Terminator: Dark Fate is the latest attempt to revitalize the Terminator franchise, but there's no sign of its key character, John Connor, and that could be because he's already dead. While the sixth Terminator film is bringing back stalwarts Linda Hamilton and Arnold Schwarzenegger as Sarah Connor and the T-800 respectively, in an effort to reclaim its former glory, John isn't going to feature.
Terminator 6 won't just be trading on the past, but will mix the old with the new: Hamilton and Schwarzenegger are back, but there'll also be a number of fresh faces, including Mackenzie Davis' Grace, a human-machine hybrid; Natalia Reyes' Dani Ramos, the new target for termination; and Gabriel Luna as Rev-9, a new, advanced version of the Terminator, which possesses the ability to split into two separate Terminators. It'll follow the events of The Terminator and T2: Judgment Day, with the next three movies, Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, Terminator Salvation, and Terminator Genisys all existing in "alternate universes."
The legacy-quel/reboot has proved popular in recent years, and James Cameron is hoping that's the case for Terminator, which hasn't fully managed to build upon the success of 1991's Judgment Day. The basic premise - saving someone from termination - is familiar, but it does beg the questions of just where John Connor is, and what has happened to him. And the answers may well be the reason Terminator 6 is called Dark Fate.
John Connor Isn't In Terminator: Dark Fate (That We Know Of)
Since making his debut in Terminator 2, John Connor has become a cornerstone of the franchise. Originally played by Edward Furlong, the role has since been filled by Nick Stahl, Christian Bale, and most recently Jason Clarke (among others). None of them, however, are taking on the role of an adult version of John in Terminator: Dark Fate, and, well, it doesn't appear that anybody is.
Although Jude Collie is rumored to be serving as the body double for a younger version of the character, which will then reportedly use CGI to add Furlong's facial likeness from 1991 for flashback scenes, there's been no casting for John in the present-day timeline of Dark Fate. Not only that, but there haven't been any rumors either. At this stage of production, it's likely something like that would've been revealed already - especially for a franchise that gave away its John Connor twist (he'd been turned into a Terminator) in the trailer for the last movie - so, for now, we can assume that there is no adult version of Connor in Dark Fate.
Sarah Connor's Mission In Terminator: Dark Fate Passes The Torch
After not featuring in Rise of the Machines or Salvation, the character of Sarah Connor returned in Terminator Genisys, this time being portrayed by Emilia Clarke (having previously been played by her Game of Thrones co-star, Lena Headey, in The Sarah Connor Chronicles). For Dark Fate, the original Sarah is back, and with a new mission.
The new Terminator, played by Luna, is sent from the future by Skynet in order to assassinate Dani. She'll already have protection in the form of Grace, but when they're struggling against Rev-9, Sarah will enter the field to help them both. We saw her entrance in the first Dark Fate teaser trailer, with Sarah stepping out of the van and blasting the hell out of the Terminator, in a way that had echoes of Han Solo helping out Rey and Finn in Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
That's important, because like then, it represents the old guard passing the torch to the new. In that same teaser, we hear Grace tell Dani: "We win by keeping you alive." It's the kind of message that would once have been said about John Connor. For reasons we don't yet know, Dani is the best hope for humanity against Skynet, thus essentially making her (or perhaps even her unborn child) this film's John and the future of the franchise.
Is John Connor Dead & No Longer The Future Resistance Leader?
So, we've got a new hope for the future. There's a new Terminator in town. Sarah Connor is back to help out, and so is Arnie's T-800. Again, then, the question comes up: where is John Connor? If there's someone else who is the new hope and being protected by Sarah, then that suggests he is no longer around or, in other words, he's already dead by the time this movie takes place (which is some 27 years after the events of Judgment Day).
It's possible that John has died at some point in those 27 years, a long enough period where various things could've happened to him, and there could even have been other attacks on humanity, like those seen in subsequent Terminator films, even if they're not part of this timeline. But there's also the possibility that John was actually killed at the end of T2. The whole franchise has seen a lot of meddling with time, and it's possible that in this version of the timeline, something went wrong, even if we didn't see it happen. That something went wrong, the T-800 ultimately failed, and John was killed.
This theory fits with two key aspects of Terminator: Dark Fate. The first is the rumored appearance of a young John Connor from the Terminator 2 days. We've seen that film, so what's the point of a flashback? What if it's to show John actually dies? The second is the title, Dark Fate, which might well be an allusion to the dark fate that befell this timeline because John died, and the need to prevent it from happening again. James Cameron has said that this will continue John's story, even if he himself doesn't appear, and him being dead and no longer the leader of the resistance, but others continuing to fight and a new savior emerging, fits with that.
John Connor's Importance Was Used Up
While John Connor's whereabouts are a big question mark hanging over Terminator 6, him not appearing actually makes sense in the context of the franchise as a whole, because he doesn't have any purpose left to serve.
John is mentioned in The Terminator, but he doesn't actually appear; it's very much Sarah's story. He's then the focal point of Terminator 2's plot, where he becomes a riff on the messiah figure (right down to the JC initials) as the heralded savior of humanity. In Rise of the Machines, it's pretty much the same thing again: John is the person chosen to stop Judgment Day from happening and bring salvation to humanity. In Salvation, there's still not much more to explore; this is a version of the character who is a soldier, he's older, battle-hardened, and mostly defined by how angry he is. The big twist comes in Genisys, but it carries little weight because of being spoiled in the trailer (and the movie itself being an absolute mess), and that itself was something once planned for the end of Terminator 4.
That's four films centered around John Connor in one way or another, and every possible angle has really been used up. With the focus now switching back to Sarah, the best thing they can do with John is have him be dead. That puts much more weight on Sarah's attempts to protect Dani, because she's already lost her son, and gives the T-800 a similar grounding in the story too. John may be the person who can save the world, but in T2, it's Sarah who is the far more interesting character. Letting her shine again is important for the success of Terminator: Dark Fate. If John is dead, it ensures that can happen, while also allowing the torch to be passed on as well.