Sunday, 26 July 2015

Terminator: TSCC Episode 4 ‘Heavy Metal' Review

Cromartie’s continuing attempts to rebuild himself have got the attention of FBI Agent, James Ellison. Meanwhile in his attempts to thwart a Terminator stockpiling materials for the future, John finds himself in over his head and trapped behind enemy lines.

So the Terminator franchise is built around chases. The Terminator is pursuing the heroes as they desperately try to survive against the odds. ‘Heavy Metal’ takes an interesting angle on this cat and mouse dynamic by having our heroes pursue a Terminator. Even more interestingly, the Terminator is completely unaware that he is being pursued. John has attempted to place a tracking locator on the truck the Terminator is using to transport Coltan, the material used to create their endoskeletons. Unfortunately John becomes trapped inside the truck and finds himself being transported to a bunker to be unwittingly stockpiled for judgement day.

John’s attempts to escape really push him to the brink. At the end of the episode we see him shaking, something that he managed to hide from Sarah, it will be interesting to see how this building pressure on John is eventually released on the show.

A lot of the episode seems to follow Cromartie and not our heroes however. The episode opens with a plastic surgeon working late in his office, using a Dictaphone to record his case notes. I wonder if this casual use of technology is meant to highlight humans passing responsibility to machines or if it is just a really easy way to deliver exposition? Anyway the surgeon is forced to build Cromartie a new face. The surgeon’s subsequent murder brings in James Ellison, who is still very much determined to work out what is going on.

The Terminator has chosen the face of a struggling actor, one who he kills to steal his identity. I really like the juxtaposition of an actor being mimicked by a machine. This is brilliantly highlighted when the Terminator breaks into his house and tortures him to mimic his pain filled facial expressions.

Ellison’s investigation is interesting by itself. He is having to fight against his colleagues to stay on the case and is being constantly undermined by a younger man, Agent Stewart. It’s a little heavily handled that he is talking about being replaced by someone younger, just as Agent Stewart walks into the room. It’s also incredibly on the nose that the younger replacement for him just happens to be male and African American also, as if the audience wouldn’t make the connection otherwise.

‘Heavy Metal’ is a bit of a filler episode in some ways; the main storyline of the episode is completely irrelevant to the overall plot of the season. Having said that it is the best kind of filler episode, the kind that may add more to the show then even a regular episode would. The main plot takes a back seat to character development, that of John and James. The lack of a serious villain and complicated plot allows the episode room to breathe and to let it deal with more subtle character profiles.

It wasn’t a perfect episode however; some moments seemed to directly contradict the previous episodes' continuity. For example, John has a laptop in his room, despite Sarah’s complete refusal for him to be anywhere near one. Also Sarah is shocked to learn that another Terminator, not Cromartie, is around…Despite meeting another one a few episodes ago.  In a show about time travel and prophecies these kind of consistency issues are going to stand out like a sore thumb. Hopefully future episodes will work to more of a ‘show bible’ and flow a bit better.

These issues are relatively small however, ‘Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles’ remains engaging and surprisingly thrilling. ‘Heavy Metal’ may have some rocky moments but overall this show seems to be on a roll!

You think an Akira reference will make me like you more?.....You win this round 'Terminator: TSCC'


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