Mark Watches ‘The Sarah Connor Chronicles’: S01E02 – Gnothi Seauton

In the second episode of the first season of The Sarah Connor Chronicles, Sarah attempts to get herself and Cameron settled in Los Angeles, but discovers that this is easier said than done. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch The Sarah Connor Chronicles

Trigger Warning: For discussion of cancer and racial stereotypes.

Seriously, there’s so much to like here. IT’S CATERED SPECIFICALLY TO MY TASTE.

Narration

I don’t know that I have anything against voiceover narration in television or in movies. It doesn’t bother me as much as it does other people, and I think it’s a great way to give a first-person voice to a film in a way that a novel usually does. Given the title of this show, Sarah Connor’s voiceovers fit extremely well within the episode. Her monologues act as a chronicle of her experience, giving us context for her state of mind throughout this journey. In this specific episode, Sarah ruminates on her own identity. Through all the aliases and jobs and setbacks, she’s learned that literally everything can change. There’s just one constant for her: her son and her dedication to him. Their names and stories might change, and time itself might change, but this is how she finds some comfort in the chaos.

Teenage John Connor

T2 worked so well for me because of the intentional decision to put a young John Connor into this apocalyptic nightmare and explore how someone so young would react to all of this. There was a lot more humor in T2 than I expected, and most of that came from the fact that John treated the Terminator programmed to help him as… well, a giant toy. That’s not to ignore how serious the stakes were in that film, and IT’S REALLY FUCKED UP. So now that we’re years into the future and John is now a teenager, I find that I’m wanting the show to explore that. How does someone who is high-school-age interact with the world when all he’s known is impermanence and change?

Here’s what I want: an annoying, rebellious John Connor. He’s at the age where many of us begin to sort out what our identity is. It’s a volatile time in our lives! So that’s the kind of story I want. I want to see him make tons of mistakes and do things, certain that he’s right, only to later realize that maybe he doesn’t know everything about the world. I can see how that’s already manifesting here, since he leaves the house when told not to. He goes to a computer store to briefly browse the Internet, and then seeks out Charley Dixon. IT’S SO FOOLISH, AND HE KNOWS IT. But he’s also… fifteen? (I think that’s how old he is.) He’s not the leader of the Resistance, he doesn’t know what the fuck he’s doing with his life, HE’S A TEENAGER. I am all here for John Connor fucking up constantly.

But also: What are you doing John Connor? Lord, Charley is going to be a mess, and this is going to get so much more complex, and HI SONYA WALGER, YOU MAKE ME MISS LOST.

The Future

Because Cameron is from twenty years into the future, this gives the writers a lot of leeway to begin dropping details about what the world will be like. On top of that, I love that the Resistance realized that sending a lone Terminator to protect John is nice, but it’s impractical. They figured out that they should liberally blanket the past with supplies and technology and freedom fighters. THAT’S SO BRILLIANT. Why rely on only one variable? So we’ve got Sarah and Cameron seeking out pieces of a puzzle in multiple respects, since they’ve not only got to find as much of the resistance tech and support as possible, but at some point, they need to discover the true origins of Skynet.

But Cameron’s lead proves disastrous when they encounter a Terminator at the safe house. Obviously, the timing of it is upsetting, since Sarah points out that this is LITERALLY THE FIRST THING THEY’VE DONE IN 2007. The war has already started, and they’ve been in 2007 for three days. But it suggests that there’s this unending, vicious battle being waged throughout time, with each side desperate to gain intelligence on the other. So I loved that Sarah decided to seek out someone she knew, who in this case was Enrique!

More on that in a bit, because there’s another part of the future (the past???) that we need to talk and IT HURTS SO BADLY. So much of “Gnothi Seauton” covers the chaotic journey surrounding identity, and there is perhaps nothing more violent that Sarah hears than the fact that in 2005, she died. Of cancer. It’s particularly difficult for her to learn this because… well, let me quote her:

My version is this: “Know thyself because what else is there to know?” People hide secrets, time is a lie, the material world can disappear in an instant. It has and it will again. Our identities change. Our names, the way we look, how we act and speak. We’re shape-shifters. There is no control, no constant, no shelter but the love of family and the body God gave us. And we can only hope that will always be enough.

But is it enough for Sarah if her body turns against? She died in 2005, not defending her son, but waging a war with her own cells. Will knowing her eventual fate change it? Did time travel alter the time line, or was that the original cause? WHY ARE YOU SHATTERING MY HEART ALREADY, SARAH CONNOR CHRONICLES?

Carlos

I’m torn here, though I’m more optimistic than usual. Most of what we see in Enrique’s family is a stereotype in one sense, and I can’t deny that. Latino gangster (or cholo/chola) culture is often represented on film in a very homogenous sense, and I can see a lot of it here. I grew up being surrounded by this culture, and it was inescapable for me, particularly since I was a young Latino man in a city that was mostly Latin@ and South American. So there’s a part of me that’s impressed that any of this made it to the screen! I made a comment during the video that took a shot at Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and I have no qualms about that comparison. Nearly every depiction of Southern California in the last 30-40 years has erased the massive Mexican, Central American, and South American presence in this part of the country. (The same goes for neighborhoods that are depicted as being mostly white, despite that historically, they’re mostly black or Vietnamese or Korean and you get the point.) So, in one episode, we’ve got more Latin@ people than that show had in seven years.

I don’t know that we’ll ever see these characters again, so that’s where my concern lies. Stereotypes are used to communicate certain elements of the story without having to outright explain them, so I don’t know if that is what is going on here. Are we just supposed to assume that these men and women are involved in “illicit” trades? Are they here just to give this all an edgy, underground feel? I don’t know because I don’t know if there’s anything more to come with these characters. I was kind of fascinated that Cameron’s interaction with the police officer was a pretty clear demonstration of racial profiling. I DID NOT EXPECT THAT. Also, whoever that silent woman is, she’s my favorite. MY FAVORITE.

Cameron

Seriously, WHAT IS HER PROGRAMMING? Over the course of “Gnothi Seauton,” we see her adapting her behavior. While the Terminator in T2 certainly did this, it wasn’t nearly as subtle as what Cameron does here. That’s not to say that Cameron is necessarily subtle, since she does feel “off” here. Like that scene where she laughs at Enrique! Or when she imitates the way the silent woman stands. She’s still figuring this shit out and she’s not smooth at all. But she’s clearly different from the models we’ve seen in the past, namely in that she seems to want to be more human. However, a desire to be human doesn’t negate the fact that she’s still a calculating machine. That’s clear in her execution of Enrique, since she can’t navigate the uncertainties that come with being human. Everything in her programming is a calculation, and so she calculated that it was more likely Enrique was an informant. SO SHE KILLS HIM. She’s programmed to protect, but there’s no nuance to it. At least not yet, that is.

The video for “Gnothi Seauton” can be downloaded here for $0.99.

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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