Building Terminator – My Plan For Season 2 (Part 2 of 2)

Continuing on from Part 1 of this series…

Now that we’ve all had a lovely lunch, it’s time to block out our characters’ missions for season 2. First, let’s start with our whiteboard:

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We know where our major sign posts are in terms of story. Now we need to look at each of our characters and extrapolate out.

Living Space (which in this context is a character). The Connors are homeless and vulnerable. Time to find a bunker? It might make more sense to make them gypsies, always on the move, but new sets and locations every week will kill the budget. Have to decide on a locale. Because of collateral damage and attention, it’s making more and more sense to have them out at an abandoned military base or warehouse or something. Makes dressing the soundstage easier.

Cameron: Though she starts the season in terminator mode, obviously it’s just a glitch that gets corrected to everyone’s satisfaction (more or less). Perhaps because of this, Cameron spends a little more time finding out what it is to be a cyborg in a human world. Let’s NOT turn her into Data. She DOES NOT YEARN to be human. It doesn’t mean she can’t grow into her own cyborgy person, however. Other than that, her primary mission needs to stay the same: protect John, and then otherwise help advance the mission. Clearly a fan favorite, balance appearances.

Sarah: Because of Andy’s legacy, and the Sarkissian thing, it seems in her character to become obsessed with the Turk and Sarkissian, and whoever is allied with Sarkissian. This should have a balance of Sarah being a little too outside the box at times, and other times having some success. Can’t have our titular character being beaten down too much. She has to win some otherwise the audience will lose interest.

John: We have to pull him out of school. He has four-ish years to prepare for JD. Are we seriously going to be having him cool his heels in school when he needs to be training to become a leader?

Derek: Being from the future, he has tactical knowledge that could give John a head-start. They need to start identifying key individuals and possible recruits. Derek needs to be the Pentagon. He gives advice but is otherwise there to follow John. And train John. As a father figure, he can also be an irritant to Sarah when John starts spending more time with him.

Charlie: There are going to be injuries in this battle. It would be nice if someone with medical training was around. Should remain recurring unless he catches fire with the fans.

Ellison: Well…we’re killing him. We need to figure out a way to have him fall on the wrong side without making him seem like a complete moron.

Terminatrix: A Cruella de Vil type mixed with Steve Jobs? A great salesman but with a singular focus that only a terminator can have. Needs to have at least the personality of “Uncle Bob”, but less than Cameron, lest she be discovered. Likely a T1000 model because the CGI people say that they can do morphing on the cheap (relatively), but the TX transformer arms will be a budget and scheduling headache.

Derek’s Love?: Cleopatra. A powerful woman with a hidden agenda?

Let’s look at the developmental arcs.

After Cameron’s terminator spree, she loses some confidence, but like an injured athlete, gets it back by returning to the game. Figure a few episodes. Of course, this means that when John goes missing, she gets VERY focused, and even more protective once he’s found.

Derek and John should have a continuous season-long arc of practical training…not like what John got in Central America, but about how best to fight the battles against Skynet. The best ground. The most effective tactics and weapons. Somewhere in the first third, they might have to save someone of import to John in the future. Use that as the first ally and start a thread of them trying to locate other critical personnel.

Sarah will be myopic in regards to the Turk. The clues are scant, but she follows every lead. Despite her drive, she is often reminded (mostly by Cameron) of how important she is to John. As a result, she doesn’t take a lot of bone-headed risks (i.e. she usually calls for backup if she’s solo).

Somewhere around mid-season, not long after getting their first recruit, the team, mostly sans Sarah, starts researching other tech besides the Turk. It makes no sense to put all of their eggs in one basket.

Clearly Ellison’s arc is his dance with the devil until he dies.

OK. Let’s see where we are on the whiteboard:

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We can immediately see that Sarah is a bit of a problem. She’s out alone on her mission tangent. While Cameron or Derek will have to be loaned out to that storyline (in fact, the filling-in aspect might provide the needed exposition), Sarah is going to be sort of lone-wolfing it. We need to make sure she stays together with the team. Her focus is not just JD, but John. When push comes to shove, John will always come first. She’s not a great mom, but in that one aspect she’s aces.

I’m also seeing a great opportunity at the start of the back-9 to bring in the Chola and maybe start doing some gang contacts/complications.

If we bring in Derek’s Love interest (I’m still not sold on that), it looks like a good spot might be around eps 9 or 10. That will get Derek out of the way when John goes all mishugine. Let’s draw that up:

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Lastly: Antagonist/Protagonist. We’re planning to make the Terminatrix the antagonist for at least this season. We’ll re-evaluate before we break the mid-season scripts. As for the protagonist, we need to pick one otherwise we risk fracturing our point of view. It’s great that we all seem to be on the same page here: it needs to be John. Everything revolves around John and his unique place in future history. That said, it’s important to remember that it’s the SARAH Connor Chronicles. She’s the guiding force. We have to ask ourselves this: is she the blessed mother, or more like the Magdalene? If the former, do we need to think about a character to be the later? Someone who, even now, will both blindly follow John and be the symbol for the righteousness of human salvation? …All while not being preachy. It’s a sci-fi action show for pity’s sake. Think about it.

At this point, I’d say the session had been reasonably productive. Now would be the time for the writers to slink off to wherever writers slink and start breaking out stories for the season. There is certainly a lot of room for creativity while also making certain our characters, and our primary stories, stay on track for the season. We generally have three or four aspects of plot or character that we can touch on at every stage of development.

This alone isn’t enough to really hang a season on. That’s what the writers are for. What these are are signposts and touchstones. We know where we are going. We might not know how we are going to get there, but what trip isn’t made better by a side trip to see the “world’s largest ball of twine”? Tell me that. And, if we need to make a change, we have enough disparate threads in our story that a major change, maybe even two, can be accommodated without derailing the whole choo-choo.

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