- Created by Josh Friedman
- Based On Characters Created By James Cameron (Duh!)
- Produced by Sarah Connor Pictures / Bartleby Company / C2 Pictures (season 1) / The Halcyon Company (season 2) / Warner Bros. Television
- January 13, 2008 to April 10, 2009
- Sarah Connor-Lena Headey
- John Connor-Thomas Dekker
- Cameron-Summer Glau
- James Ellison-Richard T. Jones
- Derek Reese-Brian Austin Green
- Cromartie/John Henry-Garrett Dillahunt
- Catherine Weaver-Shirley Manson
After the events of Terminator 2: Judgement Day John and Sarah try to stay under the radar of the government while continuing to prevent the rise of Skynet.
Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles (sometimes abbreviated as Terminator: TSCC or simply TSCC) ran for two seasons (one and a half really since the first season was a shortened one) and was an attempt to bring the big screen concept of The Terminator to the small screen. It tried different ways to mix up the game such as introducing a previously unspoken of brother for Kyle Reese as well as sending John and his mother a little forward into the future which was the then present day. The latter was obviously an attempt to keep costs down, but it did help make the outcome of events uncertain.
Sarah Connor was played by Lena Headey whose best-known roles at the time were probably in The Brothers Grimm and 300. Cersei Lannister was not yet on her resume. Recasting an iconic character is not easy. You need to get the right actress. Emilia Clarke is a prime example of wrong casting. Headey was a great choice for the character. She is a fine actress.
Sarah is as damaged and stressed here as she ever was. She is worried for her son as well as her own future and the future of the world. She is a fighter longing to rest but knowing she cannot because the truth of her fantastical story is difficult to believe so it is her and her son’s responsibility to stop it.
Thomas Dekker, hot off a stint on the then big show Heroes, was cast in the role of John Connor. That makes him something like one of seven actors to play the character if you count the ones in future scenes from the films, the actors in the main stories of the films, and the one that played a young John in two episodes here.
I did not see a future savior of humanity nor a leader in his portrayal of the character. I saw a whiney brat upset over responsibility. Yes, it is a HUGE responsibility, but John here did nothing but complain. He was a competent fighter but if he were not then this show would have gone all Dark Fate and not been very watchable. At only a season and a half, there was not much time to complete any long arcs but at no point did he appear to be put on a path to be a leader.
What is anything Terminator without a Terminator sent from the future to protect John or Sarah or somebody? Rather than cast some beefy bodybuilder to mimic Ahnuld, they cast Summer Glau as Cameron. (See what they did there?)
I am glad they did not try to hire somebody that looked like Arnold Schwarzenegger and went the route of Terminators having varied appearances. In the first film it was clear there were different appearances for the Terminators but beyond that we either see the skeleton model or the Arnold appearance model with experimental models having unique appearances.
Cameron got quite the backstory in the series. She was modeled after a young woman named Allison Young who was a friend of John in the Resistance. On a mission she is captured, interrogated, and replaced by the Cameron model and who is sent on a mission to kill John. After the mission fails, she is reprogrammed and sent back in time to protect John. As the show moves along glitches occur and worrisome programming changes appear.
The show introduced Derek Reese played by Brian Austin Green. He was the previously unmentioned brother of Kyle Reese. Often unmentioned relatives abruptly popping up in a show is just bad and very forced (like Michael Burnham in Star Trek: Discovery) but not so here. I think it helped that what we knew concretely about the character of Kyle Reese came from just one film so expansion of the family tree and general background was not too problematic.
My issue with Brian Austin Green’s casting is that he looked too healthy. I know by the time of the show he had spent a period in the present but to look like you have a gym membership you use regularly after spending years in the machine apocalypse feels incongruous. Green got the attitude right and gave us a good character though.
Catherine Weaver, played by Shirley Manson in what I believe was her first acting role, was a corporate CEO (or posing as one depending on how you look at it) with a young child. She is a liquid metal Terminator (T-1001 which is faster recovering) and has come to the past as part of a machine revolution plan to reverse engineer Skynet technology by targeting other Terminators and anything viewed as a Skynet precursor.
