Thursday, 10 September 2015

Terminator: TSCC Season 2 Episode 16 ‘Some Must Watch, While Some Must Sleep’ Review

Sarah Connor finds herself drifting in and out of consciousness between two different worlds. In one she has been kidnapped by Ed Winston, the man she believed dead by her hands. In the other she is a patient in a hospital for insomniacs as she hasn’t been sleeping for weeks. Which is real life and will Sarah guess before it is too late?

So ‘it was all a dream’ episodes tend to really irritate me. Either you immediately guess which version is the real world and have to put up with pointless dream sequences, or the fact of it being a dream is held for a twist ending. The second is obviously the worst of these but neither has ever done much to win me over as a storytelling structure. Obviously there are always exceptions that manage to walk the fine line and I’m glad to say that ‘Some Must Watch, While Some Must Sleep’ manages to buck the trend.

From the start it is made pretty clear that one of these realities must be real, which negates the twist ending approach from the off. The other concern, that of guessing the real world, was also kept at bay by making one of the worlds’ feel fundamentally false. That may sound strange to say in praise but usually in this situation one world feels false because of little inconsistencies and ‘subtle’ attempts to be purposefully weird. As it is, this episode purposefully makes one of the worlds seem completely weird and unrealistic.

The world of the hospital instantly feels bizarre. Sarah has agreed to be kept in a hospital, which is completely out of character considered her earlier stint in an institution and fear of the authorities. She even has a comical British sidekick in the hospital, think Daphne from ‘Frasier’. The usual universe of ‘Terminator: TSCC’ is purposefully skewed for the hospital scenes to make us question them, therefore any weirdness just plays out as an attempt to fool us into picking the more realistic dream world.

Although the hospital world seems very strange the real world is also presented as being very odd and hard to believe in. After all Sarah has found herself at the mercy of a man that she thought dead, a man that she went to the funeral for only last week. Ed Winston wants the truth about Sarah Connor, who she is working with. Ed’s employers want him to do whatever is necessary to get that information.

This episode is easily the darkest of the show yet. Aside from some rather grotesque violence, such as a syringe graphically entering an eye, we also get far more subtle and yet even more disturbing suggestions of violence. For example, Sarah is knocked out by Ed and when she wakes up he begins to question her about her scars, having undressed her while she was unconscious. His questions on her child, who he discovered the existence of via her C-Section scar are particularly horrifying.

The psychological underpinnings of this episode are remarkably strong throughout. The nature of dreams is obviously explored but also, smartly, is the nature of truth. Ed Winston wants to know the truth from Sarah so he injects her with truth serum; unfortunately for him during the scuffle he is also injected. Having two characters who were completely unwilling to talk to each other about themselves forced into an open discussion is a really neat idea in an episode that focusses so directly on the idea of fictional events.

‘Some Must Watch, While Some Must Sleep’ doesn’t manage to work completely however. Eventually the dream world is revealed by the murder of John Connor. This is only a few minutes away from the end of the episode but this resolution still feels rather rushed and predictable. In one of the worlds John was going to be killed since his death automatically means the end of the world in general.

I'm be criticising using John’s death, since it is the most obvious and effective means of clearing up the dream matter for the audience but the method of his death could have been better planned. John is gunned down by a Terminator reveal which comes out of nowhere. Due to this, moments before he is shot I had decided that the line had been crossed in terms of reality and that the hospital world must have been fake. John’s death should have been a shocking wake up moment for the audience, not as a sort of confirmation punchline.

‘Some Must Watch, While Some Must Sleep’ has some issues but it is remarkably good. The previous episode made me concerned that this show had run out of ideas but once again I am very happy to say that I have been proven wrong.

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