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Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles: The Complete Second Season (2008-2009)

Warner Home Video
Blu-ray Disc Released: 9/22/2009

All Ratings out of
Extras: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 9/27/2009

The law of diminishing returns says something to the effect that the more times that something is repeated, the less effective it will be. We certainly see this in entertainment franchises, as each sequel is usually worse than the previous entry. But, has any series had the odd history of Terminator? 1984's The Terminator was the film which solidified Arnold Schwarzenegger as an action star and introduced the world to James Cameron. Terminator 2 in 1991 was the best mix of action and sci-fi since...well, Cameron's Aliens, and it set the stage for CGI special effects. But, after that, things started to slip. Terminator 3 arrived in 2003, and despite some good action set-pieces, it was a "meh" movie. I've yet to see the recent Terminator: Salvation, but with McG at the helm, I don't have high hopes. In 2008, a TV show Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles was thrown into the mix. While it showed some potential, and wisely chose to begin after T2, the show never really got off the ground.

The second season of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles picks up where Season 1 ended. Sarah Connor (Lena Headey) failed to obtain a computer which she feared would eventually become part of SkyNet. The Terminator Cromartie (Garret Dillahunt) wipes out an entire SWAT team, forcing FBI Agent James Ellison (Richard T. Jones) to face the truth about the killer machines. As Season 2 opens, Sarah, her son John (Thomas Dekker), Terminator Cameron (Summer Glau) and Derek Reese (Brian Austin Green) (brother of Kyle Reese, John's father) move into a new house to try and start their lives over again one more time. Their landlord, Kacy (Busy Phillips), is nice and stays out of their way. John tries a new school, but doesn't have much interest. He does make a new friend, a girl named Riley (Leven Rambin), who doesn't seem to mind John's quite demeanor. A human from the future attempts to contact Sarah and John, but dies in the process. Before he expires, he writes a list of names and places (in his own blood) on a wall as clues for Sarah to follow. Derek disovers that an old flame from the future is in town. Agent Ellison leaves the FBI and agrees to work for Catherine Weaver (Shirley Manson), not knowing that she's a Terminator posing as the head of a tech firm. As all of this happens, Cameron continues to protect John and observe humans.

To the best of my knowledge, most TV shows begin each season with at least a series of guideposts to lead through the many episodes ahead. But, the second season of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles doesnít feel that way. Iíve never seen a show which seemed so painfully random as this one. Itís not episodic like say, Bones, no, it does try to have a story arc. But, the storylines and characters just seem to come and go with no rhyme or reason. I donít want to give anything away, but too examples would be the psychologist and Catherine Weaverís daughter, both of whom are used rather conveniently. Itís almost as if instead of having a series of plots and scripts ready to go at the outset, the writers were brainstorming each week about who they could suddenly bring back.

The other big problem with the show is the utter lack of suspense. Simply put, we know that Sarah, John, and Cameron arenít going to die, no matter how much peril they are in. By way of comparison, Lost is a show which has taught us that just about anyone (save for a select few) can die at any time, and this creates tension. There is very little tension or emotion on Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. When the show isnít trying to convince us that someone is in mortal danger, itís trying to hint that that family could split up at any moment, but we know the truth.

All of this sounds like Iím saying that this isnít a well-written show, but thatís not necessarily the case. There are some decent plot twists and Season 2 does a better job of developing Cameron. The makers of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles have shown some respect for the non-fanboy members of the audience by cutting back on the ďeye candyĒ aspects of a teenaged female Terminator. Instead, theyíve remembered that Terminatorís are learning computers, and there are some good scenes where proves that sheís learning more and more about human behavior everyday. No, the problem with Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles is that due to story choices and the history of the franchise, the writers have written themselves into a corner with little wiggle room. The show has now been cancelled, so we can chalk this up to an interesting experiment which wonít be back.

Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles: The Complete Second Season morphs onto Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Warner Home Video. The five-disc boxed set contains all 22 episodes from the showís second season. The episodes have been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the Disc contains a VC-1 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 18 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing only a hint of grain at times and no defects from the source material. The colors look realistic and the image is never overly dark or bright. The level of detail is especially good, as if the depth. The picture quality easily rivals HD broadcast quality. The Disc contains a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which runs at 48 kHz and a constant 640 kbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The stereo effects are notably good, as they show a nice amount of detail and separation. This is evident in any gunfight. The surround sound effects are fairly steady and punctuate the action scenes. Compared to these effects, the subwoofer is a bit weak.

The Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles: The Complete Second Season Blu-ray Disc set contains several extras. Disc 1 offers two AUDIO COMMENTARIES. The first, for the episode "Samson and Delilah" features Executive Producer Josh Friedman, and actors Lena Headey, Thomas Dekker, Summer Glau, and Shirley Manson. The second commentary is for the episode "Allison From Palmdale" and it has Friedman, Executive Producers James Middleton and John Wirth, and Dekker and Glau. In "The Storyboard Process: Cameron Goes Bad" (3 minutes), various members of the show's team describe the importance of storyboards, by comparing the drawings to the filmed results. Disc 2 offers "Cameron vs. Rosie: Fight Rehearsal" (5 minutes) offers storyboards and behind-the-scenes footage of the planning for the fight between the two female terminators. The Disc also contains 2 DELETED SCENES. There are 2 DELETED SCENES on Disc 3. Disc 4 has five DELETED SCENES, all of which come from the episode "Today is the Day". Disc 5 contains a number of extras. The episode "Adam Raised a Cain" contains AUDIO COMMENATRY from Executive Producers Josh Friedman, James Middleton, and John Wirth, along with Thomas Dekker and Summer Glau. We get another COMMENTARY on "Born to Run" with the same crew. The Disc contains three DELETED SCENES, as well as a 6-minute GAG REEL. "Collision with the Future: Deconstructing the Hunter Killer Attack" allows the viewer to access storyboards, on-set footage, and comments from the creative team concerning this climactic scene. "The Continuing Chronicles: Terminator" contains eight featurettes which explore many facets of the show's creation; "Write the Future", "Conceptualization", "Blood and Metal", "Designing Destruction", "Choreographing Chaos", "War Stories", "Setting the Tempo", and "Motivations".

Review Copyright 2009 by Mike Long