By rule of thumb, whenever a popular franchise switches directors, it tends to spell disaster. After Terminator 2: Judgment Day, director and creator James Cameron left the franchise to move onto more personal projects such as Titanic. His absence was filled by two subsequent directors, Jonathan Mostow and McG for Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, and Terminator: Salvation respectively. Both were met with mixed opinions by both critics and fans of the franchise. Meanwhile however, TV channel FOX was outputting the single-best television show based on the beloved franchise in the form of Terminator: The Sarah Conner Chronicles.
Skeptics came out of the woodwork on this one, but were quickly silenced. The TV show picks up directly after the events of Terminator 2: Judgment Day, focusing on the aftermath of Sarah Conner and her son John, who escaped certain death at the hands of the T-1000 and managed to prevent Judgment Day from occurring in the year 1997. Despite their success, Sarah Conner is incapable of resting easy. She stays true to her militant ways, trusting no one while attempting to stay under the radar. John Conner however, is growing up. As a young man, he quickly becomes frustrated with his mother's refusal to allow him to live a life of freedom. The pair move to a new city to start over, and John begins attending a new high school under the alias "John Reese," an ode to his deceased future resistance father. He also befriends an attractive girl named Cameron, who both share the same class. Soon however, John realizes that his life is in danger after his substitute school teacher turns out to be a new model T-888 Terminator sent back through time to assassinate him. He narrowly escapes certain death during a classroom shootout, only to come face to face with a terrifying truth. Cameron is also a Terminator who has been reprogrammed to protect him. Cameron soon informs John and Sarah that Judgment Day is indeed still on schedule with a new date of April 21, 2011. The pair realize that the fight is far from over. When the T-888 Terminator, nicknamed "Cromartie" attacks them a second time, the trio flee to a bank vault where a mysterious device has been built and waiting since the mid 1960s. When activated, it initiates a temporal jump that throws all three forward in time to the year 2007. Little do they know that Cromartie also made the jump. Badly damaged, the T-888 begins repairing himself to continue the hunt for which he was programmed for. With only 4 years until Judgment Day, Sarah and John decide to strike back against SkyNET's Terminator forces which have been clandestinely dispatched into the year 2007 to pave the way for the eventual takeover of the machines. This is where the battle begins.
TSCC succeeds by way of its writers. As a die-hard Terminator fan with a HUGE reservoir of knowledge, I sat through each episode and tried like mad to find any continuity errors, plot holes, or oversights on the part of the writing team. I could find none. TSCC is PERFECT. Its material is so firmly rooted in Terminator mythology that it flows almost seamlessly from Terminator 2's big screen presence. The only noticeable difference is with the casting of new actors and actresses for the roles. Indeed, if Linda Hamilton and Edward Furlong were hired to reprise their roles for this show, I dare say it would have been unstoppable. Previous plot elements are revisited here. In the pilot episode, Sarah and John make contact with Tarissa Dyson, the wife of the late Miles Dyson who sacrificed himself to blow up the CyberDyne building in T2. Secondary characters like Enrique Salceda and Dr. Peter Silberman also return. The interesting thing is, they really didn't have to. But the writing team is so focused on paying homage to the first two films that they refuse to ignore even minor characters. This is great stuff! Things really take an unexpected turn when Kyle Reese's brother Derek journeys back through time to help Sarah with their newfound resistance movement.
The writers don't stick to cheap plot devices, either. They tackle everything from Cromartie repairing himself and taking on a new appearance and identity, to Sarah's paranoia that the "Turk," a chess program developed by a rather ordinary guy could eventually transform into the maniacal A.I. known as SkyNET. There's a wealth of information presented, and spoilers would abound if I started to list them all here.
It might not have lived past Season 2, but TSCC deserves viewing. Everything, and I mean EVERYTHING, from the pacing, to the mood, to the music, is quintessential Terminator. If James Cameron wasn't immensely proud of the work done on this show, then I'd be extremely surprised and very disappointed.