"Goodbye To All That" S2 / E5
Word on the Interwebs has it that T:SCC isn't doing so hot ratings-wise. No official news as of yet, but the show could be for the chop as soon as, well, yesterday. While an early cancellation here wouldn't be as tragic as it has been for other shows, I can't help but feel a twinge of regret. Part of it would be losing a writing gig, but there show has some potential. Last week's episode was a nice example of what this series can achieve in its best moments; T:SCC is ridiculous in a lot of ways, but when things click, that ridiculous can lead to some pretty cool moments.
Unfortunately, those moments were in short supply this week in "Goodbye To All That." While not quite hitting the depths of "Automatic For The People" (an episode "Goodbye" repeatedly references), this was mostly a morass of clunky writing, clichés, and one fairly horrid display of child acting. Worse, Cameron was hardly to be seen. If this series is going to last the month of October, it's going to need to do better than reheated war movies and forced maternal struggles.
When a Terminator kills a man with a name Derek recognizes from his future-past, the Connors quickly realize that they have another target hunt on their hands. Skynet is gunning for Martin Bedell, close friend of future-John and, as always, key figure in the human resistance. The first Bedell killed isn't the right one, and a quick look in the phone book shows two more in town. We finally get some pay-off to the meat telegram back in "Automatic"; one of the messages he left on the wall downstairs (in his own blood. Because it makes much more sense to hide in the basement and write in blood that seek medical attention and steal a marker) leads John and Derek to Presidio Alto, a military academy where a young Martin is currently going through his junior year. Meanwhile, Sarah takes Cameron to protect the other, wrong Martin–who turns out to be a ten year old boy. Sarah kidnaps him after repelling a Terminator attack and takes him back home where she can make clumsy motherly advances and lecture Cameron.
Let's start with the crap first, shall we? There's a third plotline here, with Weaver and Ellison investigating the events at the Serrano Point nuclear facility; it's tedious, provides us with information we already know, and ultimately serves as a reminder that Shirley Manson is a terrible actress. But it's not actively painful, at least. We get painful in the Sarah plot. It's not quite as stupid as the power plant attack, but it's close.
The biggest drawback to kidnapping young Marty is that the actor playing him is very bad. Kid acting is always hit or miss, but the way this kid misses makes the problem even worse than a simple dull line-reading; he's hot-dog commercial generic, and he seems to have been cast as an eight year-old when he's clearly approaching early teens. Sarah's struggles with mom-dom and her relationship to John are tedious to begin with (potentially eye-gouging as it could be to see her go on dates, at least then she could have a personality beyond, "I have to protect my beloved son, who is somewhat ambivalent towards me"), but they're made exponentially worse by her trying to smother an on-the-cusp-of-puberty boy with misplaced affection. The scene where Marty asks her to help him with his book report was bad enough (the kid can't read The Wizard Of Oz on his own?), as was the kid's apparent terror (?!) of the Wicked Witch; but when she starts reading to him and he puts his head on her shoulder–augh. Lena Headey is an attractive woman. I swear to god I thought the boy was gonna try and cop a feel. (Which would bring back the eye-gouging idea, faux-Greek style.)
At least the military school section is relatively painless. We get more scenes of John struggling with his destiny, more scenes of Derek being intense; the flash-forwards of Derek and future-Martin working to save a group of prisoners from Skynet's tanks were passable, if predictable. The real Bedell is an okay guy, but it's starting to annoy me how much of a boy's club the resistance is; in the first Terminator movie, Kyle called the women of his time "good fighters," but apart from Allison getting tortured, we haven't seen many women involved in actual combat. It increases the irritatingly familiar feel of the future combat, like we're just seeing a WWII movie with crappier uniforms.
"Goodbye" climaxes with the Bedell-hunting Terminator (who has to be the most inept machine we've seen yet on the show) tracking his target to Alto, where he's defeated by John and Derek. It's not a bad sequence, and the resolution–the machine sinking into the tar pits–is decent. Having little Marty and Sarah doing Wizard Of Oz voice-overs set an interesting mood; it didn't run to quite the absurd lengths as the "Samson and Delilah" opening sequence, but there was enough disconnect between the text and the action to make me wonder why they bothered. Stuff like that can't be entirely random.
All told, thought, this wasn't very good. Without Cameron's psychological woes, the relative flatness of the other leads is thrown into sharp focus. I can't blame the actors, and it's not that I hate the characters. I just don't care about them. So, more explosions and more Summer Glau craziness, please-and-thank-you. And if you ever bring that book report kid back, I'm gonna have to talk to your supervisor.
--So, how the hell is a twelve year-old listed in the phone book? Did his parents got him a landline instead of a cell-phone?
--John cries a lot.
--The Bedell-Terminator must've had other targets. Otherwise, the fact that it spends a week doing nothing is really embarrassing.
--Apparently, you can enroll in and get hired to teach at a military academy without any background checks. Just show up with some forged papers, and you're in!