Alpine Fields is the kind of episode Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles can do, and do well. They've pulled off some interested structural flourishes in the past, handles multiple characters in a tight timeframe, and moved from the past to the future and back again with ease. Unfortunately, that's not what occurs in this episode – as it's a mess in just about every way. It's clunky and awkward, slow and mostly boring, with revelations that left me wondering why they matter.
While it's always nice to see more Derek, he's mostly not working this season. Brian Austin Green is still quite good in the role, but the character has had precious little to do this season. His stuff with Jesse is lackluster, partly due to the fact that she doesn't seem right for the role. If it's not miscasting, it's that the writers themselves haven't quite figured out the character. At this point, it's a bit too late and it'd probably just be best to cut some losses.
First off, there's the confusing structure of the episode. It flashes back to "six months ago," in the series, presumably to a time that was fairly inconsequential to the story. It's unclear exactly how this works, but that's the starting point. Sarah and Cameron are working to protect a family that is targeted by a T888. Six months later, Derek is on the case and the father has been killed, and its just Lauren and her pregnant mother. Now I know that Derek meets the baby in the future, because she has immunity to a disease created by Skynet.
All of this works, on paper – but it's delivered in a meandering and pedantic way. There's some cringe-worthy dialogue about birdhouses and a sub-plot about the mother having an affair. Oh, and there's the red herring about the father doing some illegal work for a cybernetics company. Instead of any action sequences, the episode dwells on this family's internal conflicts – which are mostly annoying and trivial.
The plot dealing with Derek in the present is slow and plodding as I trudge towards the reveal in the future. It's always cool to see the future, and to get more details of what that's like. And here I get to see how Derek meets Jesse. If I cared more about her character or their relationship, this would prove somewhat meaningful – but neither of those are true, and this aspect of the episode is mostly useless.
As an episode, "Alpine Fields" seems to affect the series very little. It's mostly a stand alone episode, unless the introduction of Lauren and Sydney carries over into later parts of the series. It's an episode from which I gained almost nothing, but – thankfully – the series doesn't lose much either.