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With so many females kicking so much butt on TV lately — from Bionic Woman to Women’s Murder Club to Chuck — the lady-badass factor of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles is almost beside the point. It’s merely a continuation of the TV trend: Men are getting more boyish and petlike, women are wearing lots of leather and cracking skulls. Vive la role reversal!
So Terminator‘s macho women alone wouldn’t be worth much of a mention, except that they’re played by Lena Headey, that headstrong, husband-loving queen of the blockbuster 300, and Summer Glau, the quiet, telepathic killer of the great, underseen sci-fi movie Serenity. Headey and Glau are a far superior breed to the basic cute-girl-in-wifebeater type. Picking up after the events of Terminator 2 — T3 doesn’t figure into this timeline — Headey plays Sarah Connor, muscled mom to future resistance leader John Connor (Heroes‘ Thomas Dekker). In 2011, computers running the Skynet Missile Defense System will declare war on humans, wiping out much of earth, so Sarah needs to keep young John alive to fulfill his adult role. But to avert the robo-war entirely, she decides to abort Skynet’s creation in the present day. (Yes, again.) She has help — beyond John, who’s just a semi-whiny teenager — in the form of Cameron (Glau), a cyborg from the future packaged in the body of a teenage girl. (Nice touch making this strange heroine the namesake of Terminator creator James Cameron.) The two women are a thrilling team, upending motorcycles and smashing cyborgs. Headey, with her smart, suspicious looks, makes for a wildly protective mom. Glau shoots and kills with ease, yet she manages to maintain a sweet robot naïveré without ever getting too Rain Man in her delivery. ”People do like small animals,” she notes simply, looking at the poster of a kitten on a safe-house wall.
In just two episodes, the duo forge a Thelma-and-Louise outlaw chemistry that all but makes poor John extraneous. There’s a great moment when wary Sarah watches Cameron handily thwack several threatening dudes, and allows herself a slim, appreciative smile. We can only hope John will become more interesting, and useful, in the future. Yes, he’s not supposed to seem like a superhero now, but he’s so overshadowed by the two women, it’s difficult to invest in him as humankind’s last great hope. ”Are you supposed to take orders?” Sarah asks Cameron. ”From John…not this John,” replies Cameron. No kidding. Having two vividly dominant characters on the same TV show is a welcome problem, of course. How novel to witness female badasses who are actually very scary. As Sarah Connor promises: ”It’s gonna be one hell of a dogfight.” B+