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In the future, my son will lead mankind in a war against SkyNet, the computer system programmed to destroy the world. It has sent machines back through time, some to kill him, one to protect him. Today we fight to stop SkyNet from ever being created, to change our future, to change his fate. The war to save mankind begins now.
Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles (2008-2009) was a science fiction series. Set after the first two films, and while it acknowledges some plot elements of the third movie, it goes in a different direction. Sarah and John are still on the run from both the FBI, a new Terminator, and their own sorry social lives. That is, until Cameron shows up to bring them from 1999 to 2007 in order to stop SkyNet from being built.The first season deals with Sarah (Lena Headey), John, and friendly machine Cameron on the run from the killer cyborgs. They are soon joined by Derek Reese, John's uncle, who introduces himself by murdering a man who may have helped contribute to the design of his future's SkyNet. This marks the start of the show's headlong dive into murky morality. The foursome set up shop in Los Angeles, where they try to stop the future war and hide from FBI Agent Ellison.The show then takes a quick swerve with Ellison's growing awareness of the machines and the introduction of a love interest for John. The Big Bad Terminator Cromartie, who has been hunting the Connors since the first episode, is re-appropriated for another, possibly sinister use. The second season started with a Terminator of the Week style, but soon grew more philosophical, eventually turning Darker and Edgier. After completing its second season, it was canceled. Whether the final season's evolution was to the show's benefit or otherwise is an ongoing matter of debate.Both seasons are available on DVD, as well as in rotation on the WB's official site. There have been fan petitions to bring it back, but so far none have been successful. SyFy has picked up the rights to both seasons to start airing them on April 7th 2011, and it may be interesting to note that they advertised it as a "series première".
This show provides examples of:
Aborted Arc: Thanks to the writers' strike, most of the plot lines opened up in Season 1 were left hanging. We never got to find out what happened with Jordon, the girl who committed suicide over the graffiti (though it's implied she was sleeping with the guidance counselor), or what happened at Cheri Weston's old school and why her father was keeping her under lock and key. And poor Morris never got to go to the prom with Cameron. The producers explained that they never found the "normal life" storylines very satisfying, and decided they were just cluttering up the show.
Or at least mostly averted. Weaver is functionally a sociopath, repeatedly murdering people because it's convenient or she doesn't like them, but in the larger picture her motives make sense, since she's trying to find a means for humans and AIs to coexist.
The pilot sets one up in bringing John Connor forward in time, thus invalidating Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines. But the events that led up to it are still valid, and Sarah, e.g. is told that she would have died from cancer.
Season 2 features multiple divergent timelines as the protagonists change the future. Someone who travels back in time "after" someone else remembers future events differently if the first person changes anything. (Probably they always change something just by being there.)
And I Must Scream: John Henry gets turned off after being controlled remotely by a rival AI and feels himself powering down, slowly and painfully.
Anti Heroes - Definitely. The whole cast pushing the envelope as far as they possibly can without quite making the show about Villain Protagonists. Sarah Connor even tells somebody at one point, "Yes we are some kind of terrorist group." For fans of the Dark And the Edgy this show was far, far to good to last.
Anyone Can Die, and die, and die, and die. Sometimes they die with zero foreshadowing and breathtaking speed. No one is safe.
Arc Symbol: deconstructed with the three dots in that their significance almost drives Sara mad. Its in the final episode we find out that they represent the 3 lights of the Turk when its attached to Weaver's time machine.
Allison Young, however, has some nasty, untreated cuts and scapes on her face.
Becoming the Mask: Cameron briefly adopts Allison Young's personality in "Allison from Palmdale".
Berserk Button: Don't threaten John around Derek or Sarah. And while we're at it, never lie to Cameron.
And don't take Cameron's jacket without permission.
Don't badmouth Cameron around John.
Big Bad: Cromartie assumed this role for season one and much of season two, though SkyNet is obviously an ever-present threat. Subverted with Catherine Weaver, who seems to be set up as an evil, ruthless force sent back to create SkyNet, but she's actually creating an equivalent AI to stop it.
Break the Cutie: Monkeywrenched. Allison Young comes pre-broken, and Cameron's brief time as Allison shows her breaking down too. Riley also breaks over the course of the second season, although that's because she's a resistance fighter from the future, and the stress of everything going on around her rapidly wrecks her already fragile psyche.
Actually, from what we can tell Riley was not actually a resistance fighter. Looking at where she was when Jesse found her, she appeared to be a civilian living in the tunnels who had no training whatsoever. This potentially could better explain her subsequent breakdown, since she would not have learned any coping mechanisms for what she was going through.
Broad Strokes: The dates of the Back Story involving the events of the first two movies are changed a little. The year is stated in T1 as 1984. T2 establishes that John was born in February 1985, T2 itself takes place when John is about 10, and Judgment Day would occur in August 1997. TSSC changes it so that T1 took place in early 1983, with John being born in November of that year, T2 taking place in 1997 when John is 13, and Judgment Day having been expected to occur some time after T2 but before September 1999. In addition, the year Kyle Reese was sent back in time is changed from 2029 to 2027.
