Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles– Review: “Self Made Man”

This “CSI: Terminator” episode showcases the acting talents of Summer Glau and Thomas Dekker– with very different results.

Title: “Self Made Man”

Cast and Crew

Director: Holly Dale
Writer: Toni Graphia

Summer Glau as Cameron Philips
Lena Heady as Sarah Connor
Thomas Dekker as John Connor
Leven Rambin as Riley
Billy Lush as Eric
Todd Stashwick as Myron Stark
Brian Austin Green as Derek Reese
Garret Dillahunt as Cromartie
Shirley Manson as Catherine Weaver
Richard T. Jones as James Ellison
Dean Winters as Charley Dixon

Synopsis

While the John-Riley relationship continues to develop, we learn what Cameron has been doing during her sleepless nights—- and we discover a mystery involving a Terminator who found himself in the 1920s.

High Point

I liked the relationship between Cameron and Eric. Summer Glau does an impressive job of conveying her character’s oddness and isolation, in ways both humorous and touching. She’s emotionally detached and pragmatic, but not in a psychopathic way. We see here the potential for real feelings. Billy Lush plays off her well. He’s obviously disturbed but intrigued (a stance that could have been developed further), and I liked his delivery of the “Silver Nitrate” speech.

However, they find the correct information very easily.

Low Point

One expects that the show would include a teen love story, but I’m not buying this one. The depiction of teenage culture seems fake, the dialogue, uneven, and the chemistry, somewhat wanting.

The Scores

Originality: 4/6 The collage-approach better suits a written story (where it frequently has been used), and the out-of-hand dismissal of the web as a source of information on Stark seems heavy-handed (likely, some records would exist online). This nevertheless represents an original approach for the series.

Effects: 5/6. What effects they had worked fine.

Story: 4/6. I liked the solution to this mystery, but every use of time-travel raises the same questions about the series’ premise. It seems that, with the ability to travel time, the future adversaries take a very pedestrian approach to achieving their ends. Of course, if the show really developed this angle, it would quickly resemble Desmond Warzel’s “Everybody Kills Hitler….”

The writing and pacing of this episode created disconnections.

Acting: 5/6. See “High” and “Low” Points.

Production: 5/6.

Emotional response: 5/6.

Overall: 5/6.

“Self Made Man” receives 33/42.

9 replies on “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles– Review: “Self Made Man””

  1. Jethro says:

    Summer
    Summer Glau is doing an excellent job. I really hope she doesn’t get typecast and gets to expand her acting vocabulary in the future.

    I used to like the Riley character, and I think the girl playing her was doing a good job, too, but I’m not very happy with the direction they took with her.

    I’m still enjoying the show.

  2. joe__gee says:

    This was a kind review :)
    Is the series growing on you, Timeshredder? :)

    Anyways, I like the way that we’re learning about Cameron’s independence from the Connors. We knew that she had her own agenda, now we’re seeing it. Who was the politician she was protecting? What does he do, or not do?

    As for her ability to "feel", we were shown a character that would tug at the sympathies of most humans — Cameron’s reaction was autistic at best. On a human scale she demonstrated all of the compassion of a detached scientist studying a lab animal. I don’t think many machines (besides Skynet) will develop true feelings in the Terminator ‘verse.

    The two regular Terminatrix (cool word) characters seem to be like "Republican" and "Democrat" machines. Both of them represent opposite sides of a struggle, but quite frequently their actions put them in a central murky grey area that is indeterminate to outside observers.

    Watching them, I wonder (in a good way) where this is all going. Thankfully I trust the writers of this series a bit more than I trust those over on Heroes. John will not die and resurrect every other episode. Sarah will not waver in her dedication to her son. Cameron will not turn into an angst-ridden vacuous teenager. Or at least I have high hopes these things will not happen without damned good justification.

    Oh, and after this episode I’d like to see the character Riley hollowed out and turned into a T-888 skinjob like Cameron. I do not like her any more. Good actress, though.

    -Joe

    P.S. I like how this series handles time travel: they acknowledge it and avoid mentioning the paradox conundrums that were so much fodder for Star Trek. It just is.

    • Timeshredder says:

      Re: This was a kind review :)

      Is the series growing on you, Timeshredder? :)

      Next to Fringe and this season’s sorry excuse for Heroes, this is frikkin’ genius.

  3. redshadow says:

    3 dots
    I am guessing that those 3 dots now have a meaning.Spoiler If terminators use a 3 star formation to calculate the date, perhaps those dots are a date? Was it a waring about the new Judgment Day or some other big event?

    • valen1260 says:

      Re: 3 dots

      I am guessing that those 3 dots now have a meaning.

      I don’t think a human, especially one in the throes of death, could make anything exact enough to represent an actual date, and using them just to mean "a date" is pointless. Nice idea, though.

  4. chad says:

    Season One
    Just watched the first season on DVD (I don’t watch live TV much) and really liked it. Bummer that it was only 9 episodes. Looking forward to season 2.

    ____________________
    Check out Chad’s News

  5. Daemonik says:

    Suspension of disbelief

    Story: 4/6. I liked the solution to this mystery, but every use of time-travel raises the same questions about the series’ premise. It seems that, with the ability to travel time, the future adversaries take a very pedestrian approach to achieving their ends. Of course, if the show really developed this angle, it would quickly resemble Desmond Warzel’s "Everybody Kills Hitler…."

    Honestly, the whole idea of time travel and cyborg terminators is really kind of lame if you want to dissect the premise, so it’s best not to think about it and just enjoy the show for what it is.

    I don’t mean lame in not cool, cyborg killing machines are generally always cool, just not logical. There are so many more effective and efficient ways for Skynet to ensure humanities extinction than cyborg hunter/killer machines. Viral plagues, environmental destruction, build itself a spaceship and enjoy the view from Saturn as it hurls asteroids into the Earth’s crust…

    • Timeshredder says:

      A good (jonbar) point

      Honestly, the whole idea of time travel and cyborg terminators is really kind of lame if you want to dissect the premise, so it’s best not to think about it and just enjoy the show for what it is.

      I can try to construct an argument based on the idea that major disruptions would be identified as the history-altering events they are and stopped by the other side’s time-travellers, whereas small ones (such as the killing of the public figure in this episode) would go unnoticed and therefore have the necessary effect, but even that doesn’t hold up particularly well. And since everyone recognizes John Connor as the series’ John Barr, killing him no longer constitutes a minor disruption.

      The acting and other elements can carry this show, but I really wish they would have worked something out to make the premise slightly logical.

      Well, until the Doctor shows up….

      • Karrde712 says:

        Re: A good (jonbar) point

        I can try to construct an argument based on the idea that major disruptions would be identified as the history-altering events they are and stopped by the other side’s time-travellers, whereas small ones (such as the killing of the public figure in this episode) would go unnoticed and therefore have the necessary effect, but even that doesn’t hold up particularly well. And since everyone recognizes John Connor as the series’ John Barr, killing him no longer constitutes a minor disruption.

        You might be looking at this wrong. Killing John Connor would disrupt things in such a way that other time travelers would intervene. But suppose that this is not Skynet’s goal? Perhaps the very act of hunting John is providing sufficient distraction to ensure that the human resistance keeps sending their best agents back to defend him.

        Possibly as well, Skynet has calculated that by forcing John to stay on the move and keep dodging Skynet’s forces, he will never stay in one place long enough to learn the tactics and skills necessary to be a real leader in the future.

        Skynet doesn’t have to kill John to render him useless to the resistance.

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