'Terminator: Genisys' Alternate Timelines Explained


The New Loop

Terminator Genisys Matt Smith Skynet T-5000

If the Terminator series has changed timelines from the one fans knew, that doesn't mean it won't take its structure and philosophy from James Cameron's original premise. But to grasp the new timeline fans should start viewing John and Kyle's assault on Skynet not as the end of the original time loop, but possibly the beginning of a different one. And to do that means assuming that the T-5000/Skynet played by Matt Smith is, quite simply, NOT the one of this previous series.

If Sarah and Kyle never crushed a T-800 in the Cyberdyne factor in 1984, then the Skynet CPU used to create it wouldn't be present. Instead, Cyberdyne's work would need to be handed to Miles Dyson's son, eventually leading to a technology breakthrough closer to those seen in our own world (and an unpredictable form of A.I.).

Speaking with CraveOnline, writers Patrick Lussier and Laeta Kalogridis confirmed as much:

Laeta Kalogridis: Skynet. You see in the beginning. He grabs John. He’s not from this timeline. He’s from an alternate universe, in the multiverse, another of the many universes that exist. That Skynet is not from that timeline.

Patrick Lussier: It is the understanding that for Skynet, finally realizing that “I cannot just wipe out the humans, I can never defeat the humans unless I have the best weapon that humans have, and that is him.”

Laeta Kalogridis: Or, more simply put, if you have a Skynet that has witnessed multiple iterations of the rise of the machines, which Skynet has…

Patrick Lussier: And being wiped out over and over…

Laeta Kalogridis: This Skynet has been to this universe, and this universe, and this universe. That’s why he says, “I came a very long way to stop you.” He’s not from here. So he’s watched it. He’s watched it happen a bunch of different times, and each time he’s seen it there is a different result but the same result.

Laeta Kalogridis: This particular Skynet, from another place. This Skynet – not from the original two movies – can [hop to different dimensions].

The pair of writers emphasize James Cameron's original fiction - not that of Terminator 3 (nor the 'alternate universe' of the Sarah Connor Chronicles TV series) - explaining that where the first movie was a simple time loop, T2 only works under a multiverse/branching timelines model. Sarah and John prevent Skynet's creation, but aren't forced to deal with the fallout (John would no longer send Kyle back to father him, and therefore couldn't stop Judgment Day).

The only explanation is that Sarah and John created a new branching timeline; one that the battle-hardened adult John will never even know exists. Remember: the Terminator series isn't one in which future-dwellers see the world change around them. Their fate has been made, but those who came before can clearly make their own.

Terminator Genisys Alternate Timeline Explained

Apply this thinking to Genisys, and it seems this alternate-timeline-Skynet owes its creation to the victorious John Connor. Since Kyle and Sarah don't father John in 1984, The T-5000 must hop into the timeline in which John defeated Skynet, and infect him with its own technology. Once complete, John is sent to Cyberdyne in the T-5000's version of 2014... where John can create Skynet, allow it to take human form as the T-5000, and hop into the timeline where John defeated Skynet, closing the time loop which created it.

In short: The Terminator remains a closed loop in which Skynet caused Judgment Day, John defeated it, and sent Kyle back to father him. Terminator 2: Judgment Day is the timeline in which Skynet sent a T-1000 to kill young John, old John sent a re-programmed T-800, and managed to kill Skynet before the war ever began. Genisys would appear to be the timeline in which the original film's events never happened. Instead, Cyberdyne's research proceeded as normal, resulting in a sentient, malevolent OS. An OS which owed its creation to the victorious John Connor, meaning it had to unlock inter-timeline travel to make that possible.

It's still up for discussion if it was this version of Skynet which sent the T-1000 and Pops into Sarah's future to ensure its own timeline. Since Sarah and Kyle's new future sees Skynet still alive, its coming activities are completely unknown - until it hops timelines into that of the original series. But at this point, watching Skynet take on the same role as John Connor - waging a war, crossing a great distance to find the man who will create it, then being raised in its creator's image, and so on - is a clever mirroring that we're eager to see more of.


Terminator: Genisys - Emilia Clarke and Arnold Schwarzenegger


Like any quality piece of entertainment, a lot of this is subjective and there are multiple ways of interpreting the larger Terminator Genisys story, so feel free to (respectfully) share your interpretation with fellow moviegoers in the comment section below.

If you’ve seen the movie and want to discuss details about the film without worrying about spoiling it for those who haven’t seen it, please head over to our Terminator Genisys Spoilers Discussion. For an in-depth discussion of the film by the Screen Rant editors check back soon for our Terminator Genisys episode of the SR Underground podcast.

MORE: Terminator Genisys Time Travel & Mid-Credits Scene Explained

Terminator Genisys is now playing in 2D, 3D, and 3D IMAX theaters.

Source: Crave Online

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