He’s back, unfortunately

Some things never die. But they can become more advanced, like the robots in the Terminator movies.

First there was the Arnold Schwarzenegger version, a slow-moving, one-liner-dispensing killing machine. Then in Terminator 2: Judgment Day, T-1000 makes an appearance with his ability to shape-shift into a human or anything else his robot brain could conjure.

Now, in the new Fox television series version of the sci-fi classic, one of the robots is seemingly starting to develop human emotions. Unfortunately, compared to the films prior, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles lacks this same upward progression.

The first Terminator movie follows Sarah Connor, the future mother of John Connor. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a robot from the future, has some beef with what lies ahead for John. Namely the rebellion the yet-to-be-born John will lead against a robot army, created by a computer from Sky Net Corporation. The terminator is thwarted and destroyed, and John is born. Movie done.

The ever-returning Arnold returns in T2, but this time he’s arrived to protect the now-born John from another time-traveling bot. If you can remember correctly, T2 ended with Sarah Connor helping to destroy the computer research center, Sky Net, which would eventually create the human-destroying robot army.

Like any semi-successful Hollywood franchise, they forged on with Terminator 3 despite the contradiction that a terminator shouldn’t exist if the technology was destroyed. The viewer is supposed to swallow that the events in T2 only delayed the robot army from forming. OK. I guess there has to be movies about something, and they might as well not make any sense.

The Sarah Connor Chronicles, however, is an alternate timeline to the final installment of the trilogy–another sequel to T2. This installment is more drama-oriented, and focuses not so much on action (speaking of action, can we have a moratorium on the slow-motion effect mid-fight? It was annoying enough in 300), but on what it is like to be the future savior of mankind (very relatable, I know).

For Sarah Connor and her son, some things never change. More robots come from the future, trying to forge a new future. Another robot is sent by the future John Connor to protect the 1999 John Connor in the TV series. She also helps them jump to the future, 2007, to prevent Sarah Connor from dying of cancer so she can fight in the 2029 resistance. Which brings up another problem: If Sarah Conner’s former self has replaced her future self, then why is her cancer gone? And wouldn’t she still get cancer eventually? And wouldn’t John, by missing three years of his life, forever change his future? Maybe I’m over-thinking this. It is just a TV show after all. There is no doubt, though, that the show’s producers are either under-thinking this problem, or under-estimating my ability to get exceptionally incensed at this kind of oversight. Regardless, I’m still pissed.

The good robot, Cameron, is the advanced model. All her features haven’t been disclosed yet, except that she can pass, at least to John, as an attractive student at his high school. She seems to be the most hopeful part of the show. Not that her character is interesting–she shares Star Trek character Data’s propensity to try to understand human emotion-but because of the future intimacy between her and John.

If the people clamor for anything, it is for some hot robot-on-human action.

An automaton played by an actor lends leeway for her/him to be a bad actor, i.e. Schwarzenegger. But the terminator in pursuit of John and Sarah in the show looks like he belongs in an Axe Body Spray commercial.

He also tilts his head pensively from time to time (should a robot be confused?) In one scene, while leaving a shooting spree, he turns back to the wounded students and quips, “Class dismissed.”

It’s a lame catchphrase that is unlikely to start a pop-culture firestorm like “I’ll be back.” But that’s mostly because “class dismissed” is already a stock quote, a dull cliche that is the best distillation of The Sarah Connor Chronicles: It’s a lazy appeal to past success.