Sarah Connor Chronicles season finale leaves plot open — but will Fox can it?

March 3, 2008

cameron.jpgFROM JASON’S INNER ROBOT — So the big cliff-hanger: Was Cameron (Summer Glau) ‘sploded? The season finale of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles was left wide open, which means that at least the writers are expecting to be back next season.

Be warned: If Fox goes all Firefly on me on this one, I shall be very put out.

The 2-hour finale (which was really just episodes 8 and 9 shown back-to-back) introduced new characters and new intrigue. Who has The Turk? Why did Cromartie kill all the FBI agents but blatantly leave Ellison alive? Will Cameron live?

At least it put one fear to rest. Episodes 7 and 8 were kind of hinting that Derek Reese might be a terminator sent to infiltrate the Connor gang, gain their trust, and then go boom. A scene in which Derek and John see Derek and Kyle as children pretty much negates that.

For those who have missed so far:
John Connor from 2027 has sent back Cameron — a Terminator — to protect himself as a boy in the 90s. She helps John and his mother, Sarah Connor, jump forward in time to 2007, where they can start hunting down the people who make Skynet happen.

That means destroying The Turk, a chess-playing computer that ultimately becomes Skynet’s brain. It also means taking out subsystems that will be used to help awaken Skynet — like a massive traffic control AI that will one day serve as Skynet’s eyes and ears.

Yeah. It’s complicated. 

Unfortunately, the Connors et al are being hunted by a Terminator agent named Cromartie and a detective named Ellison. Fox’s website has already blown a plot element by saying Ellison will eventually become the Connors’ ally, and the finale confirmed that.

In the final half of episode 9, Ellison discovered Cromartie was posing as an FBI agent and took a squad to arrest him. Cromartie decimated the heavily-armed agents in an incredibly beautiful scene shown from underwater as they landed one by one in a pool bleeding ribbons of red. For some unknown reason — and this is really bothering me — Cromartie quite deliberately decided to let Ellison be the single survivor.

So the story isn’t over, but that doesn’t mean Fox won’t can the series. Once again, Glau and company might not get a chance to say “I’ll be back,” thanks to flagging ratings.

Season one was originally supposed to be 13 episodes but was cut to 9 because of the writer’s strike. The January premier grabbed 18 million viewers but last week that had fallen to just 7 million (according to Nielsen ratings — and I’m not sure whether that gauges iTunes downloads).

Maybe the problem is the show’s title, which insists the show is about Sarah. But at this point I have far more sympathy for Cameron that anyone else, with John Connor coming in a middling second. Sarah is too cold, in many ways more robotically one-minded than her son’s metallic protector.

Another issue: I worry the plot might be too difficult for casual fans to follow. Yay, elitism! But mix computer jargon with time travel, multiple timelines, flashbacks, a large cast of characters, and a host of rabbit-run sub-plots, and you’re bound to lose viewers. At least the writers like to tie up loose ends on a regular basis instead of pulling a Lost.

So will there be more? I really, really hope so.

It’s not as though the franchise doesn’t have fans. Studios are still willing to invest in the Terminator mythos — Sony’s recently purchased the rights to a fourth Terminator film starring Christian “I Resurrected Batman” Bale as John Connor. Warner Bros. will release the movie in May 2009 with the title Terminator Salvation: The Future Begins.

Music Monday: The Crystal Method

March 3, 2008

crystal_method.jpgFROM JASON’S DRIVING PLAYLIST — Normally on Mondays I post two songs that show somewhat disparate styles. But while scrolling through my iTunes library late last night and trading links with Andrew, I ran across The Crystal Method and got into a groove. I decided it was time to bow at the altar of Ken Jordan and Scott Kirkland.

I love electronica — as long as it stays dynamic. When it starts looping endlessly or is too focused on the beat, I lose interest. That’s why I hate the idea of hearing The Crystal Method, The Chemical Brothers, or The Prodigy in any kind of club. I’d much rather hear it in the context of a soundtrack where it’s used to move a plot.

That said, I don’t like the majority of The Crystal Method’s music. I like it when they keep songs short, intense, and multi-layered with five or six ideas, then wrap it up.

And that’s what makes these three such great songs, and why I get pumped listening to them in my car:

1. The Crystal Method — Born Too Slow     

All the TCM videos I’ve seen are a weird fusion of comedy and symbolism. I watched this one about three times today trying to figure out what it’s saying. It’s directed by Gore Verbinski — director of The Ring and the Pirates of the Caribbean movies — and it’s laced with references to autonomy. In a lot of ways, the main character reminds me of Dr. Manhattan from Watchmen. Not only is he blue, bald, and naked, but he’s examining his surroundings, moving unhaltingly through a foreign environment, trying to relate to others, and effortlessly reshaping the physical structures around him. But he is artificial and seems to be a projection of some sort (maybe a shadow of a man trying to understand man). Deep.

2. The Crystal Method — Name of the Game

The first time I watched this video, I thought the protagonist was just overcompensating for his huge, obvious facial flaw. I’m not so sure after thinking about it. I’ve seen enough episodes of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit to know that when someone is depicted with no eyes and no mouth, it means they feel powerless. That seems suited for a song that’s “callin’ all freaks.”

3. The Crystal Method — Murder

Another complicated story video: This time a man tries to romance a blow-up sex doll that has a decided The Scream expression on her face. Our main character carries a velvet-lined box that I couldn’t help thinking was an homage to Seven, and early in the video the doll (maybe fearing it will be decapitated?) magically flees the house — leaving behind an empty rocking chair facing a window (which seemed like a Psycho reference to me). Maybe I’m reading way too much into that. But by the end of the video we have the doll dropping a bowling ball on her pursuer’s head, and then she’s back in a shop window looking for another victim. Are they trying to say that fake people are the most dangerous sort? I think so.