Warning: SPOILERS ahead for Terminator: Dark Fate.
Terminator: Dark Fate starts the franchise's timeline anew from the end of Terminator 2: Judgment Day, packing its runtime with quite a few twists and surprises. Linda Hamilton returns as Sarah Connor, and Arnold Schwarzenegger is also back as the Terminator (though he's not quite the same Terminator we met before). Thanks to the magic of CGI, Dark Fate also brings back Edward Furlong's young John Connor from Judgment Day.
Directed by Tim Miller (Deadpool), Terminator: Dark Fate is the first of the post-Terminator 2 sequels to be produced by James Cameron, who directed the iconic first two entries. Since the release of Terminator 2 in 1991 there have been two sequels (Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines and Terminator: Salvation) and one attempted reboot (Terminator: Genisys), with reviews for each getting progressively worse. In a similar spirit to the recent partial reboot of the Halloween franchise, Dark Fate ignores those movies and imagines a new storyline for Sarah Connor after the end of Terminator 2.
In this future, Skynet's global takeover and slaughter of billions doesn't come to pass, but humanity still ends up fighting for its survival in a post-apocalyptic wasteland populated by machines. To ensure that hope persists, a cybernetically-enhanced human called Grace is sent back in time from the year 2042 to protect a young woman called Dani, who is being targeted by a new kind of Terminator called the Rev-9. Why is Dani so important? Let's break down the big spoilers for Terminator: Dark Fate.
John Connor Was Killed By Another T-800 In 1998
After the T-1000 was melted down and Skynet was stopped, Sarah and John Connor went on the run, since Sarah was wanted as a terrorist and she was afraid that Skynet might still find a way to kill John. Her fears proved to be well-founded. At the start of Terminator: Dark Fate, Sarah and John are on a beach in Guatemala in 1998, three years after the events of Terminator 2. Another T-800 approaches and kills John with a shotgun while Sarah's guard is down, then walks away as she grieves over the body of her son. It's revealed that Skynet sent more Terminators back in time and, even though the future they were sent from no longer exists, the Terminators are still driven to carry out their mission.
The T-800 Who Killed John Becomes Carl, Who Has a Family
After completing its mission, and without a future to return to, the T-800 that killed John was at a loose end - which is when his capacity to learn kicked in. He met a woman called Alicia, who was trying to escape an abusive husband, and her small son, Mateo. He adopted Alicia and Mateo as his new family, but never told them his true nature, instead taking the human name Carl and starting a drapery business in Laredo, Texas. By helping Alicia and Mateo, Carl developed something resembling a conscience, learning to value human life and in turn realizing what a terrible thing he had done by killing John Connor. And so, he set out to try and make amends.
Sarah Connor is Given Terminator Locations (By Carl)
When Grace and Dani are attacked by the Rev-9 on a highway, an unlikely ally shows up: Sarah Connor. Asked how she knew when and where to show up, Sarah explains that since John's death she has been receiving text messages from an unknown number with times and coordinates, along with the message, "For John." These times and coordinates lead her to encounter Terminators that have been sent back in time, and for more than two decades she has been hunting and destroying these Terminators. Grace uses her hacking abilities to find the source of the text messages, and discovers that it matches coordinates that have been tattooed on her body, with the instructions to go to those coordinates if she needs help. This leads them to Laredo, Texas, where Carl reveals that he has been sending the texts in order to give Sarah a new purpose in life after her son's death.
The Rev-9 Kills Dani's Father and Brother
Just as John Connor lost his foster parents to the T-1000 in Terminator 2: Judgment Day, so too does Dani lose her father and brother to the Rev-9. The machine materializes at Dani's apartment building in Mexico City, and tells her father than he is a friend of hers and is looking for her. However, Dani's father is suspicious when the Rev-9 calls her "Daniella" instead of Dani. The Rev-9 then disguises itself as Dani's father to go looking for her at the factory where she works, something that it can only do after killing a person. Dani and her brother Diego escape, with a little help from Grace, but during a highway chase Grace deflects a metal pole thrown at Dani, and it hits Diego instead. He is impaled and trapped in his seat, and is killed when the Rev-9 plows into the truck, resulting in a massive explosion.
