Saturday, 15 August 2015

Terminator: TSCC Season 2 Episode 10 ‘Strange Things Happen at the One Two Point’ Review

Sarah’s obsession with the three dot symbol leads her to a technology company, Dakara Systems, who use three dots for their logo. Meanwhile Jessie’s mission in the past is finally revealed, along with her shocking partner in crime.

So the gang are back to chasing down technology companies this week. One issue I have always had with the Terminator franchise is the seemingly pointless fight to stop the creation of Skynet. Time keeps changing so that different companies or individuals create Skynet. Eventually somebody is going to create an artificial intelligence and give it too much power, that much seems destined to happen whatever the Connors do. Therefore I can’t help but wonder why they keep smashing down company after company and never consider alternate strategies.

Now usually I would be lost in the drama and ignore this issue but a large amount of the episode is dedicated to pointing out how pointless the Skynet stopping endeavour is. Sarah tries to stop Dakara because she believes they will create Skynet, she pointlessly investigates them, only for it to be revealed that they are harmless. Meanwhile at ZeiraCorp The Turk has been wired up to Cromartie’s old body and is communicating freely his intelligence without repercussions.

In addition Jessie is working a plan to save John Connor from Cameron’s influence in the future; Jessie has seemingly given up any hope that Judgement Day can be prevented from happening. It’s a hard balance to make a threat credible without making it insurmountable and ‘Strange Things Happen at the One Two Point’ goes too far into that second category. This episode is 100% in the camp that Judgement Day can’t be stopped.

With no wiggle room it makes our characters' plight seem impossible to resolve happily, which makes it hard to root for them. Part of this is due to the success of the show and its characters. We care about these people and hope the best for them, we don’t want to watch them fail.

The main Dakara based plot is nothing that we haven’t seen done in the show before. Sarah investigates the company by going undercover; she learns hard truths about humanity in the process. The entire first season used this plot repeatedly while Sarah was investigating The Turk. I think that this plot being repeated again is annoying me more this season purely because the show has done lots of different things to try and freshen itself up. Most frustratingly the other parts of this episode are trying lots of new things so this part just feels slow and vestigial in comparison.

Now the weirdest thing is that it’s meant to be repetitive. As I said the theme of this episode is the pointless and ever recurring fight against the rise of Skynet and how the Connors are fighting for seemingly no reason. There is no better way to highlight this but by showing them pointlessly doing the same thing once again. Therefore I feel very conflicted, I found this part of the episode really dull but I was meant to. I really hope that this episode will be used as the turning point for how the Connors are fighting their war and not as the beginning of a spiral downwards for them, we shall see.

As I said the other parts of the episode are far more exciting. Jessie’s secret mission has been discovered by Derek, she has been sent back to stop John from spending time with Cameron. In the future John has been making bad decisions, getting people killed. The resistance believe this is because the only person John will listen to in the future is Cameron.

Now Derek wants to know if Jessie has any other secrets and she admits to having used his toothbrush in the future. What she doesn’t admit to is that Riley has been working for her. Riley is also from the future and is being used as a means of distracting John away from Cameron. Riley being a double agent is a really strong idea and it certainly explains her slightly weird obsession with following John around despite his weirdness. This certainly seems a plot direction that the production team thought out in advance and I suspect clues were left in earlier episodes.

With Riley being the only person that John trusts at the moment, this shock reveal will be devastating for him. ‘Terminator:TSCC’ has managed to sneak up a sleeper agent both on John Connor and the wider audience. I’m looking forward to where this goes from here.

Dr Sherman is no more; he has died in the mysterious basement of ZeiraCorp. James Ellison wants to know why and Catherine Weaver allows him to learn about Project Babylon. During a power cut in the office, Babylon drew all the buildings power to itself, locking Dr Sherman in a room without ventilation. Ellison is horrified to realise that Babylon has been created without any empathy or understanding of right and wrong. Weaver decides that he is correct in his concerns and offers him the job of teaching these morals to Babylon.

This segment of the episode has some really cool ideas. Ellison interrogates Babylon, wishing to know why Sherman died but the AI is only able to silently answer using images on a computer screen. It can answer with ‘1’for yes and ‘0’ for no. It is interesting to see Ellison have to keep changing his questions so that the machine is capable of answering them in such simple terms.
It’s a weirdly compelling scene, given that it is just a man talking to a silent computer. This is purely because we do not know what Babylon will say next, what it is thinking. I am a little sad that we won’t get a scene like this again. A consciousness without a recognisable face is far scarier than anything we can easily recognise as being like ourselves.

The cliffhanger reveal is that Cromartie has been repurposed as a body for the AI, now known as John Henry. I appreciate that endless conversations with a computer screen might have got boring but they had more potential than just another Terminator to talk to. It’s not even another Terminator; it’s a Terminator’s body with a far more advanced mind, one that can understand emotions. In essence Ellison will be training a human to understand emotions, a human with a metal body but a human all the same.

Now ‘Terminator:TSCC’ has had episodes that worried me before, ones that seemed to set up worrying trends for the future of the show. So far those fears have not been realised, so I have no reason to suspect the show will go downhill from this point either. As a standalone episode ‘Strange Things Happen at the One Two Point’ isn’t that great. Every so often we get an episode that spends it’s entire runtime merely serving later episodes in the series. Some manage to use the remaining time to have an engaging mini plot and some do not, this one does not.

I did like the shock reveals, with the Riley one genuinely surprising me. The fact that I’m looking forward to both the Riley and John Henry storylines shows that this episode was successful in wetting my appetite. ‘Strange Things Happen at the One Two Point’ is the bread before the meal. If the main course will be enjoyable is yet to be known but this restaurant has not disappointed me so far.

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