When Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles first premiered on Fox, it was filled with action and promise. Viewers were heady with anticipation, and the initial ratings were better than a post-American Idol-Fringe could hope for.
But then the show settled in, driven by unrelenting sadness, and the ratings dropped.
Sarah's second season so far has left us with questions ...
A) What the heck is going on with Sarah's three dots already (and couldn't the writers have come up with something better than three bloody dots to inspire us)?
B) Could "this" John (Thomas Dekker) actually grow up to be the hero of the future instead of a whiny little teenager?
C) Does the series have to kill off every sympathetic character the writers come up with?
D) Has the series become nothing more than Fox's 24, without pace?
That doesn't mean I don't like it. In fact, I'm glad to see Sarah Connor return, even if she is struggling with life and death and getting some guidance from an imaginary friend in the midseason premiere, "The Good Wound."
The episode picks up from the midseason cliffhanger "Earthlings Welcome Here," which killed off the sympathetic cross-dresser blogger Eileen (Dinah Lenney), saw Sarah get too close to the meaning of those pesky dots from her dream to the tune of a bullet in the leg, and left John with a decision about what to do when Riley (Leven Rambin) attempts suicide.
"The Good Wound" brings back Kyle Reese, and not in a bad way. Actor Jonathan Jackson is no Michael Biehn (who originally played Reese in the original Terminator movie), but let's face it, Michael Biehn isn't that Michael Biehn these days and Lena Headey is a very different Sarah Connor. Jackson's Reese has some nice moments with Headey's Sarah, and it's a satisfying throwback to the movie that reminds both us and Sarah why she's doing what she's doing.
The less successful story belongs to Riley, a character who never worked as well as she should have. Rambin is a good actress, and her character does at least get the pouty John to smile once in a while. But let's face it, Sarah, Derek (Brian Austin Green) or Cameron (Summer Glau) should have and would have taken her out long ago. The bigger problem is that she just doesn't fit ... just like Sarah's blasted dots.
However, for every element that doesn't work, there are a couple that enhance the series. Cromartie's morphing into the potentially much scarier John Henry (Garret Dillahunt), Catherine Weaver's (Shirley Manson) finally taking off the gloves to show us that she really is as chilling as she seems, and the mystery behind Jesse's (Stephanie Chaves-Jacobsen) real mission all color the series in new ways.
In "The Good Wound" we do learn a couple of secrets, and the ending leads to more questions. That's the sign of any good series, giving us a tasty nugget while making us hungry for more. If nothing else, The Sarah Connor Chronicles has got the prettiest freedom fighters that ever existed on screen as they manage to pull off both grim and sexy. It's also got some of the best action scenes on television (besides 24, if not enough of them.
Now all the series needs are some ratings. And, folks, without an increase in ratings, this will likely be the last season of the show. Fox isn't going to keep it on without some payoff.
Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles' midseason premiere airs in its new timeslot on Fox on Friday, Feb. 13, at 8 p.m. ET/PT, before Joss Whedon's new spy sci-fi series, Dollhouse.