When I first heard that this was being made, I really didn’t think it could work. The first two films were fabulous chase films – there was no way they could do that in a television series on a weekly basis. Television can do many interesting things, but it can’t out-action cinema on a regular basis – the budgets alone dictate that. The series seemed to be ignoring the third film, an underrated flick that played the films’ storylines to a logical and satisfying conclusion.
Now that I have finally seen it (they are showing it on Virgin here in the UK, available on Freeview), I can lay aside my prejudiced preconceptions and say, this is actually quite good. I think that a lot of is down to the creators, mostly it would seem Josh Friedman (the main developer), who has created a complex and dynamic storyline, weaving previous and future events and characters.
Taking off after the events of the second Terminator film, Sarah Connor (Lena Headey, doing generic American accent quite well) is a woman with the weight of the world on her shoulders, looking after her teenage son John (Thomas Dekker), the future leader of the human resistance in the war against the Terminators. After moving on from yet another location, they end up in another place where they pretend to be normal and John goes to school again. Only, this time, he is attacked by a Terminator, only to be saved by a schoolmate, Cameron (Summer Glau), who turns out to be another Terminator sent to look after him. Instead of always being on the run, they decide to stop the future by making sure Skynet never exists. This involves them jumping forward in time from 1999 to 2007 (but unfortunately taking with them the head of the Terminator chasing them).
Despite the negative reaction to Headey’s take on Sarah Connor (she has to be more complex character for a television series, rather than the one-note film version), she comes across as determined, driven and tormented, which is what the character would be after all she has been through. Dekker is okay as John – he doesn’t have that much to do – but it is Summer Glau who has all the fun, both in the action and the cool lines, as the Terminator in the form of a teenage girl. Admittedly she had practice from Firefly/Serenity of being the oddball who could suddenly turn tough, but she’s still the most interesting character.
The story itself seems to be developing well, taking the opportunity to play with timelines and ideas, bringing in future resistance fighters to set things up in the present, and having other Terminators doing other missions (such as collecting the metal alloy need to make more Terminators after Judgement Day). What could have been rather repetitive and formulaic has turned into an interesting television series.