"In cooking, as in all the arts, simplicity is a sign of perfection." - Curnonsky

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Sarah Connor Chronicles: Vick's Chip/What He Beheld

The writers' strike has almost totally altered the landscape of this season (and perhaps some of next season) of television. Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles is a case in point. There's the fact that the series was unable to finish its 13 episode order, so instead the "finale" comes here – at episode nine. It's a bit of a mystery why FOX decided to burn off their remaining two episodes in one final two hour block. Whether it was to make the evening more of an event, or to simply put the show to rest early – I can't know for sure.

The two hour finale does indeed consist of two separate episodes – "Vick's Chip" and "What He Beheld." They are quite different episodes, and their stories don't actually tie in to one another all that much. There is definitely that strike-era jury rigging going on here. "Vick's Chip" feels a lot like a regular episode, even though it has some important movement story wise. "What He Beheld" does have more of a "finale" feel to it – but that seems to be more due to style (and effective style at that) than crucial story developments.

The first hour is marked by some of the best performances from the cast so far. Summer Glau is proving that you can give a complex, nuanced performance even when portraying a robot. At any given moment it's hard to figure out what Cameron is "thinking" – and she seems to be gaining more depth with each passing day. It's this greater level of humanity that makes her all the creepier. It's hard to argue with Derek Reese that you shouldn't trust her.

Cromarite is suitably creepy and unsettling and seems to just be getting warmed up in what is the last episode for who knows how long. While the mother-son chemistry between Sarah and John deepens here, Derek Reese is probably the biggest surprise of the season with one excellent moment after another. Whether he's using a little girl as bait or introducing John to his five year old father. There is a very good argument to be made for Derek to become a regular on this show, as it feels as though the core dynamic between the characters solidified once he arrived.

There are a lot of fun ideas at play in these two hours. In "Vick's Chip" I learned of another possible component of Skynet – the LA traffic grid it uses as its early eyes and ears. John's exploration of the T-888's brain is effective both stylistically as well as being just downright creepy and ultimately tragic. The fact that the Terminator can reset itself, and adapt to using whatever technology is available – is an interesting twist. It also seems that John's affection for Cameron is growing; which does kind of raise comparisons to a highly advanced and lethal "real doll."

The major sequence at the end of "What He Beheld" is Agent Ellison's ill fated raid on Cromartie. Set to Johnny Cash's "When the Man Comes Around," this is a fairly gripping scene. SWAT members fall, bleeding into a swimming pool while Charley races to the scene in his ambulance upon hearing the name 'Kester' come over the radio. The episode ends with the death of Agent Simpson and leaves Ellison and Charley with indisputable knowledge of the existence of the Terminators – and an awareness of each other's knowledge. How this will change the dynamic in the future is uncertain, but it's fair to say nothing will be the same for them after this.

The final moments certainly work as a cliffhanger – with the man who owns "The Turk" still at large, and Cameron blowing up in the jeep. Although this was not intended as a finale – it leaves me wondering what happens next. Now, the question for FOX is, will I get to find out what happens next? And if so, when?

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