John, Sarah, Ellison and Cameron

We very much enjoyed almost all of this series. As there are many hours of terminator here, we will post our reviews of the individual episodes periodically. This may take some time.

Given our previous statements regarding Sarah Connor as the core character in the Terminator franchise, this show had a daunting task as it is all about Sarah. Initially we were disappointed in Lena Headly's portrayal, but she quickly came to own the role and her characterization of Sarah was quite good.

Additionally, we've mentioned how much we disliked young John in Judgment Day, this young John, though, is much, much better. This is more in keeping with the John we see in Rise of the Machines.

Although this came out after Rise of the Machines the story picks up after Judgment Day. We are told it has been two years since they blew up Cyberdyne. According to our calculations, those events took place in 1994 making this 1996. As we find out in Rise of the Machines Sarah dies in 1997 so this all fits.

There is a problem, though, as we are told that it is 1999. Now, what John says to Sarah is

No one knows us.
No one asks questions.
It's been almost two years.

The implication is that it has been two years since they blew up Cyberdyne, however, it could mean that it has been two years since Judgment Day, which they prevented from happening. The difficulty with that explanation is that Sarah died in 1997, two years ago. Nothing that we know of has happened to change the course of events, yet here we are in 1999 and Sarah is alive.

We can surmise, given what we learn as the series goes on, is that because of Myron Stark in 1920, the engineer around 1963, the 4 resistance fighters, Cromartie, Charles Fischer, Vic and Cameron have all arrived from the future – and possibly more – that the chronology we set out between Judgment Day and Rise of the Machines has been altered. Each of the visitations could have had an effect on the past changing things just enough that Sarah does not die in 1997 but rather dies in 2005, or so we find out in Gnothi Seauton.

Confusing as all of this is, it does correct one large flaw with Judgment Day which is John's age. In that we are told he is 13 even though events take place in 1994 and John should be 10. Here, in 1999, John should be 15 and he is.

We have to acknowledge that when talking to Tarissa Dyson at the cemetery in 2007 Sarah says "It's been 10 years" meaning since Myles Dyson died which means the events of Judgment Day took place in 1997 and when John says "two years" he does indeed mean two years since they blew up Cyberdyne. So, although we have cleared up John's age, we have a new mess in the sequencing.

Finally, because Sarah and John jump forward in time to 2007, the events in Rise of the Machines never happen and Judgment Day does not happen in 2004.

Season 1

This season succeeds in many ways. It revives the story without simply repeating it. It is fairly consistent with what has gone before while setting its own path. We learn a lot more about Sarah and we watch John as he begins the process of becoming the Great John Connor.

There are some problems with the story, but all in all it works. The three new characters – Cameron, Ellison and Derek – all add a great deal to the story. And, praise be, Sarah is treated with intelligence as a unique individual and not just the mother of John Connor even though the opening sequence is the PietĂ .

1: Pilot
Sarah cradles dead John as the bombs go off
You changed the future. You just didn't change it enough.

 

This is an excellent pilot episode, and an excellent reboot of the story. We open with Sarah driving down the highway, in Voice Over we hear her say

There are those who believe that a child in her womb shares his mother's dreams.
Is it told to him in pictures while he sleeps inside her? Is that why he reaches for her in that first moment and cries for her touch?

Will he still reach for [her] if the only dream [she] ever shared with him was a nightmare?

Sarah finds John in the library and says to him "John, now. Now!". It is a testament to her training of John that he instantly understands what she is talking about and moves, quickly. Remember, when we left them at the end of Judgment Day they had just "killed" Miles Dyson and blown up Cyberdyne. The police are obviously looking for them, and as they leave the building we see the police have found them. They are cuffed and put them in the back of patrol cars.

Unfortunately a terminator has also found them. Sarah, upon realizing this, manages to get them out of the police cars and out of handcuffs and sends John running while she shoots at the cyborg, but as John is crossing the parking lot the terminator shoots him and he falls to the ground. He is dead. Sarah has failed. Cradling John's dead body Sarah screams at the terminator to kill her as nothing matters anymore. The terminator responds

You're right. Nothing matters anymore. Only the boy. The future's ours.
And it begins now.

As the bombs begin falling...

And Sarah wakes up, it was just a nightmare.

This is a great introduction to The Chronicles. This sequence shows us clearly that Sarah is still haunted by visions of the apocalypse. This is similar to the nightmares that Sarah had in Judgment Day and that John has in Rise of the Machines. All are about the failure to stop Judgment Day from happening, but in this Sarah fails to protect John, and he is killed. A somewhat shocking beginning, until we realize that it is just a dream.

We find that it has been two years the Sarah and John have been on the run. However, life has calmed down to the point where Sarah has a boyfriend, in fact, she is engaged to be married. However, the nightmare has convinced her that they need to keep on the move, as she says to John "No one is ever safe!" and so they pack up and leave and we get a feel for what their life has been like. Move to a new location, get new identities, keep low and be inconspicuous.

When Sarah tells John that they are leaving John protests, unlike the John in Sarah's dream. This conflict between John and Sarah develops slowly throughout this season and is really well done.

While John and Sarah begin their new lives, Sarah's former fiancé Charlie, goes to the police to report her missing only to meet FBI Agent James Ellison who has been assigned to the Connor case. In talking with Ellison, Charlie lets him know Sarah's current alias, Sarah Reese. Ellison enters this into the FBI database. Unbeknownst to everyone, there is a terminator, Cromartie, who has a system set up to notify him if there are any new entries into Sarah's file with the FBI.