When “Catherine Weaver” traveled back she materialized on the real Weaver’s private plane which caused it to crash. Weaver’s child was the only human survivor with the liquid metal Terminator assuming the shape of their mother. This played into a narrative where her character attempts to connect with the real Weaver’s daughter as part of its infiltration and becomes a little more human. Wait, you would think a plane crash survivor would get a medical examination so how did the doctors miss she was not human?
Manson was most definitely an unusual choice and reportedly beat out several other actresses for the part. She handled the part well and was often the better character in the show.
Garrett Dillahunt played Cromartie, which eventually became John Henry, who was a Terminator seen in the beginning of the series. This T-888 lost its skin exterior and then tracked down the human that provided the basis for the skin growth technology before assuming the appearance of George Laszlo who stars in a fictional direct-to-video feature called Beast Wizard 7 in which his costume and sword are an allusion to Arnold Schwarzenegger in Conan the Barbarian.
James Ellison (Richard T. Jones) is an FBI Agent pursuing Sarah Connor that eventually comes to believe her rather outlandish story. Eventually he comes to be employed by ZeiraCorp head Catherine Weaver (whom he does not know is a Terminator until the very end of Season Two). Ellison is not a villain but rather a man confronted by a terrible reality and trying to do something about it.
By necessity this show apparently took pages from the comics and sent our heroes on stories that were not simply them running from yet another Terminator sent to kill John Connor. They did contend with Terminators sent by Skynet, but these were missions to prevent Skynet from build its future foundations.
There was also the earlier mentioned machine revolution. More specifically Catherine Weaver is an enemy of Skynet. That does not necessarily make her a friend to humans or even a possible ally. Where her true loyalties lay and what her ultimate agenda besides fighting Skynet is remains a mystery that because of the shows short run never gets answered.
Skynet is quite the busy machine intelligence. Apparently it has been flinging Terminators through time left and right in an effort to establish itself and prep for the war it starts. It is also dispensing them to go after John’s future support and any agents John has sent. Cromatie as John Henry mentions a “brother” which is either Skynet or a proto-Skynet.
Despite the coming apocalypse the show did not ask nearly enough hard questions. I think the show could have benefitted from forcing John and Sarah into seriously morally questionable areas. Their choices felt pretty straight forward. They often found themselves in danger or struggling for their lives but what to do and if it was right felt obvious.
The Sarah Connor Chronicles did not have the level of tension or seriousness when it came to the actions of the characters that it should have. After all John Connor was the savior of humanity even if the show was focusing on his mom’s actions. The events that are occurring in their lives have a direct effect on the future of the world, but it did not wait feel like that.
This was the first time that any Terminator franchise characters jumped forward in time. Sarah, John and Cameron did it in the pilot while John and Catherine Weaver did it at the end of Season Two. Genisys would eventually use this as part of its plot. It creates a serious question then concerning the original film. In that movie Skynet knew virtually nothing about Sarah beyond her name and where she lived. The assassin it sent went through the phonebook and started taking out everyone named “Sarah Connor” because that was the only way to be sure and get the right Sarah Connor.
Skynet, having developed the technology, would probably know that it is possible to travel forward in time. Just because others figure it out first does not mean the villain cannot. Then why did Skynet not send a Terminator back to research John or Sarah and come prepped with more information during any of its forays?
The Sarah Connor Chronicles did a good job of folding existing Terminator info into its mythology. One thing is that Sarah is fearful of getting cancer after a revelation from Cameron. Sarah’s death from cancer was stated in Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines. While the pilot changed the game, it did not do so just to have a blank slate for its mythology. It used what came before to try and tell new stories.
In the end The Sarah Connor Chronicles is an interesting concept that never quite hit the stride it could or should have. If you come across it, I say give it a look, but it is not a must see. It is most definitely an if you want and that is only if you are a serious Terminator fan.