Friday, June 23, 2017

Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles S1 E5: Queen's Gambit

"God I love robots."
-Andy Good-

But is Good really good enough to be one of the builders of the future Sarah and John Connor are fighting tooth and nail to prevent.

Put another way, will Good be good enough that he must die? That's the question for Sarah Connor.

In Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, Season One, Episode 5, Queen's Gambit, Sarah's moves are played in comparison to the game of chess, as one can infer from the title of the episode.

We also discover John Connor learned all about combat at a very young age by playing chess against other guerilla fighters in Central America. Chess? Well, okay sure, and the entry takes its time to notate the elements of chess that are required by a smart fighter/ tactician. Patience for one is important.

The latest in the series introduces us to a John Connor freedom fighter sent from the future in the form of 90210's Brian Austin Green. Unfortunately for Green, for me, he will be forever a teenager from the future sent from the past by way of 90120. It's not fair, but it just is for me. Having said that Green is actually excellent in his part as Derek Reese, brother of the fabled and legendary Kyle Reese within The Terminator mythology.

A fairly intense sequence ensues involving the rescue of Derek Reese by Cameron and the Connors from a prison truck. The caustic irony being Sarah and John Connor, while free, are prisoners of their own private war. Their lives are locked in a constant battle and struggle that rules and dictates their every move and decision.

As Sarah notes, "If there is a flaw in the game of chess as a game of war it is this... The goal of a chess game is total annihilation, but in war ... there is the hope ...rules can be changed, truces can be called, the greatest of enemies can become the best of friends. In war there is hope." In Sarah's world, there is the hope that the Connors can alter the future and ultimately be free, but until that day they are locked away and imprisoned by the fate of the world they must fight to save.

I'm not entirely sure what it is about Lena Headey in the lead role of Sarah Connor, but, truth be told, she doesn't entirely work for me. This is in no way a condemnation of this wonderful actress. I love her. I love Headey. She's an intelligent operator in any role. She positively owns the role of Cersei Lannister in Game Of Thrones (2011-present). She is one of the major character highlights in that series and she shines among an impressive cast of actors throughout the show.

Yet, Summer Glau just shines as Cameron in T:TSCC series seemingly free of expectations and other baggage, while the Sarah Connor character comes with a good degree of formed opinion.

Linda Hamilton was so mighty, so iconic in the role of Sarah Connor for me she's hard to shake. Headey is superb in this role, but sometimes I just can't help get myself by Hamilton as Connor. Those were clearly unexpectedly and surprisingly big shoes to fill and I'm not sure, as good as Headey is, she does it for me, at least so far.

Meanwhile Glau seems to nail the role of these quiet, physical savant-like characters. Firefly (2002) and now T:TSCC.

Nevertheless, T:TSCC continues to be a solid enterprise as sci-fi genre series go alternating between a bit of action, but more importantly strong characters (a triad) and suspenseful drama.

The series may not have the pacing entirely right or the compelling scripts of other science fiction greats, but T:TSCC is another strong entry in The Terminator franchise and deserves a worthy place in its legacy along with some recognition as one of the science fiction series worthy of consideration.

Would another actress have been stronger in the Sarah Connor role? Ironically Headey's fellow Game Of Thrones' star Emilia Clarke played the part of Sarah Connor in Terminator: Genisys (2015). She didn't have a prayer. It was a weak casting choice and yet, again, Clarke excels as Daenerys Targaryen. She's perfect in that series too.

Honestly I'm not sure it's possible to replace the memory of Linda Hamilton. For those who see me as knocking Headey, I suppose the greatest compliment I can offer here is that Headey doesn't try to replace Hamilton who left a sizable imprint. She doesn't pretend to be her. Headey simply takes the Connor role and makes it her own, adding her own strengths and weaknesses to the legend of the character. Headey is entirely successful in making the part her own on that front and perhaps that's all anyone should expect, because I'm not sure an actress could do better. Any reservations I may have may be entirely of my own subjective making.

But if you're a fan of the original two films you may suffer the same dilemma. Discovering T:TSCC may be a gambit of your own.


Richard Bellush said...

Changing actors (besides often being inevitable) isn’t necessarily jarring for audiences if the presentation of the character remains pretty much the same; the sequence of Bruce Banners in the Marvel movies didn’t really matter, for instance. Nor does it matter if a series is completely re-imagined ala Battlestar Galactica; Katee Sackhoff as Starbuck in that case was not just OK but inspired. But it can be a problem if it’s supposedly the same universe. The original portrayal can be just too indelible to permit a big departure, which is why so many people had an issue with Khan in the Star Trek reboot even as they accepted Pine as Kirk. Whatever else Cumberbatch might be, he is so not Ricardo Montalban who imprinted that role with his big personality. Linda Hamilton did that with Sarah Connor. (In my particular case, Linda – at least in sunglasses – also happens to be a ringer for my ex; I'm not sure if that helps or hurts, but it is distracting.)

Summer Glau is wonderful in everything she does, which doesn’t seem to save the series in which she is cast including Firefly and Dollhouse.

SFF said...

The ex- comment was funny Richard. And poor Summer. You're right.

However, great commentating point my friend.

Thank you. And I apologize for the delay in posting this. Sometimes I just get way too distracted. MY apology.