Cyberpunk Review » Terminator: Sarah Connor Chronicles Pilot Episodes

January 15, 2008

Terminator: Sarah Connor Chronicles Pilot Episodes

Movie Review By: SFAM

Year: 2008

Directed by: David Nutter

Written by: Josh Friedman

IMDB Reference

Degree of Cyberpunk Visuals: Medium

Correlation to Cyberpunk Themes: Medium

Key Cast Members:

  • Sarah Connor: Lena Headey
  • Cameron: Summer Glau
  • John Connor: Thomas Dekker
Rating: 6 out of 10

Terminator: Sarah Connor Chronicles screen capture

Overview: OK, so the Terminator franchise was pretty much killed off with the storyline train wreck that was T3, right? Think again. The luminaries at Fox have decided to wipe the thought of T3 from our collective memories to try again. While I would have preferred something taking place in the fucked-up future, this was not the direction taken (clearly the budget for a futuristic TV series would be cost prohibitive). This one takes place in modern times, with a potential bevy of bad terminators once again attempting to waste John Conner while he, mommy and their cute little teenage Terminatrix sidekick try to force crib death on Skynet before it becomes self-aware. While the initial pilot was less than inspiring, the second episode was significantly better – so much so that its worth giving this thing a viewing or two.


Terminator: Sarah Connor Chronicles screen capture


The Story: Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles takes place after Terminator 2, and ends up pretty much obliterating the Terminator 3 storyline from existence. Starting in 1999, in this “version” of the future past, Sarah (played by Lena Headey) and John Conner (Thomas Dekker) have settled down to a life of sorts, where John goes to school and Sarah waitresses and falls in love with a regular guy. While they have kept out of sight of the police, Sarah never feels safe, an decides to leave when her fiancé gives her a ring. Soon after settling in their new digs, John befriends a nice girl at school named Cameron (Summer Glau), and then almost gets blown away by his substitute teacher who turns out to be a Terminator. Luckily for him, that cute girl he befriended ends up being his protector teenage Terminator chick.


Terminator: Sarah Connor Chronicles screen capture


Cameron informs them that the new world expiration date (when Skynet becomes self-aware) is April 19, 2011. After a bit of terminator action, Sarah, John and Cameron agree to find out how Skynet gets revived. Strangely, this involves raiding a bank built in 1963 to find weapon parts that can kill the current “red shirt” terminator (there appear to be lots of them), and then use the time machine left there to transport them to 2007. Cameron “supposedly” did this to ensure they would be safe – NOT.


Terminator: Sarah Connor Chronicles screen capture


As the second episode ensues, Sarah, John and Cameron are working to get legit-looking IDs, meet up with a bunch of Connor’s staff from the future, who also came back to 2007, and then to eventually stop Skynet. Unfortunately, it turns out that another Terminator has already wasted three of the four warriors from the future. Even worse, the red-shirt Terminator wasted with the cool ray gun in episode one somehow had its parts scattered into the future when the time travel occurred – now he’s rebuilding himself.


Terminator: Sarah Connor Chronicles screen capture


Evaluation of The Cast:

  • Cameron: Most of the early buzz around the Sarah Connor Chronicles concerns Summer Glau’s staring role as the mysterious but good terminatrix chick. In the pilot episode, she has a very mixed – mostly off – performance. Her deliverance of the signature “Come with me if you want to live” line had a quavering voice – hardly the stuff of terminators. Further, the awesome fighting we associate from her Serenity performance wasn’t on display. That said, Summer was significantly better in the second episode. Her face was more terminator-like, and she seemed to grow into the role more in a number of ways. Still, Summer is clearly not your Aaaahhnold’s Terminator - the bad guy terminators don’t even recognize her model number, for instance. She doesn’t even seem to have the same basic instruction set in that she seems to process information differently. There are already allusions to her having a very close relationship to John in the future, including a slight amount of sexual tension between Cameron and John. She could evolve into an interesting Data-like version of a “what dose it mean to be human?” terminator, or she could end up being John’s hawt android sexbot who just happens to pack a nice punch - who knows at this point?
  • Sarah Conner: Lena Headey plays a fairly interesting character, but is one which bares very little resemblance to the character played by Linda Hamilton. This Sarah Connor is a waif who struggles to be tough enough to do what is necessary. Emotions are always just under the surface for this character. In truth, Headey plays a Sarah Conner FAR closer to the first Terminator instead of after the second one. I don’t know if I like the change, but besides the occasional English accent switch, Headey does a decent job playing whoever this character is supposed to be.
  • John Conner: Thomas Dekker’s John Conner is FAR preferable to the monstrosity played by Nick Stahl. So far, Dekker is by far the most believable character. He seems pissed off, tough, smart and screwed over – exactly like we’d expect from the kid from Terminator 2. I’m interested to see how he “grows” into his leadership role.
  • James Ellison: Ellison is an FBI agent played by Richard Jones, who seems to be discovering that the future that psycho-Sarah seems to have told everyone might actually be coming true. So far, he hasn’t had enough face time to be relevant, but there appears to be some interesting possibilities.


