As a science fiction nerd, I was onboard Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles at the word “Terminator”. The show focuses on the bond between Sarah and her son John as they work together with the first cute Terminator, Cameron, to stave off Armageddon. Were they successful? Was it entertaining? More after the jump.
For those unfamiliar with the Terminator franchise… In the first film, aptly titled The Terminator, Kyle Reese comes back to the present to protect Sarah Connor from a killer robot called, you guessed it, the Terminator (played by then actor, now Governor of California Arnold Schwarzenegger). While in our present, Reese regales Sarah with stories of his heroic fight with the resistance against machines behind their leader, her son John. Prior to his arrival, Sarah wasn’t even pregnant. A little bit of intimacy with Kyle solves that problem (thanks time travel!) Sarah then goes about trying to raise the alarm and rally people before the machines can take over. Because of this, she’s put in an asylum which is what John springs her from in Terminator 2: Judgment Day. The two then hit the road to prepare John for the coming battle. Though Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles starts in 1999, following the events of the second film in the series, the help of friendly Terminator Cameron skips mother and son to the year 2007, thus avoiding her death as predicted by the third film Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines. Confused? Don’t worry, time travel does that to everybody. The trio set out to stop the coming apocalypse, but find friends and enemies from both the present and future appear around every turn.
Lena Headey (300, Tell-Tale) brings Sarah Connor to the small screen. Her performance shows exactly what you’d expect from a single mother whose son is the world’s savior – she’s distrusting, cautious, pro-active, but below all of this is the motivation for her to protect and care for her son. It’s great to see her interviewed because you see how different she is tonally from the dark character she portrays. Thomas Dekker (Heroes, 7th Heaven) gives life to that son, the sixteen year old John Connor, and must walk the precarious balance between what he is and what he is eventually supposed to be, especially when his feelings for a certain Terminator come into play. Summer Glau (Firefly, The 4400) brings spark to her role as the Terminator Cameron, a companion to the Connors that, because of a near-terminating accident, vacillates against her will between the side of angels and the side of devils (or humans and Skynet as it were.) Making the trio a quartet is the addition of Derek Reese, Kyle’s brother and, as logic dictates, John’s uncle. Brian Austin Green (Beverly Hills 90210, Freddie) plays Derek with a grit that puts his 90210 past far behind him.
A “bad” Terminator Cromartie works against them and those familiar with Deadwood will recognize Garret Dillahunt in this role and that of John Henry (and also notice his ability to play both kind and menacing with equal aplomb). Playing neither side, simply thrust into the situation and trying to sort through it is FBI Special Agent James Ellison, played by Richard T. Jones (Girlfriends, Judging Amy). New to season two is the presence of a different series of Terminator, one similar to the make of the villainous T-1000 in T2, in the form of corporate head honcho Catherine Weaver, but as the season progresses her allegiances prove to be as mercurial as her form. Shirley Manson from rock band Garbage puts in a fine performance in her acting debut. Two more new editions are Leven Rambin (Book of Daniel, All My Children) in the role of Riley Dawson, a new all-human love interest for John with ties to the future, and Stephanie Jacobsen (Melrose Place, Home and Away) as Jesse Flores, resistance fighter from the future with more than being part of Derek’s love-life on her agenda.
Highlights of the second season include kicking off Cameron’s malfunctioning loyalties and burgeoning humanity as well as season/series ending that begs for an answer we’ll never see. This season yanks the break from the car and sends you careening towards a cliffhanger that changes all the stakes. It is exactly what you want from a returning series, but frustrating because of the potential never realized. If you are Josh Friedman, or you know Josh Friedman, please ask him to nab an interview with me for the site to talk that through, because I’m sure I’m not the only person wondering.
The entire second season of 22 episodes comes packaged on five Blu-Ray discs. Subtitles are available in English for the Hearing Impaired, French, Dutch, Danish and whatever Suomi is – Finnish for those wondering.
Commentary on Samson and Delilah with Executive Producer Josh Friedman and actors Lena Headey, Thomas Dekker, Summer Glau and Shirley Manson.
Commentary on Allison from Palmdale with Josh Friedman, James Middleton, John Wirth, Thomas Dekker and Summer Glau.
The Storyboard Process: Cameron Goes Bad — a look at how the story plays out from storyboard to screen with Visual Effects Supervisor James Lima, Stunt Coordinator/2nd Unit Director Joel Kramer and Special Effects Supervisor Steve Galich
Cameron vs. Rosie: Fight Rehearsal — a behind the scenes look at the ultimate girl fight.
Two deleted scenes, one from The Tower is Tall But the Fall is Short and Complications.
Two deleted scenes, one each from Strange Things Happen at the One-Two Point and Earthlings Welcome Here.
Five deleted scenes split between parts 1 and 2 of Today is the Day.
Deconstructing the HUNTER KILLER Attack — a featurette detailing the Hunter Killer attack on the Connors, Weaver and Ellison fro Born to Run. The featurette is told through the POV of a Terminator with four separate screens you can toggle through — production, direction, special effects and visual effects — which run viewers through planning, pre-production, shoot prep, shoot day and post mortem.
The Continuing Chronicles: Terminator — Josh Friedman, John Wirth and James Middleton speak through each element with a rotation of cast and crew.
Write the Future: The Sarah Connor Chronicles — Josh Friedman, John Wirth and James Middleton talk about the creation of Season Two with a look inside the writers’ room with words from all the writers on the writing process.
Conceptualization: The Sarah Connor Chronicles – Special focus on Visual Effects Supervisor James Lima and the car crash from episode one, Samson and Delilah.
Blood and Metal: The Sarah Connor Chronicles — Special Makeup Effects Artist Robert Hall speaks on how to make the cyborgs of the Terminator world come to life on TV.
Designing Destruction: The Sarah Connor Chronicles — Production Designer Marek Dobrowolski speaks on the importance of set design in the second season..
Choreographing Chaos: The Sarah Connor Chronicles — Stunt Coordinator/2nd Unit Director Joel Kramer and Special Effects Supervisor Steve Galich talk about how together they create the visual frenzy that is an episode of Chronicles.
War Stories: The Sarah Connor Chronicles — A discussion of production difficulties from the elements needed to on-location shooting.
Setting the Tempo: The Sarah Connor Chronicles — Composer Bear McCreary walks viewers through the musical elements of the season accompanied by an unedited, a cappella glimpse of Shirley Manson recording episode one’s title track Samson and Delilah.
Motivations: The Sarah Connor Chronicles — Cast and crew talk about the impact of the season’s themes on the process of creation.
Commentary on Adam Raised a Cain with Executive Producers Josh Friedman, James Middleton and John Wirth and actors Thomas Dekker and Summer Glau
Commentary on Born to Run with Executive Producers Josh Friedman, James Middleton and John Wirth and actors Thomas Dekker and Summer Glau
Fans of the films and the first season will only be disappointed by the fact that there are no more episodes in the pipeline. Season two raises the stakes on all fronts. Newcomers should start at the beginning with season one as time travel is zany enough already without jumping in mid-stream. I always evaluate how well a set is put together by the special features and I loved how disc five takes you through all stages of production. I wish all features in all collections had the interactivity of the Hunter Killer featurette.
FINAL GRADE: A