Archive for February, 2009

TSCC Episode 2.15: Desert Cantos

Posted in TSCC Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , on February 21, 2009 by severus

desertcantos_23After the action of last week’s episode, Desert Cantos slows down the pace a bit. The Connors are all together on a mission, which has been a rarity since season one. Sarah, John, Cameron, and Derek travel back to the high desert community of Charm Acres to further their investigation of SkyNet’s role in the Desert Canyon Heat and Air warehouse explosion. Sarah sees SkyNet’s fingerprints on everything that has transpired, and is slowly converting her skeptical family to her viewpoint. By the end of the episode, the conversion is complete. There is little doubt of SkyNet’s presence in Charm Acres.

The structure of the episode follows the ritualized elements of a funeral: the vigil, the service, the processional, the burial, and the recessional. It seems more like the acts of a play however, as the mourners appear to be no more than extras in the foreground of a command performance. Everyone is complicit in the cover-up  at Desert Canyon Heat and Air. No one asks questions, but merely do as their roles require in order to receive a king’s ransom at the end of the night. The insurance payments are generous.

It is Sarah who searches for deeper meaning within events. Sarah seems to critique all of us when she accuses Zoe and her mother Stella of sleepwalking through their lives. She accuses us of being dead to what is unfolding around us. Stella’s retort is equally profound when she answers with why would she begin asking questions now, just before she’s about to receive the payoff for not asking questions? We all want to hit the jackpot that puts us out of harm’s way, and we do so at the expense of searching for deeper meaning. 

To Diane Winston, who is just beginning to ask questions, Sarah’s response contradicts her prior exhortation to Stella. She repeats Diane’s own words to her: “sometimes it’s better not to ask too many questions”. This contradiction reflects the paradox of Sarah Connor: an enigma wrapped in a mystery wrapped in a puzzle. Is Sarah crazy? Aren’t we all.

desertcantos_11Other interesting aspects of Desert Cantos include how oddly Cameron was portrayed in this funereal setting. Summer Glau had very few lines of dialogue, but left a distinct visual mark upon the story. Cameron’s limbs were devoid of life, as though she were the walking dead. We have seen Cameron in multiple scenarios over the course of two seasons. She has even pondered death on several occasions. In the midst of so much death, her inorganic nature is highlighted. We see the unnatural robot inside the girl.

John Connor was much more engaged and assertive than ever before. He took charge when Henry petulantly demanded that Cameron and John exit the car during the processional. He also pulled his gun to threaten both Zoe and Stella in the underground cellar. Are we beginning to see the emergence of the heroic John Connor? I hope so.

The B storyline of Ellison, Weaver, and Savannah was also very intriguing. First off, it’s always great to see McKenzie Smith as Savannah. Second, it appears that Ellison is on to something. This was subtly conveyed in the elevator scene when Catherine Weaver inappropriately remarked that it was a beautiful day although it was the anniversary of her husband’s death. I don’t believe that Ellison is entirely obtuse. He may be in the beginning stages of formulating an opinion about what is transpiring around him.

Episode 2.14: The Good Wound

Posted in TSCC Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , on February 19, 2009 by severus

tscc_goodwound2The Sarah Connor Chronicles returned from its mid-season hiatus showing no signs of sluggishness. The Good Wound, which kicks off the final nine episodes of season two, is a return to the serialized storytelling format used in season one. The episode picks up where Earthlings Welcome Here left off.  Sarah awakens in a hospital bed with a bullet in her thigh lodged dangerously close to the femoral artery, and with a Muir County sheriff deputy standing guard outside her door. She is in such excruciating pain, she hallucinates that Kyle Reese, her son’s father, is by her side to guide her through the critical moments to follow. Sarah is nothing if not steely under pressure. She escapes by strangling the deputy unconscious, stealing his gun, and limping out the front door.

