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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles: "The Turk"

Illustration for article titled iTerminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles/i: The Turk
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Illustration for article titled iTerminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles/i: The Turk

I had not planned to continue blogging Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. I thought the first two episodes were simply okay with the potential to develop into a more interesting show, but I didn't really plan to stick around to find out. But, just as with the plays of Sophocles, if the Terminator series has taught me anything it's that fate is unavoidable. (Or maybe fate can be cheated but it takes three, possibly four, movies and a TV series to get the job done.) You, the readers, spoke. And I, the writer with a fairly low threshold for science fiction enjoyment have answered the call. Though in an alternate timeline I'm finally reading Tolstoy–or at the very least catching up on episodes of The Wire–for at least the rest of this short television season, I'll be following the adventures of young John, his suspiciously not-that-much-older-looking mom, and their hot robot sidekick as they try to forestall Armageddon and take down the eventual manufacturers of killer cyborgs at Skynet.

Or something like that. I'm still not sure why Sarah and the gang are still dealing with Terminators in the first place or why the apparent shutdown of Cyberdyne Systems in T2 didn't do the trick. But, whatever. The facts as they now stand: We are in gritty present-day L.A. Sarah is trying to prevent Skynet from happening. John is trying to go to high school while still picking up the skills to become a rebel leader, should that ever become necessary. And tagalong Terminatrix Cameron is trying not to stick out too much while posing as John's sister.

But first, a wacky flashback and/or dream sequence. In voiceover, Sarah recalls becoming obsessed with nuclear scientists during her stay at a mental hospital, an obsession that feeds into her current dreams as she fantasizes about killing Robert Oppenheimer and the gang only to have them turn into Terminators. It foreshadows the rest of the episode, which finds Sarah trying to decide whether or not to kill a former Cyberdyne employee who's working on an elaborate chess-playing artificial intelligence system in his spare time.

There are shades of the real world here. What justifies a pre-emptive strike? How much blood can be shed to prevent further bloodshed? It's not a theme the episode spends a lot of time developing, but I'll give it a few points for trying, even if the whole nuclear scientists analogy is pretty off. (Sure, you could have killed them if you didn't mind the Nazis getting the bomb first.)

And speaking of blood, there's no shortage of that here as the stray old school Terminator–let's call him Ski Goggles, at least for this episode–seeks out a formula to grow new skin with the assistance of a helpful British scientist who may be helping out out of fear or intrigue, it's never quite clear. Meanwhile, over at high school, John and Cameron halfheartedly investigate the source of some elaborate trompe l'oeil paintings that drive a young woman to commit suicide. Well, investigate is the wrong word. They kind of stumble into the mystery and then watch as it claims a victim.

Is the series done with this sub-plot? It's never clear what's going on or even if it in any way relates to the central plot. But then again the series doesn't seem to be in any hurry to draw its various plot strands together. And that's okay, but it's still going to have to try harder to keep anyone who initially turned in motivated by curiosity or cowed into watching by ad after ad interested. I'm especially worried about what ought to be one of the more interesting elements: Cameron's integration into normal high school life. Right now her slightly monotone responses and inability to grasp the subtleties of language are a little too reminiscent of the seemingly unkillable '80s our-daughter-is-a-robot sitcom Small Wonder.

Okay, but it's not quite that. Not yet, anyway. For now, consider me intrigued and a little disappointed. Again.

Grade: B-

Stray observations:

- Was it just me, or did that scene at the Latino gang house look like it was taken straight from the world of Homies?

- When Sarah goes to buy a cell phone are we honestly supposed to believe she doesn't know what it does? She's from 1999, not 1899. The whole sequence reminded me of that great South Park episode where they unfreeze the man from 1996 and he can't cope with his new surroundings.

- "They took his freaking eyes!" "Bitch whore!" There's nothing better than TV swearing.

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