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Sarah Connor Chronicles: What did we end up with?

Now that Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles has wrapped up for the strike-shortened season, I think we can safely look back and see what we got in the short 9 episodes.

I was pretty satisfied with the show and would probably give the season 3 stars out of 5 if I rated it like I did a book. Maybe 3.5 even, but that only because there is so little watchable science fiction on TV.

There are spoilers after the break.

Overall, I felt TSCC was surprise. After seeing what I felt was slew of disappointing science fiction shows on mainstream TV – from Bionic Woman to Journeyman to Heroes – I didn’t have high hopes for this one. But luckily this show took a different direction.

The strengths of the show lie in the dark and serious subject matter. The destruction of mankind by a machine intelligence isn’t merely alluded to but actively dealt with and lived with by the characters. This fact, and the way the characters deal with it, is what makes this show work. And surprise – this is a pretty fundamental science fiction construct. I found myself watching the season finale being constantly aware that this show that has gotten decent ratings and is one a mainstream network has so much science fiction in it.

But you can’t talk about the show without talking about the incredibly strong female characters. That the protector is a female terminator is a masterstroke, but it’s Sarah Connor’s character that really pushes the envelope. She’s cold and calculating sometimes. She is willing to kill if necessary, willing to uproot her family and move them at the drop of a hat, and willing to go to all lengths to stop the machines. But she is also human – and as a result has weaknesses that aren’t your traditional TV female weaknesses. She’s not a sappy sentimentalist, but genuinely seems to care about humanity and the individuals within it. She puts a high value on human life and it serves as a stark contrast with the dreaded machines.

My major issue with the show was what I felt was an overall pretty slow pace. Some episodes were paced well, but there were others that seemed to do nothing more than mark time. There was little action in total in the 9 episodes compared to what was in the pilot. I’m not sure if that’s because a lot of the first part of the season was setup, but I was surprised at the limited amount of ass-kicking by robots. And the big, bad robot is barely in the season until the last episode or so. I find this very odd and almost turned him into a Macguffin. I didn’t expect film-style pacing, but the pilot moved quickly whereas the other episodes almost dragged.

But what did you think? If you’ve seen the first season, I’d love to hear what you felt was good and bad about it. The ratings were a mixed bag. The pilot got a huge draw, but the show did much worse in the middle of the season around show 4 and 5. It did pickup at the end somewhat – but I could see this one not making it into a second season.

7 Comments on Sarah Connor Chronicles: What did we end up with?

  1. Overall, I’d give it a 3/5. It was good, but left something to be desired.

    Pacing, as you mentioned, was the major issue. It just didn’t have enough substance to justify the meandering pace. I liked the strong female characters, though I still wish they had an actress ho looked more like Linda Hamilton.

    The final shows were the strongest, story-wise. The park scene with 5-year-old John was excellent. I like the introduction of Sarah’s EMS ex, whose presence adds some innocent bystander drama. I also wished they did more with the psychiatrist (played by Bruce Davison, I lazily guess) – he would have added a nice element to the overall story.

    The finale itself was a disappointment in some respects, though, wasn’t it? Some scenes seemed to come too easily – like the break in at the traffic control center (or whatever it was). And do we really believe that Cameron is in any danger from an exploding car? C’mon! That’s not a cliffhanger, that’s an insult. Good as it was, the season ended on whimper.

  2. I’ve only seen the first 3 so far (on Virgin 1 on UK Freeview), but I’m enjoying it. As you say, great female characters, and good, authentic SF ideas (it’s the first TV SF show I’ve seen that mentions the Singularity).

    They clearly spent a lot of budget on the opening episode, but I was hoping it would slow down a little bit, though not to the snail pace of Heroes.

  3. And do we really believe that Cameron is in any danger from an exploding car?

    Well, certainly all that gorgeous hair got singed off!

    The thought of her running around with spiky stubble like Arnold in the original film chills the blood (and shrivels the gonads).

  4. There’s 9? Ok, thanks. Seems to be picking up a little after a couple of ordinary episodes after the first couple.

    Somewhere between 3 and 3.5 sounds pretty reasonable, to me.

  5. I agree. The show’s been good, but not great. I’ve been pleasantly surprised that it hasn’t adopted the on-the-run-in-every-episode formula and thus has avoided becoming a rehash of the Starman TV series from back in the 80’s. One thing I could do without though is the overly-long, sullen reaction shots from the characters (usually Sarah) at the end of nearly every scene.

  6. Hmm, I’d have to say that I think Journeyman may be on par, or even better, than The Sarah Connor Chronicles. Too bad it got canned before we found out what was going on.

  7. Matthew F // March 10, 2008 at 6:53 am //

    I thought it was excellent, easily a 4 out of 5. When I saw the pilot, I didn’t hold out much hope for it. I’m not a huge fan of the Terminator movies, and though I like Summer Glau, that’s not enough to make a show good.

    However, I was very pleasantly surprised. They’ve managed to come up with a variety of angles to cover, from the day-to-day avoidance of evil robots and the hassles of living a fully invented life to all the bits and pieces (and people) that will come together to become Skynet and how the future resistance fighters actually operate. Lots of stuff to work with.

    There’s exactly the right amount of action, to me, and all the acting is at least good, sometimes very good.

    Oh, and Journeyman is easily a 3.5 out of 5.

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