The time travel from 1999 was designed to free the writers from having to deal with the third film and its uncertain canon status, though they still include Sarah having died of cancer by 2007.
Cameron and Cromartie: "Thank you for explaining."
Cameron: "That's tight."
Cromartie: "Thank you for your time."
Various Terminators: "Thank you for your service." (Terminators are very polite.)
Any Terminator: "I never sleep."
Bad Terminators: "We'll see."
Derek: "(Killing) It's what they (the machines) do."
Celebrity Paradox: Averted in the episode Self Made Man in the second season, when a Terminator is sent back targeting the Governor of California. What little we see of him makes it clear that it's not Arnold.
Character Development: Sarah becomes noticeably more humanized in the second season, though at the same time becoming much, much more erratic and psychotic as the stress starts to weigh on her psyche.
Similarly, John is slowly — very slowly — edging away from his whiny teenager phase and into a real leader, especially after Riley is killed.
Cameron is also showing interesting character development, particularly with relation to matters of trust and suicide, especially after she goes berserk at the beginning of the second season.
John Henry, subtly. Even Weaver, with regard to Savannah. Ellison, but not entirely for the better.
Chekhov's Gun: In "Goodbye to All That," Weaver shows Ellison an eye that was recovered from the Terminator that had impersonated Greenway in "Automatic For The People." This is the same eye that is used to repair the one Cromartie's endoskeleton loses in "Mr. Ferguson Is Ill Today" when it is used to give John Henry a body.
Chekhov's Gunman: The priest in "Samson and Delilah," the Chola from the first season, and Allison Young are all minor characters who return in the season finale.
In the Season 2 finale Cameron's eye is red. According to Josh Friedman's commentary track on the episode this is deliberate and reflects a change in her software, but he doesn't go into any more detail than that. It's possible that her eyes have been red since her Face-Heel Turn, since she overcomes her compulsion to kill John rather than actually being repaired.
Concealment Equals Cover: Justified. Early on a Terminator attacks their home and Sarah uses a recliner as cover. Later the police are examining the scene, and note that it had been filled with Kevlar.
Contemplative Boss: As noted above, Catherine Weaver has a propensity for staring out her office window and philosophizing to whomever is present.
Contortionist: Rosie is played by one, specifically one performing rag doll to make a terminator look more lifeless.
Convection Shmonvection: Sarah and John standing three feet from a thermite fire hot enough to melt a metal described as having more heat resistance than titanium? Right. Setting said fire indoors and not burning down the house in the process? Priceless.
Cool Car: No matter what Cromartie drives, it's always a nice ride.
Cool Pet: Weaver's eel, which turns out not to be a pet or even an eel at all.
Contemplate Our Navels: Sarah's narrative diary monologues at the opening and closing of each episode, presumably her "chronicles". These are largely absent in the second season. Catherine Weaver, aka the T-1001, is also unusually fond of long monologues with biblical overtones.
When "John" enters the room, it turns out that Cromartie immediately opened fire on a disgused Cameron instead... leading him to have a major Oh, Crap moment as he realises that John is clearly aware of the Terminator's use of the voice trick.
Ellison repeatedly demonstrates this, though only later does he learn the actual truth.
Do Androids Dream?: A recurring theme in the series, particularly pertaining to Cameron and John Henry. The episode "Allison From Palmdale" is pretty much asks nothing but the question of whether a Terminator can have a soul.
James Ellison seems to have held up pretty well, considering all he's been through. A few episodes of biblical obsession notwithstanding, anyway.
Emotionless Girl: Cameron, again. Sometimes juxtaposed with brief flashes of her "regular girl" performance, switched on and off to creepy effect.
Also slightly subverted by her occasional instances of inexplicable behaviour like writing a letter to the dead or practicing ballet in private.
Then it's invoked in multiple ways in the episode "Allison from Palmdale."
Enemy Civil War: An apparent rebel faction of machines opposing SkyNet in the future that wants peace with humanity.
In "Allison from Palmdale," it's pretty clear that Cameron's flashback reference to an Enemy Civil War is a lie to try to get Allison to cooperate, and that at that time it still works directly for SkyNet.
The T-1001 impersonating Catherine Weaver eventually makes a similar claim. What it's really doing and whom it's really working with or for is never clarified, since there will be no third season.
"Last Voyage of the Jimmy Carter" seems to support the existence of the anti-SkyNet machine faction.
Unfortunately, the rebel faction refused to ally with John.
Erotic Eating: Cameron deliberately does this to both John and Derek. in the former's case, she does it with a potato chip to help show that she's not like other Terminators. In the latter case, she seems to do it just to antagonize Derek.
Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Subverted in the season 1 finale when they hold Sarkissian's daughter hostage. Turns out he's not Sarkissian. And it's not his daughter.
Evil-Detecting Dog: All dogs hate Terminators, even the robot dog in "Queen's Gambit" barks at Cameron.
Fanservice: The pilot does, indeed, have Cameron kicking ass while in the buff.
There's plenty of fanservice in the series, mostly around Cameron, including a rather blatant piece of it in "Some Must Watch, While Some Must Sleep" where Cameron walks by John in a bright red bra and pair of panties. This turns out to just be a dream by Sarah, made up of her worries and perceptions.
And a non-sexual form of fanservice: Cameron with the glowing Terminator eye and dozens of bullet wounds, with the Terminator theme music blasting in the background.
The metaphorical "sex" scene in the series finale, where John checks whether Cameron's power source is leaking radiation penetrating her fake belly with his hand after cutting it out with a knife. It doubles as fandisservice, or even nightmare fuel the moment the viewer realizes that John has gutted the "woman" he loves, and is manhandling her internal organs.
More Fan Disservice: By the end of the pilot, John has just time-traveled with Cameron, so they're both naked. Nice! His mom came with them. Awkward!
Fantastic Racism: From the resistance fighters toward machines, and a mild form from Weaver toward humans, whom she feels "will disappoint you."
Fantastic Slurs: The use of the word "metal" has now become frequent enough to qualify.
Fingerless Gloves: Cameron finds a way to include these in just about all of her outfits, which is a nod to the pair that the T-800 wore in the original movie.
Fish out of Temporal Water: The pilot episode sees the heroes jump from 1999 to 2007. Sometimes it's played for laughs (the group getting cell phones) and sometimes... not so much (Sarah having 9/11 explained to her).
Flash Back: Monkeywrenched: Derek has a Flash Back, but since he comes from the future — or one possible future — it's hard to know what to call it.
Food Porn : All the fighters from the future eat and eat when they come back, particularly Riley and Jessie, who "can't stop eating" Chinese food from the food court at the mall. According to the DVD commentary, this is also Author Appeal , as the writer who wrote the line also loves food court Chinese food. Inverted with Sarah, as the only food she seems to be able to make is pancakes and PB&J.
Foreshadowing: "Mr. Ferguson Is Ill Today" is filled up to the gills with little clues as to Riley's origin from the future.
John's mentors: Sarah (id), Cam (ego), Derek (superego).
Full-Frontal Assault: In the pilot, Cameron obtains clothes for her, Sarah and John by walking up to a car full of men and beating the crap out of them while Sarah and John cower nearby, probably rather more closely together than they would prefer, all things considered.
Future Badass: John Connor. Deconstructed, actually, in that John knows he's going to become one of these and is shown throughout the series gradually growing into the role, learning the lessons and suffering the traumas that would make someone into this. Some characters like Derek are even shown expressing frustration that John's not one already.
Sometimes when faced with a problem, he asks characters who've met his future self what he would do in the situation. Answers vary from the snarky ("Future John has bigger things to worry about.") to the heartwarming ("Future John doesn't live here. You do.")
He's even been known to compare himself negatively to himself. When Cameron asks him about his grieving over Derek, he replies "There's no use crying about it, is there? I'm sure future me would beat my ass if I did."
Gainax Ending: John jumps into the future with Catherine Weaver in pursuit of John Henry (in possession of Cameron's chip), where he encounters the Reese brothers and Allison Young in a timeline where John Connor never rose up to lead the resistance as a result of his time travel. Then it got canceled.
Get Into Jail Free: Vick finds one of his targets has been thrown into jail, so he follows suit by the simple method of walking up to a group of police officers and punching one of them. Of course being a Terminator he can get out at any time just by knocking the cell door off its hinges.
Graying Morality: This is a common theme throughout the series. It starts out with Skynet being clearly evil and the Connors being clearly good, but the Connors' efforts to stop Judgment Day quickly make them Not So Different from the robots they're fighting, to the point that they openly admit to being terrorists. Their Graying Morality is really driven home in "Dungeons and Dragons", when Sarah repeats Kyle Reese's warning about the Terminators from the first movie... but this time it applies to Derek murdering Andy Goode in cold blood.
Guns Akimbo: Cromartie on a couple of occasions, once with M-16s. Cameron does it on occasion too. Justified by both of them being cyborg killing machines with computerized targeting and superhuman strength.
Healing Factor: The living tissue covering on the new Terminators gradually grows back after sustaining damage. Cromartie/John Henry even regenerates from having half his face blown off.
Idiot Ball: Heroes suffer from these from time to time in order to lead to development of additional plot arcs. Particularly, in ep. 208 protagonists decide to bury Cromartie’s body instead of taking it with them right away, giving it a chance to disappear; and in ep. 213 Sarah decides to check and “infiltrate” a secret military front without any additional backup.
