Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Terminator Sarah Connor Chronicles: Too Automatic?

In this episode of The Sarah Connor Chronicles, “Automatic for the People, “ the group is faced with a potential disaster at a nuclear power plant. The only disaster here was the ease of which the power plant was infiltrated, not by a terminator, but by Sarah Connor and her cohorts.

The recap (below) outlines how the show set up the scenario where nuclear power plants will come under the control of the machines in the future. I have to admit, through, that the only thing it may have shown was how easy it is in a fictional world to get access to the sensitive insides of a power plant, either as an employee or a visitor. Even more unbelievable is the fact that a novice can pick up an emergency power plant manual and figure out after looking at a few pages how to fix the problem.

Here’s how it starts. There is a new arrival in Sarah Connor’s world. A naked man appears in a flash, apparently from the future, with a wound in his chest. He grabs some clothes conveniently located next to a homeless man where the man luckily landed, and runs off.

Back at the church where they are hiding, everyone seems to be mulling over recent events and their injuries. Sarah (Lena Headey) is worried that Cameron (Summer Glau) can be trusted, Derek (Brian Austin Green) seems to be putting his trust is God. Cameron, of course, is healing faster than everyone else. But Cameron also is concerned that John Connor (Thomas Dekker) is taking too many risks as evidenced by him deciding to fix her. But to make everything better, Sarah tells John to go back to school.

He does go back to school, but seems uncomfortable. While he seems to be moping outside, a blond girl comes up and asks he bailed on English class, and calls him a weirdo. Her name is Riley and she seems miffed that John never seemed to notice her in class. She convinces John to cut class and head over to his new house that Sarah has just bought, with everything inside.

Meanwhile, Agent Ellison (Richard T. Jones) is at Dixon’s house and speaks to Michelle Dixon (Sonya Walger). She tells him there is a gun in the house and she is concerned because Charley hates guns. When Charlie Dixon (Dean Winters) comes home and sees Ellison, he wants to know what’s going on and Ellison says they need to talk. Michelle is stunned that Sarah is alive and in LA too, and seems incredulous about the robots on the loose, Charley tells her that he doesn't love Sarah "like that", but she slaps him, saying his should be the least of their worries. She leaves the room, and Ellison advises they should leave the place, because it’s not safe.

Back at home, Sarah is dozing off on the couch, and is awakened by a man crashing through the glass doors. Cameron goes out to check the outside area, while the man, on his last breaths, tells Sarah and Derek to “stop Greenway." He also says something will happen at a power plant in Serrano Point in two days, and then he dies. Sarah says he's from the future, sent by John. Derek says he'll take care of the matter at Greenway at Serrano Point, but Sarah is not so sure. We see what looks like Serrano Point in the future, complete with flying vehicles on the attack and resistance fighters shooting back. Derek thinks that Greenway must play a big role in the future. While Sarah wonders what is supposed to happen in two days, Cameron thinks they can find out from Greenway themselves.

We see Sarah and Cameron with IDs entering the plant as temporary janitors. (How they were able to get security clearance so quickly is beyond me.) They are shown a cartoon training video and shown around the plant. They are told to be careful of going in the fuel building without proper protection. Cameron sees Greenway (Paul Schulze) as he walks by.

Back at the power plant, Greenway is double checking everything as the plant is going back on line tomorrow. Sarah sees him drop some pills, and Sarah tells him that she would have a headache too if she had his job. He insists they’re just vitamins. She introduces herself as Kara from Elgin, Texas, and Greenway tells her he was stationed right near there in the Navy. Nelson (Dean Norris) – probably Greenway’s supervisor - interrupts and tells Greenway he wants to talk. Sarah follows them, but not before picking up Greenway’s empty pill bottle that he just conveniently threw in the trash. She trails them across a raised walkway to another building, hearing Nelson tell Greenway the plant is going back on no matter what and they won't be stalled by Greenway. Sarah gets stopped in her pursuit, as he doesn’t have the right pass card to let he in. Nelson thinks he sees someone in the doorway (Sarah) but she manages to hide out behind the door on the ledge.

Meanwhile, John and Riley are looking at John’s new room, which looks like it is appropriate for a 3 year old.

Sarah and Cameron follow Greenway to a bar, the hang out for plant employees. (It reminded me of a scene from the movie “China Syndrome”.) While Cameron play pool shark, Sarah makes nice with Greenway, who is at the bar drinking. He says he’s served 12 years in the Navy on a nuclear sub, he has a cheating wife, and he has cancer. He shows her the scar on his arm from the cancer operation. Nelson is at the other end of the bar. Sarah tells Greenway that he seems like a good guy, and that if the other people won't drink with him it's their loss. Greenway tells her that is not the reason they won't drink with him.

While Derek is outside in Greenway's car, a pick-up truck arrives, a man with a crowbar gets out, and then smashes Greenway's back window and leaves. Derek pulls a gun but the man in the pick up just speeds off.

