When you are heavily invested in a television show you expect certain things from it. You expect to be entertained. You expect to be challenged. You expect to question. And sometimes, albeit rarely, an episode exceeds all of your expectations. “Today is the Day” is one of those episodes. At the risk of just outright gushing, this episode was a significant turning point in the show. Although its primary focus was Sarah’s fight to raise and protect a son destined to save the world, it has dealt less with John’s growth into that leader. Not anymore. Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles has arrived. I hope it is not too late.
Last week’s “to be continued...” ended with two plot lines in mid arc. John was dealing with the death of Riley (at the hands of Jesse) and in the future Jesse’s sub has picked up a mysterious package from “the metal.” We will deal with the package first.
The crew of the USS Jimmy Carter is nervous about the mystery package and feels it threatens their safety. The T-888 on board, Queek, will not reveal the nature of the package. The crew disobeys an order and opening it up find a T-1000, shape-shifting, terminator. A crew member pulls a gun. The T-1000 promptly stabs her and takes the crew member’s shape and appearance. It then escapes into the ventilation system of the sub.
Jesse and Queek disagree about how to proceed. She wants him relieved from duty because she believes he is malfunctioning. He disobeys the order and Jesse is forced to take him down. After shooting the T-888 she breaks the submarine’s equipment, sending it towards crush depth. She wants to destroy the T-1000 on board while the crew gets to an escape pod. Just as she is entering the escape pod the T-1000 materializes. It says to her, “Tell John Connor the answer is no.” Jesse escapes in the pod and just as the sub is being destroyed we see the T-1000 slither out. Future John had been working to bring the T-1000 to the side of the resistance. His plan failed.
In the present, John is still struggling with Riley’s death. He doesn’t think Cameron did it so he sets out on his own. As Jesse comes back to her hotel room John is there waiting for her. This confrontation was the probably the second best scene of the season (first is coming). John reveals he has known about Jesse for a while. He always knew that something was off about Riley and felt she treated him differently than just a regular guy. He knew about Jesse’s plan to turn John away from Cameron, but he laments that even with the knowledge, he did nothing to help Riley. This scene shows the inner torment John lives with. He tells her the reason he trusts machines over humans is that humans eventually let you down. Humans should be better. They are not. He tells her he will let her live because they both need to live with Riley’s death.
John lets Jesse go. As she leaves, she meets Derek in the parking lot. He tells her he doesn’t know her. They come from different futures and she is different than the girl he fell in love with. He also tells her that although John told Derek to let her go, Derek feels it is a mistake. She runs. He pulls a gun but can’t force himself to pull the trigger.
Derek and John meet in the hotel room. John asks him, “What do they think of me, in the future?” For all the bravado and expectation, John is basically a kid. He is worried and scared. This is brought into stark reality when we see John, Sarah, and Cameron sitting on the couch in their house. John begins crying and lays his head in Sarah’s lap. Sometimes it’s all just too much.
I wish I could put into words the depth of this episode. I honestly don’t think that I can. It explored the emotional torment of each character in such subtle, yet brutal ways. We saw the motivations behind future John’s actions and pain he lives with. And in the end, we saw that he is just a teenager given the task of saving the world.
“Who are you?”
“I’m John Connor.”