Well, I didn't see that coming. Any of that, really. My jaw dropped multiple times during last night's Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, an episode I had to watch twice in a row. Spoiler rampage!
I've been a huge fan of T:SCC since its beginnings, but last night's episode felt like a whole new level. It was the first time I really thought this show might go down in history as one of the best science fiction shows of all time. We're approaching Battlestar Galactica/The Prisoner levels of greatness. If the show gets a third season - which seems unlikely, since its ratings took a dive again, after a few weeks of positive trends - we could be looking at a whole new era of brilliance.
You know a show is doing something right when the startling twists, like a character dying or another character getting arrested in a high-profile way, aren't the thing your brain buzzes about afterwards. For me, it was the scene above: John Henry knows he's surrounded by robots. He's seen two robots fighting, and he's known for some time that Catherine Weaver is not human. He's learned to lie, and he's learning to sacrifice human life when necessary. But at the same time, the survival of the human race may depend on him. And then Weaver hits us with the really big left turn: instead of being Abel to Skynet's Cain, John Henry may actually be God. (Which would mean that Skynet is in competition with a third A.I.? And John Henry is going to judge them both? That would make sense, if this competing A.I. sent Catherine Weaver back from the future to create John Henry. And yet, the mind boggles.)
I can already see how this might turn out: John Henry is the potential savior of humanity, an A.I. with a conscience, however flawed. And now he's on John Connor's radar, which means he and his pet Terminator are going to do their level best to wipe him out. If Connor succeeds, he may be dooming humanity to the same fate he's been struggling to prevent all these years.
So yes, Derek died last night - my favorite character on the show - and it was done in a way television deaths never happen. Randomly, without fanfare, and in the middle of an episode. Just when you least expect it, in other words. It's set up, very slightly, by the scene in the graveyard where he and John talk, once again, about how everyone dies for John. (Which is also well handled, because at this point, it's a conversation Derek and John have had so often, they don't even need to go over it again.) But of course, in the end, Derek doesn't die for John. If anything, he dies for Savannah Weaver. It was a great death, but at the same time, I'm going to miss Derek if this show comes back without him.
It's interesting that Skynet sent humans to kill the Connors, but then it anted up and sent a Terminator after Savannah. Maybe because it knew that Savannah's mom was one of the high-end Terminators herself? I'm left wondering if this is Future Skynet, or Present Skynet, orchestrating this new wave of destruction. It was Present Skynet that launched the worm that attacked John Henry last week, so it's implied that Present Skynet is also behind the other mayhem. As John Henry was wondering about his "brother," I was wondering what Skynet would make of such a powerful A.I. being hooked up to a human avatar - in some ways, it seems like a major downgrade, forcing all that intelligence to interact through such a narrow-bandwidth portal.
The new and improved, smarter John Connor - the one who figured out Riley's secret - was in full effect last night, tracking down Savannah in time to save her, and then figuring out who/what John Henry was and what Cromartie's body was doing, before Sarah or Cameron did. Sarah was on the verge of walking into a major trap - even worse than the one she actually did walk into - before John realized that Zeira Corp. was creating a Skynet-esque A.I., and Catherine Weaver was at the center of all this. (Although Cameron was right - they never should have let Ellison get away with stealing Beastwizard's body. I loved her "I don't want to kill everybody. Just him.")
Speaking of Ellison, he apparently still doesn't know that Catherine Weaver is a Terminator, but he definitely has an inkling about what she's up to - or what she's apparently up to. He's become quite a slippery character, handling a suspicious cop with ease. And look at the way he played Sarah Connor - "Oh my. I was just minding my own business, and wherever I turn, there you are." Ellison is in this up to his neck, but he still manages to act like he's just passing through. I wouldn't be at all surprised if he had called the cops to come get Sarah Connor - since he knows what she would do to John Henry - and then lied about it to John. For all his Bible thumping, he's a bit of a cynic, and maybe that's the point: John Henry needs a dash of realism mixed in with his ethics.
(Oh, and I loved the whole thing about Savannah's teacher thinking John Henry is a MySpace predator.)
The conversation between the cop and Catherine Weaver, about her pet eel, was pretty revealing. It seemed like the cop was trying to size up Weaver, and everything he found out about her eel applied to her too. She stays in hiding, she only attacks when provoked. (Or when someone tries to pee on her.) She's willing to kill her own kind, when necessary.
As for Sarah herself, she seemed even harder hit by the deaths of Charley and Derek than John was. She's lost weight - which could be due to stress, instead of cancer - and even now that her breast lump turned out to be a false alarm, she's still contemplating her own mortality. With Derek and Charley both out of the picture, John is running out of protectors if anything happens to Sarah - which, of course, it just did. (Of course, one of the promo stills from next week's episode shows Sarah and John entering Zeira Corp. with James Ellison, so she's not staying locked up forever.) Too late, Sarah is realizing that John's going to be left alone with Cameron - the fate Jesse tried so hard to prevent. Maybe Jesse was right after all?