Warning: SPOILERS for Terminator: Dark Fate.
Here are our biggest unanswered questions about Terminator: Dark Fate. Considered to be a return to form for the franchise, at least creatively if not at the box office, the sixth Terminator movie benefits from the return of creator James Cameron as a producer. Directed by Tim Miller (Deadpool), Terminator: Dark Fate reunites franchise icons Arnold Schwarzenegger and Linda Hamilton to join new heroes Grace (Mackenzie Davis) and Dani Ramos (Natalia Reyes) as they face the newest and deadliest Terminator, the Rev-9 (Diego Luna).
Terminator: Dark Fate rehashes the basic story of the first two Terminator movies with a few twists thrown in. This time, instead of Skynet, the new A.I. enemy in the post-apocalyptic future of 2042 is called Legion and it sent the Rev-9 back in time to kill Dani, a young Mexican woman who plays a pivotal role against Legion. The human resistance sends a lone warrior named Grace to protect Dani and Grace is up to the task because she's an augmented human with cybernetic enhancements. As Grace and Dani fight for the future Grace knows, their paths intersect with Sarah Connor, who is still fighting Terminators sent by the Skynet in the future she and her son John Connor (Edward Furlong) prevented in Terminator 2: Judgment Day. Finally, with the Rev-9 closing in, the heroes turn to Carl (Schwarzenegger), a Terminator who has been living among humans for two decades.
Officially, the new sequel to T2, Terminator: Dark Fate replaces Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines as the third film of the franchise (even though it's actually Terminator 6) and it also wipes T3, Terminator Salvation, and Terminator Genisys from canon. But, while Terminator: Dark Fate doesn't turn the timeline into a bewildering mess like Terminator Genisys did, Cameron and Miller's collaboration still left behind a slew of confusing, half-realized plot points in its zeal to evoke the Terminator movies' past glory. These are the 10 biggest questions Terminator: Dark Fate left us wondering about.
10. How Did Sarah Connor Kill Terminators All By Herself For 22 Years?
After the Terminator who would one day name himself Carl killed John Connor in a Guatemalan beach in 1998, Sarah Connor spent the next 22 years hunting Terminators. By this point, most of her allies like Kyle Reese, John's T-800 in Terminator 2, and John himself are dead so Sarah carried on and went about a new mission to destroy the Terminators that kept popping up in the world. But, even though Sarah is a skilled warrior, how did she manage to accomplish this all by herself?
In T2, Sarah panicked to John about "how hard it is to kill one of those [Terminators]". Dark Fate wants fans to believe that over the course of 22 years, Sarah got extremely skilled at doing just that without any help. Presumably, Sarah exploited her one advantage in each scenario: she knew the arrival point of each new Terminator so she could ambush and destroy it before it knew what was happening. Otherwise, as Sarah got older, she would have been more and more outmatched by the Terminators, especially if Skynet sent more T-1000s. But considering how hard indeed it was to kill Terminators in the first two films, and again when she faced the Rev-9 in Terminator: Dark Fate with plenty of help, Sarah not only surviving fighting Terminators for 22 years but being successful doing it all alone is a little hard to believe.
9. If T2 Stopped Judgment Day, How Did Skynet Keep Sending Terminators After John Connor?
This is a confusing point in Terminator: Dark Fate but here is how this conundrum works: John and Sarah did indeed prevent Judgment Day from happening in T2. So, the apocalyptic future that began on August 29, 1997 didn't happen. However, Terminator: Dark Fate now establishes that before its future was changed, Skynet sent more than just the two Terminators fans saw in the first two films, the T-800 in The Terminator and the T-1000 in T2. (The 'good' T-800 in T2 was sent by John Connor to protect his 12-year-old self.)
The key point is that John and Sarah didn't know Skynet sent multiple Terminators to multiple points in its past (John and Sarah's future) in order to kill John. The Terminator that accomplished the mission killed John in Guatemala in 1998. But the other Terminators were still en route to kill John if that Terminator failed. So, in 2029, before John and Sarah changed the future, Skynet had foreknowledge of John's whereabouts in the years between T2 and 2029 and sent Terminators to locations it knew John would be. Those were the same locations Sarah would appear at to destroy the Terminators as they popped up - and those Terminators still arrived in the world even though the future they were sent from was changed. Yes, it's confusing, but that's Terminator for you.
8. Why Did Carl Only Send Sarah Terminator Coordinates?
As Carl described his life after killing John Connor, once he completed his mission, he was free to determine his own destiny since Skynet was gone. As Carl began to interact with people and slowly tried to become a person himself - meeting a woman named Alicia (Alicia Borrachero) and helping raise her son Mateo (Manuel Pacific) - Carl began to feel remorse for killing John Connor, so he decided to start covertly helping Sarah: Carl would clandestinely text her the coordinates of when more Terminators sent by Skynet would arrive so she could destroy them. (This means the Terminators were equipped with each others' time travel dates and locations, or at least Carl was).
But what's strange is that Carl chose not to help Sarah hunt down those newly-arrived Terminators. Perhaps Carl stayed away because he assumed (correctly) that Sarah would also try to terminate him. But why would Carl assume Sarah would survive fighting Terminators alone? Further, how did Carl know Sarah survived each encounter so that he'd text her a new Terminator location? (For the latter point, it's possible Carl had no way to know if Sarah was still alive and just kept texting her coordinates blindly.)
