Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles

Tagged: TV

US tv series (2008-2009). Created by Josh Friedman. Producers include Friedman, Mario Kassar, Joel B Michaels, and James Middleton. Directors include Charles Beeson, Jeffrey G Hunt, and David Nutter. Writers include Friedman, Denise Thé, Natalie Chaidez, and Ashley Miller. Cast includes Lena Headey as Sarah Connor, Thomas Dekker as John Connor, Richard T Jones as James Ellison, Garret Dillahunt as Cromartie/John Henry, Summer Glau as Cameron Phillips, Brian Austin Green as Derek Reese and Shirley Manson as Catherine Weaver (season 2). 31 one hour episodes.

Spin-off from the popular movie series – The Terminator (1984), Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) and Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003) – in which both sides in a Future War between humans and sentient machines send operatives into the past in order to affect the war's events before it happens (see Changewar; Time Travel). Lena Headey takes over from Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor, who has transformed herself into a driven, emotionally numb soldier and survivalist in order to safeguard and shepherd the growth of her son John, future leader of the human rebellion. The series catches up with Sarah and a now-teenage John several years after the conclusion of Terminator 2, then mercifully short-circuits the third film (which took place after Sarah's death from cancer) by having them travel to 2007. Joined by yet another friendly Terminator, Cameron (named after the film series's creator James Cameron), the Connors set out to discover and stop the creators of the Computer program that will become Skynet, the AI that starts the war against humanity.

Despite its action-movie antecedents, The Sarah Connor Chronicles is a meditative, low-key series. Its main preoccupation is the toll that knowing the future and their part in it takes on Sarah, who has suppressed her emotions and her humanity in order to safeguard the human race's future, and John, who vacillates between eagerness, fear, and incomprehension of his role as humanity's savior. Midway through the first season the two are joined by Derek Reese, the brother of Sarah's first protector and John's father, Kyle Reese, and a member of John's future resistance army, who has also traveled back in time. His perspective is that of a grizzled soldier puzzled by the complexity, cruelty, and triviality of the civilization he is trying to save but can barely remember, and by Sarah's insistence on the sanctity of human life. The machine characters are also developed, with Cameron inching towards an inhuman but decidedly sentient personhood (along the way developing a disquieting, quasi-romantic relationship with John), and, in the second season, the discovery that some of the machine time travellers are not trying to destroy the Connors, but to prevent humanity's demise by recreating Skynet as a more compassionate entity possessed of a moral code. The series features strong roles for female characters and acknowledges the racial and ethnic diversity of its Southern California setting.

Despite these admirable achievements, Sarah Connor's plotting was often haphazard and solipsistic. The show's lack of interest in action narratives developed, over the course of the series's two seasons, into a lack of interest in plot, with seasonal arcs growing so slowly as to be barely noticeable. Perhaps for this reason, or because of the show's emphasis on the characters' brooding misery in the face of their limited options, The Sarah Connor Chronicles failed to develop a large audience. Though the second season finale suggests an intriguing new direction for the show's story – it sees John traveling into a future in which he never became the leader of the human resistance – the show was cancelled shortly before the premiere of the fourth Terminator movie, Terminator: Salvation (2009), which ignores its events and appears to follow from Terminator 3. [AN]

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