Season finale: Terminator – The Sarah Connor Chronicles

The end of days


The thing about the writers’ strike is that shows are ending before their naturally allotted time.

Sometimes, the show runners prepared for it and the series ended on a relative high (for example, Heroes).

Sometimes, the show runners were unprepared for it and the series just stopped (for example, Las Vegas, Bionic Woman), although that usually coincided with the series being cancelled (cf Las Vegas, Bionic Woman).

And sometimes the show runners were prepared for it and the show tried to go out on a high, but failed. I’m thinking of Terminator – The Sarah Connor Chronicles here.

The show has more or less petered along as live-action fan fic for most of its run. Very little new has been introduced that wasn’t already in Terminator and Terminator 2. And its mined an odd niche of pretension for a show that’s about robots from the future coming to assassinate a future leader.

Problematically, its budget has been too low for the show to do much. Case in point was Monday’s finale, which tied off a few plot threads nicely, left a few more open as cliffhangers and tried to rouse us all with a great big shootout.

Actually, that’s a lie. Because what should have been the biggest, coolest shootout in a very long time, was almost laughable as an FBI SWAT team go flying through the air at the hands of a Terminator to a country music soundtrack. No special effects, no shooting. Very cheap and very poor.

While to an extent the producers have been doing their best with the resources provided for them, spinning a character piece out of the various elements, it’s mostly been with characters we don’t care about. Am I supposed to worry if a perpetually vacant, open-mouthed pixiebot can’t deal with people well or might be killed? I think not.

Oddly, I’ve cared more for the Terminator enemy (Garret Dillahunt), the FBI agent chasing the heroes (Richard T Jones) and their morally ambiguous aide, Derek (Brian Austin Green) than I ever did about Sarah, Cameron and John. 

There are the germs of some good themes: can you trust a machine?; what lengths can good people go to to stop bad things happening?; if you fight robots, do you become like a robot?; to what degree can robots be like humans? And so on.

But they’ve all been handled relatively badly so far, never quite taking off. I imagine that with a full run of episodes, the themes could have been expanded on. Equally, if they’d spent less time letting Sarah quote from Lord of the Files in voiceover, they might have been able to get there a lot quicker.

Bar the silly shoot-out, it wasn’t a bad finale. Quite good in some ways. The Sarah-John stuff was poor,and  Cameron was a daft as usual (willing to kill a guy for looking the wrong way for a millisecond, but unable to recognise the fact that a known bad guy walking past probably isn’t a good thing). And there were enough unexpected twists and turns to make you feel like the rug really was being pulled out from underneath you at times.

I’ve made it this far and I’m still intrigued enough, being a Terminator fanboy, to stick with it if it gets renewed. All the same, it will need to get to the point a lot quicker and Fox needs to give it a better budget if it’s going to fulfil any kind of potential.

Tension: 7/10

  • I think we can forget about a bigger budget should the show come back – and I hope it does. FOX has never been very good at trusting its sci-fi shows and I think they’ve been cursed since they cancelled ‘Alien Nation’ after one season.
    Unlike you, Rob, I liked the big shoot-out scene for exactly the reason that we didn’t get a big shoot-out scene. Maybe it was done due to budgetary restraints, but I still thought it worked better to have it take place in my imagination. (Don’t go in there – it is a scary place….)
    And the use of the Johnny Cash song, which has always given me the willies, was inspired. Something totally unexpected given the setting and yet I thought it was perfect.
    My favorite scene was when Derek took John out for ice cream on his birthday. The chance for John to meet his father was sweet and it ranked up there in great sci-fi TV moments for me.
    Like I said, I hope it comes back, I hope it does get a bigger budget, but if this was going to be the big finale, I can live with that too. I think it went out with a decent cliff-hanger that felt like the end as well.

  • I think there’s a difference between choosing not to show something and leaving it to the imagination (à la Hitchcock) versus putting on a comedy soundtrack over a mildly comedic alternative. Sorry, Jonny Cash may have been the Man in Black, but he’s no Terminator in the willies stakes.
    PS Watch the spoilerinis, Tobes! The finale doesn’t air in the UK for about five weeks, I think.
    PPS I miss Alien Nation. That was good fun.

  • Sorry, Rob. I keep forgetting that you’ve got some kind of “in” to see this stuff before everybody else over there.
    I guess I can’t go back in and fix that?
    Keep moving, folks! There’s nothing to see here!