Sunday, 2 August 2015

Terminator: TSCC Episode 8 ‘Vick's Chip' Review

John dives into the recorded memories of Vick Chamberlain, the Terminator who had the mission to kill Derek Reese and the other resistance fighters. While searching the memories he discovers a plan to create Skynet’s ‘Nervous System’ from a traffic control system being installed in the city. The only way to stop it is to install Cameron’s chip into the system and get her to shut it down, but can she be trusted with the power of Skynet?

The majority of this episode focusses on the memories of Vick the Terminator. Vick had married a woman, Barbara Chamberlain, who was working on the traffic system and had used this marriage to ‘encourage’ her with its development. The Terminator franchise has teased us with the idea of a Terminator living as a human before but never delved this deep into the concept. Vick has been with this woman for months, possibly years and many of the clips show their horribly broken marriage, the kind of broken marriage you’d have if you married a Terminator.

These memory sequences are really disturbing. They’re all point of view, putting us in the position of Vick as he does his Terminator business. We see him stalking his wife, coercing her and killing anyone who stands in his way. At one point we see him killing a woman in the woods and the Connor gang go to find her rotting body based on his memory of killing her. Forcing the characters in the show and, in turn, the audience into seeing how a Terminator views the world is a really dark idea and one that is delivered perfectly. ‘Vick’s Chip’ manages to connect to the realities of abusive and controlling relationships. This could easily have been horribly handled but ‘Terminator: TSCC’ deals with the subject very carefully and respectfully.

Aside from being a good dramatic tool, viewing the memories on the chip also works as a sneaky way of showing a recap of the season up to this point.

To sabotage the traffic system, John decides to attach Cameron’s chip to it, trusting her with the task. To access her chip, John has to remove it from her head, complete with her issuing him with surgical instructions as he does so. It’s clear that John cares about Cameron, Thomas Dekker and Summer Glau play out this scene brilliantly. Cameron attempts to ease his concerns by saying “It’s ok John, it’s not the first time we’ve done this”, which references his reprogramming of her with a subtle comparison to him losing his virginity thrown in for good measure.

Meanwhile Cromartie continues to be the most useless Terminator ever. He is still posing as an FBI agent and he is still making stupid jokes. He kills a man refusing to give him information on the new students in the county and says “Thanks for your cooperation”. I really wonder why some of the experimental Terminators were given comedy chips and why? Interrupting your mission to make jokes doesn’t seem a very smart way to work.

Cameron manages to trick Cromartie into not finding John using John’s friend Morris as a replacement. Cromartie being tricked so easily somewhat diminishes the characters threat level. I am a little concerned that the character has become the light relief of the show but hopefully he was only used this way in ‘Vick’s Chip’ to lift the otherwise incredibly dark tone of the episode.

So ‘Vick’s Chip’ is the penultimate episode of the series and it certainly feels like it. Everything is starting to feel bigger, more dramatic. ‘Terminator: TSCC’ could have taken the easy route and merely raised the stakes in terms of action but it took the far braver route of raising the thematic stakes. We are diving deeper in the creation of Skynet so we spend an episode diving into a Terminator and learning just how soulless the future world of Skynet and the Terminators truly is.
In addition to showing us how inhuman the threat is, ‘Vick’s Chip’ also makes a definite effort to show how human our protagonists are.

We get a whole scene dedicated to Derek using Sarah’s toothbrush and not understanding why it upsets her. Derek has never lived in a world where people had the time to care about having possessions that they didn’t have to share. This lack of regular social boundaries isn’t stated out loud but is instead left for the audience to figure out. These little human moments really help to sell both the characters and the existence they are trying to protect.

‘Vick’s Chip’ is easily the strongest episode of ‘Terminator: TSCC’ so far and if this is what they use for the second to last episode I’m pretty excited about what the finale holds.

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