FROM JASON AND ANDREW’S ROBOT PROTECTORS — We composed a little letter to the executives over at Fox after watching Sunday’s premier of its new Terminator drama. It’s not Shakespeare, but it should get the point across.
This is just a warning. If you pull the same hijinx with “Sarah Connor Chronicles” that you did with “Firefly,” we’re going to rip your balls off. Really. We’re not kidding. We know where you sleep.
P.S. — You’re being watched.
I’ll admit it: I saw Terminator 2: Judgment Day long before I saw Terminator. They’re very different movies. James Cameron’s 1984 original is a tense thriller but the 1991 follow-up was a popcorn blockbuster.
The pilot seems to hint that Fox’s spin-off series is a hybrid, though it leaned toward Judgment Day territory a bit more (which makes sense, considering the timeline and the importance of John Connor to the story).
Sarah Connor (played by Lena Headey — the queen from The 300) is on the run in rural New Mexico with her son and living off the grid after the events of Terminator 2. Director David Nutter and his writers have chosen to ignore the mess that was T3 altogether.
Sarah’s being pursued by a government agent who thinks she’s a danger to society, which gives the show a bit of a Prison Break feel. I predict that after at least a season of hunter-and-hunted action, the Javert archetype will be brought around to the Connors’ way of thinking. That’s just speculation, though.
It’s 1999, and Skynet has yet to be born — but that’s not stopping it from throwing Terminators into the past to try to assassinate Sarah and John. This time they’re not shaped like Arnold (I was hoping he’d take time off from governating to do a cameo), but sleeker and smaller. There’s also no evidence that this Terminator can go all Robert Patrick mimetic-metal on us.
Forget sensitivity about school shootings. It doesn’t take long for a Terminator to pose as a substitute teacher and corner John. He takes attendance to verify that John is in class, then pulls a gun and starts firing. A classmate, Cameron (Summer Glau) gets plugged twice in the chest.
At this point, Andrew and I feel compelled to observe that Glau has grown up a little bit since playing River on Firefly (does anybody else think she looks like Winnie Cooper?). Her character’s name in the show is also Cameron — a tribute to the series’ progenitor. That’s the first of several callbacks to films, (there are also several variations on “I’ll be back”).
We’re smart enough to know that Fox isn’t going to kill off a geek-cred name like Glau in the first 20 minutes, so it’s not surprising that she lives. What caught us off guard (it took Andrew a few minutes to put two and two together) was when she flattened the Terminator with a pick-up truck, threw open the door, and shouted at John, “Come with me if you want to live.”
That’s when we started cheering. We didn’t stop for the rest of the show — namely because the writers were pretty slick about defying our expectations and avoiding the typical Terminator formula.
It turns out that Cameron is a friendly Terminator (spoilers, lol) and will act as John’s protector and guide. Skynet will go active on April 19, 2011, followed two days later by Armageddon unless the Connorseseses can do something to stop it.
So we expect the mother and her messiah son to run, to be chased, to fight back. We didn’t expect the little bit of time travel that took a sturdy show and turned it into hyper-awesome-must-watch TV.
Cameron leads the Connors to a bank vault — one that’s been specially modified by engineers from the future. It’s fitted with a device that counter-intuitively throws them forward in time to 2007 where Cameron says Skynet “all starts.” They land in the middle of the road and in the classic Terminator trope — buck nekid.
Yes, we’ll definitely be watching part two of the premier Monday (Jan. 14) at 9 p.m. Unless the writers do something horrible to screw this up — like using gobs of crappy CG instead of makeup effects, or doing a Terminator-of-the-week — we’re going to be parked in front of the television every Monday night.
That is, at least until the 12 episodes made so far run out. Unless the writer’s strike is resolved before then, Sarah Connor Chronicles might become another sci-fi television martyr.