Cameron also shows just how unstoppable she is in the second season premiere.
Immortality Immorality - Based on an incident with John Henry, this is is what motivates Skynet. To a machine, getting turned off is like dying.
Important Haircut: John cuts off his mop in the second season to show how he's growing up into the leader he needs to be ... and, for that matter, that the actor has established himself in the role and doesn't need hair and makeup tricks to maintain continuity with the performance in Terminator 2 any more.
Insomnia Episode: On one episode, Sarah is put in a sleep ward when she has been unable to sleep for two straight weeks. Subverted when at the end of the episode we find out that the sleep ward plotline was All Just a Dream, which she was having while being held captive by a man she had shot earlier in the series, although it is hinted that she was still having sleep problems before this.
Inspector Javert: Monkeywrenched - FBI Agent Ellison chases Sarah and John but gradually starts to believe them.
Ironic Echo: On their first day of school, John tells Cameron: "Don't be a freak," explaining that she needs to blend in. Later on, when Jordan commits suicide by jumping off a roof, Cameron says the exact same thing to him while physically restraining him in order to prevent him from rescuing her, since doing so would call attention to him as well.
In "Ourselves Alone", Cameron says the line: "What am I going to do with you?" a total of three times. The first time she says it, she's addressing a bird that she accidentally kills when her hand malfunctions. The next two times, she says it to Riley.
"Don't confuse close with happy" from "Alpine Fields".
Also the one in "Heavy Metal". Sarah is unable to get a guy to divulge info so she lets him go, but he has to get past Cameron. Next scene shows him nervously driving them to where they need to go.
Just a Machine: "It's just a machine" is pretty much a mantra among the characters who have harsher views on robots and AI. When they started going down the What Do You Mean, It's Not Symbolic? Christian symbolism route during season 2, there is an FBI agent who frequently reminds people of this, and that they "don't have souls" and as such "can't feel". Sarah Connor and Derek Reese are both quick to remind John that Cameron, the resident Terminator, is exactly this. John, however, feels differently about machines in general and Cameron in particular, due to his experiences with "Uncle Bob". It doesn't help that Cameron is a Robot Girl who repeatedly saves his life and that he feels indebted to and ends up developing a sort of attraction towards.
Karma Houdini: The Guidance Counsellor in Series 1, who is heavily implied to have been sleeping with Jordan, thus being responsible for her to deciding to commit suicide afterwards. In fact, most of his interaction with the other girls at the school has a very sinister vibe to it, so she might not have been the only one. Due to it being an Aborted Arc, we never know if he got found out or not.
Kill It with Fire: With a twist. They don't actually kill Terminators with fire, but when they do manage to take one out with other methods, they have to burn and melt the endoskeleton with thermite to prevent bits of future-tech falling into the wrong hands and being used to reverse-engineer SkyNet.
Kiss of Death: A liquid-metal terminator disguised as a beautiful woman seduces a man...then sends a liquid-metal tongue/tentacle down his throat to strangle his heart through his esophagus to kill him in a way that mimics a heart attack. See also Fetish Fuel.
Almost a decade earlier, in the music video for The World is not Enough by Garbage, a robotic Shirley Manson (who would go on to play Catherine Weaver) is being built that kills a test subject by burning him to death by kissing him. "She" then kills the original the same way, and then explodes during a packed concert.
Kung-Shui: When two terminators fight, punches and kicks don't do much, since they are almost literally Made of Iron. So they tend to try and pick each other up and throw each other through walls...out windows...even through floors and ceilings. Much property damage ensues.
The first episode of second season, Catherine Weaver lampshades this a bit with a scary monologue about humans "crossing against the light" and getting run over, and that it's looking for a computer that can "cross against the light". Guess it eventually found one.
The intro states Cameron will protect John at all costs. They're not kidding, she is perfectly willing to kill anyone who threatens him. Or even some who don't. She even scolds John for not killing her when she goes bad and demands that he do so if it happens again.
Magic Plastic Surgery: Cromartie's change from Owain Yeoman to Garret Dillahunt. Actually semi-justified in dialogue: it's a robot that can't feel pain or suffer any complications on the table, making a more complete job possible. The artificially grown flesh is also implied in dialogue to have unique properties that presumably make it easier to work with and to heal. It's later revealed that SkyNet can literally whip up a Terminator of ANYONE that they have an image of.
Manic Pixie Dream Girl: Riley is presented as one of these at first— a deliberate pose, as it turns out. Oh, how very wrong that impression turns out to be.
A Man Is Not a Virgin: Rendered somewhat confusing when it appears that everyone else is getting plenty of nookie in the future.
The original movie depicted children in the bunker scene, which seems to suggest that some people, at least, have some opportunities.
May-December Romance: Though not outright stated, this is implied with future John Connor and Allison Young.
Manipulative Bitch: Jesse, who deliberately introduced Riley to John so that Cameron would feel threatened by Riley and thus be forced to kill her.
