Who Is Carl? Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Terminator: Dark Fate Character Explained

Terminator: Dark Fate features the return of Arnold Schwarzenegger, a franchise alum, as new robot Carl. Carl will be pivotal to the Dark Fate plot as he helps Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton, also a returning alum), Grace (Mackenzie Davis), and Dani (newcomer Natalia Reyes) escape Skynet's grasp.

This will be Schwarzenegger's fifth time playing a T-800 model (or similar) sent back from 2029 to either destroy or protect Sarah Connor and those she loves. It's no surprise he's returned for this new Terminator installment — the very first film, directed by James Cameron and released in 1984 — helped shoot Schwarzenegger to stardom as an action hero. Since then, he's been game to reprise his role as the Terminator, appearing in different iterations across the franchise. Even though slight tweaks to the parameters of the Terminator's personality have been made over the years, one thing has remained the same: he's a formidable foe and an invaluable ally.

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Related: What Edward Furlong Has Done Since Terminator 2: Judgment Day

In addition to the trailer released back in May, new Dark Fate footage was shown at San Diego Comic-Con 2019 which helped give fans a taste of what to expect. At the center of the new footage was Sarah Connor, but it also provided a better insight into Carl's arc, including how he's brought into the action and his relationships with each of the women leading the film. Based on this footage and the trailer, here's what we know about Schwarzenegger's Carl in Terminator: Dark Fate

Where Does Carl Come From In Terminator: Dark Fate?

Schwarzenegger is reprising his role as a Terminator with one noticeable update: he’s now named Carl. From what these early pieces footage have indicated, this version of the Terminator has integrated into society to some degree, although living in a cabin in the woods suggests he’s either hiding out or biding his time for a big event. Taking on the name “Carl” is further evidence of a desire to assimilate and suggests possible upgrades to the Terminator’s hardware to allow for empathy, humanity, and the like. It’s not the first time the T-800 has taken on a more human name (he went by “Pops” in Terminator: Genisys, although Dark Fate won’t recognize that film’s events as canon), but it’s certainly the name most dissimilar to his look and his personality that he could have chosen.

What’s really tough to know — and what we’re keen to find out — is where Carl has come from, and for what purpose. Is Dark Fate planning to retcon the Terminator’s Judgment Day fate (wherein he was melted down in a vat of molten steel) or simply introduce Carl as a new Terminator who is meant to look like an older version of the one fans have known for years (which would accommodate Schwarzenegger’s aging more than anything else)?

Theory: Terminator 6 Will Retcon T2: Judgment Day

Carl Now Sells Draperies (Apparently)

In the above photo, it looks like how Carl has survived for the last 34 years by finding a new day job in addition to killing Skynet machines. The photo shows a white van with "Carl's Draperies" painted on the side and a phone number to call if you're interested in Carl's work. Sure, there's the off-chance the van is just a cover so Carl can haul around his weapons and take out any unwanted machines he crosses paths with. But remember: Dark Fate is directed by the same guy who directed Deadpool, so a little humor here and there would make total sense. Seeing a Terminator who has not only been reprogrammed to protect but now also makes and/or sells draperies for a living is a pretty amusing turn of events.

Carl Is Protecting Dani in Terminator: Dark Fate

The new footage show during the Terminator: Dark Fate panel at SDCC 2019 included a moment between Carl and Dani. During the sequence, Sarah Connor, Grace, and Dani show up at Carl's cabin in the woods ostensibly looking for a place to hide out and regroup while also trying to recruit an ally. After the introductions, the next scene features Carl showing Dani how to shoot a gun. It's unclear if Carl has been programmed to protect Dani or if he is exhibiting some form of emotional evolution (as much as a T-800 can exhibit) where he is compelled to help her. Whatever the reason, the chances of Dani surviving have just increased with the firepower and know-how of Carl at her disposal.

It's also no surprise Carl will want to protect Dani, a mirror in many ways to the T-800's relationship with John Connor. Both are young adults with the weight of the world foisted on them thanks to the revelation they're a future key figure in defeating Skynet. It's still unclear how exactly Dani fits into this Dark Fate puzzle and if she'll have the exact same function as Sarah Connor in The Terminator (Sarah mentions in the trailer she wants to keep Dani alive because she used to be her). For now, all that is known is Carl is on the same page as Sarah and Grace: protect Dani at all costs.

Sarah Connor Wants To Kill Carl - But He Saves Her Life

Terminator Dark Fate Sarah Connor Linda Hamilton

The T-800 model and Sarah have lots of history and it can't just be shelved; Dark Fate is going to deal with it head-on. In the same clip reel shown at SDCC 2019, one thing is made very clear: Sarah doesn't trust Carl. The footage shows Sarah turning to Carl when they arrive at his cabin, telling him, "I'm never going to f*cking call you Carl," before going inside. At a separate point in the new footage, Sarah is seen telling Carl she is going to kill him when all is said and done. Carl acknowledges her statement, telling her he's okay with that. In a final scene from the preview, Carl steps in front of Sarah to protect her from being shot while Sarah is somewhat annoyed by his actions.

Sarah has years of trauma she likely needs to process and has never really had the time to do it. Expecting her to be as trusting of Carl as Grace and Dani will be unreasonable. That's especially true given the unknown status of John Connor; it's possible something has happened to him that Sarah blames Carl for. Sarah's distrust of machines is warranted; there's not one she's come up against in 30-plus years aside from the T-800 who hasn't posed a serious threat — an attitude she exhibits toward Grace, the half-human, half-machine protector of Dani.

Sarah and Carl's relationship will likely become one of the focal points of Terminator: Dark Fate; regardless of Carl's past, there's so much history on Sarah's part. Whether Carl will meet his end at the hands of Sarah or the pair can find a way to reconcile is a question Terminator: Dark Fate hopefully answers.

Next: Biggest News From SDCC 2019

Key Release Dates
  • Terminator: Dark Fate (2019) release date: Nov 01, 2019
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