How many times have successful movie franchises attempted to be carried over into television shows? A handful of times. How often has this worked? Extremely rarely. ‘Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles’ attempted to buck this trend.
Sarah Connor (Lena Heady, pre-‘Game of Thrones’) is on the run with her son John Conner (Thomas Dekker) and a Terminator named Cameron (Get it?! Ha!, played by Summer Glau). They are being pursued by a Terminator known as Cromartie (Garret Dillahunt). Also poking around is FBI Agent James Ellison (Richard T. Jones) who thinks that Sarah is dangerous.
In some ways, exploring the origins of Skynet is about the only way to go with a Terminator series. The movies have dealt with the future and a lot of time-traveling non-sense so the easiest way to separate from all of that is to see what things were like before all of that. Sure, there is a machine from the future chasing after John and Sarah Connor, but this is far more interesting in exploring their relationship. In many ways, it’s a variation on the other film’s theme which is fine but having a female terminator who is on the side of good is a nice touch.
When we meet them, the gang has been on a run for a long time which is good to be dropped into the middle of the conflict as opposed to needing to be introduced to the whole conflict. Newbies probably won’t be lost as it explains enough, but those who have seen the movies will get a little more out of it.
While this is called the Sarah Connor Chronicles, a lot of the focus seems to be on John. Sarah is clearly the driving force and is always locked-in to the task at hand, but John’s survival is the main objective. Cameron just doesn’t have the personality of Arnold’s Terminator, but she is a capable protector. Her angle is a desire to understand what it means to be human and the awkward misunderstandings of certain behaviors and speech.
For a network show, this has a good amount of violence. It’s never overly graphic, but there are some pleasantly unsettling scenes. A few of the futuristic sequences (always my least favorite part of this franchise and a huge reason why I disdain ‘Terminator: Salvation’) look a bit iffy as do some other large-scale explosions, but many effects and sequences are just fine.
Special features include: Commentary on three episodes by executive producer Josh Friedman and cast/crew, Creating the Chronicles: Three-part look at the series’ production process, Both the broadcast version and extended cut of episode 7, “The Demon Hand”, Cast audition tapes, Terminated scenes, Storyboard animatic, Summer Glau dance rehearsal and a Gag reel.
At nine episodes, this feels a little less like a full first season and more of a trail run or maybe a mini-series. Even so, ‘Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles’ accomplishes what everything after the second movie hasn’t been able to do: build on the Terminator mythology without mindlessly and hurredly throwing information at the audience. That is the benefit of a television show that can take its time to tell a narrative, even if it is at the expense of some violence.
Not Rated 394 minutes 2008