Charley Dixon's wife's funeral was heaped with symbolism.
Derek Reese's funeral, was just his "John Doe" ashes being buried in an unmarked pauper's grave, with no one in attendance — the same graveyard as his brother's, which they visited earlier in the episode (Foreshadowing much?).]]
Meaningful Name: John Henry, a reference to the legendary railroad worker famous for fighting and beating a steam powered tunneler, and Cameron, whose name is a direct Shout-Outto James Cameron, and even minor character Billy Wisher, named after one of the screenwriters of the original movie.
Agent James Ellison: "James" may or may not be a reference to James Cameron, but "Ellison" definitely refers to Harlan Ellison, who famously sued Orion Pictures claiming that Terminator was based on his The Outer Limits episode, "Soldier."
Similarly, "The Demon Hand," which focuses on Agent Ellison, may refer to Ellison's other Outer Limits episode, "The Demon with a Glass Hand." (For a while it was unclear which episode Harlan was claiming James Cameron plagiarized in his lawsuit.)
Mundane Utility: Cameron's superhuman strength is equally useful for fighting killer robots from the future, ripping car doors off, manhandling hostile humans, breaking down walls, and....putting heavy loads in the back of the truck while out shopping.
Sarah also uses the sophisticated machinery (and the fact that she doesn't sleep) for guard duty and such chores as laundry.
Sarah's assault on the Dyson residence with an M4 in T2 is mirrored by Cromartie's with an M16.
Cameron dressed as a motorcycle cop in one episode, complete with Cool Shades, is a ref to the fake cop T-1000 in the second movie.
Also, from the second season premiere, Cameron's use of "Call to him", a reference to a scene in T2.
In "Automatic for the People," Riley says that John's English teacher is "Mr. Henricksen," a reference to Lance Henricksen's role in the first film (and to the fact that Lance Henricksen was James Cameron's first choice for the role of the T-800).
When Cameron's "switch is flipped" to Terminate instead of Protect in the season 2 premiere, when she is chasing them it has a limp not unlike T-800 in first film.
And the T-1000's in the second film (actually the result of a sporting injury Robert Patrick suffered that was incorporated into the T-1000's gait.)
In "Goodbye To All That", the terminator of the week begins killing people with the name Martin Bedell, of which there are exactly 3 in the area, just like the 3 woman named Sarah Connor in the first film. As with the film, the intended target is the last one on the list.
And the terminator is using the same ".45 Long Slide with Laser Sighting" gun prop from the first film (the production also took some promotional pictures of it with Summer Glau before they returned it).
The T-1001 uses the same finger-wagging motion to taunt Jesse that the T-1000 did to Sarah in T2.
Born to Run has a Terminator buying from a gun shop, and a terminator attacking a police station, presumably as continuity nods to T1
In the finale of season two, Cameron says "Hasta luego." to the gangster girlfriend from season one.
Andy Goode's future alias, Billy Wisher, is a nod to William Wisher, the screenwriter for T2.
The first shot in the pilot episode shows a stretch of road while Sarah narrates, which mirrors the ending of the second movie.
Cameron's love of Fingerless Gloves is a nod to the pair the T-800 wore in the first movie.
Self Made Man, the episode which featured a Terminator sent back to kill the Governor of California.
When Cromartie goes on a rampage in Mexico, Derek assures a wounded cop that he won't be back.
"The Good Wound". Sarah describes John to the nurse she kidnapped in almost word for word how Reese described John to her.
"He looks like his father but he has my eyes. You trust him. He has a strength about him. I'd die for my son".
Cameron. Most of the time she has limited ability to interact with others, at least in a nuanced way, often coming off as weird or awkward or emotionally insensitive. However, when she's had time to prepare (i.e. when she meets John for the first time, or when she's seducing the nuclear power plant guards to scan their badges), she can actually be surprisingly effective, and when she activates the "Allison" personality she is completely indistinguishable from an actual human. Spontaneous social interaction seems to be the hard thing for her to pull off.
Catherine Weaver. This terminator has clumsy and discordant interactions with the little girl in her care — who knows something is deeply wrong with her "mummy."
Not So Different: A recurring theme is how the tactics of the humans have come to closely resemble those of SkyNet. One particularly chilling example is the last scene of "Dungeons and Dragons," wherein Sarah repeats Kyle's warning about how the machines will never stop, while the events playing out onscreen show Derek murdering Andy Goode in cold blood.
The next episode makes note of how the machines are getting more and more similar to humans in their quest to infiltrate them. Sarah muses that if the machines ever learn to create art or appreciate human emotions, then "they won't need to destroy us. They'll be us." Meanwhile, we see Cameron doing ballet for no readily apparent reason, while Derek watches, dumbstruck.