Terminator: Sarah Connor Chronicles screen capture


Problems With The Dress Code: OK, call me crazy but Sarah Conner in skirts and the Terminatrix in miniskirts just doesn’t work for me. Here’s a thought – I know its cliché but how ‘bout we try making Summer look tough. How? Hmmm, I dunno, how’s about using the traditional black leathers motif? That seemed to work for Kristanna Loken, not to mention virtually every other female action star since Catwoman in Batman Returns. Considering the number of clichés they’ve used already, this one seems like a “slam dunk.” And just another thought – have they considered possibly combat fatigues (or something similar) for Sarah Conner? Whatever they choose – PLEASE – stop the skirts.


Terminator: Sarah Connor Chronicles screen capture


Forget the T3 Fate - Now the Future Timeline is Fucked Up: Similar to T2, the message again is that the future is unclear. That said, if the future is sooo unclear, how is it that John Conner in the future is able to keep sending back his cronies to different times (1963, 1984, 1991, 1999, 2007 so far)? You’d think there would have been “some” change on the future, especially since apparently the 1963 machine is the way people can go back to the future. Again, one has to ask, if Skynet has the ability to send a significant number of people back (they always seem to be able to create that “one” more time machine…), why not send someone back to Sarah’s mother’s time and wax John’s grandmother? But far more troubling is the idea that all these things in the past simply haven’t affected John’s actions in the future. The world expiration date has now been pushed back to 2011 - how did that affect the people alive when John originally sent his father Reece back to 1984? Such questions are clearly beyond our understanding, but it just goes to show, that we can modify the signature line of the series (“We’re never safe”) to “We’re never safe from sequels in a previously successful franchise. Given this reincarnation, its only natural that the timeline issues so wonderfully explored in the first Terminator are now totally rendered nonsensical and silly.


Terminator: Sarah Connor Chronicles screen capture


They Actually Ripped Off Hardware!!! Yes, that long, lost, forgotten low-budget cyberpunk flick from Richard Stanley has been ripped off here. In Hardware, set in a dystopic future, a guy finds a cool looking robot head which he brings back home to give to his girlfriend. The head ends up being a low-budget Terminator-like robot (yes, it ripped off the original Terminator, so go figure), who ends up being able to slowly rebuild itself. Once it does, it wreaks havoc on the the wierdos living in this truly bizarre apartment building (I highly recommend this movie). The red-shirt terminator who gets wasted in the first episode apparently didn’t really get wasted (so much for the red-shirt analogy). Instead, he slowly rebuilds himself in a very cool zombie-like way…


Terminator: Sarah Connor Chronicles screen capture


The FX: Similar to T3, the Sarah Connor Chronicles are rescued by high quality FX – far better than we should expect from a TV series in fact. The time travel Terminator bubble looked excellent, as did the initial world destruction dream sequence. For the most part, the damaged terminators look decently realistic, and the battle sequences believable. Nice touches like the open arm and leg shots really do serve to finish this off. However, some stunts like the stupid terminator not noticing the 200 mph car hitting them have already been way overdone (twice so far). Truly terminators have learned how to look both ways before crossing at this point, ey? It looks cool and all, but give it a rest already.


