- Combined with one of the biggest Tear Jerker moments ever, John's breakdown when he realizes that the T-800 has to destroy itself to prevent the creation of Skynet. The kid has been through hell the entire movie, and its here that he completely loses it at the thought of losing not just his bodyguard, not just his friend, but the closest thing he has ever had to a father."I order you not to go. I order you not to go! IorderyounottogoIorderyounottogo!"
"On T2, I wondered if I could get the audience to an emotional place where they would cry for the Terminator. That was my goal: Could I take world's coldest motherfucker and turn you around in a two-hour time period to where you actually felt sorry for him? Forget about all the hoo-ha with the liquid metal guy: that was fun, but getting the audience to cry for the Terminator was the big cinematic challenge. That's the reason I made the movie."
- "I know now why you cry... but it is something I can never do."
- The Terminator apologising to John and hugging him, two things nobody could have ever imagined its predecessor doing.
- Sarah offering her hand in friendship to The Terminator as a fellow warrior, which it graciously shakes.
- And the thumbs-up.
- After the T-800 has finally sunk fully into the steel, John tearfully turns to Sarah, and she hugs him in genuine comfort. This was a woman who he had initially turned to for a hug after breaking her out of Pescadero, and her response was to pat him down for injuries and reprimand him for putting his life at risk. Now she was his mother.
- According to James Cameron himself, this one moment was the axis around which the entire movie turned:
George From Jungle: Notice how T1000 dies, hysterical painful death. T800 dies in same lava, but he takes it like a man. I think it's symbolic. Evil is hysterical and cowardly, Good is calm and courageous !
- One Youtube comment illustrates the subtext of the finale:
- One scene stands out in T2: "Hey wait, you swore!" "Trust me."
- Bonus points for the T-800 finally getting the smile right.
- And when he drives away the police with a gatling gun and a grenade launcher, the T-800 scans the area. The screen from his view reads "Human Casualties: 0.0". He did learn, despite of the tremendous amount of Loophole Abuse he pulled off.
- "I need a vacation". The T-800 actually learned how to humor!
- Sarah's last piece of narration: "The unknown future rolls toward us. I face it for the first time with a sense of hope, because if a machine, a Terminator, can learn the value of human life, maybe we can too."
- Sarah's realization that the T-800 is actually the best possible father John could have.Watching John with the machine, it was suddenly so clear. The Terminator would never stop. It would never leave him, and it would never hurt him, never shout at him, never get drunk or hit him, or say it was too busy to spend time with him. It would always be there. And it would die to protect him. Of all the would-be fathers who came and went over the years, this thing, this machine, was the only one who measured up. In an insane world, it was the sanest choice.
- Unfortunately, recognizing a Terminator's worth is very likely what drives her to take that shot at killing Miles Dyson. She was obviously thinking about it when the T-800 shared its inside knowledge of Skynet's rise to power, but put it off because they were already safely halfway to Mexico and she felt her first duty was protecting John; even if she pulled it off, heading back to LA to kill Dyson would almost certainly result in her either being killed by the T-1000 or arrested by the cops followed shortly by being killed by the T-1000. Once she believed that the T-800 was more than capable of taking her place as John's protector and mentor, she liked those odds. She entrusted John to the T-800 for what may be the entire rest of his life.
- It could also be a bit of Fridge Horror. This is a machine designed to kill. It can't feel love, compassion, or joy. All it can do is perform actions based only on logic and orders. But solely because it won't abuse, abandon, or neglect him, she sees it as the best parent.
- When John tells the Terminator to reveal itself to the Dysons, he takes their son Danny away to see his room and spare him more trauma. It's especially sweet when you consider that John didn't have much of a childhood himself and would rather not have an innocent child caught up in this any further.
- Not to mention the selfless ways the Dysons instantly act to protect one another during Sarah's initial attack: Tarissa dragging Danny out of the living room, Danny breaking away from her to throw himself between his daddy and Sarah, Miles pushing Danny aside so Tarissa can cover the boy with her own body. They're ordinary middle-class suburbanites, and they're absolutely terrified by the violence that's exploded into their happy home. Yet every single one of them is plainly ready to risk death to save the others, by pure instinct.
- The T-800's backup power activating becomes one in the special edition, thanks to the scene of Sarah and John removing his block on learning and developing. This makes it clear that what's actually happening here is that he's no longer just following his programming, but actually cares about John and Sarah and is going to do whatever he can to save them.
- More specifically, he goes to help Sarah. His mission is to protect John, so him helping Sarah was a conscious decision even though she doesn't like it at all.
- The scene where John laments to The Terminator about his life up to meeting it. It's pretty heartwarming that he can confide to a machine who at the time didn't understand human emotion, but was willing enough to listen.
- John's decision to call his foster parents and warn them that the T-1000 is coming shows that despite his dislike of them, he still cares enough to make sure they don't get killed. Too bad he didn't warn them in time.
- John's intrinsic value of life full stop. No matter the odds, no matter how much easier it would be to just kill any person who could jeopardise their mission, no matter who is taking charge of the situation, John refuses to compromise and sink to the level of the enemy.
- In a blink and miss it moment the reunion of Sarah and Enrique has their dog not actively barking or snarling at the Terminator. This isn't a case of forgetting as Max - John's pet dog - was very much freaking out to the point John notices it when the T-1000 was impersonating Janelle. It's clear that Enrique's dog doesn't find the Terminator a threat, and in fact shows very subtly that the Terminator is gradually learning about the value of human life.
- As painful as it is to watch, Dyson shows the true goodness of his character with how he faces death. The S.W.A.T. team who shot him up (thinking he was a terrorist) comes upon him sitting against a desk, convulsing in agony as he's dying. Does he growl "See you in hell!" and drop the detonator? No. He warns them that he can't hold it up much longer and he hangs on until his very last breath, so that the men who've just fatally wounded him have time to escape with their lives.
- The alternative ending that remained in the deleted scenes. We see an aged Sarah Connor in the playground of the future, but not destroyed by nuclear war. She monologues hope was given to her by the Terminator. An adult John Connor, who is, in stark contrast to the opening of the film - he's not heavily scarred or grimly waging war on the machines, but happily playing with his daughter. A future given to him by the Terminator.
- Just the fact that Sarah Connor has a grandchild. After spending most of John's childhood training him for war, Sarah can now make up for it.
Heartwarming / Terminator 2: Judgment Day