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How often can it really be said that a television series actually atones for some of the big budget feature film releases of the same franchise? Calling it a rare occurrence is massively underplaying it and yet that’s exactly what many viewers consider Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles (especially against the very average Terminator 3: Ride of the Machines).
It would turn out that Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles Season 2 would become last season of a solid science fiction television series that was well on its way to being a great one. Fans will delight in the bitter-sweetness that is an exceptional boxset containing some of the show’s finest moments as a grave marker for the entire series. It’s especially distressing on the staff commentary tracks where clearly the network’s decision to cancel the series had not yet been revealed.
Unlike so many shows of late, this is one where the second season actually capitalized and realized much of the potential promised of in the first (which was pretty darn good itself). The cast expanded, with the addition of Brian Austin Green and Shirley Manson (yes the singer of grunge band Garbage). The scope of the prose enjoyed expansion as well, with new Terminators, timeline fluctuations (with visible consequence/ effect) and the intensity of the possibility of lead character death ever-present.
The acting, which was far above the norm for network television in the first series, actually manages to somehow improve for this season. It’s apparent that Lena Headey and Thomas Dekker became far more comfortable with their roles as Sarah and John Connor respectively while Summer Glau is given the opportunity to contrast her role as a human rather than a machine along the way. Brain Austin Green was perfectly cast as Derek Reese (the brother of John Connor’s father, Kyle) and Richard T Jones continues to dazzle with his gritty performance as James Ellison. Garret Dillahunt takes the Cromartie role to the next level with an opportunity to “reset” his character here and even Shirley Manson, surely the biggest question mark of the casting selection, absolutely astonishes with her portrayal of a T1000 (liquid metal Terminator).
Naturally the restrictions of television budgeting result in a program that’s not quite as visually stunning as the recent films of the franchise, it is very possible that it looks as good as, if not better than some of the earlier movies. When T2 hit theaters, the whole “liquid metal” element was simply mind-blowing and Season 2 demonstrates the tactic ever-bit as well and as casually as if it were old hat.
Even so, the program ranks as among the best of the best of CG-heavy action on television. Just like with the films, massive explosions and gunfights abound with dark, moody environments and tones. While it would be easy for the show’s creators to fall into a rhythm based upon what’s worked thus far, major kudos go out for the decision to keep the characters’ whole world an ever-changing affair (just as it should be given the back story of living off the grid, always on the run).
The Dolby Digital audio is mixed quite solidly as well, which is a treat considering how solid the visuals turned out. The sound follows the onscreen action with near feature film precision and though a bit front-loaded to compensate for the abundance of dialog, the use of 5.1 Surround is particularly noteworthy.
In addition to a full-color booklet with episode synopsis, the extras (spread across the full 6 discs) include:
Just like with the first set, perhaps my biggest complaint is the mental overload of the source material’s heavy reliance upon time travel. If you really want to be a stickler, there are a few plot holes and mismatches that rear their ugly heads when laid out against the movie’s timeline but in all honesty, and considering the overwhelming ambitions in sorting it all out, the television crew does an admirable job of keeping it straight.
About the biggest tragedy surrounding the whole affair is that the series does not end conclusively as again, it was cancelled before the production team could tie up all of the loose ends. As it stands (and fortunately) the 22nd (and final) episode does not end on a cliffhanger per se, it just boggles the mind to consider where the writers were going next. Considering that the program was nominated (and won) countless awards from the likes of the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films, Emmy, People’s Choice, Teen Choice, Visual Effects Society, and Young Artists Awards, the credentials speak far louder than any network’s poor decision-making. It’s nearly impossible to come away from the second season without concluding that the series was just starting to find its rhythm. It’s sad that the show got the ax (especially considering how much junk was renewed) but I suppose the good news is that the Second Season box set is a beautiful addition to any library and a chance to own one of few truly impressive network television efforts of recent times.
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