As you should all know by now, I am on an epic quest to seek out shows I wouldn’t normally watch and give them one chance to impress me.
The past two weeks, I have reviewed The CW’s teen dramas, 90210 and Gossip Girl. While the majority of The CW’s lineup would fall under the category of “shows I wouldn’t normally watch,” I don’t want it to seem like I am picking on one particular network or genre. So, this week I decided to branch out and try an action-packed drama – Fox’s Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles.
You would think that I would have given this show a try by now. I enjoyed all of the Terminator films on a purely visceral level and their message – that one day robots will become sentient beings who will seek to enslave us all – is an important one that I think is worth focusing on.
However, the entire Terminator story has only gotten more convoluted and ridiculous with each subsequent incarnation. The initial movie made sense – the robots use a time machine to send one of their own back to destroy John Connor’s mother before Connor was ever born. After that plan was thwarted, they continued to send back more advanced robots at different points in Sarah and John Connor’s lives. But if they have a time machine and the first plot failed – why not just keep sending robots back until you get the job done? Send 1,000 of them back to kill pregnant Sarah Connor and call it a day. Robots strike me as efficient beings – so why wouldn’t they stick with the original plan and make sure the job is done right?
I tolerated this lapse in logic through three enjoyable films, but somehow the idea of a weekly TV series just seemed too much to take. Besides, what is a Terminator story without Arnold Schwarzenegger? His acting and dialogue is so ridiculous that it distracts you from any plotholes. Without him, the whole thing just doesn’t work.
But the whole point of this “One Shot” feature is to expand my horizons. So, with that in mind, I decided to give The Sarah Connor Chronicles a try …
Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles – “The Mousetrap”
(Fox – Mondays at 8 p.m.)
The episode opens with Johnny Gavin from Rescue Me and Penny Widmore from Lost together at a gas station. Apparently in this show they are married to each other (don’t tell Desmond, brother). Johnny Gavin leaves Penny alone in their car. A Terminator seizes the opportunity and kidnaps her.
Meanwhile, John Connor is helping a bitchy pregnant chick get free cable. He gets her cable working just in time to see a conveniently-placed news story that is recapping events from a previous episode of the show. Apparently, the Terminator who kidnapped Penny designed himself to look just like an actor who was in a terrible low-budget knockoff of Conan the Barbarian (not sure why he wouldn’t just model himself after the real Conan the Barbarian, Arnold Schwarzenegger, but I digress …). The Terminator killed 20 FBI agents, but everyone thinks that the actor did it. The news report also states that the actor was killed during the standoff with the FBI.
We then see Summer Glau, who is standing in the Connor household explaining to John that the house is slowly sinking. She is apparently a reprogrammed Terminator sent back to protect John. Glau plays the role almost exactly like she played River Tam in Firefly and Serenity, which works since River Tam was also a programmed killing machine.
Johnny Gavin gets in touch with the Connors to let Sarah know that Penny has been kidnapped. Sarah Connor agrees to help him, even though she knows they are walking into a trap. Sarah tells River Tam-inator to keep an eye on John, who is heading out to pick up new computers. Ms. Connor runs into Brian Austin Green on her way to her car and he offers to come along with her to save Penny.
John and River Tam-inator load their computers into the back of his truck. Then, some random blonde girl calls John and tells him she wants to see him. He decides he doesn’t want River Tam-inator to cock-block him, so he sneaks off when she isn’t looking (because leaving behind the only person who can protect him so that he can try to get to third base with a random blonde while a Terminator is setting a trap for everyone will turn out to be a great idea).
We see Penny Widmore tied to a chair inside a run-down shack. The Terminator plays with an actual mousetrap, for those of you who like your symbolism as blunt as possible.
Garbage frontwoman Shirley Manson calls an FBI agent and invites him to lunch. She tells him that she has information about the showdown between the dead actor and the 20 slaughtered FBI agents.
Penny Widmore manages to grab her cellphone. She calls Johnny Gavin and gives him her location. He quizzes her about their sex life to make sure that it’s actually her and not a Terminator imitating her voice. After proving that she isn’t a robot, she quickly hangs up the cellphone because the Terminator reenters the room. Terminator then goes into a speech about the inventor of the mousetrap while setting mousetraps up around her chair – Dude, we get it. You named the episode “The Mousetrap.” Mousetraps are symbolic. Sarah Connor and friends are walking into a trap – one that involves drawing them out to this location so that the Terminator can go after John Connor. I think that became pretty clear as soon as John ditched River Tam-inator to go out on a date. You can stop beating us over the head with it.
Random blonde chick and John Connor exchange supposedly witty banter about magazine titles. She begins calling him “Cat Fancy,” which he seems to enjoy. Wow, is this really the guy that is going to save us all from the evil robots?
Brian Austin Green does an incredibly unconvincing job trying to portray himself as a badass soldier. Sarah Connor and Johnny Gavin find Penny Widmore and find that the Terminator has used – you guessed it – mousetraps to build a makeshift bomb around her chair. Only it’s not really a bomb, it’s a decoy to distract them. We covered this two paragraphs ago – this was all just a clever ruse to draw them all out of hiding and to isolate John Connor.
He makes an unconvincing soldier
Sarah Connor calls John and tries to warn him about the trap. The Terminator listens in on the call, which gives him John’s cell number and the password the gang uses when calling each other. The Terminator then disables Sarah’s car and blows up the cell tower so that she can’t get back in touch with John. Then, the Terminator mimics Sarah’s voice and calls John, telling him to come to the pier.
Penny Widmore caught a piece of shrapnel from the blown cell tower in her back and is bleeding profusely. Sarah, being the heartless bitch she is, tells Penny that she “ain’t got time to bleed” and orders everyone to get on the move so that they can go save John.
Shirley Manson meets with the FBI agent and quickly convinces him that she is no “stupid girl” and while many believe that she’s “only happy when it rains,” she will in fact only be happy when she gets her hand on a Terminator so that she can replicate the technology for her own personal gain. She wants the FBI agent to help her get one.
Sarah Connor hijacks a van and drives at breakneck speed to save John. Johhny Gavin begs Sarah to slow down because her driving is making things worse for Penny. Sarah eventually slams on the brakes, but it’s too late – Penny is losing too much blood and is fading fast.
The Terminator quickly spots John Connor at the pier and chases him around (cue the Benny Hill theme song). John eventually dives off the pier into the water; the Terminator jumps in after him. Apparently, Terminators haven’t been programmed to swim, so the robot quickly sinks to the bottom of the water, allowing John to escape rather easily. (Hindsight says maybe tricking John into coming to a place surrounded by water when you can’t swim wasn’t the brightest move, Terminator.)
Johnny Gavin cries outside of a hospital. John Connor tries to comfort him. Then, we cut to Penny Widmore’s funeral. Gavin tosses his Bible into the open grave. The Terminator, looking rather stylish, watches the entire funeral from a distance.
Final Thoughts: The show wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great. It moved along swiftly and kept my attention the whole time. Whoever hired Brian Austin Green as a soldier should immediately be fired, but other than that, the cast did a good job, especially Summer Glau.
I might be willing to give this show another try, however part of me is worried that week after week of John getting chased by a Terminator only to escape at the last minute could get really old really quick. Hopefully the other episodes of the show mix up the plot a bit more – this week’s storyline seemed a bit predictable and cookie cutter.
So it’s hard to say for sure whether or not … I’ll be back.
Joel Murphy is the creator of HoboTrashcan, which is probably why he has his own column. He loves pugs, hates Jimmy Fallon and has an irrational fear of robots. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.