In the eleventh episode of the second season ofÂ The Sarah Connor Chronicles, I cannot believe this show. Intrigued? Then itâ€™s time for Mark to watchÂ The Sarah Connor Chronicles.
Trigger Warning: For discussion of ableism, cancer
I am just so thrilled that this show is willing to take storytelling risks like this. It makes this show feel refreshing and exciting. Plus, itâ€™s just good writing! And good entertainment! I HAVE EMOTIONS!
John / Riley
What frustrates me most about this storyline â€“ and I donâ€™t mean that as a criticism of the writing but as my reaction to the story itself â€“ is that weâ€™veÂ repeatedly seen examples of Johnâ€™s need for a close friend to be honest with. And I bought completely into the notion that RileyÂ was that person for John! She seemed so perfect, despite that I also knew that their relationship couldnâ€™t work in a world like John Connors. OH, HOW CLOSE TO THE TRUTH I WAS, AND YETÂ HOW FAR AWAY. Itâ€™s agonizing to watch Riley reach out to John and provide him with the sort of companionship heâ€™s looking for because what sheâ€™s doing is deceptive. I suspect thereâ€™s something genuine here, that Riley truly does like John, but it doesnâ€™t excuse the fact that her entire story is fabricated just so she can get close to him.
What Iâ€™m worried about is the inevitable fallout. Itâ€™s only going to be a matter of time before John finds out who she is, and then what? We see quite clearly in â€œSelf Made Manâ€ how John reacts to bad situations, at least in his current state, and itâ€™s not pretty. Heâ€™s prone to violence, heâ€™s bottling up his anger, and heâ€™s liable to truly hurt someone. Not that I think heâ€™d actually hurt Riley, but she may set him off in a way that has terrible ramifications.
BUT HE NEEDS A FRIEND. ARRRGGGGHHH ITâ€™S SO HARD TO WATCH.
Letâ€™s be real with ourselves, though: this is Cameronâ€™s episode, through and through. I can barely believe that the comment I made at the beginning of this episode TURNED INTO THE ACTUAL STORY. I think youÂ might be able to argue that what Cameronâ€™s been doing while the Connors sleep is part of her mission in an abstract way. Gathering information about the world is a good thing; so is her attempt to gain a real friend. But I donâ€™t believe thatâ€™s what happened here, not entirely. I think that Cameron is honestly seeking some of this out for her own sake. Itâ€™s self-interest, and not in a way that is entirely selfish.
But I also donâ€™t want to ignore the selfishness weÂ do see in her interactions with Eric. These scenes â€“ wonderfully acted by Summer Glau and Billy Lush â€“ are some of the most muted and powerful bits of all ofÂ The Sarah Connor Chronicles. I admit that I find the idea of Cameron trying her best to be human to be a compelling one, and thereâ€™s a lot of that to be found in this story. I was also surprised by this show giving us a character in a wheelchair, not making him a giant stereotype, acknowledging his limitations within an ableist world, and giving him a story thatâ€™s all his own. Itâ€™s rare. Awfully rare, I should say, and it shouldnâ€™t be that way. But Eric isnâ€™t portrayed like most characters we see like him on television, and itâ€™s nice. Iâ€™m not saying itâ€™s perfect representation (thatâ€™s not my point to make), but I enjoyed seeing him get so much screen time.
And lord, within their interactions we get A TIME TRAVELING MURDER MYSTERY, and itâ€™s FUCKING INCREDIBLE, and I LOVE EVERYTHING ABOUT THIS. Iâ€™m even into how ambiguous they left Starkâ€™s mission. When we discover that Stark was sent back in time to assassinate a California governor (PLEASE TELL ME IT WAS SCHWARZENEGGER L O L), weâ€™re never told why. Does it matter, though? The mystery here reveals that Skynet FUCKED UP. They sent StarkÂ to the wrong December 31.Â So Stark, fully aware of what his mission is, plots to guarantee that the tower he uses for the assassination is built, and it involves an utterly ridiculous and complicated set of events started by an accidental fire that began with his arrival. Stark built himself into a wall so he could wait for December 31, 2010, the date of the assassination. HOLY SHIT.
Yet I found myself even more interested in seeing Cameronâ€™s friendship than the murder mystery. ITâ€™S SO COMPELLING. There are a ton of little signs that this reallyÂ was a friendship. Theyâ€™d clearly been hanging out for weeks at the very least and are comfortable enough with one another to talk casually. But I noticed that Cameron increasingly demonstrates her abilities without any hesitation, andÂ that isnâ€™t sensible. What I mean is that thereâ€™s no reason, if sheâ€™s on a mission, to compromise her identity. But she does itÂ repeatedly.Â She blurts out the precise temperature; she picks him up when the elevator doesnâ€™t go to the top floor; and then she callously informs him that heâ€™s got cancer again.
Thatâ€™s important because it demonstrates that Cameron still hasnâ€™t figured out how to contextualize the information sheâ€™s received. She canâ€™t understand whatâ€™s acceptable to say and do within human behavior, so she comes across as cruel. We know she doesnâ€™t meant to be cruel, but Ericâ€™s reaction is what matters here. Heâ€™s utterly destroyed by what sheâ€™s done. Does he leave his job so that he doesnâ€™t have to see Cameron again? Or is he off getting treatment? The show is deliberately ambiguous about this, and then we watch as Cameron immediately reads the situation and hands over Ericâ€™s donuts to the new overnight employee. Cameronâ€™s still in a space where she does what she needs to in order to get exactly what she wants. Thatâ€™s a core part of her, and itâ€™s one of the biggest obstacles standing in her way. It seems like sheâ€™sÂ trying to be more human, you know? That seems important enough all by itself. But sheâ€™s got a long way to go.
The video for â€œSelf Made Manâ€ can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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