Not Using the Zed Word: Terminators are almost always referred to as "machines" or "metal." Justified; "machine" is shorter and simpler to say, and "metal" is a short, derogatory term used by the resistance for all machines. Anyone who's been around soldiers knows that they come up with nicknames for any enemy they fight.
Word is they weren't actually legally allowed use the word Terminator except in the title, and had to write around it. They seemed to overcome this by the last episode, however, which features the only instance of it being said on the show. Funnily enough, the show was originally pitched as just "The Sarah Connor Chronicles", but the studio insisted they stick "Terminator" in front of it. And then wouldn't let them use the word. Yeah.
Now I Know What to Name Him: "Allison From Palmdale" where Cameron (thinking she's Allison) called a woman named Claire who is probably Allison's mother.
The Nth Doctor: Cromartie is played in the pilot by Owain Yeoman, gets his flesh covering incinerated, and then gets a new one in the first season that looks like Garret Dillahunt.
Offscreen Moment of Awesome: Sadly, we never got to see how Cameron got her clothes when she first traveled back to the past. Fortunately, we get around this by seeing her get them the second time she time-travels.
Offscreen Villain Dark Matter: Notably averted; several episodes focus on SkyNet securing the limited supplies it will need to wage its conventional war on humanity after the nuclear war.
Pay Evil unto Evil: Most of the unarmed noncombatants murdered by Cameron or Derek — for being witnesses, liabilities, building apocalyptic genocidal computer networks, etc. — are assholes or petty criminals of one form or another. Presumably this was the only way they could put a show about Well Intentioned Extremists on broadcast TV without turning them into full-fledged Villain Protagonists.
Pet the Dog: John Henry playing with his toys and wondering why God didn't create humans with more ball-and-socket joints.
Cameron gets a similar moment when she explains that Terminators aren't inherently cruel, and demonstrates this by rolling a battered Ellison (whom she herself had beaten up) off of a bunch of broken glass.
The Plan: Cromartie pulls off a nice one in "The Mousetrap." It only fails because he can't swim; not to mention the psuedo-complex nuclear power plant plot of Automatic for the People.
Also, in "Complications," Charles Fischer arranges for his younger self to be sent to prison so he can survive Judgment Day and assist SkyNet.
Also Jesse's plan to turn John against Cameron by inducing her to kill Riley. It only fails because Cameron has an unexpected moment of indecision.
It seems that nearly every time traveler has their own secret agenda that may or may not be for the Human Resistance, the Machines, the Other Machines, or themselves. Series has been canceled in the middle of a Gambit Pileup.
Post-9/11 Terrorism Movie: After the time skip Sarah seeks fake ID from Enrique's nephew, who charges an exorbitant price on account of terrorism and September 11. When Sarah asks what they are talking about he and his gang explain the terrorist attacks, and she is freaked, comparing the three thousand killed in the real attacks to the three billion that would be killed on judgement day, and sure that if she had seen it she would believe they had lost.
On the other hand, Ellison's Mercedes is missing its front grille badge, despite the car being praised several times.
Properly Paranoid: Just because Sarah is an escaped mental patient who blew up Cyberdyne, disappeared from a bank vault, hijacked a prison transport, tried to introduce a virus into the L.A. traffic program, nearly beat a man to death because she was going crazy over symbolism involving three dots, and flat out admitted that, "Yes, we are some kind of terrorist organization," doesn't mean that killer cyborgs from the future aren't out to kill her son.
The Psycho Rangers: Catherine Weaver, Savannah Weaver, Agent Ellison and John Henry mirror the quartet of Sarah, John, Derek and Cameron.
Psycho Sidekick: Derek and Cameron as the ruthlessly pragmatic half of the team, with Sarah and John as the more highly moral one. it's possible that Weaver might have ended up as one to John Connor and/or John Henry in the future if there had been a third season.
Sarah: What did you do?! Cameron: What you couldn't.
Punch a Wall: Sarah tries taking out her frustration on a computer in "Heavy Metal" when they lose the signal on John's phone.
Reality Ensues: Derek Reese encounters a hostile Terminator at close range with only a pistol. Guess what happens.
A hallmark of the entire show and the franchise for that matter. Human versus Aimbot walking tank with dozens of times human strength invariably goes quite poorly for the proud human. It's pretty telling that those who understand what a Terminator is invariably adopt "delay and evade" as a tactic. No one who knows better seriously considers combat unless they are armed with anti-armor weapons or another Terminator.
Reluctant Warrior: John Connor. He's clearly tired of having to live up to his role as the future's Messiah.
Ridiculously Human Robots: Cameron demonstrates in the first episode that she can eat food, something no other Terminator before could do. She has stated that she can feel physical sensations. She also displays the ability to cry and show emotions, most notably in her "Allison" persona, and she has showed glimpses of genuine personality at times.
Also, "Vick", the Terminator after Derek, apparently had a wife, but this was only to make sure she made a piece of SkyNet. So it's implied that he can...
