Tonight's Terminator episode shows how the Connor/Reese dudes deal with it when their ladyfolk are all cut up. But it still makes time for killer-robot sexiness. Here's our spoiler-free preview.
I should clarify before we go on: there are no spoilers in this post, unless you've missed the last few Sarah Connor episodes that have already aired. I'll also allude to a couple of things that are in the promos for the episode, but other than that, you're good.
In the midseason finale, "Earthlings Welcome Here," Sarah Connor got herself shot in the leg, and John Connor's girlfriend Riley slashed her wrists. The new episode pretty much picks up where we left off, with both women in bad shape. We get to see a bit of the contrast between how Sarah and Riley deal with their injuries, as well as their relationships to the show's menfolk.
The contrast between Sarah and Riley goes deeper than just "demanding mom" versus "clingy girlfriend." Both women know the apocalypse is coming, and the role John Connor has to play, and they both seem to want to help John Connor be the best last-hope-of-humanity he can be. It's just the ways they go about achieiving that goal that differ.
A recurring theme of the Sarah Connor Chronicles has been the idea of comparing Terminators with abusive husbands - in one season one episode, we saw a Terminator who was actually married to an unsuspecting human woman. Sarah, in particular, has been married to the Terminators ever since Kyle Reese died. She had Kyle's baby, but the man who killed Kyle became the closest thing John Connor ever had to a father figure, in Terminator 2. Ever since then, she's been both a widow and a battered wife, tied to the coming apocalypse, till death do them part. Without giving anything away, tonight's episode has a really clever new spin on this idea, and it almost entirely works.
It's interesting to watch this episode right after hearing Christian Bale accuse Sarah Connor of being crazy in Terminator 2. (I still don't think Sarah is crazy, either in T2 or in the TV show, but she definitely has some damage.) The Sarah Connor Chronicles has been playing with the knife-edge of "is Sarah crazy" for quite some time, including the Mexican not-quite-standoff episode where Sarah freaks out and starts pounding away with her fists and crying. Tonight's episode won't resolve the question of Sarah's sanity, exactly, but it did show, once again, that in her case "cray cray" and "badass" aren't mutually exclusive terms. In fact, if Sarah is crazy, it's part of what makes her such an effective fighter and survivor. (And honestly, anyone who knows the stuff she knows about the future would have to be a little nuts.)
Meanwhile, Riley is Riley. In some ways, she's the dark mirror of Sarah - like Sarah, her life revolves around John Connor, and she'll go to insane lengths for John. And like Sarah, she doesn't trust Summer Glau's glam Terminator, Cameron, and isn't sure Cameron has John's best interests at chip. But where Sarah is way too selfless, Riley is self-destructive. Also, Sarah knows, deep down, how her own story ends. And Riley doesn't.
Honestly, though, the number one reason to watch tonight's episode is the Beastwizard himself, Garret Dillahunt. Attentive viewers know that Dillahunt's Terminator got deactivated during that Mexican adventure. But Shirley Manson repurposed Dillahunt's body and hooked him up to the nascent A.I. that may or may not be Skynet. Dillahunt is always amazing, but tonight he comes awfully close to stealing the whole episode. He gets all the best lines of dialogue, including one or two things that would be in my .sig file if I still had a .sig file. And you get a bit of an inkling of where the Shirley Manson storyline is going, and how her story weirdly parallels Sarah's.
Also, Brian Austin Green? Still as awesome as ever, no matter what curveballs the show throws at him.
All in all, it's another pretty solid episode of the show that keeps going where no movie spinoff has gone before. It's still finding new places to take its robots-from-the-future premise, and new ways to reference James Cameron's original films. And it's still filling me with a cautious optimism that this is all going someplace really interesting.