Wednesday, January 23, 2008

“I don't sleep.”: The Sarah Connor Chronicles

There’s not much to say about this week’s Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, so I’ll keep it brief. Many of the same criticisms I noted in my review of the first two episodes still stand. Lena Heady remains weak rather than engaging. It’s not so much her displays of mercy that bother me, but that I never believed she’d have it in her to kill anyone in the first place. Sarah shouldn’t be homicidal or anything, but she has to be frightening. Richard T. Jones got some more to do, but I still think he’s being underused. Right now, all he’s doing is wandering around last week’s locations (he won’t always be one episode behind, right?) and sitting behind a desk doing paperwork.

Also not working for me: Sarah, John and Cameron’s interactions in the house. Seems writer John Wirth was trying to establish an easy banter between the three, both for comic effect and to form a familial bond. Nice idea, one more shows should embrace (that is, letting its characters just bounce off each-other) but at the moment it’s feeling forced. Part of the problem might be the accidental sexual tension between Heady and Thomas Dekker, and the obviously intended sexual tension between Dekker and Summer Glau. The latter is okay, but together they make for a seriously weird family unit.

On the positive side, Glau and Dekker are starting to grow into their roles a little more. In typical Terminator fashion, Cameron’s ignorance of human customs is the main source of humour; although where Schwarzenegger’s Terminator had no initial interest in mimicking human behaviour, Glau’s Cameron is closer to a child, gleeful at every new discovery. Her interactions with John are diverting enough, his attraction to her a suitably creepy touch that I’m glad the writers aren’t shying away from. This episode also gave the first hint of the potential hero inside John with his impassioned speech about helping others – though this was pretty much ruined by the distasteful use of teenage suicide as a dramatic device. I can see no way in which it was necessary for the girl to kill herself in such a gruesome way, or for her even to die.

Sarah Connor Chronicles strikes me as a show that doesn’t really suit weekly recaps, as it is doling out information slowly and in little bits. For instance, we don't yet know much about the new Terminator glimpsed at the end, and the significance of Andy Goode (Brendan Hines) remains unclear. I get the feeling Josh Friedman is gradually building up the complex universe he has in his head. Which leads me to worry that Friedman and co. are spending too much of their attention on this universe, and not nearly enough on their characters. With only six episodes left, Sarah Connor Chronicles has less breathing room to improve than most new shows, but since the potential is there I will try and remain optimistic.

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