Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles was the first (and so far only) television series to be based upon the popular sci-fi franchise, Terminator, and ran for two seasons from 2008 to 2009 before its cancellation. The series follows on from the events of Terminator 2: Judgement Day, ignoring Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines and Terminator Salvation, which was released during the series run.
The show begins in 1997 with the titular Sarah Connor (played by Game of Thrones actress Lena Headey) and her son John Connor (Thomas Dekker) living below the radar, trying to avoid authorities whilst she prepares him to be the future leader of the resistance. When the Terminator Cromartie arrives in John’s school and tries to kill him, he discovers that his new friend Cameron (Summer Glau) is also a Terminator, though one sent to protect him. Sarah, John and Cameron use technology set up by members of the future resistance to travel forward through time to 2007, where they hope to track down the beginnings of Skynet and destroy it.
From here the series would go on to explore the relationships between the lead characters, introduce new elements to the mythology, and expand upon the world in new and interesting ways. Unfortunately, due to low ratings the series was cancelled after the end of its second season, leaving the show on a cliffhanger that will never be resolved. But was it really as bad a show as people made it out to be?
One of the show’s major criticisms is that it wasn’t what viewers were expecting, especially as it is a series based upon a film franchise filled with explosions, shootouts, and robot fights. Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles had all of these things, but it spaced them out over its seasons. It took the time to focus on character and story rather than the violence and action; and a lot of people didn’t like this direction.
By shifting the focus away from action, the series was able to devote more time to the characters than the films ever could. It went deeper into Sarah Connor’s psyche, making her more than just a woman obsessed with protecting her son. She had her flaws, she doubted herself, and the show even showed her weak and human at times.
Sarah Connor is easily one of the best female action heroes of all times. Linda Hamilton played her wonderfully, but Lena Headey brought a whole new depth and intricacy to the character that made her more interesting. She was still the bad-ass action hero, quick to pull out a shotgun and put herself between her son and a killer robot, but now she felt more real and well-rounded.
John Connor was also a massive improvement with the show focusing on showing the progress from whiny teen into a young man who would go on to lead humanity. It took the time to evolve him over the course of its two seasons to the point where he was willing to step up and become a hero, even going against his mother at the end of the series. He ends so far from where he began that it has to be the best depiction of the character the franchise has given.
The series also added a new and interesting element to the mythology. It explored the idea that the future resistance was sending back more people than just those who were assigned to protect John Connor. Throughout the course of the show we would discover small cells of resistance fighters who were sent back to help develop tech to fight the Terminators, including some who were there to gather intel, and others who were tasked with trying to stop the machines.
The show expanded this even further in its second season with the introduction on Shirley Manson’s Catherine Weaver; a liquid metal Terminator sent back in time to develop an A.I. to fight against Skynet. With glimpses to the future war, it’s revealed that the liquid metal Terminators are more self aware than the regular machines and can go against their initial programming to choose to fight alongside humanity. Sadly, this was a brilliant plot thread that was never concluded due to the cancellation.
Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles ended on an amazing cliffhanger as John and Weaver travel into the future war to save Cameron, only to find themselves in a time where John Connor was never there to lead the resistance. Season three would have explored these exciting new developments, but sadly never can now.
Despite ending on a cliffhanger that will leave you angry that the show never got to finish its story, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles is still an amazing series worth checking out.
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