My weekly episode reviews for Terminator – The Sarah Connor Chronicles finished season 2 with the episode, “Born to Run”. Despite having done the podcast and the blog, I’m still not done. My mind can’t stop thinking about the story implications for the next season.
I’ve groused about how Josh Friedman has presented season 2, but I’m increasingly excited by the ending of “Born to Run“. My own creative streak wants to dive in immediately and break out season arc and pen episodes on my own (and don’t think that’s not going to happen regardless of what FOX ultimately does…I’m not abandoning you, my cyborg zombies, through this long cold summer). But diving in would be wrong because there is much to consider. Much.
I’m going to totally ignore Terminator Salvation, for a couple of reasons: 1) It is not, and never has been, on our timeline; 2) it hasn’t lit a fire in my belly…looks like another too-dependent-on-eye-candy-cgi&sfx movie to me. Instead, I’m looking at what we have: the nugget of gold that can lead us to an epic story reimagining (yes, the possibility of epic is there).
There Is No John Connor Except What We Make For Ourselves
The huge change, of course, is that John Connor goes forward to a future that has no post Judgment Day history of John Connor the savior of humanity. And yet, there is still a resistance, there is still Skynet, there are still terminators, and the humans still fight them the same way. That is so huge.
It means that John’s importance to the story isn’t military tactics or campaign strategy or any of it. What is it, then, that makes John Connor someone special?
You trust him. He’s got a strength. I’d die for John Connor.
— Kyle Reese, Terminator
That’s the thing, you see. Just as there were hundreds of roaming priests and teachers in the area now known as Israel about 2,000 years ago, only one eventually stood out to change the course of history. That’s why John Connor matters. It isn’t what he’s learned about being a soldier—a lot of people will be better trained. It is that while others are leading as best they can, none of them are a leader. You think back to George Washington. He lost a lot of battles. His military carrier is spotty at best. And yet, he became the founding face of a nation? Why him? Because his troops trusted him. He had that strength. They’d die for General Washington.
What makes great people great isn’t what they learn, it’s who they are and where/when they find themselves. Despite being only sixteen years old, Jesse, Cameron, and even Catherine recognize that the young man before them is John Connor. He may only just be John Connor, but he got there. The key for season 3 is for John to convince the resistance that he’s this great man.
What an adventure into the cult of personality that will be. John has to prove not that he’s a great soldier. He won’t be. Though he’s fought the machines his whole life, he knows nothing of the world he finds himself in. He doesn’t know the new weapons. He doesn’t know the tunnels. He doesn’t know the basics of life that even the lowest of the tunnel trolls knows. What John has to do is forge alliances.
The Causality Conundrum
With Derek not recognizing John, John potentially faces one of those pesky time-travel paradoxes that are so inconvenient in many science fiction stories. Will some of the people touched by the Connor cadre in his timeline remember who John Connor is/was?
This is where we have to keep a firm grasp on our causality loops. The idea that you must have an inciting event to have a subsequent event has to get tossed out the window when cause and effect become bound together and appear across the time-travel landscape as whole and complete instead of sequential. Don’t worry if you don’t quite grasp it…I do, and if it breaks I’ll tell ya.
In any case, from our first glimpse it appears that the only difference in the 18-year interval is that John Connor wasn’t around. We have every reason to expect that, with Catherine’s help, John will engage in his time-war with Skynet. This is important because John will inevitably start his not-well-embraced-by-others task of building time machines and reprogramming terminators.
What complicates things a bit is that there is the missing myth that formed the initial causality loop: the myth of John Connor and the mother who trained him that fueled Kyle Reese’s desire to volunteer on a time-jump to the past to meet the legend, to meet Sarah Connor. That motivation does not exist. Without that motivation, John doesn’t exist.
What will be key for John is to come to the realization that he is literally a man out of time. He’s where and when he is for only one purpose: defeat Skynet.
