T:TSCC – Some Speculations on the Humans (Part 2 of 2)

When left to their own devices, the cyborgs and androids of the TTSCC universe exhibit a clarity of action that the humans miss. We have a significant menu of humans who are exerting an influence on present-future events. It might behoove us to take a better look at them. (Part 2 of 2 – click for Part 1)

Derek Reese

And speaking of hubris, let’s not leave out one Derek Reese, First Lieutenant with the 132nd S.O.C., operational specialty Tech-Com, and one of John Connor’s best soldiers. The man’s a walking advertisement for PTSD awareness and badly-treated battle scars. But if we step back from Derek’s loyalty to John, all we see is a soldier who longs for the time when he wasn’t a soldier. Unfortunately, the loyalty and the longing combine to weakening effect on Derek.

It comes as no surprise that Derek is a “metal” bigot. John had only started the terminator reprogramming effort (aided by Cameron?) shortly before Derek went back in time himself. As a result, combined with his recent capture and “interest” by the terminators in his time, Derek has only one point of view: the only good terminator is a dead, deactivated, melted, scattered to the wind terminator. His view is perhaps only slightly less extreme than Jesse’s simply because he left earlier.

I think it’s his blind spot. Derek tries at every decent opportunity to poison John’s mind against Cameron. Perhaps this is wise, but to date Derek hasn’t had the best track record with planning. He forgets that he isn’t in the 2020s, and certain things are different in the pre-JD (Judgment Day) era. You can’t just blow stuff up no matter how funny it is.

It’s not difficult to understand some of Derek’s confusion. now-John isn’t the future-John he knows. He’s not a soldier. He didn’t spend years in a Skynet work camp. This John doesn’t know what it’s like to have to send people to their deaths, not just once but often. This John’s experience with terminators (sent back by himself, btw) has been much less traumatic and likely more varied. As a result, their views of “metal” don’t exactly mesh. Derek views them as pure evil, while John accepts that it isn’t quite so black-and-white.

Derek loves with little reservation. Yes, he’d die for John Connor, but he’ll also do that and more for his nephew John. Unfortunately, this sort of love also gives Jesse a way into Derek’s loyalties. Derek loves Jesse and gives her the benefit of the doubt, especially if it also means that his hatred of metal can be utilized so as to save John. This sort of tangled web of loyalties and prejudices has tied Derek up into such a knot that it will be very easy for him to do the wrong thing despite his very best intentions.

In fact, he’s already done so. After future-John sent him back to do reconnaissance and to wait (according to Cameron, who was-will be there), but instead he did things like stalk Sarah and kill Andy Goode. This rogue killing effected nothing because he did it too late. The thing is, he’s already demonstrated a tendency to go against John’s orders if he thinks John’s orders were insufficient in some way.

Amazingly, Derek’s weakness is also his strength: his love for John. If this character has any moral fiber at all (i.e. is a better man than Ellison), Derek has to do right by his friends, his family, and his future commander. In the end, I think he’ll choose to sacrifice Jesse so as not to harm John…even if that means letting Cameron continue on.

Sarah Connor

Sometimes I think that Sarah left Pescadero a little too soon. As she suggested to Akagi in “Strange Things Happen at the One Two Point“, she’s still a little nuts. Her meltdown upon destroying Cromartie’s chip in Mexico certainly offered the newest inciting incident. But, as she tells anyone who needs to know, she does have one singular focus: protect John. Above all else, no human will ever be as loyal to John Connor as is Sarah Connor.

As with Derek, Sarah’s flaw is also her love for John. She’s sacrificed her life in ways few could even conceive of, much less implement. John has been exposed to some of the worst sorts of people in his young life in an effort to harden him for the fight that is to come. At the same time, Sarah’s drive to create this leader of men gives way to something more basic: she’s a mother who simply wants her little boy to be safe. Oft times, these two desires don’t exactly mesh.