Terminator: Sarah Connor Chronicles screen capture


The Bottom Line: For the pilot episode, I’d give it 4 stars at best. The second episode rates at least 6 stars – probably 7. While the pilot was really problematic, the possibilities exist for this to become a pretty good series. Some of the minor characters and plot points might end up working well. The whole mysterious terminator thing that Summer Glau engages in could end up being very interesting, or, if they pursue the whole love interest with John thing, it could turn into a truly sour dud. And even though the show has problems both in minor plot issues and believable characters, the well-known Terminator score really helps build suspense. We “know” what the music should sound like when a bad guy terminator approaches – we aren’t disappointed here. Bottom line, the series is worth giving a watch at this point. I’ll re-evaluate as the 12 episode season gets to its mid-point.


January 18, 2008

clayton barone said:

This show is the greatest TV show I have EVER seen; and I AM 51 years old!
Loved the action! Loved the plot and sub-plots!
REALLY ESPECIALLY LOVED Summer Glau!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
God Bless Summer Glau!

Summer Glau, America LOVES you!

January 24, 2008

d-ray said:

bring it on, t3 really messes up the timeline,,,,,,,in t1 reece says he grows up in the war, now that judgment day is pushed back, will he grow up in a nice home environment and not become a soldier? if john and sarah are now in 2007 will they run into kyle,? is cameron a terminator version of john’s daughter in the future, is she really there to help him?

d-ray said:

i di not realize that terminators had the chemical equation for skin,,,,anyone else think john is the cause for judgment day?

February 18, 2008

Pooua said:

I think you guys are too hard on T3. The directors decided to tell a pre-apocalyptic story, instead of post, and I think they made the right decision for telling a story that would be of interest to the broadest audience. Remember all the post-apocalyptic stories on TV in the ’70s and ’80s? They had short lives, didn’t they? The alien nation concept, with futuristic events happen right in our own time, has its appeal. It isn’t that T3 was bad, it’s just set in the future. And, by future, I don’t mean a specific year. I think you get too hung up on dates and ignore the storyline. More than that, I think you complain too much about getting one of the more interesting TV sci-fi series; I suppose you would rather that prime time had “Love Boat” spin-offs?

Pooua said:

This is a TV series, and those two words lower my expectations for the stories told. Even so, there are things that I could complain about, despite my earlier post. One is the number of terminators who could not hit the side of a barn. Another is that even if they can’t aim, simply pumping insane amounts of lead into the general direction of people ought to cut them all to shreds. Also, the SWAT team at the bank in the pilot should have put up a fight to keep someone from entering the building (I guess that would have taken too long).

One question I have is, How did that terminator head get through the time bubble? It doesn’t appear to have been encased in flesh during the trip, so it should not have made it.

Pooua said:

Oh, yeah, about the terminators who don’t notice approaching high-speed cars, I guess that means they really focus on one main task. In some ways, they appear to be capable of making complex plans and calculations, but when it comes to interacting with the world around them, they are far less flexible than people would be. I suppose this means there are other ways to attack them when they are focused on a target than just ramming them with a car or truck.

Pooua said:

Sorry about all the posts, but I keep thinking of new things to add.

In the pilot, when Krycek is taking roll, he could have simply strolled over to John, popped John’s head off his neck and then walked out. OK, so the terminators like using guns; why use a spoon when a backhoe is available, right? He still had plenty of chances to shoot John before he got out the window, and certainly when he had John cornered between the cars. It bothers me a bit that he had such an easy chance to kill John, but completely screwed it up.

Pooua said:

Insisting that John attends public school all the time doesn’t make much sense, either. Have the producers never heard of home schooling? A few years ago, I met a family of what could be described as Irish gypsies. There are many families in this country who roam all over the place, with no permanent address or long-term job, unskilled, uneducated, somewhat of a social menace. I spent a few hours with this family, during which time I asked what their children do for school. Guess what? They “home school.” If that family of illiterates could get by with that excuse, I think the Conner’s could, too.

Oh, another question: Why was Cameron in the girl’s bathroom?

February 20, 2008

dragyn said:

Latest ep was fantastic. Read my review here:

Real SF - on the cheap, but hey, it’s TV!

Summer Glau rocks!!!!!!!!!!!!

Pooua said:

My first impression of Episode 6 is that it is the best so far. I need to watch it a few more times to pick it apart, but explaining more of the future world of the first Terminator movie certainly raises this one up a notch. And then we have that ambiguity in Cameron; I was beginning to wonder an episode or 2 ago whose side she is really on. This episode raises even more questions.

