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Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles – The Complete Second Season

2 Ratings: 5.0
Science fiction DVD box set review
1 review about Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles...

Quality Entertainment in a Worthy Box Set Collection

  • Nov 23, 2009
  • by
Rating:
+5

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:

  • "The Continuing Chronicles: Terminator", an 8-part featurette gallery
  • The Storyboard Process: Cameron Goes Bad
  • Gag Reel
  • Cameron vs. Rosie Fight Rehearsal
  • Commentary on "Samson and Delilah"
  • Commentary on "Allison From Palmdale"
  • Commentary on "Adam Raised a Cain"
  • Commentary on "Born to Run"
  • Terminated Scenes on Select Episodes


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.

Quality Entertainment in a Worthy Box Set Collection

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November 23, 2009
I know that this series had flaws (what series doesn't?) and I do admit to a certain degree that the pacing could've better, I still found the show quite entertaining and quite frankly was able to capture the right mood at times. Lena Headey and Summer Glau were the show's main attraction. The episodes had that feeling of more 'hiding' than fighting and I appreciated this approach. I wonder what would've happened past that final episode? Again, another great series that got killed because of the ratings war and was never given room to really grow. This is the problem at times, shows like LOST are given all the support by studios when it had plot holes as big as the U.S. I stuck with this show towards the very end and bought the limited edition collectors metal box set.
November 23, 2009
Woop, you're right, the TV game is really a sick popularity contest all based on studio backing/ hype. Great shows (like this) get dumped left and right while complete garbage gets all the love. I think that' partially why I wait for the DVD releases, I just can't wait all week for an episode just to be let down. Thanks for the feedback brother!
 
November 23, 2009
I had many problems with SARAH CONNOR, not that I hated the show in the slightest. Mostly, I felt the writers' room was torn over a central direction to take the characters while fairly consistently (though way too slowly) moving the plot ahead at a leisurely pace. They'd have one great episode out of every three or four, so you couldn't really build any significant momentum around their ideas at so slow a pace. Still, I stuck with it to the end, which I felt resolved as much of the time travel issues they could.
November 23, 2009
Hi Trekscribbler: Thanks for sounding off- it does seem a lot of people found the show's pacing a bit inconsistent. I'm not sure if I would have felt the same way had I followed it on television. I had the opportunity of watching it back to back thanks to the DVD so of course filler episodes are much easier to dismiss that way. I think it was Shirley Manson's character that took me most by surprise. Cool character, great portrayal, and that twist at the end was great. What's your take on Terminator Salvation?
November 23, 2009
Oh Trek, I also forgot to ask what you thought of the angle of the young John Connor in the future at the end? Obviously this rips some holes into T3, unless of course the show's creators were planning on having them all go back through time (to 1999) by the end. A shame we'll never know.
November 23, 2009
JRider, yes, burning off a few eps in a row on DVD would've greatly helped SARAH CONNOR's pacing; the week-to-week pacing of episodic TV just didn't lend itself favorably to the show's storytelling. Shirley Manson was a great addition (had no idea where the writers went or were going with her much of the time, which made for great surprises); it would've been great to see how it could've all fleshed out had Fox TV opted for another season. John Connor's arrival in the future and the reaction of his "peers" I didn't see as problematic as most -- JC now had to prove himself to this group, much as a famous JC (Jesus Christ) from human history had to prove himself to mankind -- but I'm guessing at the time of John's arrival the war had been going on for a few years, Earth was mostly decimated, civilization was broken into pockets, etc. It's hard to make much of the arrival except to say no one knew who he was, so I was ok with it. TERMINATOR: SALVATION I enjoyed for the most part, but I'm one of those rare few souls who's actually enjoyed every outing (TV show included, with some reservations) into the T-Universe. I would rather the producers had stuck to the alleged original ending of the film (I won't reveal it for fear of spoiling it, don't know if it's true but it appears as if it was true by some comments made by McG a handful of days/weeks before the release). I think that original ending would've/could've turned the T-Universe on its head creatively, and it would've been fun seeing where they were going with those developments.
 
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