Jacobsen is an enigma as Jesse Flores. We believe she truly loves Derek and we like that about her, but her behavior towards John and Cameron is rather harsh and her methods at driving a wedge between man and machine rather ruthless. She’s that sort of character you either love or hate and that is in part to an excellent portrayal by Jacobson.
Also an enigma is Catherine Weaver, who is portrayed rather cleverly by Garbage lead singer Shirley Manson. It must have been incredibly fun to be able to portray a Terminator of the T-1001 series that can look like an ordinary urinal one minute and metamorphosize into a human form assassin with flaming red hair and an amazing fashion sense the next. Manson portrays Weaver as a cool as nails character with no real sense of emotion except dark determination - absolutely perfect.
As for the DVD of Season Two, I enjoyed all of the various futurities offering glimpses into the behind the scenes stuff that goes into making such an action, stunt and effects-packed show. There were enlightening interviews with cast and crew that gave insight into what it was like to film the series. I also enjoyed the Terminated Scenes and the Gag Reel. You knew there had to be one with three Terminators trying not to show emotion and a prankster in Thomas Dekker on the scene.
If you are a fan of the Terminator films, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles is a must see. It’s not all about the sci-fi action and special effects. This series really made the viewers think and was ended long before it should have been.