Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Terminator: TSCC Season 2 Episode 12 'Alpine Fields’ Review

The gang are fighting to save a family, the Fields, from a Terminator. Meanwhile 2027 Derek is trying to rescue a girl who may be the only hope in finding a cure for the plague ravaging humanity in the future. 

So the previous episode focussed on Cameron and John while this episode focuses on Sarah and Derek. ‘Alpine Fields’ takes place across three time zones, flashing between all three to tell the story. 

We open with Derek walking into a warehouse, he has been sent by Sarah to help a pregnant woman and her teenage daughter, they are the remaining members of the Fields family. We then flash back to the beginning of their story, several months earlier. Sarah and Cameron arrive at the Fields' household and have to defend them from a Terminator who is targeting them. The third time zone is in 2027, with Derek having to travel into an infected zone to find a girl who has somehow survived the plague that the machines unleashed on them.

So I really like that this and the previous episode have focussed so closely on individual characters. This focussed view on a smaller part of the team allows a lot of extra character development. Unfortunately this approach also has its drawbacks. When the storyline focusses on a character so much any strange characterisation becomes far more apparent. Derek is fine in this episode but Sarah has a few issues.

When Sarah is protecting the Fields family she tries to work out which of them the machines is targeting. She immediately seems to discount the teenage daughter Lauren for no apparent reason. At first this could make a bit of sense because she discovers that Lauren’s father, David, is working with a company who makes cybernetic technology. 

However David is ignored by the Terminator and Sarah turns her attention to the mother, Anne, and Lauren. At this point Anne admits that she is pregnant and Sarah automatically assumes that the baby must be the target for the machines. Now I don’t know why Sarah assumes that the baby is more important to the future than Lauren, she has no reason to assume the baby is somehow more special.

Sarah is so sure that the baby is the target that she tells Lauren to hide in a cupboard, as the Terminator will ignore her. This behaviour seems far too reckless for Sarah, she basically flips a mental coin to decide who to protect. To add insult to injury Sarah manages to help the family temporarily escape and then gives them her number to ring them if the Terminator ever tracks them down again. Now Sarah has been cold towards people before but not when the future depended on them being alive. Sarah just leaves them to be pursued by a Terminator; this just doesn’t seem like something she would ever do. Sarah went out of her way to save that alternate Martin Bedell earlier in the series and his life meant nothing to the future. 

It’s particularly weird as when Lauren rings Sarah for help months later, Sarah immediately drops everything to kill the Terminator. Why didn’t she just kill the Terminator straight away?

Anyway while Sarah and Cameron are finally doing their job, Derek is trying to help Anne Fields deliver her baby, assisted by Lauren. Anne has a bullet wound that is pretty serious and Lauren and Derek are struggling to keep calm. Upon Derek meeting Lauren he recognises her, this triggers a flashback to the future. Derek has volunteered to enter a plague infected area to find a girl who appears to have a resistance to the plague. While trying to find the girl, Derek enters a bunker that is filled with dead bodies including a pregnant mother with her children.

This sets Derek off on a bad path, pushing him to attempt suicide. He is interrupted however by Jessie, who manages to stop him. It’s nice to see this scene that was described in an earlier episode played out. Derek and Jessie manage to find the girl but they have been infected by the plague. They rush back to the resistance and are cured using blood from the girl they rescued, the doctor who cures them being Lauren.

One interesting thing about this episode is how much darker it is than the rest of the series. We get scene after scene of corpses and noticeably stronger language in this episode. To be honest these scenes feel weird when surrounded by the more jokey, light hearted scenes. Hopefully this is not the tone the show will be taking from now on as it doesn’t completely work.

Back in the present day, Anne dies during childbirth but the baby, Sydney, survives. Derek rings Sarah, who has managed to destroy the Terminator. When he returns to look for Lauren she discovers that she has left with the baby, leaving behind a necklace that Derek warned earlier in the episode would make her a target.

So ‘Alpine Fields’ had some stuff I liked and some stuff I didn’t like so much. The part set in the future was brilliant. We got to see moments that had previously only been described we also got some subtle exposition for future episodes worked in carefully. Jessie’s speech about a submarine commanded by a reprogrammed Terminator is really interesting and hopefully it will appear in a future episode. The universe of ‘Terminator:TSCC’ is being built up bit by bit in a really effective way, with information drip fed over weeks. 

The rest of the episode had one issue, but it was a big issue, The Fields themselves. So the family accept that they are being pursued by robots from the future amazingly quickly, so quickly that it makes them completely unbelievable. Lauren in particular becomes best friends with Sarah about ten minutes after they were aiming guns at each other.

I feel this episode suffers from trying to do too much. We have to establish the character of Lauren Fields so quickly because we open the episode on her in the present day, forcing the flashback to play catch up immediately. The actors portraying the family do the best they can with the restrictions the episode has set but they are unable to completely salvage their characters.

The central concepts in 'Alpine Fields’ of the future virus and protecting the family are strong. It would have been nice if the family aspect had been given a bit more room to breathe but the episode manages to remain engaging and entertained me reasonably, even with its flaws.

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