March 24, 2008

Erik said:

I think it is the coolest robot movie they have ever made.

April 7, 2008

Adam Daub said:

They seriously need to kill off Summer Glau’s character after the first season, otherwise this will be the same shit over and over again. (And please don’t give me the, “dude she’s hot.” nonsense. Go watch porn and get over yourself, please) I’d like to see John and Sarah survive without the help of something sent from the future for a bit.
Have Glau and John fall in love, then kill her off. Please.
Let the fanboy rants/flaming begin.

May 3, 2008


It’s official. There’ll be a second season. 20th Century Fox’s gonna be making 13 episodes. Derek Reese returns as a regular. Summer Glau is back. Originally, the first season was supposed to have 13 episodes too. But because of the WGA strike, it finished with only nine. The first season’s a success. Had 10.5 million viewers and a high rating of 4.4/10. Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles - Season 1 DVD will be released in August. Terminator 4 is May 22, 2009. First of a new trilogy. It stars Christian Bale as John Connor.

Pooua said:

Fantastic! Glad to hear it!

fastpunk said:

First off, I love this site. Great job with it! :) Also, I like most of what I’ve read in this article. The first season is done and the series managed to grow nicely, despite a few annoying inconsistencies. The characters are quite interesting and have improved over the course of the 9 episodes. Lena Headey was constant in her performance, and it isn’t bad… but I want more determination from her character. Summer Glau though really seems to have adapted to her role. She’s much better now and your “what does it mean to be human?” assumption about her character is spot on. It’s demanding for an actor to hint at subtle thoughts that the character might have and Summer Glau managed to pull it off. So now Cameron and her relationship to John is pretty much the best part of the series. Speaking of which, the new John Connor is indeed an improvement over the T3 version, but still lacking. He’s coming around though and I hope he’ll actually grow more in the following season. Eh, there’s a lot that could be discussed further but I guess season 2 will answer a few questions… and maybe even patch up some of the inconsistencies of season 1’s plot.

September 16, 2008

Mr No1 said:

Just watched season 2 episode 1… man, that was boring. It feels like the only thing they are trying is to get cliches from the films to make it worth anything.
And that red-headed woman, is that Garbage’s singer? 0_0
Disappointed. But then, this wasn’t that great before anyway…

September 22, 2008

Mr No1 said:

Ok, I have to say that the episode 2 isnt that bad =)

September 27, 2008

Michael said:

Terminator movie series that I like to watch and collect are very good like the cyberpunk films. My all-time favorite is Blade Runner. My mother didn’t let me watch “Terminator” in 1984 because of violence. I watched it two years later. I’m still cyberpunk fan since 1991. I’m interested to explore the cyberpunk culture. Cyberpunk never dies.

“Terminator: the Sarah Connors Chronicles” is the terrific TV series that I’ve watched. Not bad. Damn good. Cameron the terminator-like bodyguard of John Connors is named after James Cameron who directed “Terminator 2: Jugdment Day”. In the second season, after the car explosion, Cameron used the stapler to close the “scars” on her face. No pain. She can draw digitally the bar codes for Sarah Connor’s plan to sneak in the nuke plant in another episode.

September 28, 2008

Mr No1 said:


Mr No1 said:

Michael, I know you are a terminator…

September 29, 2008

Michael said:

Thanks. No problems.

January 23, 2009

Anonymous said:

what about The Sarah Connor Chronicles Season 2? aren’t you gonna say something about it?

Pooua said:

I liked Season 2. I think the episodes are intelligent and well-written. Someone put a lot of thought into them, and didn’t settle for cheap thrills.

January 28, 2009

Anonymous said:

what about Terminator Salvation: The Future Begins? aren’t you gonna say something about it?

Adam Daub said:

John went from being a smart-ass little punk rock kid, to a douchebag Dawson’s Creek reject, to a whining little emo twat. I didn’t have too much of a problem with him in Season 1, but geez, seriously, he’s like the stereotypical self-indulged scenester kid now. Once they decide to stop weening him off of trend culture I’ll be happy to see how Christian Bale handles the character.

*sniff* *sniff* “NO ONE UNDERSTANDS ME AND MY TERMINATOR PROBLEMS!!!” *runs away with iPOD in ears to write angry poetry about mom’s guns*

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