02 September 2008

Sarah Connor Chronicles

So last month, after reading some of the SDCC coverage of Sarah Connor Chronicles, I discovered I have no fears that Sarah's role might be reduced in the new season of SCC.

Here's why: I've always seen the central relationship of the series as Sarah and John's. She has devoted her life to protecting her son, and they are incredibly close, and it's part of why I love the show. And I don't see how John continuing to mature into the leader we saw glimpses of in "Vick's Chip" can possibly be lead to the story becoming The John Connor Chronicles, and not the The Sarah Connor Chronicles.

The relationships—Sarah and John, John and Cameron, Sarah and Derek, Derek and John, even Derek and Cameron—are what drew me to the show. You can examine the story from so many different angles. Derek and Cameron come from a future that ceased to exist the second the they jumped back to the past, and the John Connor they know now may never grow up into the man they knew then. They share first-hand knowledge of the post-Judgement Day future, something Sarah and John can imagine but never truly understand, having never experienced it.

Derek and Sarah have a unique relationship because for the first time since Kyle Reese, Sarah has someone who knows her story, is a part of her story, and she does not have to lie to him, or hide any part of herself from him, or hurt him (unlike Charlie). He is under her command, he is her trusted right hand, and they are both trying to protect her son, who is her entire world. And they fight, and they work side by side, and in the end, Derek is very much Sarah's trained attack dog. You can tell she doesn't completely trust him (nor should she. Derek has a lot of issues that put them all in danger) but they have Kyle in common—and John is the only part of Kyle either of them can hold onto. So they will.

Sarah views Cameron as a tool. She is able to set aside her pathological hatred of the machines only so much, but she'll use any tool at her disposal. And Cameron is a thing to her. I think that Cameron's existence frightens her, because it means in the future, John trusts a machine (something she can never bring herself to do). But she is not going to waste the best opportunity she has to fight Skynet with its own weapons. And I love that it has been consistent—from the first film, through the entire series—that while John in the future sends machines back to protect, Sarah always chooses to fight to try and keep Skynet from being born. She is the one who gets Kyle to attack Cyberdine. She is the only true threat to Skynet, because without her, there would be no resistance. Not because she trained John to fight, but because she instilled in him the mission to fight to win, instead of just fighting to survive.

Everyone one else fights defensively. But Sarah has always gone on the offensive. She is the one who raises John to become the man Skynet fears. Skynet thinks it can stop it all by killing her to keep John from being born, and in doing so, it creates its greatest enemy: Sarah. I love that it's always been Sarah because John is her weapon. And it's all because she loves him and wants to keep him safe, which is what makes it awesome. He's not a weapon of hate. But he's still a weapon.

John Connor fascinates me because he's developing an existence beyond his mother's hopes and fears. I love that they argue, but are always there for each other. That he may hate following orders, but he still does it in the end. That he chafes under her iron-fist, but that doesn't mean he can't recognise when she's right, and it all has a larger purpose. But I also love that the rock-solid belief he had is starting to be tempered with reality. That he's capable of looking past what he's been told, and learning to make his own mind up. Learning to put all that strategy and training to work to think for himself. Because that's what will make him the John Connor who saves mankind. And it doesn't mean leaving Sarah behind. Not ever.

I also love the relationship John has with Cameron. Before Derek, Cameron mostly worked with Sarah. But once the grown-ups pair off, we really get to see John and Cameron's relationship start to develop. I love the grey areas of it. How he can view her as a tool without a soul, yet still feel compassion and curiosity and allow himself to be fooled by the skin she wears. I love the brother-sister vibe. I love how spooked he gets when she thinks and says things he didn't realise she was capable of thinking or saying. I love that he's still 16, and can't help the effect a pretty girl has on him, even if he knows in his head that she's got an endoskeleton under there and can squish him like a bug. I love that he trusts her. I love that he knows how dangerous that trust is. I love that he has a different relationship with her than his "parents" (Sarah and Derek, filling in for Kyle). I love that he has a flexible mind, and is capable of problem-solving by approaching obstacles like puzzles that no-one else in the Connor-Reese clan has. I love the puppy-dog like desperation with which he clings to both Charlie and Derek, because as completely awesome and hardcore as his mum is, boys still miss their fathers (even if it's only the idea of a father, and not the man himself), even if his died before he was born, and that's real to me.

I love that Cameron has an agenda and a past we know nothing about. And I love how she interacts with the world around her, and the people. I love that she offers Jordan eyeshadow because the first friendly gesture she knew to copy was that of the unnamed chola in Carlos' gang. I love that she adapts. I love that she is the most sophisticated learning computer on the planet, and constantly expands her knowledge of people and their interactions, yet the series never falls into the Lt Comdr. Data trap of trying to make her Pinocchio—wanting to be a real girl. She is who she is. She is what she is. The other characters are forced to deal with the reality of her on a daily basis, rather than their ideas of her.

But I look at the first season of SCC, and I look at the interviews from SDCC with Friedman and the cast, and I look at the promo poster—and I still have no doubt that Sarah is the lens through which we see this story. Sarah is the character around whom all the others orbit, and on whom the plot turns. That doesn't mean they do not have important roles. That does not mean she will always have the most screen time, or the most lines. But I don't see any of their individual stories growing more complex as a threat to her position or standing. SCC is still Sarah's story, the same way Terminator is Sarah's story. But it has always been John's story too (even if he exists only in the abstract in the first film), and it's not wrong for the series to address that SCC is all about how we get from here to there, in terms of the man John will become.

And it does not diminish the mother, in my eyes as a viewer, to show the son's journey.

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