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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

‘Sarah Connor Chronicles’ blogging: “The Demon Hand”

(previous: “Dungeons & Dragons”)

Oh boy. People are talking Biblical apocalypse and robots are learning to dance. We’re doomed. We gotta be doomed if this is how it’s all going down.

Man, this is a particularly grim episode — the whole ethos of the series is pretty grim, actually. Maybe not so much on the surface, but the instant you start scratching it, it’s cold and bitter and hard and oh-so cynical. Hope for the human race? Yikes. If it’s with Cameron — who’s learning ballet and has even convinced angry Derek that maybe she’s got something like a soul (look at that look on his face when he sees her pirouetting!) — we’re in trouble. Because look how she just lets the Russian guy who taught the Turk and his sister die horribly — hey, it wasn’t her mission to save them, okay? It’s not even like they were at risk for bringing Judgment Day: the Russian guy couldn’t build another Turk or anything. And if it’s with humans? Well, that little exchange between John and Kyle seems to snuff that out: “Some people never give up. Some people always fight,” John says with that particular fervor of teenagers. “Fewer than you think,” Derek informs him sadly. Double yikes.
What’s really scary? The idea of machines from the future is turning into some kind of religious thing. Sure, maybe only for the few people who know about it — poor Bruce Davison! he always gets to play the crazy bad guys! — but still. Once people think something is decreed by a deity, they start to think there’s no point in resisting it. Fighting machines? Maybe we could win. Fighting God? No freakin’ way.

I love this episode for how it deals with issues that science fiction — well, TV and film SF — often avoids, or touches on only obliquely, accidentally, while stuff is blowing up. Art and religion. Beauty and faith (of the human kind, not the religious kind). There’s something very eerie about Davison’s shrink calling the liquid-metal T-1000 “beautiful, like a changeling,” because it touches on that defeatist attitude of “what’s the point in fighting God?” thing, but also because, you know, he’s right even if you believe you gotta fight, how can you not. There’s something horrifically mesmerizing about these machines that we created.

(Need a more complete episode recap? Check out Fox’s official site for the show.)

Random thoughts on “The Demon Hand”:

• Cameron is so cute and so scary in a police uniform, on a police motorcycle. Is that a little tribute to Robert Patrick’s T-1000? I think maybe it is.

• Okay, so John can’t miss school, because then he gets noticed. So why bother with the school thing at all? The Connors and Cameron are flying below the radar, using assumed names and presumably fake social security numbers (when Sarah has to work) so who’s gonna know if John isn’t going to school at all? He certainly looks old enough to pass for someone old enough not to be at school — were, say, the neighbors to notice him hanging around the house. Isn’t he more likely to get caught out in the open of school? If Sarah needs him to do the work of the future savior of the human race once in a while, wouldn’t it make sense to stay away from school altogether? I appreciate that the writers need a way to effectively remove him from the many stories possible here, which is fine, because this isn’t really about him but about Sarah and Cameron. But maybe it needs a little more rationale within the context of the show…?

Lesson for the week: Don’t think you can train tame Terminators like they’re pets, cuz you can’t, and it’ll be the last thing you think.

(next: “Vick’s Chip”/“What He Beheld”)



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  • I can’t help but wonder if the title of this episode, The Demon Hand, is inspired by Harlan Ellison’s classic story Demon with a Glass Hand… especially since Ellison was credited in the original Terminator movie and since (presumably) FBI Agent Ellison is named for Harlan (who’s a cranky old SOB).

    Having Cameron attend a ballet class was an obvious choice, since Summer Glau was a ballerina before becoming an actress. It was cold, cold, COLD for her to just leave Dmitri and his sister to their fates… but Cameron is a machine, and once she got what she needed from Dmitri, they pretty much ceased to be of any use to her and therefore not worth defending. (One rationale she might have in her head: “I might get damaged while trying to defend these two, and that might stop me from being able to protect John Connor. Therefore, I should not do it.”)

  • Jason

    I love this show … but some things in it drive me crazy (like the school thing). Sarah has zero skills at “staying below the radar”. Gun fights? Carjacking? Not even changing her first name or hair color? *Shakes head*

    Other than that minor annoyance, I think the show is brilliant.

    As to the episode itself, I think had Sarah asked to have Dmitri brought back alive or something, Cameron could have more than easily dispatched the thugs. I felt bad for the sister.

    Like all computers, you must be very specific in your instructions. I am a programmer and I always say that computers do EXACTLY what you tell them.

  • MaryAnn

    It was cold, cold, COLD for her to just leave Dmitri and his sister to their fates… but Cameron is a machine

    Yes, of course, but then there’s the ballet thing…

    computers do EXACTLY what you tell them.

    So who told Cameron to enjoy dancing?

    (presumably) FBI Agent Ellison is named for Harlan (who’s a cranky old SOB).

    Heh to the homage — I bet you’re right, but that had not occurred to me before. Because yes, Harlan is an SOB, which tends to overshadow his work, at least in recent years.

  • Harlan did some good work on Babylon 5, but that was ten years ago and I don’t think I’ve heard his name mentioned in all that time, until this show came out and I put two and two together on the FBI agent’s name.

    Are you sure Cameron was “enjoying” doing the ballet? I took that scene more as a demonstration that the Terminators are capable of creating beauty, even if they don’t themselves understand what it is.

  • MaryAnn

    Why would she dance at all for herself, alone in a room with no one watching, if she didn’t enjoy it? (Certainly any purpose it served for her undercover work in this episode no longer exists.) How does she know she’s creating beauty if she can’t appreciate it?

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