However, if John is able (at least in the future of this timeline) to build and re-program and convince Kyle that Sarah Connor is all that an more, then he allows for his past to still exist. That means that he will have some allies in this future you either know him or know the story of him. First among these disciples into the cult of John Connor has to be Martin Bedell. Martin is a take-charge sort of person that gets things done regardless of what his rank actually is. He’ll be respected. He’d recognized John as being the one from the Academy, not aged a day, and will be able to swallow John’s highly improbable story.
Next on the list would have to be Lauren Fields. While Lauren’s history is only with Sarah, Cameron, and Derek, I’m sure she’s well aware of John Connor as well. Obviously she will have to be tracked down as she can’t be in the unit that found John. Why? Because neither Allison or Derek seemed to know Connor, which implies that Lauren didn’t tell them, which she would have because she knows those faces. So, Lauren is someone who needs to be tracked down (and with her they also get Sydney).
What about Allison? In this story, Allison is the Magdalene. She will have to cleave to John with a belief so strong that she’d die for him. I’m not saying that they are romantic. In fact, I think it better if they stay chaste. Allison because she’s either involved with someone else (I’ve speculated about this earlier), or because the reality of their world is to not get close. John because, well frankly, he’s still hurting from Riley, and the fact is that he loves Cameron. He raced across time to rescue Cameron. Though how Allison looks will be confusing to the emerging leader, the fact is that he lost his heart to a cyborg.
But like I said, Allison will be the Magdalene. The true believer…well, once she gets convinced. She and possibly Martin and Lauren, will have to form the core of John’s flock. At least one will have to be let in on the true facts of the overall mission. This allows them to have an autonomy of action, and a forgiveness from John when they improvise (which will spark grumbling from rank and file).
Cameron as John Henry
This bit is going to be creepy, and probably one best left alone for a while. Assuming John Henry (a/k/a Cromartie’s body) is now functional with Cameron’s chip (how — the interfaces are different?) then I don’t think too many fanboys are eager to have Cameron’s personality emerge from Cromartie’s body. Talk about creepifying. (And no disrespect for Garret, but I’d need some convincing to think that he can do justice to the Cameron persona.)
Still, even if it takes place off-screen, this is a key element in the fight against Skynet. Clearly, “Camenry” can’t hang out with John given the dogs and the shoot-metal-first mentality of the resistance. But that’s not Camenry’s job, and ey[[daggerto]] knows that (see, now those genderless pronouns don’t seem so silly, do they?). Camenry’s job would be to create the line that we accept as being Cameron’s. Terminators, yes, but different terminators. Terminators that “cross against the light”. This also factors into explaining how JH and Cameron “recognize” each other when they first meet. They are family.
Of course John will also be on track to do some terminator reprogramming. He has to if only to create a cover for the terminators that Camenry is producing. The one’s John reprograms…well, “sometimes they go bad”; but the one’s that Camenry upgrades are the ones that stay good (barring a Jeep explosion resulting in a shard impinging on eir chip). This is actually John’s army. As I suggested long ago, when Cameron said that John had “many friends”, she never said they were human friends.
Pour Me a Glass of Terminator
One of the most intriguing aspects of the Season 3 scenario has been utilizing Catherine Weaver as a willing ally to John in the fight against Skynet. Obviously she’ll need to be kept under wraps (not that I think the resistance can actually harm her, but they can certainly harm John and Camenry). But it raises a lot of very interesting possibilities.
While they both have a common goal of wanting to take down Skynet, John and Catherine will have different fundamental reasons for that pursuit. We still don’t know what Catherine’s are. (We also still don’t know if she’s the Jimmy Carter MPA terminator or how she and/or that terminator are related to the T-1000 prototype in T2.)
Common goal but different agendas will fuel the John/Catherine dynamic. She has knowledge, he has charisma, and they both require Camenry to fulfill eir mission. The fact that Catherine is allied with John of her own free will is telling. She’s not John’s protector by mission, but likely by choice (as long as he doesn’t get too emo on her). But she’s also John’s connection to the human world. Don’t get me wrong, Catherine in no way has an interest in being human, but she does seem to have come to appreciate the company of humans. I think she likes Mr. Murch, and she let her pet Ellison live a lot longer than other fools in her employ. And then there’s Savannah. Despite herself, I do think Catherine developed some affection for the girl who ran into her arms after having been hunted and rescued.
The Wild Card
While Allison will be a key figure, I don’t know if one will be more pivotal than Savannah Weaver, the (now) woman who had been raised for a time by a terminator…likely a terminator she will see again.
What will happen to the orphan girl being raised by a moral hypocrit (assuming Ellison raises her)? Since she has some history with the machines, it might be her place to be a gray. But what happens if “mummy” shows up and says that Savannah made the wrong choice? Does Savannah become a double agent, helping out that funny man who doesn’t appear to age that helped teach her how to tie her shoes?
I suggested in a previous blog that Savannah’s experience of knowing both the likes of John and an MPA and John Henry would allow her to be an amazing connective player able to go between the two worlds. Would she be to Camenry what Weaver (or Allison) will be to John? So many roads.
But what about the past? What happens with Sarah and James and young Savannah? Do we show these on screen, or does the show take a different direction?
Allowing the past timeline to continue creates problems if, indeed, the future is not set. Any action in this past timeline that effects the future would either cause a reset in the future timeline (messy, confusing, and an audience-loser), or would create an alternate timeline completely divorced from the timeline John is in.
The thing we do know about John’s now-future is that Sarah failed in stopping Skynet. It all happened pretty much as it had before, just will less hunting of John in the between times. Actually, this makes sense. Sarah’s bacon was saved many times by having a terminator around to thwart Skynet attacks. She doesn’t have anything like that advantage now. Also, there is the possibility that the preordained cancer has, in fact, made its appearance. If we assume that Sarah fought it in her original past, then the outcome is pretty much already written. I think Sarah would rather go out fighting than in some hospital bed hooked up, ironically, to machines. I don’t think she dies of cancer twice.
So…I’m not sure we can show the now timeline except, perhaps, in flashbacks as stories about the legendary Sarah Connor come to light. Which loops us back to Kyle Reese’s motivation to going back in time. If Sarah fights so heroically, but tragically, in the lost effort to prevent Judgment Day, her legend might be writ sufficiently large that Kyle would still want to meet the legend, albeit for slightly different reasons.
Remember, even if the future is not set, the past is. If our foundation is John Connor, then the past of his world is fixed (allowing for chronoportation events, of course).
Then why wouldn’t Derek do a take upon hearing the name “Connor”? If Sarah was that legendary, then wouldn’t the name itself carry weight? Probably not in this context. After all, you meet any number of people in your life that have legendary names, and they hardly register. For the most part, they are just names.
So…the big question that looms is whether or not there will be a third season. I think the possibility of an exciting reset is enough to green-light this as being almost a new series—although the title will likely have to change.
As for me, if the show doesn’t get picked up by FOX or another outlet, I’m not stopping. I’m so intrigued by where the finale left us that I’m going to keep my imagination running and I’ll fanfic my own stuff (like I haven’t been doing that already).
Additionally, I wouldn’t mind even seeing if others who are interested wanted to join in the fun in a sort of writer’s room sort of way (again, only if the show doesn’t get picked up). Soon, I’ll be working up a white board sort of deal for a third season scenario, just as I did for the 2nd season. It’s fun.
I still encourage all fans to continue writing to FOX and the advertisers and to whoever will listen that you want the show renewed. This could be the reimaging that the franchise has been wanting. Not some FX-laden one-shot of a movie, but a weekly examination of war, the cult of personality, and whether we can reconcile ourselves with our mechanical children (which I’ve also touched on before – link).