Tuesday, March 04, 2008

When The Terminator Comes Around

None of the blogs I read for insightful and/or entertaining commentary on television is saying anything these days about Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, so I’ll just put in my two cents worth and say that I really hope it comes back next season. At the beginning, I was highly skeptical that there was enough story left in the Terminator saga to create a full-blown series, but they managed to pull it off, largely by pretending that the third movie never happened. Over the course of nine episodes, I’m still not certain the show has found its footing, but there were enough outstanding moments in the last few episodes that, if it is granted a second season, I think it can turn into something special.

The weak link among the cast members remains Lena Headey as Sarah Connor. It’s not that she was awful, but she never infused her character with anything resembling what made Linda Hamilton’s portrayal of Connor so striking. It didn’t matter to me that Headey wasn’t buffed like Hamilton in T:2, but there was just nothing there – no passion, no fire, no personality – Sarah Connor on Prozac. Thomas Dekker was fine as John; Summer Glau was more than that as Cameron, managing to seem more human than Sarah herself, even as she continually expressed confusion over the various emotions and catch-phrases she encountered. Richard T. Jones and Dean Winters in supporting roles, as the FBI agent always one step behind Connor and the former fiancée of Sarah, were also quite good. But the real surprise was Brian Austin Green as Derek Reese. I never watched a single episode of Beverly Hills 90210, but remember the vicious things people used to write about him on that show. In this, he was damn good – believable as a person, and effective as an action hero.

There were some great moments in last night’s two-part finale (really two separate episodes, but why quibble) and the two most striking were as different as night and day. In the first, Derek (Green) takes John out for a birthday ice-cream cone, and they just happen to end up in the park, where Derek as a boy is playing catch with his younger brother Kyle, who as we all know eventually becomes John’s dad. It was a very quiet scene, but mind-blowing, especially if you tried to apply any kind of “time-travel logic” to the situation. But a very nice moment, one that added a sense of humanity to the proceedings.

The second, even better, moment was set up early in the episode, when Agent Ellison – who had already been portrayed as a religious, God-fearing man – quoted the passage from Revelations which Johnny Cash uses as the introduction to his song “The Man Comes Around:”

And I heard, as it were, the noise of thunder:
One of the four beasts saying:
"Come and see."
And I saw.
And behold, a white horse.
And I heard a voice in the midst of the four beasts,
And I looked and behold: a pale horse.
And his name, that sat on him, was Death.

As it happens, my 13-year old son has become quite a Cash fan, and this song (along with “Hurt”) is probably his favorite. It’s a truly frightening song, one that came to Cash in a dream, dealing with the happy topic of Judgment Day. When Ellison began the quote, we sort of looked each other, a sly grin coming to our faces.

Throughout the series, Ellison has become less of a skeptic – each week, some small piece of evidence has convinced him that, hey – these Terminator thingies might really be out there somewhere. And last night, he finally found one, a taciturn fellow who has spent the past several weeks (after acquiring a new layer of skin: don't ask) impersonating an FBI agent. And as Ellison and the SWAT team close in on the apartment where “Cromartie” is holed up, you hear it – the strums of guitar, followed by the Man in Black:

There's a man goin' 'round takin' names
An' he decides who to free and who to blame
Everybody won't be treated all the same
There'll be a golden ladder reaching down
When the man comes around

It could have been a cliché – just another battle between cops and a Terminator, a battle whose ending we know before it begins. Instead, the director shot the scene looking up from the bottom of the swimming pool, and as Johnny went on singing, one SWAT member after another fell, silent and dead, into the pool. Brilliant.

So…it may not be the greatest show ever made, but what the heck…it was better than Season 6 of 24.

1 comment:

MC said...

You should check out Paul Levinson's Infinite Regress Blog... he is really enamored with the show and writes an insightful commentary for every episode.