Friday, January 18, 2008

She's Back

Review: Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles

Holy Sarah, Mother of John, kill for us now, and at the hour of the apocalypse, amen. That prayer would find itself on the lips of billions if they only knew what was to come. Self aware computer networks, nuclear war, and a ruthless army of cyborgs out to erase the stain of humanity from Earth. If that doesn’t sound familiar, know that you haven’t stumbled onto another nuts-ass conspiracy theory blog, you just probably haven’t seen Terminator.

The images, plot, and catch phrases of James Cameron’s seminal 1984 action/sci-fi masterpiece and it’s even better 1991 sequel (in fact, the only sequel other than Godfather 2 to appear on one of AFI’s lists) have become so deeply rooted in American culture that they are practically responsible for Arnold Schwarzenegger’s rise to the governorship of Coll-ee-forn-ya. And just as essential to the franchise’s success as Arnold was the dynamic performance of Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor, an average gal fated to bear and raise John Connor, military savior of humanity against our robotic oppressors.

As Sarah transformed over the series from a poufy haired waif to a hardened and ruthless freedom fighter, albeit one with an oceans deep maternal streak for John, she became one of cinema’s most iconic female heroes. After Terminator’s monumental success, including a Sarah-free third entry in the series, it would seem a fool’s errand to try reducing a saga so grand to the level of episodic TV. But that hasn’t stopped the good people at Fox from marching forth and sending Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles into homes each week.

Starring 300’s Lena Headly and Heroes’ Thomas Decker (but to me he’ll always be the kid from the Honey I shrunk The Kids tv show starrring Peter Scholari. It exists. Wiki it.) as Sarah and John, the show kicks in sometime after the projected coming of Judgment Day with mother and son attempting to settle in to a life free of robot fears, but still on the lam from human authorities. But before you can say hasta la vista, it all hits the fan and they’re again pursued by one cyborg and protected by another (Firefly’s Summer Glau, who shows potential, but has yet to match the skill she displayed in Joss Whedon’s cult space western.) A kicky (and spoiler-ish) twist in the pilot promises to put an interesting spin on the storytelling, and a deep respect for the scenarios laid out in the first two movies should keep fans happy. Those who would dare complain about discrepancies and plot holes lost all right to do so when they declared their fandom for a series rooted around the concept of a soldier going back in time to conceive the man who sent him there in the first place. That sound you hear is Albert Einstein’s head exploding in the grave.

The show isn’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but excellent production values, competent performances, the potential for compelling plotlines, and the occasional stab at psychological depth make The Sarah Connor Chronicles worth watching for sci-fi action fans or just those in need of some original drama in the current primetime desolation.

Catch it Mondays at 9, 8 central (Paolo).

Grade: B

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