Sarah Connor Chronicles, or, River Tam Still Kicks Serious Butt

Sunday night, the new sci-fi series Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles premiered on FOX (with a second new episode airing last night).  I was pretty skeptical of it, but I couldn’t resist tuning in anyway.  And, strangely enough, so far I’m really enjoying it!

The series opens a year or two after where Terminator 2: Judgment Day left off, essentially refusing to acknowledge the existence of Terminator 3: Rise of the Hellaciously Insipid (can’t say I blame them for this, obviously).  As the show opens, John and his mother Sarah are about to move for the bazillionth time after Sarah has decided she’s let her boyfriend get too close for comfort.  John’s upset — clearly this boyfriend is someone he’s bonded strongly with, which only makes sense considering the fact he never got to know his own father.  But he has no choice — Mom’s in charge.

Unfortunately, their next move doesn’t go very well.  John signs up for school in their new town, bizarrely choosing as his fake name “John Reese,” which isn’t very fake at all (Reese being his father’s name, after all), and, wonder of wonders, not long after that, a cyborg shows up dressed like a substitute teacher and attempts to blow him to smithereens.

Lucky for John, his new friend, a cute girl named Cameron, turns out to be a cyborg herself, sent from the future to protect him.  Those of us familiar with the films know the background — that a company named Skynet developed robot technology in the future that ended up nearly destroying the world and that John Connor is the hero who organizes what remains of mankind and starts fighting back.  The crazy robots retaliate by sending cyborgs into the past to try to take out first John’s mother Sarah (before she’s given birth to John, see T1), and then John as a kid (see T2).  In T1, John sends his (human) pal Reese into the past to protect Sarah, and Reese ends up knocking her up with John (try not to think too hard about that one — it’ll just make your brain hurt).  And then in T2, John sends an older cyborg model (Ahnold) back, reprogrammed to be a good guy, to save a teenaged John from a wickedly cool liquid metal cyborg model.

In Sarah Connor Chronicles, John has sent an even fancier cyborg back in time, again programmed for good, to protect himself and his mother from the latest round of attacks.  And this time that cyborg is a cute chick named Cameron who bleeds blood and acts a little less roboty than previous models (though, she’s still roboty enough to provide for the inevitable “I don’t know what that [pop culture reference] means” schtick — this I could do without, but whatever).  

Cam’s played by Summer Glau, who has major “action girl” cred from her work as River Tam in the Joss Whedon film Serenity.  And though I confess I kind of cringed when she delivered the famous, “Come with me if you want to live” line, it didn’t take me long to decide I was in love with her. 

Anyway, at the end of episode 1, John, Sarah, and Cameron have decided to jump ahead in the future — to the year 2007 — to try to stop the next incarnation of Skynet.  And so begins what looks like it might be a REALLY entertaining little TV action sci-fi series.

Of course, this show is for fans of the films — the first episode is essentially one big long shoot-em-up scene, just like both movies were.  And while the second episode has a bit more plot, it still goes kinda nutty with the action and guns.  If you don’t like violence, you didn’t like the movies, and you won’t like the series either.  But fans of T1 and T2 might have a pretty decent time with this show, if the first two episodes are anything to go by anyway. 

The bad news is, FOX doesn’t appear to be offering either episode on their web site, so if you missed the premiere this week, I think you’re toast.  Check iTunes?  I’m too lazy to go check for you.  If that doesn’t work and you desperately want to know what you missed, I’m sure you can find dozens of recaps, in varying degrees of detail, all over the web. 

If you did watch the first two episodes, I’d love to hear what you thought of them.  Comment away!

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8 Responses to “Sarah Connor Chronicles, or, River Tam Still Kicks Serious Butt”

  1. Trip Says:

    I really dug the lock-us-in-the-vault scene…nice twist. But a question kept coming up in the back of my mind…

    The story had the parts for the big electro-zap gun in safe deposit boxes built with the bank…in 1963.

    Wasn’t there supposed to be a limit as to how far back in time both the humans and machines could go? Otherwise logic says each side would just go farther and farther back in time until John Connor’s great-great-great-grandfather would be duking it out with robots on the deck of the freakin’ Mayflower.

