In the thirteenth episode of the second season ofÂ The Sarah Connor Chronicles, Sarah seeks out the meaning behind the three dots in an unlikely place, while Cameron begins to suspect Riley. Intrigued? Then itâ€™s time for Mark to watchÂ The Sarah Connor Chronicles.Â
Trigger Warning: For discussion of abuse, cissexism, suicide, and abortion.
I seriously thought this was going to end with a confirmation that Alan was lying and bullshit and it was all unconnected to the larger story but I FUCKED UPÂ I FUCKED UP.
I know that I discounted the importance of this episode because the premise seemed soÂ absurd. A UFO convention?Â Really? Except then the writers draw deliberate parallels between these believers and Sarahâ€™s life, and I was done.Â Done. AND YET I WAS COMPLETELY UNPREPARED FOR WHERE THIS STORY WOULD GO.
It was compelling, though, to think about how this network of UFO believers could comfort Sarah. In a strange way, they had been through something similar as her, namely in experiencing doubt from their loved ones. But that wasnâ€™t enough to sustain a full episode. It was an interesting story, but what connection did this have to Sarahâ€™s quest? I saw potential in the drone storyline because itÂ was possible that technology created for drone useÂ could have morphed into something that eventually became part of Skynet. ButÂ how can you tell? Thatâ€™s what drives a great deal of the suspense and tension here. While Alan seems trustworthy once we learn exactly what his past is, we never know if this is a true path to the answer of the three dots.
Which is awkward in a way thatâ€™s clearly unintended. I was briefly (literally for like a few seconds) excited about the possibility of a transgender character, but no. As far as I can tell, Alan wants to be called Alan and is a cisgender man who merely disguised himself as a woman. (Though Alan is played by a cis woman?) Thereâ€™s nothing here to make this a canon trans character, though that wouldnâ€™t exactly be the best representation either, since â€œEarthlings Welcome Hereâ€ dabbles in the same sort of tropes of deception that are often associated with trans or gender non-conforming characters. (Stop doing this, yâ€™all.) So itâ€™s often weird to talk about, and itâ€™s weird to have a character like this at the center of an episode about legitimacy. Nothing is illegitimate about people who choose to wear clothing that differs from expected norms, and all the talk about whatâ€™s â€œrealâ€ or not is massively uncomfortable when applied to gender.
So what does this mean for Sarahâ€™s doubt? Like I said, one of the main themes of this episode is about the legitimacy of perception. Has Sarahâ€™s obsession with the three dots been a foolhardy journey the whole time? Is she imagining connections to Alanâ€™s life because itâ€™sÂ easier for her to do so? I thought that at the worst, Alan was working on a type of metal that had no connection to Skynet whatsoever. Itâ€™s not entirely unbelievable that Alan worked on a top-secret government project, but was thatÂ Sarahâ€™s project as well?
I suppose once that black-clad motorcyclist shot at Alan and Sarah, that really didnâ€™t matter. BECAUSE SOMETHING WAS CLEARLY GOING ON HERE. Why try to execute Alan? Was what he knewÂ really that bad??? What was the piece of metal that he stole and locked away in storage? Yâ€™all, itÂ had to be something terrible because they were willing to assassinate both Alan and the UFO group leader. WHY? WHAT HAD SARAH STUMBLED ON?
I simplyÂ loved the scene where Alanâ€™s voiceover led Sarah to that warehouse, though I wonder how much ofÂ that Sarah imagined. Did AlanÂ really say he was once a waitress? I think thereâ€™s a dichotomous view of Sarahâ€™s identity within this episode, particularly since this episode makes her think about her time before she ever became wrapped up in this nightmare. In that sense, I think Alanâ€™s story isnâ€™t necessarily offensive, since he had learned to live a life split entirely in two. (Thatâ€™s why I said it was unintentional; that doesnâ€™t mean we shouldnâ€™t talk about it, though, since I think lots of us cis folk overlook the implications of our thoughts on gender.) There was life before he ran, and life after. Itâ€™s just like Sarahâ€™s. So will hers end like Alanâ€™s? Will she get used to running?