John, at his new school, meets a fellow student Cameron. Cromartie, armed with the knowledge of Sarah's alias, also shows up and attempts to kill John. We find out that Cameron is a terminator as well, sent back by future-John to protect John. Sarah wants to run, again, but John fights against this, again. He tells Sarah they should stop and fight Skynet. She agrees.

Upon telling Cameron this, she takes them to a bank where back in 1963 an engineer from the future build a Temporal Displacement Device. She says they don't know who built Skynet, but they know when. So, the three of them jump from 1999 to 2007 just as Cromartie shows up.

All in all a pretty tight and exciting re-entry into the terminator world. There are a couple of issues. We've already talked about the dates and ages, mostly this is because of Judgment Day where John's age of 13 and Judgment Day's date of 1997 are first told to us, both of which are probably wrong. A second issue is Cameron. Later in this episode, and throughout the rest of the series, she acts like a terminator rather than a human, robotic, stiff, staring and unemotional. However, when we first meet her at John's school, she acts very human. This inconsistency is annoying but not fatally so.

Another annoyance is seen both here and in Genisys. Why do these characters insist on travelling into the future closer to the date of Judgment Day? Judgment Day here happens in 2011 and Cameron takes them from 1999 where they have 12 years to hunt down Skynet and kill it, to 2007 where they have only 5 years. Genisys is even worse where Judgment Day happens in 2017 and they jump from 1984 to 2017 just days before. Why? Why lose all that lead time?

We also get an interesting introduction to a new character, Agent Ellison. One story line in Terminator that appears only in deleted scenes is Lt. Traxler's slow realization that Kyle's crazy story is actually true. Here we get to see this same process, in much more detail, with a more complete character in Agent Ellison.

2: Gnothi Seauton
Cameron and Sarah at te resistance apartment
Are they manning some kind of apocalyptic paramilitary convenience store filled with fake IDs, and guns, and money??
3: The Turk
Sarah's dream, surround by terminators at the Manhattan Project
Have you ever heard of the singularity?
4: Heavy Metal
Cameron and Sarah at Hanger 13 in front of the blast doors
This is where the factory will be ... Where I'll be made
5: Queen's Gambit
Sarah and Andy at the chess tournament
Good code is like a good song in your head. It's gotta come out.
6: Dungeons & Dragons
The T-888 being destroyed
Okay, he's a scary robot? You, you're a very scary robot.
7: The Demon Hand
Cameron dancing
Dance is the hidden language of the soul.
8: Vick's Chip
Vick's chip
It's the only truly irreplaceable part of the machine and she kept it.
9: What He Beheld
Police falling into pool at motel
And behold, a pale horse. And his name that sat on him was death.

Season 2

1: Samson & Delilah
Cameron, damaged, walking away from car explosion
We have to kill her, John.
2: Automatic For The People
Cameron touching Kacy's pregnant belly
I'm an Orca ... with boobs.
3: The Mousetrap
Charlie and Sarah talking to Michelle, tied to chair containing a bomb
You're sitting on a bomb. If you move. It will go off.
4: Allison From Palmdale
Cameron in the grocery store looking at an apple, about to go all whacky
I think ... I'm a machine. From the future.
5: Goodbye To All That
Weaver talking to Ellison
I'd like my company to lead the world into the next century. And I'm fairly sure you're an avenging angel.
6: The Tower Is Tall But The Fall Is Short
Derek talking to Jessie
Are you AWOL? Jesse, did you run from the war?
7: Brothers of Nablus
Jody and Cromartie looking for Cameron
Just take me back to the halfway house. I am done hanging out with a creepy stalker.
8: Mr. Ferguson is Ill Today
Ellsion, John, Sarah, Derek and Cameron standing over dead Cromartie
This is it. There's nothing else behind the curtain.
9: Complications
Charles Fischer duct-taped to a chair
I'm not who she says I am!
10: Strange Things Happen at the One Two Point
Cromartie, now John Henry, sitting in front of massive computer
Hello, Mr. Ellison. My name is John Henry. How are you today?
11: Self Made Man
Cameron talking to Eric, the library guy
What was he doing in 1920? What is this picture from?
12: Alpine Fields
Lauren Fields talking to Derek
Oh, yeah? Who put you in charge?
13: Earthlings Welcome Here
Sarah with Eileen/Alan/Abraham
I am Abraham. I'm the one you're looking for.
14: The Good Wound
Sarah with Dr. Felicia Burnett
Now give me the gun or I swear on a stack of Bibles, I will let you die. Please.
15: Desert Cantos
Cameron, Derek, Sarah and John watching craft fly off from swamp
You know, there are times ... where it seems every logical step we take leads to the most bizarre place.
16: Some Must Watch, While Some Must Sleep
Sarah at sleep clinic
Mom... you're useless like this ...You haven't slept in two weeks.
17: Ourselves Alone
Riley and Cameron
You can't be John's girlfriend. You're a threat.
18: Today Is The Day, Part 1
Queeg
Our orders come from John Connor.
19: Today Is The Day, Part 2
Goodnow a.k.a. T-1001
Tell John Connor, the answer is no.
20: To the Lighthouse
Charlie's lighthouse
What kind of explosives did you rig the beach with?
21: Adam Raised a Cain
Derek, dead
Future-you knows what it means to lose people you love.
22: Born to Run
John, confused that Derek has never heard of him
Anybody heard the name John Connor?