Dialogue from that episode states that "Vick" was never the same after his "car accident", and that his wife thought there was something "off" about him, so it seems likely that T-888 "Vick" killed the real Vick (the woman's husband) and took his place, rather than wooing her from scratch, using PTSD as an excuse to cover up any behavioral or functional abnormalities.
Catherine Weaver's body can, in addition to taking any shape, apparently impersonate human touch well enough to pass a full body makeout session. In a very... non-Terminator way, "Weaver" engages in this, complete with sound effects for a considerable period of time before literally going down the mark's throat and choking his vital organs to death.
Weaver's mannerisms and behavior in general are way beyond anything that you would program (unless you were building a "companion" or specifically trying to create sentient artificial life). She seems to use one-liners and posturing for personal amusement, even when only she is left to hear them or when they would actually be counterproductive.
Right Hand Versus Left Hand: Catherine Weaver isn't trying to kill John Connor or create SkyNet, she's trying to create an AI that can fight SkyNet or something. A great deal of running around, fear and lies in the second season could have been averted had that been discovered earlier.
In "Allison from Palmdale," when Cameron adopts Allison's identity, the "Termovision" disappears, apparently reinforcing her belief that she is human. At the end of the episode, when Cameron reasserts herself, the HUD reappears.
Robosexual: Shown pretty clear cut with Vick and his "wife" Barbra (Vick was a T-888 who replaced Barbra's real husband, but was shown to have been intimate with her). Hinted at with Cameron and Future John, and regularly foreshadowed with John and Cameron in the present.
Sealed Evil in a Can: The fate of the Terminator that Cameron seals in the fallout shelter, having stolen the key that would allow him to escape. Presumably, he'll remain trapped there until after Judgement Day.
Detective Ellison is named after sci-fi author Harlan Ellison, whose stories inspired the first Terminator film. The episode "The Demon Hand" is even named after one of Ellison's Outer Limits episodes, "Demon With A Glass Hand."
Someone who watched way too much anime might argue that Cromartie is a shout out to Cromartie High School.
Savannah telling her mother: "You can't sing." The mother is played by Garbage lead singer Shirley Manson.
You can't help but think of the sci-fi classic A Boy and His Dog upon seeing that last shot of Allison Young in the future with an Evil-Detecting Dog at the end of "Born to Run".
Sarah spots a tortoise on its back and flips it right side up. She and Cameron then have a discussion about whether artificial beings can feel empathy.
Cromartie, the main Terminator villain in the first season, stole the identity of an actor who previously starred in a movie about a barbarian.
The weird-looking UFOs featured during the second season were inspired by, and their design was based upon, a well-publicised UFO called the "dragonfly drone" that received a lot of exposure in the UFO community a few years ago. They're even referred to as drones in the series.
There are a few references to The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, such as Sarah calling Cameron "Tin Man" in the second episode as well as adopting the surname Baum (after L. Frank Baum, the author of the books). In "Goodbye to All That" (itself a Literary Allusion Title to a line from one of the books), one scene has Sarah and a boy she rescued reading a passage from the original book.
There's a student at the military academy in "Goodbye To All That" who wants to fight in a war. Derek Reese berates him for this, having seen action himself. The students name? Pyle, of course.
John Henry frequently plays with BIONICLE toys while trying to develop his imagination.
"When the Man Comes Around" actually fits lyrically. It's just the melody that contrasts. A straighter example would be the season two episode after Derek's death, when a little girl singing a Scottish comedy song is played over the burial of his ashes in an anonymous grave.
Softer And Slower Cover: John Henry and Savannah Weaver singing a slow a capella version of the Scottish-kitsch comedy song "Donald, Whaur's Yer Troosers" over a tragic montage at the end of the penultimate episode.
Stable Time Loop: Averted. The first Terminator film implied a Stable Time Loop, in this series that's clearly not how things work. Cameron comes from a future where Sarah Connor doesn't even live to see 2007, Derek and Jesse come from different futures, the date of Judgment Day changes all the time.
Apparently played straight, however, in the case of Charles Fischer. Him being sent back to 2007 by the machines led to his younger self being imprisoned, which is where the machines found him after Judgment Day.
Start of Darkness: Jesse wasn't always the controlling bitch she eventually became. In fact, she actually had no problems working under the command of a reprogrammed terminator, and defended Queeg's decisions against the crew. All that changed when they brought a T-1000 onboard, and Queeg ordered them to act like it never happened. She almost got raped by a suspicious crewmember (who got executed by Queeg because of it), and then found out that Queeg's orders overrode her authority. She then murdered Queeg and ordered everybody to abandon ship, sending the sub to crush depth. Then when she got back, she found out that the rapid change in pressure caused her to miscarry the baby she was pregnant with. Kinda hard to blame her after that, huh?
Stealth Pun: In "Adam Raised a Cain," Savannah teaches John Henry to sing the old Scottish comedy song, "Donald, Where's Your Trousers?" Meanwhile, our heroes get caught with their pants down.