Also:Â What was in that warehouse???? CLEARLY THIS IS ACTUALLY THE MOST IMPORTANT QUESTION I NEED TO BE ASKING. Itâ€™s possible she hallucinated that machine, butâ€¦ seriously, that could be the prototype for the flying machines we see in the future.Â It could be real. It could explain her obsession with the three dots. And it sure as hell could explain why that warehouse is so important and why Sarah was shot in the leg over it. BUT???? MAYBE NOT??? I DONâ€™T KNOW, THIS CLIFFHANGER IS SO UNFAIR.
John / Riley
Well, this hurtsÂ even more. Justâ€¦ christ, this is so upsetting. Through flashbacks, we find out just how long Jesse has been preparing Riley for her missionÂ and abusing her. Make no mistake, thatâ€™sÂ precisely whatâ€™s happening here, and itâ€™s horrifying to watch. Jesse takes a vulnerable girl, introduces her to a world where she has some semblance of calm and care, and then she exploits her. When Riley is at her absolute worst, Jesse physically and emotionally abuses her further, demonstrating to Riley that she doesnâ€™t actually care about her. All that matters is the mission. (Which feels like a reference to the uncaring nature of the machines, yâ€™all.) And itâ€™s frightening that this appears to be working! John isnâ€™t trusting Cameron at all, despite that she believes that Riley is lying.
But Iâ€™m mostly worried about Riley. Look, I donâ€™t think itâ€™s absurd to suggest that this episodeÂ heavily implies that Rileyâ€™s feelings towards Jesse are not simply out of comfort. I think that thereâ€™s something romantic here, given that sheâ€™s looking toÂ live with Jesse more permanently. Yes, Jesse is someone who provides Riley with a sense of stability, so I understand that interpretation here. But the way she looks at Jesseâ€¦ goddamn, yâ€™all, I canâ€™t ignore this. Which is why itâ€™s so heartbreaking to see her without any real support system. She canâ€™t turn to Jesse; sheâ€™s no longer with her foster parents; and John suspects that thereâ€™s something amiss. Who does she have to go to? It makes me terribly sad, and I hope this isnâ€™t the end for her. But sheâ€™s all along in this world, and her suicide attempt here is one of the most upsetting things Iâ€™ve seen on this show. Christ, this is awful.
AND THIS IS THE MOST UNSETTLING ASPECT OF THIS EPISODE. Itâ€™s absolutely surreal to see John Henry alive in Cromartieâ€™s â€œbody,â€ given that itâ€™s so hard to separate the two of them. Plus, I still donâ€™t understand a bit of Catherine Weaverâ€™s plan. It doesnâ€™t help that she spends a great deal of this episode with a smirk on her face, as if sheâ€™s telling the audience that sheÂ knows that we know sheâ€™s up to something. Shirley Manson is a treat to watch, but itâ€™s also horrifying. Is Ellison creating the Skynet of the future? Is Catherine here to ensure that?
Then thereâ€™s another huge question raised by â€œEarthlings Welcome Hereâ€: can you teach a machine ethics? Morality? I think weâ€™ve seen aspects of that in Cameron, but unfortunately,Â sheâ€™s never gotten to a point where she can express these values in non-pragmatic terms. It still comes across as rigid logic or calculations. She can memorize the morals that John teaches her, but does that actually develop into something independent? Because Ellison is a religious character, he relies on his Christianity to begin his talks with John Henry. It doesnâ€™t bother me that he starts with this, and it makes sense for his character to have that sort of basis for his lessons. I was less impressed with the weird parallels to pro-life logic, though I think thatâ€™s less the writers trying to preach and more of a clumsy handling of the subject matter. Itâ€™s sad that Ellison and his wife tried to have a child, and she had an abortion after 9/11. It gives us the context for their relationship ending: Ellison wanted lots of kids, she wanted none. But then Ellison starts talking about how all life is sacred, and itâ€™s a little uncomfortable. Is Ellison pro-life? Is it more than just resentment towards his wife for having an abortion, or is it entirely a personal thing? Admittedly, itâ€™s complicated! I donâ€™t know whether the show is going to explore this further, either. But I think Ellisonâ€™s faith is integral to his characterization, and I do appreciate that weâ€™re seeing him work through it, no matter how challenging that is.
The video for â€œEarthlings Welcome Hereâ€ can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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