Saturday, 25 July 2015

Terminator: TSCC Episode 3 ‘The Turk’ Review

With John and Cameron attending school, Sarah is free to investigate potential leads for Skynet. Andy Goode is who Sarah finds, a former Cyberdyne intern now working in a phone shop. Meanwhile Cameron is having trouble fitting in at school, can John stop her from blowing their cover?

So this show is settling in surprisingly quickly. Now I appreciate that the last show I watched was ‘Gotham’ which still didn’t feel settled by the end of its first season, but ‘Terminator: TSCC’ is remarkably comfortable for its third episode. Elements from previous episodes are talked about, characters from those episodes make cameos. The feeling of a living, breathing, ongoing world has been established. Even in just these three episodes the characters have begun to slowly change and in ways that makes sense with the narrative we have been presented with.

With the relative safety the time jump has given them, Sarah is becoming more the mother and less the soldier. She has softened up somewhat and seems to have more hope in the future. Her mothering has even extended out to Cameron, who is posing as her daughter.

Cameron seems to have taken up more human qualities, seems to be making less mistakes in her interactions. A lot of jokes are still made at her inability to understand human behaviour but the human behaviours are more subtle, so her character can grow without ruining the fish out of water joke.

John is also growing, beginning to show his heroic tendencies. The subplot of this episode involves a suicidal girl at the school, John wants to try and save her but Cameron stops him as it would make him stand out too much. This angle that John is being caged until his usefulness in the future and the effect this has on him is a good narrative idea. Hopefully this frustration he is feeling will be used in future episodes.

One issue that seems a bit stupid to me is that John is going to great lengths to teach Cameron how to act more human, so that people don’t spot that she is a robot; this entire idea is pretty stupid. All they would need to do is tell people that she is mentally a bit different and I suspect people wouldn’t ask questions. Even if they didn’t bother to explain if people meet someone who says “You are upset?” in a monotone voice when they are crying in front of them, they will probably assume that is the case.

Of course they don’t go down this route because it would be likely to cause offence to parts of the audience, but this is meant to be a believable world. They created a world where 9/11 happened but where autism doesn’t exist we assume? They wouldn’t have even had to name the condition, John could have just said “Yeah she’s…you know…since she was a child” and pointed to his head if people asked. Anyway they side step this question by John explaining that she has a metal plate in her skull when she can’t pass through a metal detector.

Obviously this is meant to suggest that she has brain damage in some abstract way. I just wish the episode hadn’t gone to such lengths to show John attempting to persuade her to not act like a Terminator at the start it seems to be the more complicated way of solving this issue. Why would anyone ever assume that her odd behaviour meant she was a Terminator? What world is it where you meet someone who is having trouble with human behaviour and assume they must be a killing machine sent from the future?

Sarah’s search for the creators of Skynet is interesting but starts in a fundamentally silly way. She has a dream that she is meeting and killing the creators of the atomic bomb. To compare these scientists to the ones that made Skynet is smart but the dream sequence is really badly handled. As with the previous dream sequence, everything is much cheaper than a dream would ever be. The scientists are hanging around in a room that looks like a storage cupboard, the Terminators they transform into look like they were rendered using the computers that made the original Tron.

Sarah’s search for Skynet leads her to a phone shop salesman, Andy Goode, who asks her out on a date. Sarah making friends with a man who may go on to create Skynet is an interesting idea and hopefully it will be built upon in the future. That being said why doesn’t she just tell him the truth? She discovers that he has created a machine with emotions and doesn’t show him Cameron? They trusted Miles Dyson with the truth and this guy is nice enough that Sarah decides to spare him, burning down his house instead.

"DUDE...learn to knock!"
One element of this episode is really cool, visually in particular, but makes absolutely no sense. The Terminator from the Pilot is going on a mission to make himself a new organic skin. He breaks into a hospital to collect blood, finds a scientist to help him make it. I don’t really see the need for him to look human however. The gang are aware that Terminators are alive in their timeline so are looking out for them. Cameron can scan anyone she meets to detect if they are human or not. Why doesn’t he just wait outside their house and jump John on a suicide mission? I assume that future episode may explain this but if it was literally just to make him look human again, in order to hunt John, this is ridiculous.

So ‘The Turk’ has some dumb moments but is generally strong. The characters are being nicely built up and future plot lines are being laid down carefully. The major issue the show has at the moment is that is feels like it exists in a TV version of reality. Everything that takes place happens on a cheap budget and in a network approved version of the world. I doubt this will change and I appreciate these are issues that a low-ish budget TV show aimed at teens is going to encounter. It mainly causes problems because the show makes a real effort to embrace the real world but is unable to do so completely. If the show can’t be as realistic as it wants to be, maybe it should be less serious overall? This existence in-between tonal tables is problematic.

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