Friday, 14 August 2015

Terminator: TSCC Season 2 Episode 9 ‘Complications’ Review

Jessie has cornered a man from the future she claims was sent back by the machines. With Derek having no memories of this infamous war criminal can he afford to trust the mysterious Jessie with a man’s life? Meanwhile Sarah is sick and is having vivid nightmares. What do the three strange dots she keeps seeing mean and are they a warning of things to come?

So those dream sequences in ‘T2’ certainly have a lot to answer for. Strange dreams have now become a core part of Sarah Connor’s character. Unfortunately much like most dreams in real life they have very little value to anyone but the dreamer themselves. The show usually has the good sense of having Sarah narrating her own dreams, explaining her fears and what the abstract images mean. The dreams in ‘Complications’ are just that, complicated. Sarah is confused to their meaning so we are left in the dark until she figures them out. Therefore we get an endless stream of tortoises being treated like babies and other bizarre concepts without an obvious justification for the audience, this gets a bit boring after a while.

Also why do tortoises always represent mental health? I guess a howler monkey might be a bit less subtle but I really don’t get what tortoises have that say, crabs don’t also have? The rest of the visuals manage to avoid the most obvious stock dream concepts so why fall back on one of the most obvious? At least they avoided clocks……in this part of the episode at least.

So Jessie has captured a man who she claims is Charles Fisher, a ‘Gray’ in the future. Now ‘Grays’ are humans who work for the machines. Charles Fisher was the worst of these, using his experience of the evils of human nature to help the machines understand us better. Now Jessie is incredibly angry with this man but Derek doesn’t remember him, much to Jessie’s surprise. Derek finds himself with the difficult task of having to work out which of them is telling the truth. Is the man Jessie has tied up a simple watchmaker as he claims or the monster that she thinks he is.

So this is an interesting angle to take with a character whose motivations we don’t know yet. It’s possible that the man Jessie has tied up is completely innocent and she is just playing some kind of game with Derek, we just don’t know. Well, we just don’t know until Derek takes the tape off the prisoner's mouth. Once the captive man starts to calmly claim his innocence despite being tied up by people threatening to kill him we realise that he has seen worse before, that this is nothing compared to the future he has left behind.

It’s a shame that the actual Charles Fisher ‘shock´reveal isn’t more of a surprise but the episode still handles it pretty well. Jessie has gone and kidnapped the younger Charles Fisher and ties him up opposite his younger self. Derek realises that the war torn Charles fisher will never break but his younger self will, which his older self won’t be able to watch.

Derek gives a nice speech while torturing the younger Fisher, all about the nature of self-loathing. We get yet more signs that Derek has done something that he is not proud of in the past/future.

With Charles finally broken he admits who he really is but claims he has merely been sent back by the machines for good behaviour. Derek doesn’t know what to think and asks Jessie why she hates him so much, what Fisher did to her? It turns out that Fisher did nothing to her but he did do something to someone she cared about, Derek. She is amazed that Derek has managed to forget the months of torture he received from Fisher.

Riled up Derek is about to shoot the younger Fisher, to punish the older version, but Jessie stops him by shooting the older Fisher before he gets the chance. Having buried him, Derek has a realisation; he doesn’t remember Fisher because for him, Fisher never happened. Derek has managed to change the future and created a universe where Fisher tortured him, the same universe that Jessie escaped from.
I really like the idea that not only have they changed the future but they have changed it in some ways for the worse.

A nice moment to end the Fisher story is that we see the young Fisher being arrested. The future Fisher survived Judgement Day because he was in a secure prison. Before Fisher was captured by Jessie he used a retinal scanner to hack a military computer which happens to be in the office where the young Fisher works. Young Fisher is framed for a crime that he will commit later, by himself…I LOVE THIS!  I also love that the younger Charles Fisher has his life ruined by the retinal scanner. “Computers, don’t lie” as the FBI man tells him, they will when Fisher gets to them.

I really like it when the Terminator franchise manages to make a complete paradox loop. Without Charles Fisher framing himself he will never be put in prison, without being put in prison he will not survive judgement day to be working for the machines in the first place. The darkest thing is that Charles Fisher knows that he is sending himself to work for the machines and still thinks that is the best option to take.

John and Cameron have travelled to Mexico to destroy Cromartie’s body but find it is missing. John immediately suspect Ellison so they travel to his house to question him. Cameron believes Ellison is lying when he claims to have no idea where the body is but John sets him free, believing otherwise. Unfortunately for John, he should have trusted Cameron as Ellison hands the machine over to Weaver, warning her that they should work together to stop the machines… Whoops!

So ‘Complications’ is really engaging. Some of the ideas aren’t as well realised as I would have hoped, such as the dream sequences, but this episode has a lot that works perfectly. The character of Charles Fisher is interesting, as is the idea of people working for the machines. I would have liked the mystery of his true identity to have been better handled but the surprise reveal that Derek has changed the future is good enough to make up for that.

Charles Fisher is also an interesting comparison character to Cameron. While we hear about Charles Fisher teaching Terminators how to act human we hear from Cameron how she is struggling to understand humans and human behaviour. Of course maybe had she come from the universe where Charles Fisher was working she would be better at her job; that’s the best part of ‘Complications’, it gets you thinking.

Is the alternate timeline that the Connor gang has created worse than the one they were trying to prevent? Can you have a relationship with somebody when you’ve only met alternate universe versions of each other? Would I ever work for the machines if it meant them sparing my life? ‘Complications’ is a bit rough around the edges but it is genuinely thought provoking and that is rare enough to cover the odd creative hiccup or, complication if you will.

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