Sunday, 6 September 2015

Terminator: TSCC Season 2 Episode 13 ‘Earthlings Welcome Here’ Review

Sarah continues to pursue the mysterious dots that plague her dreams; they lead her to a UFO support group for people who have also witnessed the dots. Meanwhile Riley continues to spend time with John but Cameron doesn’t believe that Riley is all that she appears to be. Ellison finds himself unsure on if he should be helping John Henry learn ethics or not, can a machine ever have a soul?

So Sarah’s continued pursuit of the dots has finally led to some results. While at the UFO convention she meets a blogger who used to work for a mysterious company on robotics. Abraham, real name Alan Park, leads Sarah to a warehouse in the desert where Alan used to work.

Now I avoided using he/she in that last sentence because I genuinely don’t know if this character is intended to be transgendered or not. Now the part is played by a female actress but Alan’s reason for having a sex change is not made clear. We get a suggestion that it was primarily to go ‘undercover’ but we also have it heavily hinted that Alan was living a lie before the surgery and had always been a woman.

In my opinion it is not a huge deal as the character is sympathetic and not obviously offensive, at least in comparison to the way TV usually handles this issue. It is not suggested that Alan was crazy or any of the other reasons that TV/Film tend to give for sex changes. It might have been better had T:TSCC not sat on the fence and made a character who was more obviously trans but I suspect that may not have flown on standard network TV. However trying to have your transgendered cake and eat it too is not a brilliant way to approach such delicate topic.

Upon finding the warehouse Sarah is shot and during the confrontation kills her attacker. This is the first time Sarah has killed anyone and it will be interesting to see the fallout from this. We leave Sarah’s story with the cliffhanger of her being picked up by the mysterious group that Alan used to work for.

Away from Sarah we finally see Riley’s backstory. We see Riley being chosen by Jessie in the future and the two of them arriving in our time. We get a nice scene when Riley encounters a hotel room for the first time and is amazed by objects like towels and other comforts that she has never experienced before.

These scenes are obviously intended to make us feel sympathy for Riley but it is a case of too little, too late I feel. We have spent weeks following this character and learnt in the process that she was betraying a character that we care about. To spend a single episode making up for weeks of bad behaviour is not going to work very well.

Cameron is very suspicious of Riley and takes John to one side to tell him of her concerns. Riley fearing that her cover is blown cuts her wrists in the bathroom. I suspect that Riley will survive but it would be interesting to see the fallout if John discovers her secret only after she can’t explain herself.

Away from the Connors, Ellison finds himself conflicted. He is worried about the potential evil that John Henry could inflict if released untrained in ethics but is scared to teach him them himself.  Not much is made of this teaching dynamic yet but it has already raised some interesting questions. As John Henry asks “Am I one of God’s creatures?” to which Ellison responds “That’s one of the things we’re here to find out”. I’m looking forward to where Ellison’s faith will take John Henry.

So ‘Earthlings Welcome Here’ is an alright episode but nothing spectacular. It has some interesting themes in it but they don’t feel as fleshed out at they should be. Sarah finding herself sympathising with Alan’s plight of having to live a lie to survive is interesting. However in dealing with the transgendered character at a distance, Terminator:TSCC loses a lot of the dramatic punch that could have been in this episode.

Riley’s storyline also feeling a bit anticlimactic given the uneven nature of her backstory. Without spending more time to build the real Riley up as a sympathetic character her possible death doesn’t mean much. Ellison’s moments with John Henry work entirely because we have spent so long learning about his character and seeing his transformation over time.

‘Earthlings Welcome Here’ may not be the best episode of ‘Terminator:TSCC’ but it does at least move the storyline forward. I’m curious about what will happen with all three of the characters featured in this episode, I just hope that the answers to the questions raised in this episode are better handled than the questions were.

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