In the eighth episode of the first season of The Sarah Connor Chronicles, tensions flare when Derek reveals that Cameron saved the T-888’s chip. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch The Sarah Connor Chronicles.
Trigger Warning: For consent and body horror.
I don’t think that I expected this show to be so uncomfortable so regularly. It would be easy to cast Cameron as a willing hero, a machine eager to become as human as possible, but that story is a lot easy to tell. It’s far more challenging (and much more viciously awkward) to constantly call her loyalty and nature into question. For the most part, “Vick’s Chip” is a slow burn of an episode, one that moves through scenes with a quiet sense of doubt. Who is actually lying? Are their plans ever going to work? Can you truly understand someone’s motivations? All these questions are asked of these characters and of the audience, and it’s an unsettling experience.
Right from the get go, we’re show how uncomfortable this is going to be. While it might make sense that Cameron saved the chip for its potential uses against Skynet, the primary conflict is Derek’s word against Cameron’s. On the one hand, Cameron has undoubtedly proven herself to Sarah and John over and over again. But Derek has a history with Cameron, one that I think has more pieces that we haven’t seen. Whose perception of Cameron is correct? Does that even matter? The issue is complicated, of course, by the reveal that Cameron’s model can lie if necessary. (Well, reveals it to the characters; we already knew she could.) So how much can they trust her if her mission diagnosis is telling her to lie?
If this was the sole thing these people had to deal with, I don’t know that this would have been such a huge issue, but through dissecting the information on Vick’s chip, John discovers a hellish new feature of the T-888’s: infiltration. AND IT’S SO UNCOMFORTABLE BECAUSE WHAT IF CAMERON IS INFILTRATING RIGHT THEN AND THERE? How could they ever know? The video record obtained from Vick’s chip is a perfect demonstration in the ways in which this model could believably hide within the past. We don’t know the timeline of Vick Chamberlain’s life, and I honestly think that makes this a billion times creepier. Had Barbara always known this specific Vick, or had the Terminator simply swapped himself in for the real husband? How long had this long con gone on? (Holy rhyming!) Was Barbara ever the originator of the ARTIE system, or did Vick come up with it and manipulate her into it? IT’S SO AWFUL. While I am glad that the show portrays this negatively, I do wish that perhaps they’d been more explicit on the consent issue, since this is REALLY NOT OKAY OR APPROPRIATE AT ALL. She’s not consenting because she doesn’t know who this man really is. Are there other T-888’s infiltrating elsewhere??? OH GOD, IS THIS GONNA BE LIKE DOLLHOUSE WHERE I HAVE TO SUSPECT EVERYONE?
Again, the lack of these answers actually creates this damning air of doubt throughout the episode. It’s obvious from the recordings that these new models can adapt quickly and ruthlessly in order to not raise suspicion. So it makes sense to Derek that Cameron most likely was responsible for his safe house being exposed and all his friends dying. It’s the simplest explanation for it, and given that he’s already harboring a severe distrust of Cameron, it’s easy for him to make this sort of conclusion.
Is his mistrust well placed? We watch Cameron brilliantly deflect Cromartie’s snoping at school by using Morris as a stand-in, and that’s good, right? So how could she be part of a long-con at this point? She’s had plenty of opportunities to kill John Connor and she hasn’t, so… that’s good, right? Gods, I hate typing this out because WHAT IF I AM ULTIMATELY WRONG? I’M GOING TO BE DEVASTATED. But that’s the subtle brilliance of “Vick’s Chip.” The episode eats away at our certainty and causes us to look upon everything with justified suspicion. Is Derek hiding anything beyond what we know about him and Andy Goode?
I don’t quite know yet. I still haven’t figured out where this season is heading, and with only one episode left in season one, I’m frightened for the next episode. In their efforts to track down the Turk, the group discovers ARTIE, a traffic control system that could easily have become part of a “nervous system” for Skynet, as Cameron puts it. It’s more of the same frustration for them since they have no way of knowing if each of their actions is going to end Skynet or get them closer to that goal or LITERALLY ANYTHING. They simply have to chip away, piece by piece, at the larger structure by following whatever lead they can. In this case, ARTIE leads them to someone who was trying to shut the project down, which leads them to Sayles, the connection that explains how the safehouse was originally found. Even this original team of infiltrators was largely doing the same thing.
So where do they go from here? Even if they find the Turk and destroy it as well, is that the final step? Is that really the key to dismantling Skynet? With every small victory, are they actually condemning themselves to yet another battle once Skynet sends more machines into the past?
I find it compelling that this isn’t addressed because it gives this show a sense of unending dread. We can see it in the character’s faces at times, but it’s also something we feel as audience members. How long can this go on? Will these characters learn to fully trust one another, or is that a luxury for other people? We’ve got Sarah setting a clear boundary with Derek at the end of “Vick’s Chip” (HOLY SHIT WHAT A GREAT SCENE), but is he committed to this fight in a way that’s opposed to Sarah and John Connor?
Lord, that’s a lot of questions I’m asking. Which is good! This show interests me, and it’s raising questions I never even considered when watching the films. THAT’S SO TERRIBLY EXCITING TO ME. So I’m eager to watch this finale, since I’m guessing the show is about to destroy me. OH LORD.
The video for “Vick’s Chip” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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