Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles (2008) / Sci Fi-Thriller
Season 1: Episode 3: The Turk

Cast: Lena Headey, Thomas Dekker, Summer Glau, Richard T. Jones, Brendan Hines, Adam Godley, Jesse Garcia, Charlayne Woodard
Director: Paul Edwards

Screenplay: John Wirth

1.3 - "The Turk"

The "Turk" of the "Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles" episode's title refers to a giant machine built by a young former Cyberdine intern named Andy Goode (Hines, Ordinary Sinner), referring to one with the same name built in the 18th century, actually a hoax with a skilled human player inside the box, which he has designed to play chess well enough to rival those that have come before.  Cameron (Glau, Serenity) has urged Sarah (Headey, 300) that Goode needs to be terminated as part of her effort to keep certain doom for humanity from happening, which she wavers on doing because he seems to bear no malice in his pursuit of artificial intelligence perfection.  Meanwhile, John (Dekker) and Cameron adjust to their new school, and the bad Terminator continues his quest to rehabilitate himself back to human form in order to complete his mission to end John Connor's life.

A new director (Edwards) and writer (Wirth, "Nash Bridges") take over in this third episode of the series, and it proves to be the better of the three thus far.  Interesting, as this is the first of them without any sort of action sequence, but at the same time, it's also devoid of the contrivances of previous episodes to get those scenes injected.  The story is also free from the convoluted time travel story angles that has made each new Terminator outing so maddening to follow, keeping things small and the big picture items appropriately tucked away while we keep focused on the important matters at hand.  The show starts with an interesting analogy in the form of a dream Sarah has in killing those who participated in the Manhattan Project, effectively destroying them before they had a chance to create nuclear weaponry.  They end up turning into Terminator robots themselves in part of this nightmare, indicating just how futile Sarah feels her mission to keep events from transpiring.

The allusions drawn in continue to impress, particularly in the metaphoric games of chess between humans and machines that mirrors the "chess moves" made by Sarah and company to try to beat the machines at their own game.  Particularly striking is the poster of "Kramnik vs. Deep Fritz", which is an actual poster depicting a chess board between a human and android opponent whose hand very much resembles a Terminator's. 

The interplay between Sarah and Cameron for control of the situations is increasingly interesting, while John is further progressing into the role of a potential leader and rebel in learning to speak out against injustice as he sees it, even though Cameron is keeping his behavior in check for now (perhaps trying to not let him draw publicity for fear of being recognized by forces seeking to come after him).  The show also takes a semi-horror turn with the Terminator becoming the monster that made Frankenstein, in an ironic twist that has him looking for blood and body parts with the help of a leading scientist.

This is the first episode where I'm actually anxious to see where things go from here.  If the intelligence can stay in the forefront and action used only when necessary (including the incessant cheesecake) to push forward the plot, this series might turn into a surprisingly worthy entry in the Terminator mythos after all.

-- Followed by "Heavy Metal".

Qwipster's episode rating:

2008 Vince Leo