While Cameron is counting her pool winnings, Derek comes in to the bar and tells her and Sarah about Greenway’s smashed windshield. Sarah tells him that Greenway has enemies as he stopped the last test over safety concerns, and that some are afraid the plant will get shut down and lose their jobs if he stops tomorrow’s test. Cameron confirms that the reactor is showing some problems

Back at the house, while Riley is still there, Sarah comes home. John introduces her. Sarah is not happy and Cameron gives Riley the eye. Riley looks uncomfortable. But John isn’t having any of his mother’s concerns, and takes Riley to his room, apparently to stay the night. Before she leaves in the morning, she throws John her phone and asks if she can call him. He programs in his number. He adds, though, that any time she calls him, the first words out of her mouth need to be the date. She asks why, but John just says that’s his way.

Returning to the power plant, Sarah gets caught nosing around, but is told by Nelson that she has to do a clean up of a spill. She going into the room with protective gear, but freaks out a bit and exits the room. She’s contaminated, and has to undergo a hose down. But after all that, Nelson tells her that the whole thing was a false reading, a “hiccup”, and he leaves.

At the Dixon house, Charley and Michelle are leaving, destination unknown, and Ellison gives him a bible, "for the road."

Back at the plant, it’s only minutes away from the test, and Greenway seems to be proceeding as if nothing is wrong. But Sarah makes a cell phone call to Derek who is at Greenway’s home, saying that something is wrong. Derek finds Greenway, who is dead by hanging. Sarah watches what is clearly a “terminator” who, doubling as Greenway (minus the scar), is proceeding with the countdown, and the plant goes back on line.

The machine version of Greenway is walking through the plant, finds what looks like a release valve and turns it, releasing what appears to be steam. Sarah finds Cameron and informs her that Greenway has been replaced by a machine. Cameron doesn't react right away, saying that thinking about what she should do. An alarm goes off with some employees mention a leak, and Sarah tells Cameron to fix it.

As Greenway returns to the control room, alarms are going off and the staff is in panic mode. Greenway says that all will be fine, but it seems a melt down is in progress unless the cooling system begins to work. As one employee goes to check on the cooling system. Greenway shuts the door behind him, and tells a stunned staff to remain calm. As the staff member who ran out of the control room sees Nelson, he warns him that Greenway seems to have gone off the deep end. Nelson goes to the control room to find the staff on the floor –either dead or unconscious – and he meets a similar fate.

Derek drives up as people are fleeing the plant, and runs right in. (Doesn’t this place have ANY security?) Meanwhile, Cameron is trying to close the valve when Greenway picks a fight with her.

Sarah and Derek enter the control room (again, no security?) Melt down is imminent. They find Nelson unconscious, and Sarah looks through the emergency manual, which luckily is right out in the open. (I suppose it is “Nuclear Power Plants for Dummies?) Sarah has found information, but she runs out, while Derek tried to get help from the “red phone.”

While Cameron and Greenway fight, Sarah easily takes out a security guard and gets his gun. She enters the radioactive room with out a protective suit and runs through it. Derek does not follow, but somehow finds himself meting up in the same place as Sarah, who DID run through the room. Sarah shoots Greenway, and Cameron pushes him into some tanks, revealing his Terminator skeleton. Cameron finishes closing the valve, avoiding disaster.

In the radioactive room, Sarah is putting Greenway’s metal parts and some videotapes in a radioactive waste drum. Back at home she runs a wand over Sarah, and determines Sarah was not radioactive. Sarah asks Cameron about the her future cancer, and if any exposure from the day’s evens is the cause. Cameron doesn’t know. When Cameron enters the house, she and John talk about Riley. John asks if he's safe – from Riley – and Cameron doesn’t know, as "girls are complicated." John's phone rings. It's Riley, who says the date "16 November,” and says she was just testing.

Outside, Sarah sees a bloody hand print on a house post. She walks further and sees another on the door. She pushes the door open and walks into what looks like a basement or storage room. On the wall is writing in blood, with the following words: Greenway, Alpine Field, P. Alto, Wallace Brook, and more. We also Cameron, Derek, John, and Sarah standing there looking at the writing Sarah finds that the blood is still wet.

Later, a man is having a press conference, talking about the incident at Serrano Point. He says that it and six other power plants will be in partnership with Automight systems, which will take the human element out of the control room by adding automation. As the man leaves in his car, he morphs into T1000, Catherine Weaver (Shirley Manson).

As far as advancing the story, I’d say this episode did its job. The downside is that it seemed to take a very simplistic approach to the operations of a nuclear power plant. It was so simplistic that I found it laughable. The other thing that gave me pause was how simple it seemed to terminate the terminator version of Greenway, and how easy it was to dispose of its parts. Maybe something happened off camera where they removed the brains of the terminator unit? I didn’t think it was that easy to dispose of one just be breaking up its parts. Also odd was Sarah forcing herself to run through the radioactive room, when Derek seemed to be able to find his way around it just fine, and just as quickly.

Of course, we are being asked to draw a suspicious look to John’s new friend Riley, who John seems to think he can trust for now just because he gave her a code word to use when she calls him on the phone. That tactic wouldn’t work if she was already working against them.

All in all, the story moves forward. But hopefully they won’t have too many episodes where things are just too easy.

Check out my blog home page for the latest information, here.

No comments: