I really can't stand it whenever somebody on Terminator refers to a robot as "the metal." I'm not exactly sure why it bothers me; I don't have a problem with future slang, and it makes sense that the humans of the future would've come up with a quick and implicitly derogatory term for their opponent. But while Battlestar Galactica's "toaster" slur always made sense, there's something flatly unimaginative about "metal." It's the most obvious word to use, and real slang generally develops sideways. This show in general could use more sideways direction; the best parts of "Last Voyage of the Jimmy Carter" are the moments when the plot threatens to branch out in an unexpected direction. As always, though, the meager twists are pulled down by muddled execution and endless moping. If John Connor ever played Hamlet, it would've been six acts at least before he even considered buying a sword. (And even then, he'd probably rent.)
Right away, we get confirmation that John's trip to the morgue wasn't just about mourning; he asks Derek how long he could survive in a hand to hand fight against Cameron, so clearly, he's been thinking about defensive wounds. And he also knows what those wounds mean, even apologizing to Cameron for ever doubting her. So thank goodness, anybody who was worried that particular plot-line might develop into something relevant, consider your fears assauged. Sarah still loathes Cameron (for all we know, John never tells her he has proof Cameron didn't kill Riley; given that Sarah's blanket mistrust of Cam has been a constant on the series, there's no way of knowing without an explicit reference), which is by and large the only thing she really does this episode. Derek still mistrusts Cam. John still puts everything on her. And Cameron herself is still obsessed with pigeons.
What drove me crazy watching "Carter" is that so much of it should've been good. Finding out that a T-1000 was inside the package that was delivered to the Jimmy Carter last week should've rocked; I hadn't considered that future-past-Jesse and her crew had never seen a liquid-metal terminator before, which raised all sorts of neato questions about paranoia. Those questions were briefly entertained, but just about everything on the Carter seemed to take a few minutes longer than it needed to. I don't know if it was the way the storyline was broken up over the course of the episode, the flat-line acting, or just the way it all played out (Jesse finally destroys Queeg—man, remember when robots were hard to kill?—evacuates the ship, and gets told by the T-1000 that the answer to John Connor's question is "No"); that "No" at the end, while raising questions about future-John's plans, essentially ended the subplot in the dullest possible way. And man, how lame was that reveal that Jesse had been a.) pregnant without realizing it and b.) that she lost the pregnancy on the sub? It's like they reached into a hat for motivation and decided "robot rape" was a little too extreme.
Things in our present are nearly as bad, pacing-wise. About the only thing that managed to satisfy both in concept and execution were the handful of moments we got with John Henry. Seeing as how Cameron has been relegated to the sidelines at this point, John's become one of the few things on the show worth watching that we actually ever see. His new obsession with painting miniatures was charming, and I am actually a little curious to see where his developing relationship with Ellison goes in terms of his connection to the murder-happy Weaver. (Quoth Weaver: "Humans will disappoint you." Lady, you don't know the half of it.)
Plus John Henry's moments were short enough to make their point and go. "Carter" had what should've been one of the highpoints of the season, when Jesse comes back to her apartment to find John waiting for her. And, for a shining moment or two, it really was solid—the reveal that John had figured the whole thing out a while back was, while out of the blue, at least logical enough to pass muster. (Also, it's about time we're given some indication that John is smarter than the average inconsiderate prick.) But then the scene went on… and on… and on. And then John lets Jesse go, because I guess he blames himself for Riley's death too, and Riley goes downstairs and runs into Derek and they talk… and talk… and talk.
This is serious stuff. Jesse killed an innocent girl, the fate of the human race is at stake, millions will die on Judgment Day. But seriousness doesn't mean you throw energy out the window. After a seven episode first season that got by on lots of action and the occasional strong performance, Terminator has settled into a rut of soft, mournful music, grim people, and endless conversations about just how darn grim everything is. Yeah, I get it; life sucks for the Connors and Derek. You don't have to keep reminding me. Clever boy that I am, I actually remember the premise of the series when I tune in each week.
So Jesse's gone (I couldn't decide if Derek shot her or not; I'd lean towards no, if only because the gun didn't go off and it WOULD'VE BEEN FUCKING STUPID) and Cameron's cleared, and the whole Riley thing is over. And for nothing, really. We just wasted, what, four or five episodes on a storyline that resulted in convincing Sarah it might be a good idea to move at some point. Sure, Riley's dead, but apart from the shock, who cares? The preview next week promises someone will die (I think?), but who gives a rat's ass. On a good show, the revelations we got tonight should've made for a gripping hour of television. As is, it was like watching something shiny get slowly buried under a mountain of mud.
- I think tonight's was the most frustrated I've been with this series in a while. I might be reaching my breaking point.
- Hey, did you know that Sarah and John used to move around a lot, and that the memories of that moving might not be happy ones? It's definitely not like it's come up before.
- Note to actors: TALK FASTER. It might not help, but it could give us the illusion of forward motion.