Bringing Down Metal: Even 'Nators Get The Blues


Season 2, Episode 6: The Tower Is Tall But the Fall Is Short

Original Air Date—20 October 2008

The Connor Crew start investigating a family/child psychiatrist after reading Dr. Sherman's (Dorian Harewood) name among other cryptic writings left in blood by a resistance fighter sent back to give them a bunch of similar cryptic messages. Turns out Sherman used to work with veterans, and quickly recognizes signs of post-traumatic stress in John.

Simultaneously, a T-1001 liquid-metal terminator who is impersonating a multi-billionaire corporate CEO, Catherine Weaver (rocker Shirley Manson of Garbage), is starting to have issues handling Weaver's human, Savannah, and commences taking her to Dr. Sherman as well. Dr. Sherman does so well with Savannah (kids like to be held, don't like to be barked at, go figure), Weaver asks him for an opinion of an artificial intelligence which has started behaving oddly. Dr. Sherman figures out the problem in about three seconds, and Weaver recruits him as a part-time consultant on the project, which will probably become Skynet and destroy all of humanity. So we're left to wonder if Dr. Sherman will either enable Skynet to annihilate humanity, or possibly (given his successes so far) will be able to talk the deadly AI into becoming a nicer, friendlier, better-adjusted killing mechanism.

In other news, yet another soldier from the future comes back in time and hooks up with Derek, but not on orders from Future John Connor. Lending overwhelming credence to my previous concerns about overuse of time-travel: soldiers going AWOL can join the queue and get sent back pre-war for a booty-call, not just people authorized by Future John, or machines sent by Skynet.

Speaking of machines sent back by Skynet, yeah, you guessed it. They send another T-888 back, and it goes to Dr. Sherman's office as well. But rather than laying down on the couch and telling Sherman about her male-machine-parts envy, she runs into Cameron and after a mini-battle in the doctors hallway and elevator, Cam twists her into a neatly carriable shape and hauls her back to the Crew's house like a cat bringing back an eviscerated mouse home for its owner.

And Sarah gets all pissy and moody when John wants to talk to an actual shrink about some of his teenage issues/messianic complex.

Pros: Dorian Harewood and the Alabama Blacksnake. Probably better known now for a wide variety of animated voice work, once upon a time Mr. Harewood was the thoughtful poet, Eightball, in the Stanley Kubrick musical comedy, Full Metal Jacket. In this short example of verse, he apologizes for the coarse social graces of his best friend, Animal Mother (Adam Baldwin).

Private Eightball: Believe it or not, but under fire, Animal Mother can be a wonderful human being. All he needs is somebody throwing grenades at him 'til the end of his life.

More relevantly, his portrayal of a caring man who once attempted to care for fragile veterans at a V.A. hospital, and who now works with troubled kids and their families is far more convincing than Lena Hedley's quasi-maternal efforts as Sarah Connor. While I think his inclusion into the rehabilitation of the natal Skynet is a little contrived, I hope he sticks around and eventually joins the Connor Crew: Sixteen-year-olds are really not psychologically prepared for the pressure of saving all of humanity.

Cons: Back to the Booty-Call. Jesse (Stephanie Jacobson), Derek's squeeze from the future, gets tired of the war and hops back to enjoy a few laughs before the big blow-up. And, by extension, manages to convince a tech crew to power and operate the machine to send her back. Hmmm. Think she paid them in hugs and pez?

Apologies. I digress. In the original movie Kyle Reese told Sarah that after he (and the original Arnie-nator) was sent back, John Connor was going to zero the entire complex, preventing any further backward trips. This makes the most sense of anything: less temptation to mess with the timeline and unintended-consequence the human race out of existence by accident. Now, however, apparently any hawt chick with interesting scars can find some socially-challenged lab tech with a degree in chronal dynamics to send her back out of the rat-eating highly-irradiated future and back to Paris Hilton-party-central.

Plot twist, unintended paradox, or crap-tacular writing? With all the traffic coming back from the war-torn future, its beginning to look like an average viewer is going to need a scorecard to keep track of who the good guys are and who the bad guys are. For simplicity's sake you have to figure that any metal that fires on John Connor is bad (except Cameron, who apparently can love him and kill him, possibly at the same time). While that immediately categorizes Cromartie (Garret Dillahunt) as the easy-to-spot bad-guy, this episode throws a couple of others open to question. Catherine Weaver seems to be a sent-back Skynet sleeper (bad, right?), only it is never demonstrated that she actually killed either the real Cathy Weaver, or arranged for the death of Cathy's husband in a helicopter crash. More significantly, why would a Skynet sleeper bother to continue caring for Cathy's daughter, Savannah, when even my non-computer brain can calculate that continued close contact with the girl runs a greater risk of exposure than her 'accidental' death. Stranger yet, she takes Savanah to a child psychologist to facilitate long-term relations with her 'offspring'. Complicating matters further is Catherine's recruitment of Dr. Sherman into what we presume is a neo-natal Skynet project as a sort of cyber-analyst, helping to keep the infant AI productive and content. But if Catherine is Skynet, why did Skynet send back an additional terminator to apparently kill Dr. Sherman? Cameron killed that tin can after inctercepting her outside Dr. Sherman's office, fighting her back into the elevator, and ultimately twisting her into a human pretzel. Popping her chip out of her head, it appears new Skynet machines have fail-safes to prevent them from being reprogrammed by humans: clear and conclusive proof the new machine was Skynet. Only why then did she and Cameron cease and desist their mortal combat when a family boarded the elevator, and only resume the melee after they stepped out? Terminators don't tend to give a crap if someone observes them eliminating a target: Cromartie dug a pistol out of his leg in the middle of a high school science class to shoot at John Connor (pilot episode), Arnie whipped out the infamous Colt .45 with laser sight in the middle of a nightclub, and then doubled down by ramming a truck into the entrance of a police precinct and proceeding inside to kill everyone with an assault rifle and combat shotgun, searching for Sarah Connor. Why would a Skynet machine suddenly stop fighting to preserve its convert status? Not to mention that it is only surmise that the new terminator was after Dr. Shepard, but why else would it go to his office? Who else would it know to look for there?

Sorry to say, folks, but episode six is like a highlight reel of everything weak in T:SCC. Too much time travel, too many terminators, too much mommy angst, and its just not clear if this is part of an overall writing scheme, or just stuff being thrown around in hopes the series makes it to third season.