Mark Watches ‘The Sarah Connor Chronicles’: S02E11 – Self Made Man

In the eleventh episode of the second season of The Sarah Connor Chronicles, I cannot believe this show. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch 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, it’s just good writing! And good entertainment! I HAVE EMOTIONS!

John / Riley

What frustrates me most about this storyline – and I don’t mean that as a criticism of the writing but as my reaction to the story itself – is that we’ve repeatedly seen examples of John’s need for a close friend to be honest with. And I bought completely into the notion that Riley was that person for John! She seemed so perfect, despite that I also knew that their relationship couldn’t work in a world like John Connors. OH, HOW CLOSE TO THE TRUTH I WAS, AND YET HOW FAR AWAY. It’s agonizing to watch Riley reach out to John and provide him with the sort of companionship he’s looking for because what she’s doing is deceptive. I suspect there’s something genuine here, that Riley truly does like John, but it doesn’t excuse the fact that her entire story is fabricated just so she can get close to him.

What I’m worried about is the inevitable fallout. It’s only going to be a matter of time before John finds out who she is, and then what? We see quite clearly in “Self Made Man” how John reacts to bad situations, at least in his current state, and it’s not pretty. He’s prone to violence, he’s bottling up his anger, and he’s liable to truly hurt someone. Not that I think he’d actually hurt Riley, but she may set him off in a way that has terrible ramifications.



Let’s be real with ourselves, though: this is Cameron’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 you might be able to argue that what Cameron’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 don’t believe that’s what happened here, not entirely. I think that Cameron is honestly seeking some of this out for her own sake. It’s self-interest, and not in a way that is entirely selfish.

But I also don’t want to ignore the selfishness we do see in her interactions with Eric. These scenes – wonderfully acted by Summer Glau and Billy Lush – are some of the most muted and powerful bits of all of 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 there’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 that’s all his own. It’s rare. Awfully rare, I should say, and it shouldn’t be that way. But Eric isn’t portrayed like most characters we see like him on television, and it’s nice. I’m not saying it’s perfect representation (that’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 it’s FUCKING INCREDIBLE, and I LOVE EVERYTHING ABOUT THIS. I’m even into how ambiguous they left Stark’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), we’re never told why. Does it matter, though? The mystery here reveals that Skynet FUCKED UP. They sent Stark to the wrong December 31. 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 Cameron’s friendship than the murder mystery. IT’S SO COMPELLING. There are a ton of little signs that this really was a friendship. They’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, and that isn’t sensible. What I mean is that there’s no reason, if she’s on a mission, to compromise her identity. But she does it repeatedly. She blurts out the precise temperature; she picks him up when the elevator doesn’t go to the top floor; and then she callously informs him that he’s got cancer again.

That’s important because it demonstrates that Cameron still hasn’t figured out how to contextualize the information she’s received. She can’t understand what’s acceptable to say and do within human behavior, so she comes across as cruel. We know she doesn’t meant to be cruel, but Eric’s reaction is what matters here. He’s utterly destroyed by what she’s done. Does he leave his job so that he doesn’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 Eric’s donuts to the new overnight employee. Cameron’s still in a space where she does what she needs to in order to get exactly what she wants. That’s a core part of her, and it’s one of the biggest obstacles standing in her way. It seems like she’s trying to be more human, you know? That seems important enough all by itself. But she’s got a long way to go.

The video for “Self Made Man” can be downloaded here for $0.99.

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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