Cancelled after only two seasons, this show did not deserve to die. It might not have been up to par with the movie’s depictions of the Terminator world, but it was great television. Epic in scope, there was so much more story left to tell. Unfortunately, the producers weren’t given enough notice to craft a series finale, and left viewers with not just an unresolved cliffhanger, but a complete lack of resolution.
Series creator Josh Friedman did something remarkable. He took an incredibly iconic series of films and managed to turn them into a series with its own identity. James Cameron may have created Sarah and John Connor, as well as the mythology of the Terminators and the future war, but the television show managed to take those characters and ideas and place them into a serialized story that wouldn’t fit into the confines of a film franchise. Unfortunately, it also didn’t fit within a two-season television show.
Set in the present day, Sarah and John are teamed up with a female terminator named Cameron. Like in the second film, her Terminator was sent back to protect John. This was all established in the first season, and in Season two they evolve the story with the introduction of several new characters, including a liquid metal terminator named Catherine Weaver. Played by Shirley Manson (from the band Garbage), she is a fascinating enemy, attempting to put the beginning stages of the (inevitable?) apocalypse into effect. Her philosophical interactions with the character of John Henry (also from the first season) provide a greater level of substance to a show that tends to be more action oriented.
This season also features the introduction of a girlfriend for John. Riley, played by Leven Rambin, is a welcome addition to the show. On her own, her character isn’t that exciting, but serving as the plot device, creating a wedge between John and Sarah, she brings a lot more story to the table.
This season really did seem to be more about story than before. We get many glimpses of the future, and as the plot progressed, it took our characters further and further from the standard locations we had grown accustomed to in the first year. It also took them even further emotionally. This evolution of the show ends up a huge part of the extras on the newly released Season 2 DVD.
The extras are all lumped together into one section called “The Continuing Chronicles: Terminator-8 Part Featurette Gallery.” This gallery is divided into categories focusing on the writing, visual effects, makeup effects, locations, stunt work, setpieces, music, and acting. It’s a great compilation of information that really gives a lot of insight into such a large-scale show. There are also commentary tracks on four key episodes, deleted scenes, a gag reel, etc. It is an above-average group of extras, and I am thrilled that they put so much work into the DVD release of a show cancelled before its time.
I really feel that this show was building to something great. I’ve watched the show since the very beginning, and although there was never a satisfying payoff, I’m glad I stayed with it. The episodes are still entertaining on an individual basis, and the stories and characters are still compelling. I really enjoyed revisiting the series on DVD, and highly recommend it to fans of the Terminator universe.