Terminator: Sarah Connor Chronicles – “The Mousetrap”

“The Mousetrap”

September 22nd, 2008

It is clear that my Monday evenings are officially going to become way too busy – here it is Wednesday, and I’m just getting to the week’s episode of Sarah Connor. This is only going to get worse when Chuck returns next week (Although I already downloaded that premiere [available on iTunes, Hulu and Amazon] and will have a review ready ahead of time), so I don’t know if I’ll be blogging Sarah Connor except maybe to drop in some thoughts later in the week about a particularly solid episode.

Which, really, brings me to “The Mousetrap,” an episode that feels (much more than last week’s) like something closer to where the show was at towards the end of last season. This is both good and bad: on the one hand, the show can’t constantly be this action-driven, placing characters in mortal danger and having Garrett Delahunt ever so close to finally killing John Connor, but on the other it results in an episode that moves along at a strong pace. Yes, I still have some issues with Shirley Manson’s inability to act, and I think that they do need to get a bit more natural pace going along, but there’s enough positives here that I have no intentions of stopping watching the show altogether as we dig deeper into the fall season.

What makes “The Mousetrap” work is that it’s action juxtaposed with character: Sarah has to balance her past relationship with Charlie and her quest to keep John safe, two things that happen to coincide with Cromartie’s rather dangerous actions designed to kill her son. Dean Winters and Sonya Walger, ultimately, make this episode work as well as it does: yes, the regular cast holds up their end of the bargain as well, but they bring something that much more tragic to Michelle’s eventual death. The right choice in guest star can go a long way towards making something like this resonate, and the show was right to cast these two actors considering how much they made us care/empathize with two people who are completely outside of the show’s mythology.

I spent most of the episode, though, wishing they had cast somebody else as Michelle so that Walger could take over Shirley Manson’s lifeless role as the head of whatever the heck that corporation is called. I get that she’s a Terminator, so she’s a bit stiff and the like, but she just isn’t an actress: this is a role that is supposed to be menacing but also welcoming, charming but also dangerous, and yet she only has one speed. People say so much about Anna Torv on Fringe, and with good reason, but compared to Shirley Manson she’s a frakking muppet: Manson has yet to mature into the role, and it’s a problem considering how much we’re supposed to care about this side of the plot. If Ellis wasn’t involved in the storyline, I would have deux ex machina’s the whole thing after this week’s episode and had her permanently transform into Walger.

The rest of the episode was your basic thriller stuff: loved the Mousetrap ploy, and the cell tower destruction strategy, so the show is succeeding at making Cromartie out to be the threat he should be. And the various Terminator realities the show dealt with was good: Cameron too easily lifting the enormous computer box (Seriously, what was in that thing?), and then Cromartie not being able to swim (likely having to walk back). I also like that Cromartie isn’t just killing everything that moves at the funeral: he is only there to kill John Connor, simple as that.

I’m perhaps a bit less stoked about John’s new gal pal Riley, but I find her fairly charming and I think that, when the show eventually reveals that she is somehow related to the show’s mythology (Leven Rambin wouldn’t have been added to the credits otherwise, clearly), I won’t find the new addition unwelcome. While I’m not totally for John being all teenager-y at all times, he is a teenager nonetheless and this feels like a more traditionally youth-driven point of rebellion that is (at least) proving to be a bit of a different pace for the series.

So while my rush to watch the show is going to be limited, I still want to keep up with it – if it stays this way even as I get even busier, that’s a good sign.

Cultural Observations

  • I’m curious to see what exactly they have planned for Ellis and Manson, as the storyline right now seems like all we’re really going to get is Richard T. Jones inadvertantly working for the side of evil. This is fine, but still – I need a bit more information before I can really form an opinion of the side story.
  • I’ll be curious to see if Dean Winters is around much longer – something tells me that he won’t be too happy about the whole situation with Sarah, and that he might stay away until the point when grief and blame turns to thoughts of revenge…against Sarah, or against Cromartie, I don’t quite know yet.
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