Sarah’s gunshot wound is the good wound. The agonizing pain strips away her normal defenses and lays bare the naked truth: She needs help. She needs help getting the bullet out of her leg; she needs help covering her tracks. She is unaccustomed to depending on anyone, and it is only to the vision of Kyle that she accedes.

The good wound also exposes Sarah’s deeper psychological and spiritual injuries that supersede any physical affliction. It forces her to confront herself in a manner she has been reluctant to do before, given her history of being wrongly imprisoned in a psychiatric hospital. It reveals her intense loneliness; the extent to which her knowledge of the future isolates her from the rest of humanity. It reveals how vulnerable she really feels, and the depth of her paranoia. It reveals the despair and bitterness she feels for carrying this burden. It reveals the lack of love in her life.

But the wound also shows her metal. Through the agony, anger, loneliness, and dispair, Sarah  manifests the means to survive. She does not succumb; She learns, adapts, and exploits. Though exhausted and exsanguinated, she digs deep within to find an inner strength to overcome all adversity.

This show is network televison at it’s best. It challenges us with thoughtful, creative stories that go well beyond the mindless, ratings-driven drivel audiences are usually spoon-fed on network television. I hope Fox has the guts to stick it out with this show, enabling it to find a larger appreciative audience. 

Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles

Posted in TSCC Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , on February 12, 2009 by severus

sarah_connor_chronicles

Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles (TSCC) is my favorite network television show. I realize it may be gasping for it’s last nine breaths with the mid-season relaunch on Friday the 13th, but I will state unequivocally that it’s one of the best shows on television. The writing is strong and the acting is amazing. Unfortunately, it has been competing against a reality show juggernaut and a couple of comedies that appeal to the unwashed masses. It got stomped. There’s a brave new world out there in tv land.

I’m in love with Summer Glau, but who isn’t? In that regard I’m indistinguishable from millions of fanboys who watch TSCC religously. (Summer – don’t marry the any of them. Wait for me. I’ll be rich and famous soon. Together, we’ll have lots of fat children.)

All kidding aside, Summer is a very talented actress, and, dare I say it, the best terminator ever. There. I said it. While Arnold is iconic in the terminator role, Summer brings real acting chops to her portrayal of the cyborg-protector Cameron Phillips. She is a true auteur, and the nuances contained in her performances is one of the main reasons I watch the show with bated breath. (Kevin Reilly, if you’re out there in cyberspace reading this blog, give Josh and company a third season or Fox and I are through.)

Lena Headey and Brian Austin Green also display tremendous talent in their respective roles. Lena Headey plays Sarah Connor, while Brian Austin Green portrays Derek Reese, brother to Kyle Reese, John Connor’s deceased father. I think Lena will always be best known for her portrayal of Queen Gorgo in 300 – that performance will probably be the crowning achievement of her career, but her portrayal of Sarah Connor will be a close second.

As for the notorious B.A.G.? his portrayal of Derek Reese has finally put his 90210 days firmly in the rearview mirror. He’s pitch perfect in the part, and has made a believer out of me.

Okay, so what about Thomas Dekker, who is conspicuously absent from all the praise I’ve been heaping on the show? He is talented, but he’s not pitch perfect…yet. Personally, I don’t agree with how he’s chosen to play John Connor. A little too abrasive for my taste (and I realize it is just a matter of taste). I recognize his talent. Video clips of him in real life are startling because his true personality is so remarkably different from his portrayal of John Connor. But that could be the issue. I feel sometimes he’s trying a bit too hard. He doesn’t inhabit the role naturally. Yeah, it could be just my personal bias, but I’m not crazy about his performance.

Okay, enough gushing over Summer Glau. The mid-season premiere of TSCC is Friday, February 13th, at 8pm. Please watch. Don’t let another excellent scripted series fall by the wayside. A mind is a terrible thing to waste on reality television.

Nota Bene: Richard T, Garret, and Shirley. I haven’t forgotten you guys. I’ll sing your praises at a later date.