The Best and Worst of Terminator: Sarah Connor Chronicles
Best Plotline: Baby Skynets
This show was at its best when it was exploring the fine line between human and machine by showing the nascent stages of a true artificial intelligence. The Turk was considered to be more advanced because, like a human, it was able to yield different answers when analyzing the same data points at different times, depending on its "mood." The idea that an AI would be more advanced as a result of its ability to be irrational is somewhat counterintuitive, but current research in artificial intelligence reflects this notion, as many researchers are attempting to find a way to program unquantifiable qualities, such as creativity. In this sense, these plotlines reflected the writers' (and probably society's) views on what defines humanity as more than biological machines.
Worst Plotline: The Three Dots
TSCC tried their hand at a Lost-type weird, random mystery, and utterly failed. There was nothing compelling about those stupid three dots, and Sarah's obsession with them was annoying even before it became destructively obsessive. I can never decide if the fact that this terrible plotline never actually went anywhere or had any bearing on the larger story is an insult to the viewers or shows a healthy amount of self-awareness on the writers' part.
Best Episode: The Demon Hand
Brian Austin Greene once said that the final scene of this episode made it his favorite, and with good reason. His character hates the terminators, as they are fundamentally "other." They're not human, they don't have emotions, they don't have any reason to express themselves through art. So in this episode, when Cameron is taught ballet, she can perfectly imitate the motions but cannot simulate the emotions behind them. But her interest in ballet contradicts Derek's simplistic view of the robots, and by the end of the episode she is choreographing her own ballet. As Derek watches Cameron dance, he begins to cry as Sarah narrates that the terminators "cannot appreciate beauty, they cannot create art. If they ever learn these things, they won't have to destroy us. They'll be us."
Allison from Palmdale is a close second, as the idea of a robot that is modeled after a specific human is somewhat unique, and made Cameron a fascinating character.
Worst Episode: Strange Things Happen at the One Two Point
Seriously, does anyone care about those three dots?
Best/Worst Episode: Born to Run
As a season finale, this episode was nearly perfect. It focused on all the strongest elements of the show while recalibrating the entire premise to eliminate some of the weaker aspects. The cliffhanger would have made a third season an entirely different show, one that completely upturned the status quo. It would have been post-apocalyptic rather than pre-apocalyptic, the dynamics between the characters would be completely changed as a result of the time jump and John's leadership status, and we would have gotten to see Summer Glau play both Cameron and her human counterpart, Allison. But since there never was a third season, this will go down as one of the most infuriating series finales of all time, illustrating the potential of a show that never had the chance to reach it.
Worst Acting: Lena Headey as Sarah Connor
I haven't seen Lena Headey on Game of Thrones, for which she was just nominated for an Emmy, so I can't speak to whether she's a great actress in general. But she was, at the very least, horribly miscast as Sarah Connor. I wasn't a big fan of the movies, so I wasn't unduly invested in Headey's performance living up to Linda Hamilton's, but she still failed to convince. She looked too young to have a teenage son, and she carried herself in far too precious a manner to be believable as a hardened warrior. It didn't help that the writing of her character was often sub-par; the writers tried to establish her as a moral foil to Cameron's single-minded, calculated amorality, but that just made her seem unnecessarily self-righteous. It's fairly easy to be morally superior to a machine that's not programmed to have morals, so her righteous indignation at Cameron's amorality just made her seem dense.
Best Acting: Summer Glau as Cameron/Allison
A friend once said to me, "It's amazing that Summer Glau plays a robot on TSCC, and yet her acting is the least robotic of anyone on that show." Brian Austin Greene actually wasn't bad as the immensely likable Derek, but the point is well taken. Glau has the difficult job of walking a tightrope between robotic and organic, of navigating the nuances of a robot pretending to human. It was even more treacherous territory as an actor since Cameron was supposed to be a more "human" kind of robot, one who could form genuine attachments with others and possibly even experience emotions to some degree. Although the writing wavered a little in how "human" she was supposed to act, she always handled it with aplomb.
Best Musical Moment: Shirley Manson's cover of The Grateful Dead's "Samson and Delilah"
Shirley Manson was a regular on the show, and an impressive one at that, but as the lead singer of Garbage she also contributed her vocal talents in the second season premiere. Everything about this scene is perfect; the ominous music tells you long before Cameron actually attacks John that we should be completely terrified of her.
Terminator really knew how to use music at pivotal moments on the show. Here are three more perfect match-ups between music and content: