Thursday, 6 August 2015

Terminator: TSCC Season 2 Episode 3 ‘The Mousetrap' Review

Cromartie sets a trap for the Connors using Charley Dixon’s wife Michelle as bait. Will John be able to escape his clutches or will he be the victim of ‘The Mousetrap’?

So Cromartie has primarily been a bit of a comical villain so far but this episode did a lot to make him threatening again. While Charley and Michelle are attempting to leave town Cromartie kidnaps Michelle, forcing Charley to call Sarah for help. Sarah reluctantly goes to his rescue, with the even more reluctant Derek in tow. She leaves the oblivious John to go computer shopping with Cameron, to leave him out of harm’s way.

Upon arriving at Michelle’s location they discover that she appears to have been placed on explosives, which use mousetraps as the trigger mechanism. The group soon realises however that the bomb is a fake and that their car has been rendered nonoperational. The true target for the attack was the now vulnerable John, who has ditched Cameron’s overbearing protection to hang out with Riley.

Cromartie’s plot is brilliant. He not only correctly guessed that John would be left out of the rescue mission but has also set up phone tracking equipment to record Sarah using the password to John, before stranding them in the desert unable to protect him. A good evil scheme does a lot to make a villain credible. Terminators are threatening because of their calculating attitude; no amount of threatening dialogue will be able to compete with the soulless determination of a machine.

John is successfully lured to the pier by Cromartie but manages to narrowly escape, jumping into the water and sending the much heavier Cromartie sinking to the depths. Now as I said Cromartie’s plan is pretty strong but it has a few parts to it that seem a bit pointless. For one thing he sets up fake explosives on Michelle’s chair but leave real explosives in the house. Why didn’t he just attach the real explosives to the chair? Also when John jumps into the water Cromartie obviously intends to drag him underwater but this plan seems very risky.

For a machine that thought up such a brilliantly complicated plan, why doesn’t he just wait on the pier and shoot John while he’s helpless in the water? You can remove the jokes from Cromartie but while he still makes snap, seemingly emotional, judgements he might as well be a regular human villain. He in some ways reminds me of Gargamel from The Smurfs at the moment.

One slightly weird angle with Cromartie is to have everyone suddenly obsessed with the actor that he took the appearance of, George Laszlo. We get a news article explaining that ‘Beast Wizard 7’ starring Laszlo has become an overnight sensation, due to his shootout with the police.

The idea that humanity revels in death and chaos is one that ‘Terminator:TSCC’ and the wider Terminator franchise likes to run with. It is good to show how bad humanity can be to make us understand the value small moments of kindness carry in this universe. We also get some comical clips of the movie in question; I think these are just here for light relief. At least George Laszlo is is being used for Jokes and not Cromartie.

This episode certainly needs some light relief. Michelle Dixon is injured in the explosion at Cromartie’s trap and doesn’t survive the wounds she receives. This moment carries a lot of weight because we care about Charley and how her death will affect him. Unfortunately we didn’t really spend much time with Michelle so her passing doesn’t really affect us directly as an audience.

This is a lost opportunity as she has featured in a lot of episodes but only for a very small overall runtime, not enough to grow fond to her. Now that Dixon is not attached to her that gives him no further reason not to join the Connor gang, depressingly convenient in narrative terms if that’s what happens.

Ellison seems to be getting ever further away from the Connor’s however as he finds himself being offered a job by Catherine Weaver, who claims she wants him to track down Cromartie for her. It would be a shame if Ellison does get tricked into working for her as his great detective instincts is what made him an interesting character.

So ‘The Mousetrap’ is pretty good really. It manages to make Cromartie into a threatening villain and sets up some possible new character dynamics for future episodes. It’s a shame that Michelle Dixon wasn’t a stronger character as it would have made her leaving the show carry some weight. Michelle Dixon’s character was pretty one note, just to be the wife who berated Charley for caring about Sarah. There weren’t obvious further directions to take the character so I can understand why she was written out. ‘Terminator:TSCC’ is not short of strong female characters after all.

I’m glad to see that my fears about the show becoming a monster of the week show, with a big reset each week were unfounded. I suspect that some episodes will rely on the notes from the dead resistance fighter but many will deal with established plot lines, such as Cromartie. The continuing split between Sarah and John is an interesting route for story lines and it is still being used to drive the narrative several weeks on, this is a positive sign.

With Cromartie back as a credible villain, ‘Terminator:TSCC’ has shown that it has its head pointing in the right direction. This show is one trap that I’m happy to be caught up in.

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