Unlike Derek, and even John, Sarah was raised with a background that maintained a moral integrity. It’s this sort of compass that frequently sends her veering off the path of necessary choices. She doesn’t kill. While this is generally a good thing, when you are in a war where one person is designated the key to all things, being morally dainty is something that can get a lot of people killed…even more than if it had been done properly in the first place. Consider, if Sarah had killed one boy in a bowling ally, that likely would not have many more deaths in Mexico a few days later (by Cromartie’s hand).

Sarah’s constant moral flaw is her morality. Her decision to destroy the Turk and yet let Andy Goode live ensured that a better Turk would be built…giving Catherine Weaver cause to kill many people in her pursuit of its treasures. Sarah not letting Ellison die in a fire in Silberman’s cabin ensured that Ellison could aid Weaver and deliver unto her Cromartie’s brain-dead remains. Sarah’s obvious intent to not kill Enrique, who it turned out was an F.B.I. informer, would have set Ellison on their trail much quicker. The examples are seemingly endless.

And yet, she continues on. Sarah’s strength, beyond her loyalty to John, is her ability to shrug off defeat and move ahead toward her goals. Given how often Sarah fails, this is an important trait, and certainly something that John will have to use to good effect in the future. Clearly there will be years of very tough times before John can rise from the ashes to create a new phoenix out of humanity’s survivors. The resolve to continue on despite the setbacks gives Sarah her advantage, and is perhaps the most important lesson she’s passed on to John.

So what’s to become of Sarah? Does she get cancer? I’m thinking that’s still a very real possibility. She got it before, and she’s been “crapped up” at a nuclear facility, so the possibility remains. Having a heads-up will allow her to, perhaps, stave it off for a bit, but I don’t think she can avoid it. Can she survive it? I think that sort of depends on how much of a liability she becomes for John. I can easily see her killing herself if it allows John to survive. Also, it depends on the timing of JD. If she’s hospitalized for treatment, she could easily be exposed when the nukes hit.

Regardless, I think Sarah’s days are likely numbered. Though the small possibility that some timeline could see Sarah surviving JD and helping John raises some interesting possibilities.

John Connor

John’s arc has been interesting. In T2 he was this ‘tween juvenile delinquent who for the first time learned what it was like to be hunted by a terminator. But…he also learned at the same time what it was like to have a protector that would sacrifice himself for you and your future. In TTSCC, John’s world is filled with even more robots intent on causing his destruction, but he also has a protector—significantly more advanced than his first—who, so he’s told by that protector (and borne out from comments by Jesse to Derek), is someone he’s close to in the future.

Of course, John’s also learned what happens when things go wrong…horribly wrong. Having his trusted protector come oh-so-close to killing him, and then to have this same protector forget him and think that she wasn’t a robot but a girl…well, that’s enough to make one’s life a little unsettling. But still, John has been trusting Cameron. She saves his life. More than that, future-he sent her back to help him (so we’re told). If John can’t place blind trust in the motives of his future self…well, he might as well just crawl into a fallout shelter somewhere and hope for the best.

John is trying to find a place in his world he can settle into. Fortunately for him, this is pretty normal for a sixteen-year-old, especially one with an over-protective single parent. He wants to rebel, but he can’t stray too far from his path for the consequences would be dire, indeed. The thing that helps to give him a place of safety is his mother, who is also the focus of his desire to escape. It hasn’t helped that Sarah has made some decisions that John views are not in his best interests…specifically the plan to destroy Cameron despite his protests that he’d fixed her chip. (This, of course, in the immediate aftermath of him having to kill Sarkissian in order to save his mother and himself.) The lad is dealing with a lot plus having to be a teenager. It’s amazing he hasn’t cracked under the pressure.

John is definitely finding the burden of being the savior of mankind tough to shoulder considering that the events that made him the chosen one haven’t even happened yet. He’s clearly suffering from PTSD following his killing of Sarkissian and having to be hunted by Cameron. He had to choose sides, which resulted in his choosing Cameron over the humans in his life. This led to the schism between him and Sarah which only started to heal following Sarah’s breakdown after the deactivation of Cromartie.

