Mark Watches ‘The Sarah Connor Chronicles’: S01E01 – Pilot

In the first episode of the first season of The Sarah Connor Chronicles, it begins again. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to start The Sarah Connor Chronicles.

Trigger Warning: For body horror/gore.

It’s time for a new Double Feature here on Mark Watches, and it’s one I’ve been looking forward to for a while because of ~reasons.~ Before we get started, let’s go over the rules of this place in case we’ve got some new readers along for the ride!

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I guarantee that if you’re new, a lot of this seems more complicated than it really is. Have fun! AND LET’S TALK ABOUT THE SARAH CONNOR CHRONICLES.


I knew only two real “spoilers” about this show going in it: both Lena Headey and Summer Glau were cast members. THE END. I mean, I literally just had to watch the Terminator films in order to understand anything here. (Well, only the first two.) I’m so glad I did! This show doesn’t ease a new viewer into the Terminator franchise, and I love that about “Pilot.” You can sort of get a sense of what’s going on, but this largely relies on familiarity with the film franchise. That’s a good thing because that means this show can start off with a visual reference that’s both terrifying and emotionally meaningful. We saw throughout T2: Judgment Day how Sarah Connor had begun to dream about the apocalypse, so I found it fitting that the end of the world was still on her mind.

But more so than before, this was deeply personal. Instead of nameless strangers being burned to death, the end of the world begins with the dramatic murder of her son. And isn’t that what hangs over everything in “Pilot”? It’s not just paranoia that we’re seeing here; Sarah Connor has every reason to believe that her son’s life is constantly in danger, and she’s had no reasons to ever disbelieve that. I think this episode plays up the sadness of it all a lot more than T2 did, and it works. We’re years in the future at this point, and John Connor is not the same wide-eyed, excited kid he was in that movie. He’s far more cynical and bitter, particularly since he’s spent almost his entire life running from these machines. It’s the same cycle over and over again, and John is well aware of how it plays out. Hell, it seemed like they’d actually settled for the longest period of time ever, given that Sarah genuinely appeared to entertain a relationship.

Of course, that is a complicated issue in and of itself. I think Sarah took her own advice. She woke from that dream, realized that she felt safe with Charley, and knew that this made her vulnerable. So, like she’s trained herself to do, she picks up and leaves, and the whole thing starts once more. Even in Red Valley, New Mexico, they’re reminded of how impossible it is for them to fit in. It’s heartbreaking to watch! John can’t ever truly make friends (though he entertains the notion briefly when Cameron first talks to him), they can’t ever live in a permanent residence, and they can’t do anything that most people take for granted. It’s important that the show establishes this as brutally as they do because it provides the audience with the context for the ending of “Pilot.” We have to believe that not only does Sarah Connor want to stop Skynet, but that she’d choose to go TO THE FUTURE in order to do so.

Oh god, I know time travel is an integral part of the Terminator mythology, BUT STILL. I DIDN’T EXPECT THE FRAMING DEVICE TO BE TIME TRAVEL FOR EVERYONE.

I’ll get back to that in a bit. Let us discuss THE GREATNESS THAT IS LENA HEADEY AND SUMMER GLAU. They are so perfect in their roles! Lena Headey… I expected no less from her. She was the best part of 300 and she’s currently killing it as Cersei Lannister, so I wasn’t disappointed at all. Her performance in just one episode feels like an appropriate continuation of the character of Sarah Connor, and it’s also an update. She’s far more emotionally raw than the Sarah Connor in T2, and that means we get a lot of scenes between her and John that are RIDICULOUS and FULL OF EMOTIONS and how is all of this happening in the first episode. Well, it’s a great way to establish their relationship. They care about one another, and it’s clear that while John is frustrated by what his life is, he also adores his mother. He wants her to be safe, and he wants to protect her. At the same time, that doesn’t mean he’s always happy about his life being a perpetual cat-and-mouse game, you know?

I appreciate these layers. BUT NONE MORE SO THAN THE HINT THAT CAMERON’S TERMINATOR MODEL IS SOMETHING NEW. I’m pretty sure the last Terminator didn’t teach her to smile and SHE SMILED, I SAW IT. She also ate food. Like?????? That’s a huge deal???? Summer Glau is just so PERFECT as an emotionless robot who is subtly human at times and I cannot deal with her face. I need to know so much more. Who programmed her? What model is she? WHAT’S NEW ABOUT HER? HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO DEAL WITH 31 EPISODES OF HER INTERACTING WITH LENA HEADEY?

So, we’ve got: a great cast, a fantastic framing of the series within this universe’s mythology, and a lot of great special effects. (That moment where Cromartie pulls a gun out of his leg is THE WORST and also REALLY SCARY.) But I wanted to see how this show could establish itself as its own entity. It’s nice that I get more of this fictional world, but why is necessary to explore this further? How can you keep this show interesting when there seems to be a fairly simple end to all of this? By establishing a direction for future stories! And holy shit, “Pilot” does this BEAUTIFULLY. We learn enough from Cameron to wonder about her origins and what happened in 2027 that would necessitate her being sent back to 1999. How is it that Dyson’s death did not avert the apocalypse? How did someone else get hold of his technology?

That’s how “Pilot” grabbed me: it asked questions I wanted to know the answers to. I wanted to know who got Miles Dyson’s tech. I wanted to know who set up that ridiculous system in the bank vault. (It’s brilliant, and I WANT TO KNOW EVERYTHING ABOUT IT.) I want to know how the resistance in the future adapted to the threat of Skynet. Clearly, their technology is a lot different than what we saw in the second timeline in T2.

But it’s in the reveal that Cameron knows where and when Skynet started that I find myself most interested in what The Sarah Connor Chronicles can do. I love that we get a sense of how chaotic and impermanent the Connor’s life has been throughout “Pilot,” only for Cameron to provide them with a chance to stay put, at least for a while. She knows Skynet starts in Los Angeles in 2007, and thus, she pulls John and Sarah into the future, giving them a base of operations so they can go after Skynet. And now we’ve got Charley and Detective Ellison suddenly aware that Sarah Connor has appeared eight years after she went missing, and Charley has a new girlfriend or wife, and DIDN’T DT. ELLISON SAY THAT ALL THOSE KIDS GAVE STATEMENTS THAT THEY SAW A SHOOTER WITH A ROBOT LEG? Oh, lord, please follow up on that detail. PLEASE. Because how would he explain that? How could he rationalize that away? OH GODS, I WANT SO MUCH MORE. And that’s a great thing. A truly good pilot episode grabs you like this one does. I’M SO EXCITED.

The video for “Pilot” can be downloaded here for free until I am done reviewing this show. Give it to your friends! Introduce people to how weird I am! Afterwards, it will be available in the store for $0.99.

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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