Monday, September 8, 2008

I've Got Something You Can Terminate. Or Chronicle.

*hangs head in hands*

We're watching Terminator: The Sarah Conner Chronicles on Hulu. Which, if you've never been to, it is, in fact, the greatest thing since sliced bread.


Just be prepared to lose a few hours of your life.

Anywho. So, T:TSCC. 9 episodes of franchise-rape, but apparently between that, T3 and the forthcoming TS (by McG... seriously), James Cameron has enough money to keep his bunghole numb, so I won't pity him too loudly. Tonight we watched episodes 6 and 7. Episode 6 was a series of flashbacks meant to evoke the original Terminator film. Episode 7, that's right, lots of references to T2 (although no explanation of how Dr. Silverman got all his hair back... but whatever).

Lots of things go wrong with the narrative. Up until this point, there's been a moderately low-budget sci-fi with a pinch of story-telling that doesn't quite stand up under its own weight, but lots of action and explosions to make up for it. Definitely a step up from, say, the first two and half seasons of Quantum Leap for those of us who enjoy conceptual time-travel-related science fiction. With explosions. And up until now, it's held up pretty well.

Until now.

The worst part about these last two episodes is that nothing eff-ing happens. I don't ask a great deal of my mindless entertainment. Okay, that's a vicious lie, but is it too much to ask that it be entertaining? I think not. So what happens? First, we introduce the dorky kid from the old-school 90210 and bill him as a warrior-hero and action pimp. We pump him full of bullets and have him cough blood between flashbacks of war and torture. Then we wake him up and turn him into a whiny bitch who never leaves the house and is terrified of Summer Glau.

Well played.

Oh, but it gets worse. While he's on the table, oozing bad-ass at an unhealthy rate, we're told that he needs a blood transfusion. He's AB-negative, very rare. But, we're in luck. Sarah Conner is O-neg, the universal donor. But no, that won't do! He needs his own blood type, "universal" be damned. But we're in luck again, Sarah's son John is AB-negative. Oh, what joy, what bliss, what a thinly-veiled setup for the reveal that the boy and the bad-ass are in fact related. Which we new from the last episode. And the "previously on" bit.

So, do you see what's wrong with this? If not, enjoy the rest of the series.

Quick refresher on blood-typing. Everyone has two genes that are either A, B, or neither (O). If you have an A and a B, you're AB. Two A's or an A and an O, you're A. Same for B. No A's and no B's, you're O. Your genes come from your parents, so if Sarah is John's mother and she's type-O, there's no way John can be AB. Sort it out. I'll wait. And it's not like this whole contrivance couldn't have worked, rh-factor (pos v neg) is recessive, so if Sarah was positive and her son was negative, there's a decent chance that John's father is also negative, which, along with the other evidence presented in the same conversation, should have been enough to force the plot point.

It's the 24 problem--an interesting premise, lots of good action, but plots that are cripplingly stupid and just badly written. What the hell, Fox? These are some of the most-watched shows on television. You can afford fact-checkers! Or, at least, hire a smart person to read the script before filming and make sure that the writers haven't drooled all over it!

Because it's not just the particulars that bug me. It's the over-arching plot curves. Just from a common-sense standpoint, what are the chances that two people with rare blood-types are going to fall in love and have a child upon whom hangs the future of the known universe?

Slim, right?

It goes on. Why is this she-terminator having such a hard time blending in at high school? She did fine in the pilot. Why is she going to school at all? How can she stick her hand in a turbine without damaging her skin? Episode 7 saw the she-terminator, "Cameron" (remember when homages were subtle? Me neither), doing ballet alone in her room at the end. Why? Well, it was so the Glau-ophobic 90210 kid/bad-ass could see her doing it and decide that maybe she was okay after all. But why would a machine be doing that? For her own edification? For practice? No. No rational reasoning that fits with a character who is a machine makes sense, and no stretch-of-the-logic-but-fixed-with-a-line-of-dialogue reasoning was given either. Here. It's easy. Watch this:

JOHN: How did you find him?
CAMERON: Through his sister's dance studio.
JOHN: Dance studio? How did you...
CAMERON: I took a ballet lesson.
JOHN: You learned ballet?
JOHN: Really...
CAMERON: Really.
JOHN: me.

Nothing to it. Then bad-ass walks into the living room and sees it, plot point is effectively conveyed without having him sneak up to the teenage girl-bot's room to spy on her.

But, again, it's the over-arching theme that really grinds my... erm... joints. Why do we seem to be on this never-ending crusade to humanize the machines and toughen-up the humans? Is this some quest to make the show even more boring? By far, the most interesting conceit of T:TSCC is the notion of a war with time-travel and the various ways that that can mess with you. But they aren't doing anything with it. Instead, it's the usual stoicism you find in Fox serieses. The stoic-protector-fills-void-of-absent-father dynamic was played out thoroughly in second film, we really don't need to re-hash. Not to mention that stoic humans don't really hold up when compared to freaking terminators.



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