The Telefile
7 Ways to Fix Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles

As we now know, last Friday's Terminator return took a giant ratings hit, and the show is probably not long for this world. Which is really a shame, because it's much better than it's given credit for, and this past episode felt like what the show should be every week. The quiet, intimate moments were really well done (though I say Kyle was way too pretty), the T2 shout-outs were plentiful and not over-the-top, and we got to see some stabby robot murders and a couple things explode. All in all a fantastic episode, and though the lack of Cameron was frustrating, John Henry is amazing. Garrett Dillahunt was easily one of my favorite parts of Deadwood, and he kills it every week on this show -- so glad he wasn't gone for good after Cromartie was shot to hell in that church. And the way Weaver's relationship with Henry is somewhat mirroring Sarah's frustration with her son is a nice parallel that I think is working particularly well. That being said, the show is not without its problems. Not to kick a show while it's down (ratings-wise), but here are some changes I'd like to see if TSCC survives.

More action required.
As nice as the quiet, character-driven moments are -- and as essential as they clearly are to the strength of the series -- this is a damn killer robots from the future show.

Weaver slicing and dicing up some chumps and blowing up a warehouse was awesome, and a big pay-off, but can we have something like that every episode? I know the show's been light on these due to budgetary restraints, so it doesn't have to be a big expensive explosion, but it seems like forever since Cameron's really gotten involved in a big, bloody shoot 'em up. I think the people who have turned away from the show have done so largely because they find it slow, and many times they're not wrong.

John needs to become a bad ass already.
This has been written and complained about everywhere, but the issue still stands -- this John Connor is not the John Connor we know from the movies and that the mythology speaks of. He's a wimp, and he shouldn't need Cameron to force him to do what's necessary all the time; he should be capable of doing it already. The apocalypse is only three years away, and I don't think he's ready to lead mankind to the charred up 7-11, much less victory over the machines.

It's time to kill Riley.
I know she escaped from the hospital, but I hardly think that's the last we'll see of her. The problems with Riley are obvious; she slows them down, she gets in the way, she does stupid things, she facilitates a rebellion in John that the cause doesn't need right now. Yes, there is something tragic about the whole future orphan storyline to her, but that doesn't outweigh the bad here. Much like Ellison (who I'll get to in a minute), she's outlived her usefulness to the story, and it's time to quit her.

Jesse is pointless.
Really, she is. Let's quit her too while we're taking care of Riley, please.

More Derek required.
I still say he's the most compelling character in the entire series, and while I'm actually, finally, coming around to Lena Headey as Sarah Connor in light of last week's episode, it's time for Derek to have more screen time. The four of them -- John, Sarah, Cameron and Derek -- working together is an interesting combination of the first and second films' protagonist dynamics, and after we get Riley out of the way there can be more room for that. It's also time for them all to come clean about Derek knowing he's John's uncle, and for Sarah to stop being so hostile towards him. I know she has trust issues and is very territorial, but they're obviously on the same side here. Asking him for help last week was a great step in the right direction, but just like plopping John in a military academy and then pulling him right out before he could learn anything useful, there's a good chance the show may annoyingly backtrack on their relationship.

Ellison used to be a great character.
And now, I just kind of think he's an idiot. He knows the killer machines are coming to wipe us all out, and yet he continues to work for a company that made a killer machine that talks about how imperfect we are and will probably eventually want to wipe us all out? And he's trying to talk to it about god, of all things? It's a toaster, for crying out loud! And Weaver thinks having him try to teach John Henry morals is a better idea than just disposing of Ellison? Why? And Ellison's not suspecting that maybe his weirdo boss who has no emotions and whose own daughter is terrified of her may possibly be a Terminator as well? Even though he knows they can look like anyone?

Maybe he is thinking those things, and it's a subtext I'm not picking up on, but c'mon -- wouldn't anyone in his position be much more actively trying to sabotage the operation? Or to run away from the potentially killer robots? There's so much in the Ellison/Weaver relationship that just does not add up. I think it would have been better to have him team up with the Connors and fight Skynet with them; I loved their scenes together in Mexico, and he and Lena Headey have fantastic on-screen chemistry, not to mention how much fun it would be to see him square off with Derek every week.

The flash-forward-light episodes are generally better episodes.
That kind of storytelling is tedious, and difficult to do. There are shows where it works (Lost) and shows where it really doesn't (Damages), and in regard to Terminator I'd put it somewhere close to the latter. I don't hate the flash-forwards, because sometimes they are really creepy and great, and they were, of course, a part of the movies, but overall, episodes like last week's where the story stays in the present and really drives forward in the moment are better. I like scenes like the one between Cameron and John in the hospital last week, where you just know she knows so much more than he does and there's a mystery there that is more compelling than actually seeing exposition in the future all the time.

Thoughts? Any Riley lovers out there? I've seriously never encountered one, but there has to be at least one who exists.




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