Pilot Preview: FOX’s “Sarah Connor Chronicles”

I have a confession to make: I’ve never actually sat down and watched the Terminator movies. While I’ve been catching up on television over the past few years in terms of what I missed in the days before my obsession, films have yet to receive the same treatment. And so, James Cameron’s films (I’m ignoring T3) have basically no resonance on my opinion of FOX’s new drama series, Sarah Connor Chronicles, which extends that universe into the world of television.

And so, when I offer my opinion, I can only do so as someone who has no idea if it’s destroying the mythology or ruining the franchise even more than T3 did. What I do know is that the pilot is a fast-paced adrenaline ride that creates the proper breeding ground for an action drama series that hasn’t quite actually grown yet, and that I don’t think it can possibly keep up this pace.

Therefore, let’s just say right now that the pilot is an entertaining 43 minutes of television drama, well-directed by David Nutter and generally well cast. I had a few quibbles with the writing in terms of Summer Glau’s female Terminator, but these are more or less quibbles in the grand scheme of things. The action feels real, the pacing seems right, and the plot that is revealed is neither too daunting nor too miniscule to drive interest in the series.

But, the important question is, where to we go from here? The pilot opens a whole host of doors for the series, and yet it gives absolutely no indication of which one it will enter. Let’s investigate these doors, and then we’ll try to piece together where the series goes from here.

Door #1 – The Plot

Admittedly, the first episode is light on plot. However, it does set up the basic goal for Sarah and John: finding out who creates Skynet, the computer system that declares war on the world in the upcoming apocalyptic future. They don’t know who it is, but they do know when it happens.

As a result the search for this individual is basically the long term goal of the series, and is probably its most consistent element. Any serial drama needs an endgame, if you will, and it would appear that this would be it. I wonder, though, if it can be dragged out for an entire season. Are we going to have to deal with a lot of filler in the process?

Door #2 – The Filler

Speaking of the filler, this episode contains some elements you can see recurring through the series…but not that many. Right now, our only real filler is the ex-fiance who was abandoned by Sarah while on the run and John and Sarah’s normal life of sorts trying to evade capture. The end of the episode also opens up some fish out of water scenarios with technology and the like that could be used to fill time.

However, there will have to be filler: the show would lack any sort of heart of human interaction without it. I think that, though, the pilot gives little to no indication of such elements.

Door #3 – The Action

This episode features numerous fight scenes, numerous explosions, numerous chase sequences, numerous Terminators and a pace that no network series will ever be able to maintain on a weekly basis. And, therefore, we know that the action door can’t always be an option for the show’s producers.

And yet it’s probably its most compelling aspect, and the reason the pilot plays as well as it does. And yet, there can’t be this level of action in every episode. Will the series devolve into sitting around waiting for the next action sequence, or will it strike some sort of balance with the scenes? That’s really quite unknown.

Door #4 – The FBI

Considering the way the pilot ends, it is clear that the FBI will not be left out of the equation. I am hoping that this will not be a large portion of the series, because it’s too mundane and predictable based on the pilot.

The Conclusion

Honestly, I don’t know where they will really go with this. Will the series simply be a by-the-numbers combination of filler and FBI plots with the overarching goal of destroying Skynet while occasionally having an action sequences? Or will there actually be some sort of plot, some sort of consistency within its pages. The show doesn’t have Heroes’ ensemble (the reason it can survive its lack of plot), and it can’t rely too heavily on its own mythology thanks to viewers like me.

Sarah Connor Chronicles debuts in January on FOX, Sundays at 10pm, and I wonder just how well it can both perform in that timeslot and develop as a series. It’s one of those pilots that you watch and know you enjoyed…and yet the apprehension takes over almost immediately after. As for which doors it will enter, all I can say is that I hope they don’t find man-eating tigers behind their door of choice.

3 Comments

Filed under 2007 Fall Preview, FOX, Sarah Connor Chronicles, Television

3 responses to “Pilot Preview: FOX’s “Sarah Connor Chronicles”

  1. Pingback: The 2008 Golden Globe Awards - TV (Comedy) and Film Predictions « Cultural Learnings

  2. nerdchieftain

    I had mixed feelings as well when I saw the first episode. I think it is clear, after the second episode, that 4 years until Skynet is built is a long time for the series to evolve. There seems to be a lot of potential for subterfuge, misdirection, multiple sides, and intrigue, and for alliance/enemies to form and disjoin. Something like in the Prison Break series.

    One theme I think we can expect to see more fully is “Can a machine learn to be human? Can a machine learn the value of human life?” This was a major element explored in T2 and I see the groundwork for in Sarah Connor Chronicles.

  3. Pingback: BlogTastic « Nerd Chieftain’s Weblog

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