7. Why, Of All Possible Professions, Does Carl Sell Drapes?
Carl is arguably the most interesting character in Terminator: Dark Fate because it allows the film to (briefly) explore what a Terminator does after it completes its mission and finds it has a very long life ahead of him. Just like John's Terminator in T2, the different T-800 who killed John learned the value of human life, decided to try to become a person himself, took the name Carl (no last name?), and lived like a human with a family. Carl even got a job, but why would he choose to sell drapes of all things? Carl's neural net processor could have learned the stock market and made a fortune or he could have built new technologies. Essentially, the Terminator could have applied itself to all kinds of professions but why pick something as mundane as selling drapes?
6. How Could Carl's Family Not Realize He Isn't Human?
The way he described it, Carl's domestic arrangement is... unusual. Somehow his wife and adopted son don't know he's a machine (not that there's a believable way for Carl to explain he's a Terminator sent back by an artificial intelligence in post-apocalyptic 2029 to kill a teenage boy). But still, Carl doesn't quite blend in as a real person and his family must have noticed things like Carl's incredible strength, the fact that he never gets sick, and his general weirdness. Carl even went on to explain that he and Alicia have a platonic marriage, but it seemed like the more Terminator: Dark Fate tried to explain Carl, the less he makes sense under scrutiny.
5. Why Doesn't Carl's Dog Bark At Him?
Dogs being able to detect Terminators (and hating the cyborgs) have been depicted throughout the franchise. This continued in Dark Fate when Dani's dog Taco barked when the Rev-9 came to her apartment and spoke to her dad, who it then murdered and took the place of. Though it was kept off-screen, presumably the Rev-9 also killed Taco. (In a Terminator 2 deleted scene, the T-1000 killed John Connor's barking dog.) But somehow, Carl has the only dog in a Terminator movie who doesn't bark at a cyborg. It's not clear how Carl managed to win his dog over but Dark Fate boasts the first instance of a dog being a Terminator's best friend.
4. Who Is The Major?
After Carl joins up with Sarah, Grace, and Dani, they turn to an old ally of Connor's for help: Major Dean (Fraser James). Dean provided the heroes with an EMP device to take out the Rev-9, although it ended up getting damaged and was useless. Major Dean was also a casualty of the Rev-9 attacking, which unfortunately resulted in fans learning very little about this new character as Terminator: Dark Fate rushed into its climactic action sequences.
It makes sense that Sarah has more allies in the world; T2 established that she lived a paramilitary lifestyle and raised John among ex-soldiers as they trained for their future fighting cyborgs. Sarah turned to her friend Enrique (Cástulo Guerra) in T2 and she obviously has more friends who provided her with weapons and shelter over the past 22 years. It's just a shame that in Terminator: Dark Fate, Major Dean was introduced and disposed of so abruptly instead of becoming a character that fans could root for like T2's Miles Bennet Dyson (Joe Morton).
3. If Legion Is Different, Why Does It Also Make Time-Traveling Terminators?
One of Terminator: Dark Fate's twists is that while the Connors prevented the future controlled by Skynet, a machine-caused apocalypse happened anyway. Only this time, the Artificial Intelligence that destroyed humanity is called Legion and was originally designed for cyber warfare. And yet, even though it's a different A.I., Legion still built cyborg Terminators to hunt the human resistance and those Terminators resemble the ones Skynet built. Further, Legion also employs the same gambit of sending Terminators back in time to hunt its enemies in the past.
While this speaks to the theme of inevitability introduced to the franchise in Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, it's strange that Legion is a different machine resorting to the exact same tactics as Skynet. Why not create a biological weapon instead to wipe out its human enemies? (The answer, of course, is that would mean these stop being Terminator movies).
2. What Does The Designation 'Rev-9' Mean?
Terminator: Dark Fate never explains why the Rev-9 is called 'Rev-9'. Skynet's Terminators had simple and logical designations: the T-800 was a Series 800 Terminator, the T-1000 was a Series 1000 Terminator, and so forth. The Rev-9 is basically the T-X (Kristanna Loken) from Terminator 3 with the extra feature of being able to split its liquid metal mimetic polyalloy and its metal endoskeleton so they can operate independently. But none of that explains the designation 'Rev-9'. Were there 8 previous Revs? And why is it still called a Terminator?
1. If Sarah Connor Trained Dani, Why Hadn't Grace Ever Heard Of Her In The Future?
Terminator: Dark Fate ends poignantly with both Sarah and Dani surviving and Connor taking Ramos under her wing to train her to become the future leader of humanity. Thematically, this means Sarah gets a version of her son John back and has someone to impart her lifetime of Terminator-killing knowledge to, which is one of the reasons Dani in the future becomes an effective leader and enemy of Legion. But since Terminator: Dark Fate turns out to be Dani's origin story, why has Sarah Connor been forgotten in the future?
When they met, Grace outright told Sarah she'd never heard of her. This is very strange considering Sarah trained Dani. Considering how close Dani and Grace were presumed to be, why would Dani never tell her about Sarah Connor? The only explanation is that Dani withheld knowledge about Sarah to not disrupt how events are meant to play out in the past when she sends Grace back in time to protect her younger self. But does that also mean Dani didn't tell anyone else in the resistance about Sarah Connor? If not, why then would Grace be the only one in Terminator: Dark Fate's 2042 future who's never heard of Sarah?