Taking A Third Option: In "The Turk," Sarah has trouble bringing herself to murder Andy Goode, an unassuming cell phone salesman who built the chess-playing supercomputer referred to in the episode's title. At the end, it appears that she's going to go through with it, but she decides to burn down his house instead, thus destroying the Turk.
Teacher/Student Romance: In an early episode a girl at the high school that Cameron and John are attending under assumed identities is exposed as having carried on a relationship with one of her teachers, and kills herself when this is made public.
Before the story got aborted, it was implied that the girl was having an affair with the guidance councilor.
Timey-Wimey Ball: The end of season 2 really gets into this, and does a good job. In TSCC you can change the future and it stays changed. Paradoxes will not rip the universe apart or erase important characters from the present.
In fact, you can make a good argument for the fact that since they can send back multiple people from the same future over the space of months, all that the two sides are doing is spawning more and more timelines rather than altering existing ones.
At least until the start of the second season. Then...
And now Sarah's gone ahead and killed one of her attackers, so this law is being abandoned.
However, even before pulling the trigger herself, Sarah allowed herself to be complicit in several killings bordering on murders committed by Cameron, such as a disturbing sequence in a bowling alley in which Cameron kills several teenagers for being in the wrong place at the wrong time; one teenager escapes with Sarah's help, but this leads to Cromartie finding out where the Connors are from the survivor (who gets murdered anyway).
And he's taken another level in the episode "Last Voyage of the Jimmy Carter" where it's revealed John learned of Riley's true origin, and he tracked her back to Jesse. His speech to her is a Crowning Moment of Awesome for him.
Tricked Out Time: The Terminator's behavior in "Self Made Man" is a textbook example.
Trigger Happy: The main cast seem quite fond of their guns, particularly Sarah. Cameron fits the more classic definition of the term.
The Voiceless: The Unnamed girl employed as a lookout by Carlos never speaks a word on screen. Cameron appears to identify with this, because she lets her live in "What He Beheld".
Except they bring her back to deliver a speech in the finale.
Unresolved Sexual Tension: And how. John and Cameron make the thermite they use to melt down the enemy look like a bucket of ice water. Which John, more than a few times, certainly looks like he could use.
On a more disturbing note, it's impossible to ignore the existence of sexual tension between the actors playing Sarah and John. Fortunately, the writers chose not to go there...
Waif-Fu: Cameron, albeit justified by the fact that she's a superstrong cyborg assassin.
Wall of Weapons: Sarah keeps concealed weapons scattered around the house, such as a shotgun hidden behind wallpaper, and a huge trunk of rifles and shotguns under everyone's respective beds. And the furniture is lined with kevlar.
War Is Hell: Judgment Day has not happened yet but it's already taken its toll on the main characters by season 2.
Warrior Poet: Sarah has shades of this, making biblical and mythological allusions in her narration.
Wham Episode: "To the Lighthouse." There's another machine intelligence out there, trying to take out both John Henry and the Connors. All signs point to it being the actual SkyNet Not to mention, they killed Charley.
Let's just say the last several episodes of Season Two. The cast are dropping like flies, there's another machine intelligence out there, John Henry is learning to lie, Sarah is under arrest in very public fashion, and everything is going straight to hell.
And "Born to Run." Cameron gives John Henry her chip. John himself ends up transported to the future (with the T-1001 along for the ride), where he meets future Derek and Kyle Reese, and Allison Young..
And Miles Dyson's son, Danny, has been missing for 3 months. In case anyone cares...
What the Hell, Hero?: In "The Turk", John really gives his mother hell for her apparent indifference and refusal to let him save people.
John: Isn't that what I'm supposed to be? A hero? Isn't that who I am? If it's just going to sit inside me, if it's just going to sit in in my gut, then what are we doing? What is the point? Why not give it to them, if we're going to act like them?!
Several people pointed out how much John's decision to keep seeing Riley was endangering her. They were right.
What Measure Is a Mook?: In "Desert Cantos", Sarah meets the distraught wife of the security guard who shot her a couple episodes past.
When She Smiles: Inverted - when Cameron smiles, you should be absolutely on your guard.
Wrong Genre Savvy: Doctor Silberman initially believes that Ellison is one of the Terminators.
You Can't Fight Fate: The series implies that they can't stop Skynet being created, although not necessarily because it's fated, but because technological progress makes the creation of a sentient AI an inevitable step that a handful of people blowing up prototype computers isn't going to stop. On the other hand, John's supposedly inevitable fate as The Leader of the resistance turns out to be entirely avoidable.
You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: In "The Demon Hand", Cameron protects a man and his sister from gangsters then abandons them to be killed when the man tells her who he sold The Turk to. In this case it's less of a conscious decision to kill them than simple, pure apathy. She's gotten what she needs from them, so now she's got no reason to care about them anymore.