    Another small quibble I have is that Sarah Connor isn’t…well…crazy enough. In T2 Sarah Connor was a single-arm shotgun-cocking, hard-as-nails badass, loopy from her stint in the nuthouse. Here she kinda looks like a well-meaning soccer mom.

    Anyway, the show takes some bold chances, which I love in any good series. Jumping ahead in time was novel. And talk about freaky situations for a boy in puberty…John ends up naked…in a freeway…with a hot robot chick…and his MOM. Yikes!

  2. Liz Says:

    I taped the “S.C. Chronicles” but haven’t seen it yet, so I didn’t read your whole write-up. I did, however, appreciate your reference to “The Rise of the Hellaciously Insipid!” Boy, do I agree with that; it was like that awful “Highlander” movie that tried to suggest that immortals came from another planet! Eeww! Anyhow, someday we’ll watch it – hope we enjoy it too.

  3. Lorraine Says:

    I got bored with all the fighting/explosion and the brooding teenager scenes. It really seems like a ADHD type of show which doesn’t appeal to me.

  4. megwood Says:

    I can’t remember if there was something set up regarding how far back in time they could actually go, but that’s a good point. I’m planning to watch T1 and T2 again in the next couple of weeks, so I’ll let you know if I come across anything about that.

    I noticed Sarah had mellowed out some too, but I chalked this up to time. The difference between her personality at the beginning of T2 and at the end had changed dramatically too, and I think the same makes sense for 2-3 years down the line from there as well, especially since they had clearly settled into fake identities somewhat safely for a longer period of time right as the TV series started (long enough for Sarah to meet someone, date, and fall in love deeply enough for marriage talk, anyway, which doesn’t typically happen overnight). Maybe being out of the nuthouse, off the crazy pills, etc. for a few years was all it took for her to stabilize a bit? I’d believe that as the explanation, anyway.

  5. Trip Says:

    Off-topic, but since we’re on the subject of sci-fi, are there any plans in your immediate future to check out Sunshine? It’s the Danny Boyle/Alex Garland flick about a team of hip young scientists on a trip to the sun to re-ignite it using a neutron bomb the size of Manhattan. They’re actually the second attempt, since the first mission went missing and Earth kinda needs to get warm again, all our CO2 in the atmosphere ain’t cutting it, apparently.

    In what is never a good thing in sci-fi flicks, as they pass Mercury, they pick up a distress call from the first ship…and then the plot really thickens. Interested to see if anyone else saw it and hear opinions.

  6. megwood Says:

    YES! I’ve been dying to see that, actually. I’m waiting until the three-day weekend in Feb, though, with plans to watch it with my Mom (another die-hard sci-fi fan). I take it you liked it? I’d read (Ebert, I think), that it was a bit more “hard science” than the usual big-budget sci-fi movie, and that definitely sounded like a major plus to me.

  7. Trip Says:

    Well, I though it was good, if not great. The story’s a bit dark, and it doesn’t allow much detail in the characters, but the FX are outstanding, and there’s definitely an emphasis on the hard science. It has to, because any film involving the intricacies of “re-igniting a dying sun” has some ‘splainin to do with the audience.

    It’s certainly more intellectual than Hollywood-produced sci-fi these days. It’s hard to imagine Will Smith or Tom Cruise convincingly explaining why a slight miscalculation in the angle of reflectors ahead of the ship is potentially fatal to the crew, without the use of firearms or yelling.

    Roger Ebert’s review (http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070719/REVIEWS/70702003/1023)…is pretty close to the mark.

  8. Liz Says:

    Okay! We saw the “S.C. Chronicles,” and I liked it. My husband is reserving judgement, but he did say tape it again, so we can watch it some more. I think the mom is great – two years of relative “safety” (I know, I know, you’re never safe!) can mellow anyone out. I heard somewhere that we just can’t sustain such a high level of fear/anxiety for that long. She made perfect sense to me. The “good” cyborg is good, too, and I’ll bet there will be complications between “her” and John. John, however, I thought was rather forgettable. That was okay by me, though, because I think he’s just an excuse for all the action, and character development of the mom (who was very good in “300,” BTW). I plan to keep watching it – with or without my husband! (Hey, I finally got him hooked on “Buffy” a while back, and more recently, “American Idol!”)

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