TTSCC’s Cameron and Catherine: Good, Evil, or Other?

As I write this, it’s still a day away from the airing of “Today is the Day, Part 2”, which promises to be somewhat revelatory, leading off the final quad of season 2 episodes that promises quite a ride, as is evidenced by the FOX promos descriptions:

Today is the Day – Part 2: The exciting two-parter continues as Jesse’s submarine mission in the future takes a fatal turn that has unforeseen consequences for John, Sarah and Derek in the present. Sarah deals with Cameron, who has become a liability, and John steps up and makes a life-or-death choice.

To the Lighthouse: Fearing for her life, Sarah stashes John in a safe house with the only person she believes she can rely on, Charley Dixon. Cameron and Derek struggle to work together after she reveals a big secret, and Weaver’s entire effort is at risk when John Henry is compromised – but by whom?

Adam Raised a Cain: When John attempts to rescue Skynet’s latest target he finds himself closing in on Weaver, but at what cost? Game plans change leading Sarah and Ellison to reunite, while Weaver learns Ellison’s secrets.

Born to Run: Fate is changed forever on the explosive season finale episode! The Connors come face-to-face with Weaver in a confrontation that shakes John to the core and changes his reality. Nothing will be the same.

There is a lot there that sparks interest and debate over the destinies of the various characters. This is also tied into the major question that came out of “Today is the Day, Part 1“: what is in the box?

ttscc-cathcam-280Since, by premise definition, the key to the entire Terminator franchise is the goodness and badness of the various mechanical lifeforms (otherwise, who cares what John Connor does), and since we have two primary characters that have become audience draws in TTSCC, in Cameron and Catherine, I can’t help but think about how some of this could play out.

The traditional approach has been that Cameron is the good terminator and that Catherine is the evil one (or, as one forum would have it, “ebil”). As a writer, this is the combination I’d find the most difficult to write for because it’s already been done in T2. Even so, Cameron is played by fanboy favorite Summer Glau, and as such there is a great desire for Cameron to have a happy ending.

At this point in the larger story, that would mean that Cameron evolves into an über-terminator (whatever that means) who either ends up as a partner with John, who gets to live an idyllic life because Skynet was thwarted, or who dies a heroic and altruistic death to save John (but only at series end).

I can’t help wondering what if Cameron is “ebil” and has her own ideas about who should lead the resistance—not John, but her. I’ve written about how totally unknown Cameron’s agenda is. As an audience, the only thing we know about Cameron is that she’s a cybernetic organism that is structured on a hyper-alloy combat chassis. We know that Derek recognizes her from the future. We know that she has at least some files on resistance personnel. And she can do a pretty convincing simulation of a human under some circumstances. That’s it. Because Cameron looks like how she looks, and seems to be acting in the cause of good, we immediately attribute to her a nobility that she might not warrant.

What if Cameron isn’t in it to protect/teach John, fight Skynet, and prevent Judgment Day? As John can be offed at any point before he becomes a savior, Cameron can use him until such time that her own agenda is completed. As she has a penchant for improvisation (aka: crossing against the light), there is the possibility that this outside-the-box-thinking also extends to her own ambitions.

I still prefer to think that, at the end of the day, Cameron is more or less what she has professed to be: a friend and protector of John Connor. Whatever else comes, I think that part is stable.

Now Catherine is an even bigger enigma. Other than knowing she’s a mimetic poly-alloy being, we have no clue as to what her place in all of this is. Many have been speculating that the contents of the “Today is the Day” box is the “liquid metal” that we now know as Catherine Weaver. (Some also speculate that the contents of the box is a folded up Cameron…perhaps our Cameron.) We’ll likely find that out tomorrow.

As I’ve suggested before, the problem with Catherine is that we don’t know her plan. She could have been sent back by and ever farther in the future John to establish a second front against Skynet and to ensure the development of the AI that will eventually become Cameron.

Or Catherine could be pure Skynet evil.

This is, of course, what the creative team has been wanting us to think. The idea is that any robot not in close proximity to John to protect him is therefore a minion of Skynet. Would future John be that stupid? Wouldn’t this “brilliant strategist” send back terminators for other tasks. If Skynet is diversifying its efforts (Cromartie hunts John, Vick ensure development of ARDIE, Carter secures a supply of coltan, etc.), then John should be as well.

As I speculated in one of the Scenes I’d Like To See, it’s not out of the question that Cameron and Catherine are actually working together to some end, whatever that end might be. This would make them either both good or both evil. Why not have this wider net?

It also begs the question, what if this time-travel war is no longer about John or the Connors? What if it’s just Skynet fighting a civil war? A battle in the past for supremacy in the future. The machines that cross against the light vs the children of a military chess program (i.e. the program by the Japanese that won the tournament in “Queen’s Gambit”. If you widen the scope beyond what was happening in the first two Terminator movies, this starts to make more sense.

Terminators from the future are becoming a significant immigration group in southern California. All seem to be doing one piece of a puzzle that will be assembled in some future. HKs are being developed. AI systems are being developed. Robots are fighting robots. Except for Cromartie, none of the robots have been specifically targeting John Connor—except when John yells something to them like “Hey, it’s me! It’s John Connor!”

Perhaps it’s not about stopping Skynet at all. Maybe Judgment Day is only a possibly side-effect. The true battle is for which branch of the robotic-AI tree will survive. Sure, taking our John makes a distraction go away, but in the grander scheme of things, that’s all he really is. The cross-against-the-light faction protects John because in the future he diverts from Skynet forces that would otherwise be battling the improvising machines.

The idea actually sort of make me all tingly. With this line of reasoning, it isn’t about humans vs Skynet at all. If what newly-skinned Cameron in the future said is true, then human salvation actually rests on her side winning against Skynet. If humans think of machine rule as evil, then by that definition it could easily be that Cameron is evil. If, instead, it’s a question of survival vs genocide, then Cameron’s side would be “good” even though it was evil.

I think the jury is still very much out on Catherine. She seems to be rather single-minded on her task to grow John Henry into a machine with the ability to distinguish right actions from wrong actions. We haven’t seen her divorce him of the idea that human life is sacred. This isn’t exactly the process you’d expect a Skynet minion to follow. True, Skynet could be trying to adapt to future realities and imbue itself with enhanced cognitive abilities…but to what end?

What are we left to conclude? Is Cameron good or evil? On which side of the good/evil coin does Catherine fall? I have my druthers, of course. I like the scenario where Cam and Cath are pursuing their own agenda regardless of John, but one where Cam would prefer to have John as an ally. It sends the franchise in a totally new direction. John is still an important piece. He’s no longer the King on the chess board, but neither is he a pawn. More of a knight—dangerous, distracting, but expendible if need be.

I do have to admit that I’m on tenterhooks anticipating how the second season climaxes. The possibilities for a season 3 are boundless.

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