The premiere episode of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles opens in the year 1999 with a big action scene which is glaringly obvious is a dream sequence about 2/3 of the way in. Sarah wakes up from the nightmare and my first thought was: Lame cop out.
The FBI is after Sarah Connor for her escape from the looney bin in Terminator 2 and because they believe she is responsible for the death of Miles Dyson, also from that film. Dyson was the guy who was responsible for Skynet, the computer system that brought nuclear armageddon upon humanity. It seems that his death only delayed the inevitable.
Regarding the timeline of this series: It seems to take place between T2 & T3.
Ok, before I rip into this thing, maybe I should list some positives about the episode so you don’t think I’m being a jerk just for fun. Was there anything good about the show?
Number one good thing: Summer Glau as the “good” Terminatrix. Summer is best known from her stint on the ill-fated Firefly TV series and the Serenity film based on the TV show. She has an otherworldly quality that is perfectly suited for this role. Also, having seen her kick major butt in Serenity makes it easy to buy her as a Terminator here.
Number two good thing: The visual effects. For a TV series I thought they were pretty impressive, in particular the scene at the end of the episode where the evil Terminator is trying to get into the bank vault where the good guys are hiding.
Number three good thing: By the end of the episode, it finally started to get just a bit more interesting in a twist that I did not see coming.
So after all that glowing praise, what was bad about the episode?
Pretty much everything else.
The dialog is unbelievably cheesy. Both the opening and closing monologues by Sarah are way, WAY over the top melodramatic. And I felt genuinely sorry for the actress playing Sarah who had to deliver lines like the following:
In a scene where she decides they’ve stayed put too long and have to leave immediately:
“Half an hour. One bag. Plus the guns – I’ll make pancakes.”
In a later scene where Glau is repairing herself after being shot and is shirtless with John in the same room but around the corner:
You might want to holster those.
Guess what “those” are.
I mean, seriously, if writers want to negotiate for more money they’d better do better than that.
Ok, bad dialog, big deal you say? Well in addition there were more plot holes in this thing than those in a piece of swiss cheese.
If they want to “stay off the grid” why aren’t they living in Mexico or some other more low-tech hiding place than in the U.S.?
Why in God’s name did they pick “Reese” (the name of the soldier sent back in time in the first Terminator movie and John Connor’s father) as their cover name? I mean all the Terminator had to do to pick out John from a class full of high schoolers was run his finger down the attendance sheet for crying out loud.
Why does the Terminator spout off with witty quips? Yes, Ahnuld did that in the first film with his F*** you, a**hole, but it worked in context. Hearing a Terminator as a substitute teacher say “class dismissed” after riddling it with bullets just seemed completely out of place. The former line was dealing with someone and trying to get rid of them where the latter was thrown out like something Spider-man would say after catching the bad guy.
It was completely obvious that a silhouetted person who comes into the room where the bad guy is holding Sarah and mimicking her voice is NOT John even though the person is speaking in HIS voice. Ohhh… the good Terminator is turning the bad Terminator’s own trick against him. (Viewer slaps forehead in amazement.)
Also, in this world a La-Z-Boy chair will stop 9MM bullets. Really. I ran it back and replayed it on my Tivo to be sure that the bullets didn’t in fact go through and bounce off the wall and Sarah was just ducking down low. Nope. The old stuffed chair stopped those bullets cold. I guess they used to build tougher furniture than they do these days.
Oh and one Terminator can electrocute another with a high voltage cable while touching him but not get electrocuted themselves.
They did throw in the “Come with me if you want to live” line, so I guess that counts for something.
Back to the story: Sarah and John are on the run and have been for about five years since the events of T2. There is an FBI agent pursuing them that while initially doubtful about her whole story, begins to get his first whiff of becoming convinced when a room full of high school students witnesses “a guy with robot leg” shooting up a classroom.
At the very end of the episode (and I’m not really clear on how they managed this) the female terminator had stored in a safety deposit box at a bank not only a weapon that could blow the head off a Terminator, but one of those time travel devices that send people through time naked in a big glowy sphere.
They arrive in present day (2007) in the last two minutes of the episode, where Sarah’s brief fiancee from the beginning of the episode and the FBI agent see her on the news after being missing for 8 years.
I may give Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles one more hour of my life tomorrow night to see if it improves at all – but I’m not very hopeful.