And then there’s Riley, who John sees as his one chance of having a relationship that could in any way be construed as normal. His thought is basically: if not now, then when? If he doesn’t sow some oats now, then the fields are going to fallow following JD. It’s certainly an understandable choice for a sixteen-year-old, but one that demonstrates a tendency of John to take risks.

Many list John’s re-insertion of Cameron’s CPU following her termination-quest of him to be one of these risks. I don’t. If Cameron awoke without the intent to kill John, great. If she rebooted and stayed in terminator mode, well, John wouldn’t have to worry about becoming the great John Connor any more. It spoke of his mental fatigue more than anything that he was perfectly happy with his life ending there. If he couldn’t trust Cameron, and if his mom couldn’t protect him (as he’d only just killed Sarkissian earlier that day), then suicide seemed a fair trade-off.

John’s possible dalliance with suicide in “The Tower is Tall But the Fall is Short” speaks of his precarious state. A lot is being asked of him. Not only does he have to learn how to be a leader, but he also has to be the expert tech guy. He’s expected to make decisions, but he’s not yet earned a place to give orders…even though he, of all the primary humans in this play, makes better tactical decisions.

Where John falls down in is understanding humans. While Sarah can’t kill, John has a problem in that he can’t not trust. His nature is to believe the best in people. This is likely why others follow him in the future. He commands respect by respecting others in turn. Unfortunately, it also makes John somewhat gullible. Derek, Sarah, Cameron, and others have all lied to him, and he’s bought it every time. When John finds out that Riley and Jesse have been playing him…well, I’m expecting a bit of nuclear tesuji. Overall, while you might not want to play chess or Go against John, I think you’d have a pretty fair chance at poker.

Something I’ve mentioned in another blog is that John’s strength, that special something that sees him through to victory, is this bubble of luck that surrounds him. He narrowly escapes death and detection too often for it to be simple coincidence. The law of averages would indicate that he should have been caught many times by now even without factoring the number of times he has intentionally put himself into harm’s way. No, the only explanation is that he has luck protecting him. Unfortunately, this luck doesn’t transfer. Many others die in order for John Connor to live—witness the poor shnook in T2 that is the bullet-catcher in the mall infrastructure when the T-1000 and “Uncle Bob” first battle.

John’s future is essentially set. He will survive JD, be imprisoned for about six years, and then emerge as the savior of humankind. Little has happened that cause this future to change. Right now, there are few significant variables. Does Cameron continue with whatever her mission is with John? Can JD be averted at all? John could be a heroic figure who is able, with the help of his team, to stop JD before it begins. On the other hand, and the one that is more likely in the opinion of most, is that John is simply a tragic figure who will be the Prophet around whom a mythology is built that allows mankind to defeat Skynet. I want to think that there is a third option: that John, together with Cameron, is able to forge an alliance with the sentient machines that averts JD, but doesn’t prevent the emergence of machines as a force on the planet (i.e. John makes a pact with terminators who are like Cameron).

The Future

With all of the irrational and illogical variable that humans put into play, and with all of the political machinations that surround the world of the Connors, it’s very difficult to think the future is going to be at all optimistic. There seems to be a certain inevitability about Skynet. There also seems to be a distinct anti-machine focus from people coming from the future (understandably). These combined don’t bode well for anything significant changing. Sure, JD might have its due date changed again, but it doesn’t seem like it will matter much. Ironically, it may be the machines that save the humans.

As was shown in T1 and T2, mankind will create Skynet…with or without causality help from time travel. What comes of that seems to be in the hands of the machines. It also falls to John Connor and his team to decide if benign machines are a saner course than the all-or-nothing path set forth by types like Derek and Jesse. Will the example set before John of Cameron and “Uncle Bob” be the catalyst that ultimately saves mankind. Will John learning humanity from machines be the key?

I guess we’ll just have to keep watching to find out.

(Click link for Part 1)

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