Grace Liberates A Detention Camp on the Mexican Border
After discovering the coordinates for Carl's home in Texas, the trio face the challenge of crossing the US-Mexico border with a Mexican national and Sarah Connor, who is one of America's most wanted criminals. Dani's uncle, a coyote, helps them to reach the border, but the Rev-9 has infiltrated the United States Border Patrol and issues an order to apprehend them on the other side of the wall. After the Rev-9 tries and fails to kill Dani by crashing a USBP spy drone, the three are taken to a border detention camp. Grace, injured by the explosion, wakes up while doctors are working on her and breaks free. She manages to find Dani before the Rev-9 does and causes chaos by opening all of the cages in the camp - inadvertently freeing a great number of captured immigrants.
Carl Joins The Fight Against The Rev-9
When you're fighting a Terminator, it's always helpful to have another Terminator on your side. After Sarah, Grace and Dani track him down, Carl offers to help them defeat the Rev-9, starting by giving them access to his large arsenal of weapons. They come up with a plan to create a killbox, use Dani as bait to draw the Rev-9 in, and use every weapon at their disposal to destroy the machine. However, since it's clear that guns and grenade launchers aren't going to do much more than slow the Rev-9 down, Carl offers to come with them to meet Sarah's contact and collect an EMP bomb. He even lets them use his Carl's Draperies van. Sarah is still angry about Carl murdering her son, but she promises not to kill him until he's outlived his usefulness.
There's A New Dark Future, With Legion Instead of Skynet
It turns out that even if you can stop humanity from manufacturing its own doom with one militarized artificial intelligence, people will just go ahead and make another one. Skynet was destroyed during Terminator 2: Judgment Day, but in the future that Grace and the Rev-9 come from an AI called Legion, designed for cyberwarfare, rose up and launched a nuclear holocaust. After the initial massacre the machines began hunting down survivors, but a human resistance rose up and formed an army to fight back. In the future sequences we see terrifying new models of killing machines with bladed limbs, and Grace is badly wounded during an attack by these Terminators. Before she loses consciousness, she volunteers to be enhanced - which is how she ends up becoming part-machine herself.
Dani Is The Resistance Leader, Not The Mother Of One
When Sarah Connor learns that Grace has been sent back in time to protect Dani, and the Rev-9 has been sent back to kill her, she assumes that it's for the same reason she was targeted in The Terminator: to stop her from giving birth to the future leader of the human resistance. Grace doesn't deny this at first, but towards the end of the movie she reveals that Dani isn't the mother of the new John Connor; she is the new John Connor. When Grace was an orphaned teenager living in the rubble of the post-apocalyptic world, Dani saved her from a group of bandits and then recruited both Grace and the bandits to join her growing army. Before she came along, humanity was disorganized and people were preying on each other - which is the kind of future that Legion wants to secure by killing Dani before she can command her army.
Carl & Grace Sacrifice Themselves to Defeat the Rev-9
The Rev-9 isn't an easy enemy to defeat. It has a near-invincible endoskeleton and a liquid metal covering that can separate from the frame, allowing it to attack on two fronts. Sarah Connor manages to get her hands on an EMP bomb, one of the few things that can stop it, but the bomb is damaged in a firefight. After Grace is mortally wounded, she tells Dani to remove her power source, which is also capable of emitting an EMP blast. Dani does so, and Grace dies - sacrificing her life to help destroy the Terminator. After Dani stabs the Rev-9 in the eye with Grace's power source, a badly damaged Carl drags the more advanced Terminator into a pit, getting it a safe distance away from Dani. The EMP device then kills both the Rev-9 and Carl, reducing them to melted metal skeletons. Carl's final words are, "For John."
Dani & Sarah Team Up To Fight The Future
With the immediate danger gone, Sarah and Dani are left to face the future with the knowledge of what's still to come. Unlike in Terminator 2: Judgment Day, the AI that causes the terrible future hasn't been destroyed yet, so the apocalypse is still coming. At the end of Terminator: Dark Fate, Sarah and Dani are seen watching a young Grace with her family, and Dani says she is determined to find a way to save Grace's life. This sets up a potential sequel in which Sarah and Dani track down the source of Legion and destroy it like Skynet was destroyed - or else, simply prepare for the dark future that they know is coming, and fight back harder and earlier than before.
- Terminator: Dark Fate (2019) release date: Nov 01, 2019