In Which I declare Undying Love to Sarah Connor…

….Chronicles. As in, the TV show evilly canceled by Fox (insert obligatory grring noise). Which is, in many ways, a little weird. I wasn’t crazy about the Terminator movies, I wasn’t crazy about television in general at the time I started watching, and time travel and robots are some of my least favorite sci-fi cliches because they almost never make sense and are incredibly cheesy (respectively). And yet I fell completely in love with TSCC. It is now second only to Angel in my list of favorite TV shows. Why?

Well, besides the fact that it was beautifully scripted, acted, shot, and produced, it had some really fantastic character development that grew out of the scenario. James Cameron (who directed the first 2 films) had a brilliant if extremely bizarre concept, but he really only used the concept to go BOOM! TSCC, on the other hand, said wait, we’ve got a teenage boy growing up knowing that the future of mankind rests on his shoulders, we’ve got a single mother who has killer robots attacking her son, and we’ve got machines that are programmed to act as human as possible. Isn’t this an interesting avenue to explore the human condition?

Let’s start with John.

I suppose John is a classic self-fulfilling prophecy. He’s told his entire life that he’ll become a great leader, and so he tries really hard to be one, thus becoming one. What’s different about John is that he already is a great leader, just not yet. ie, because a future version of John exists as a leader, this "self-fulfilling prophecy" has already been fulfilled…. just not for our John yet. Of course, the existence of future-John creates some major problems for present-day-John, making it necessary to his survival to become a great leader.

And round and round we go….

John is also a messiah-figure. In fact, in many (slightly disturbing) ways he comes across as the second coming of Christ– his initials, his miraculous birth, saving humanity after "Jugement Day," etc. They’re not being especially subtle here. Like all (or at least most) messiah figures, a big part of John’s development is his acceptance of that role. He starts off as a whiny teenage punk: "What if I don’t wanna be a hero? Whatcha gonna do about it, huh?" And fair enough. But a big part of him becoming who he must be is accepting that that is who he is. In other words, this is not a question of ability or intelligence or bravery—this is a question of identity. Unlike other messiah-figures, however (Harry Potter and Muad’Dib come to mind), the existence of future-John makes his identity less a question of self-discovery and more about self-creation.

One of my favorite bits of Dialogue with John is between him and Derek when they are infiltrating a military academy to protect a future military leader named Bedel (this is typed out entirely from memory, so I apologize for any inaccuracies. And yes, I know how sad it is that I have this memorized):

Derek: You’re open and exposed here. It’s not good.

John: And you’re going to tell me I know better. [Derek shrugs] Bedel is quitting. Leaving school.

Derek: No he isn’t.

John. Well, he is.

Derek. He doesn’t. He graduates. Goes to West Point.

John: And what? The future’s set because it already happened? He doesn’t have a choice?

Derek: No, he’s got a choice. We’ve just got to help him make the right one.

John. Like everybody does with me. And there are four exits from this room, two of them lead to a parking lot and there’s a black hatchback four cars in with the doors unlocked and the keys above the visor. I do know better.

There are several interesting things about this conversation. We’ve got the age-old time-travel question about free will whether the future is set or not. We’ve also got John expressing frustration over his own "set" future while simultaneously demonstrating that he is prepared for it. I love this scene because it places John right on the line between the punk that he was and the warrior he will be. John is basically saying that even if he has a fate, he is going to meet it on his terms—an attitude which, of course, makes him even more ready for his future role. I find this amazingly cool.

So what? So John’s got a weird situation and his character develops in light of it. Why do we care? Well, first off, it’s just darn entertaining (to me, at least) and darn good writing. Secondly, it’s worth noting that although John grows to become a total BAMF, the process and the pressure of becoming one almost destroy him and the people around him. I’m not sure if there’s a single take-away message buried in there, but John is a great example of the cost of living up to others’ expectations as well as of the loss of innocence. Knowing who he must become helps create him in fascinating ways, but at what cost?

Aaaaaand now I’m rambling, so I should probably wrap this up. I’ll leave you with a video of another of my favorite John scenes and a quote from said scene:

Jesse: You wanted it to be real.

John: Or maybe I wanted to win.

Jesse: You didn’t want to be John Baum. You wanted to be John Connor.

John: Well, that’s the thing, isn’t it? I am John Connor.

I’m planning to do a post on Cameron (in the vague, distant future). I am definitely not done talking about TSCC.

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~ by ntertanedangel on September 5, 2010.

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