Welcome to the the Fox Friday Night Death Slot where they dump all their soon-to-be-cancelled shows. Tonights feature: Terminator 2.5 (Cuz, y'see, it takes place in between the 2nd and 3rd movies, on an awkward tangent timeline)
There's two plots running paralel on the show tonight. In one, Sarah is in a sleep research clinic because she hasn't slept since she whacked that security guard dude like two weeks earlier, and she's getting increasingly jittery, paranoid, and clumsy. Let's face it - you don't want a woman as heavily beweaponed as Mz. Connor getting clumsy. People die when that happens.
In the sleep clinic, Sarah is monitored and drugged and assigned an annoying, overweight english roomate. She begins to suspect all is not as it appears when the place seems increasingly dictatorial and creepy, and then her roomie dies in exactly the manner she dreams about. There's midnight skulkings about which unconver a secret room where mysterious shenanegins go on. John doesn't believe any of this, and thinks his mom is merely psychotic from sleep deprivation. Ultimately, however, he grudgingly helps her check it out.
In the other plot, Sarah is captured by the security guard she whacked. He was very clearly dead before - apparently. I never saw that episode - so his return has to be a dream, right? He captures her, traps her in a van, and questions her in a creepy but non-invasive manner more like an old-fashined LSD Psychological Session than a real badass, and pumps her full of drugs to get answers. We see the scene play over and over again. At one point, he seems to let her go, but he's just screwing with her, and he admits to killing a hell of a lot of people for his bosses, who ran the factory. They're European!
We cut back and forth between these paralell tracks more or less at random until a Terminator nurse gets the gun away from Sarah in the sleep research center and shoots John dead on the spot. Then Sarah wakes up in the van, and manages to work out her escape (Unbelievably gory!), and subdues her captor, the previously-dead-now-not-so-much security goon.
"You're real" She asks/declares.
He allows as how he is.
She kills him dead on the spot, and then goes home.
The big hook/fakeout in this episode is that the van sequences are real, while the more-real-seeming hostpital sequences are fakes. Yawn. Very Freshman English Writing For Science Fiction Media 101. Seriously. That's an old, old, saw. I, myself, had called it before the first commercial break, though I'm sharper in the old-school cliches and counter-cliches than most. But seriously - did that surprise anyone? Twists are supposed to be the thing you don't expect. Therefore it's the opposite of what the episode is telegraphing. If the episode *Seems* to be saying the hospital is real, and the nightmare is a dream, then nooooooooooooooo the hospital will be revealed in the final act to be the dream and the nightmare is real. It's hard to overlook a cliche as hoary as that, nor one that's been the subject of so many twilight zone episodes, at least one TNG episode (Riker is either Riker, or else he's an alien from a race composed entirely of eye-bags who thinks he's Riker), a couple Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea eps, and, to a lesser extent, Total Recall and *both* Life on Mars series.
Honestly. Are you even trying?
But as uninspired as the fireworks were for this episode, there was some good stuff here. While we can ultimately discount the entire hospital sequence as pointless paranoia, there's a great character bit where John tries to explain dreams to Cameron, and a nice little bit where the fat irritating british roomate hits on John which is played entirely in face acting by both John and Sarah, each running oddly paralell expressions of bemused disdain. We also get an incongruous scene of Cameron in her underwear which probably had some meaning in some version of the script, but comes across merely as awkward. (Though not nearly as awkward as the forced 'chatter' between Summer Glau and Eliza Dushku during the bumpers between their shows three weeks ago, right? Am I right? Can I get an amen here? Yeah!)
The *real* plot - which is of course the dream - is more revealing and more interesting than the ultimately pointless skulduggery. Whomever ran that factory that Shirley Manson of Garbage blew up is (A) European (B) capable of reviving the dead, or at least the very-near-dead. The Security Spook is played very, very well with just the right note of condescension and malace and boredom. He is, after all, a hired gun, and he's done this a lot. Most of hunting is just waiting, after all. This is all well done, and surprisingly humanizing. The man is a son of a bitch, and a bad one, but you get glimmers of humanity behind him. This is someone who's sacrificed his soul on the alter of a greater good, and, like THe Operative from "Serenity," he knows he's damned. This isn't just a guy in a script, it feels like there's a person there. I've seen a lot of shows involving interogators, and this guy is my favorite one.
That said, the 'I"ll let you go' plot didn't work well, it was just padding. Also, Sarah's generally-rather-obtuse naration seemed exceedingly so tonight. The whole thing smacked of the kind of female empowerment blather you'd find on a wicca poster in a head shop. All faux-meaningful and portentious, but really just some merchandizing with no more raison d'etre than to fill shelf space between the bongs and those annoying charles darwin fish stickers with the feet on 'em.
The final fight was GREAT! Best hand-to-hand fight we've seen on the show, or at least that I have. Sarah escapes handcufs by biting through her own wrists, using her own blood as lubricant, and then dislocating one of her own hands. Holy Freakin' Crap! Holy Freakin' Crap! I'll say it again: Holy Freakin' Crap! TELL your friends about that scene! They deserve a third season *Just* for that! Holy Freakin' Crap! She then stabs the spook IN THE EYE with a syringe full of LSD or sodium pentethol or whatever, and then administers a hell of a beat down. ANd then she kills him. Possibly for the second time.
Curiously, Sarah says this is the first time she's ever killed a human. I think we're supposed to believe her.
There are numerous clues in this episode that stronly imply the entire story lasts just about three hours - from midnight to 3am.
Uncle Reece and Agent Ellison are completely absent from this episode. Also there's a blooper in the hospital sequence: at one point, The Evil Terminurse calls Sarah "Miss Glass" (or something like that) and at another point she calls her "Miss Baum," both pseudonyms the Connors have been using a lot in the run of the show. Thinking about it, I'm not sure if this is a real blooper, or if the script is trying to clue us in that things in the hospital aren't as they appear. Either way, it appears sloppy.
Something struck me while I was watching this: By modern standards, these T2.5 stories are glacial. They move at a 1960s pace, which my explain some of their inability to hold down substantial ratings. ADD kids like me fall asleep halfway through.