Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles (2008) / Action-Sci Fi
Season 1: Episode 2: Gnothi Seauton

Cast: Lena Headey, Thomas Dekker, Summer Glau, Tony Amendola, Jesse Garcia, Richard T. Jones, Owain Yeoman
Director: David Nutter

Screenplay: Josh Friedman

1.2 - "Gnothi Seauton"

In this episode of the series "Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles", we start with the trio of Sarah (Headey, 300), John (Dekker), and Cameron (Glau, Serenity) appearing to have jumped in time eight years to 2007, along with the "skull" of the Terminator machine that they had all but completely destroyed in the pilot.  In this future, Sarah Connor is already dead two years, an apparent victim of cancer (as related somewhat in Terminator 3).  Sarah sees about getting new identities for themselves, which is tricky unto itself with news of FBI informants, while learning from Cameron that there are others currently in the area that have come back from the future in order to supply weapons and cash needed for the resistance.  Meanwhile, the Terminator sent to kill them has been finding ways to reunite the parts of his body that were separated in the blast of 1999.

The title refers to the Ancient Greek aphorism, inscribed at the Temple of Apollo, for "know thyself", which becomes a main theme of this second episode of the series. Whereas the series pilot episode put more emphasis on drawing in viewers with prolonged action sequences, the second episode is much more talky, and consequently will be seen as either more interesting or less depending on your expectations and what you find entertaining.  Personally, I think this episode is an improvement in terms of giving us more interesting developments that merit following, even if the action is relegated to just a couple of scenes (basically two battles with another Terminator).

Series nuts will probably know that Cameron is an allusion to Terminator writer-director James Cameron and FBI agent Ellison is named after sci-fi guru Harlan Ellison, the author whose works are seen as the original inspiration for the series.  This trend continues in this episode.  Sarah's new identity is now "Baum", a reference to Frank Baum, the author of "The Wizard of Oz", a book the series is now paying homage to, mostly in the form of comparing Cameron the the Tin Man.  The show also ties in to Terminator 2 with the inclusion of Enrique Salceda (Amendola, The Mask of Zorro), here used to try to secure the false identities.  Perhaps these allusions will be ignored by the vast majority of viewers, who either don't know or don't care, but it's nice to see some effort made to give the series connections to other works that provide context above and beyond just a survival tale.

One thing that is already becoming burdensome is the notion of time travel, especially in when and where it is used.  Here we have instances of people who can travel not into the past, but the future, with the help of the post-Judgment Day John Connor.  Now all sorts of people and machines are traversing back and forth, leading to quite a bit of a headache for us as viewers in trying to understand how all of this can happen in our era and yet in the first Terminator, it seems a novel event that the human just happened to exploit by happenstance.  For the sake of the entertainment, I can go along with it, but boy does it distract me while watching it to think of how it doesn't seem to fit in with what we know from the movies.

While the episode still pales in comparison to that of the first two Terminator films, the silver lining is that this episode shows much more potential for interesting developments than had been evidenced in the pilot. 

-- Followed by "The Turk".

Qwipster's episode rating:

2008 Vince Leo