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Recap and Review: The Sarah Connor Chronicles
Episode 1: "Pilot"
Monday Nights on Fox

Review by Jessica Korcok

The Sarah Connor Chronicles reviews index:

  • Episode 1
  • Episode 2

    Sarah Connor: Lena Headey
    John Connor: Thomas Dekker
    Cameron Phillips: Summer Glau
    James Ellison: Richard T. Jones
    Cromartie: Owain Yeoman
    Charley Dixon: Dean Winters

    In a year marred by the writer's strike and too many shows' seasons cut too short, Fox's new The Sarah Connor Chronicles may just be the best new science fiction show on television.

    This show picks up not long after the close of the blockbuster movie T2: Judgment Day. Sarah arrives at John's school, intent to get them away, but they are intercepted by the police. The police aren't a particularly impressive law enforcement group and while they managed to arrest Sarah and John quickly, they fare significantly less well against a nameless terminator who, in the right light, looks a great deal like Alfred Molina.

    The first ten minutes are action packed as Sarah bravely attempts to save John's life and fails. Reality falls apart as the audience is treated to the pyrotechnic end of Sarah's violent nightmare.

    Sarah awakens beside her fiance; Charley Dixon, and life suddenly seems a little bit brighter. However, when Sarah entreats the man to always remember she loves him, the audience can't help but feel the heavy shadow of foreboding. Once Charley leaves, Sarah then freaks John out by watching him while he sleeps, something that apparently she does fairly often. Spooked by her nightmare, Sarah tells John that they have to move. "No one is ever safe. Half an hour. One bag, plus the guns. I'll make pancakes."

    Charley reports her missing to the police, who aren't quite as helpful as he would like. In fact, Charley gets more than expected when he is introduced to FBI Agent Ellison, who fills Charley in on the events of the preceding movie. This includes her time spent in an insane asylum and suspected murder of Miles Dyson. Dyson has been dead for two years and the FBI believe Sarah is a violent and dangerous sociopath.

    Overwhelmed by the revelation of Sarah's past, Charley gives Richard Sarah's new alias. Agent Ellison, being the intrepid investigator, enters the new information into an FBI database, which is being monitored by a new Terminator. Presumably, both Agent Ellison and the terminator will use the new identity to track Sarah and John.

    Meanwhile, in New Mexico, John is in a new school and meets a girl named Cameron. Cameron asks a lot of questions and seems to be a bit too friendly for John's liking. John returns home and complains that they now live in a "hick town" and that everyone wears cowboy boots. Sarah berates John for talking about computers, afraid that he will be caught hacking.

    Cromartie, the new terminator, shows up as the substitute teacher. He sits down at the desk and begins to take attendance. While reading the list of names, he uses an envelop opener to cut through his leg, revealing a hidden gun. Cameron manages to help John escape by taking a bullet for him and then running Cromartie over with a truck. She opens the door to John, uttering, "Come with me if you want to live."

    Cromartie catches Sarah investigating the school shooting. When she realizes that the Terminator doesn't know where her son is, she attempts to kill herself to prevent the terminator from using her as a pawn. Impersonating Sarah's voice, Cromartie arranges to meet John at the house while holding Sarah's throat so she can't speak. When John enters, Cromartie guns him down, only to find Cameron, not John, hidden beneath the hooded sweatshirt. The two Terminators slug in out, which leads to a narrow escape and an interesting home insurance claim.

    Once the action dies down, Sarah and Cameron talk. Cameron is from the year 2027. On April 19, 2011, Skynet Missile Defense goes online. Within two days, Skynet declares a war on humanity and goes nuclear. Sarah and John are both shocked, because they believed the death of Dyson would have stopped Skynet. However, Miles Dyson doesn't matter because someone else builds Skynet. Unfortunately, Cameron says that no one knows who made Skynet, only when and where it was made.

    Meanwhile, Agent Ellison arrives on the scene of the school shooting. While clearly interested in Sarah, he is bewildered over the fact that 19 people claim they saw a man with a robot leg.

    John doesn't want to keep running. He doesn't believe that he's capable of leading an army so he begs Sarah to stop the coming war. Instead of escaping to Mexico, Sarah declares that they are going to stop Skynet. Their first stop is the home of Miles Dyson. Sarah convinces his widow that she didn't kill Miles and Sarah begs her for information as to who might be carrying on Miles' work. However, the lead is a dead end, as all of Miles' work was apparently destroyed.

    Cromartie arrives on the scene and Sarah takes a bullet during the escape. Sarah confides in Cameron that she's afraid John will leave her if they keep running.

    The next stop is chosen by Cameron, who leads them to a bank where she claims to have a safety deposit box. After obtaining the keys and forcing a teller to lock them in the vault, they open a series of seemingly random boxes. Inside are several pieces of strange looking technologies. John asks if the items are from the future but Cameron reminds them items can't be sent through time travel. Instead, someone capable of building the technology has to travel backwards and invent it.

    They assemble two items, an incredible weapon, which comes in handy as Cromartie is banging on the vault door, and a time machine. Cameron explains that they need to travel to the future to stop Skynet. Sarah finally consents and they jump forward eight years, landing in 2007.

    The pilot offered an action-packed opener to the series that surprisingly demonstrated a lot of heart. The cast is immediately likeable and seems capable of carrying the series for the long haul.

    Lena Headey, despite some critic's concerns with her lack of a muscular, Linda Hamilton-esqu frame, plays Sarah similarly to her role in 300, a determined woman humanized by brief moments of tenderness. Thomas Dekker looks less like Edward Furlong from T2 and more like Nick Stahl from T3. He has to walk a fine line between world-wary and whiney. Summer Glau, who fans will remember from Joss Whedon's short-lived Firefly and Serenity, is perfect as a teenage terminator. Richard T. Jones is a capable presence and a TV veteran, having played Bruce Van Exel on Judging Amy for years in addition to smaller, more recent roles on CSI: Miami, Las Vegas and Dirt. Something tells me Charley and Cromartie will be back eventually too.

    The pilot is heavy on action and special effects that pay homage to the movies. The electric current of time travel and the glowing eyes of the terminators will please longtime fans. Sarah's heavy narration has the potential to be either illuminating or annoying, depending on how well the show handles the future storylines. It will be interesting to see how the series progresses from here.

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