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Holy crap, it's the Taminator.


"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."


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, 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 subsequently 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. Recently[1] Syfy has picked up the rights to both seasons and is set to start airing them on April 7th. It should be interesting to note that they are advertising it as a SERIES PREMIERE. As the channel has a history of bringing back shows that got Screwed by the Network this could potentially be a good thing. However currently there is no word on what it might mean for a possible return for the series.

Tropes used in Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles include:

  • Aborted Arc: Thanks to the writer's 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.
  • Action Girl: Both Sarah and Cameron
    • Also Jesse.
    • Even Riley. Just for a moment.
    • In fact, the tagline of the series should be Girls Gone Wild.

Derek: Remind me again, why are the boys out here and the girls in there?
John: Because one of the girls is harder than nuclear nails.
Derek: And the other one's a cyborg.

  • Action Mom: Sarah Connor herself
    • Catherine Weaver claims the title in the finale.
  • Adult Fear: When John Henry, in the recycled body of Cromartie, led little girl Savannah to his basement. "Would you like to play hide and seek?" Oh no, not the innocence.
    • It really doesn't help that Garret Dillahunt also played a creepy NAMBLA-type pedophile on SVU.
    • Plus that kid eating cannibal in The Road
    • And in the remake of The Last House on the Left, a psychopath who tries (unsuccessfully) to force his own son to rape a girl, and then rapes her himself while his brother forces his son to watch.
    • And Simon Escher of Burn Notice (former government assassin/agent who started killing for fun instead of business), Life's Roman Nevikov (a Russian mob boss, need more be said?)... how 'bout we just say "it doesn't help that JH was played by Garret Dillahunt"?
  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: Averted with both "Weaver" and John Henry.
  • Alternate Timeline: 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 could without quite making a 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 Too 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.
    • Except John, of course.
  • Arc Words (three dots, "Will you join us?")
    • Carried over into season 2 was Kyle's quote "I'd die for John Connor" and its variations.
  • Ate His Gun: Almost happened to Derek. This allowed him to meet Jesse.
    • "Hey. Your fly's open."
  • Backstory
  • Badass: Sarah, Cameron, Cromartie, and Derek.
  • Ballistic Discount: Subverted, where we get to see how advanced a T-888 is due to its less violent handling of the intricate world of human finances.
  • Battle Discretion Shot: The fight between the FBI and Cromartie at the end of Season 1.
  • Beauty Is Never Tarnished: Both justified and averted; Cameron routinely gets banged up, but her skin goes back to normal due to her epidermal layer's Healing Factor. Lampshaded occasionally.

John: You're healing quickly.
Cameron: Faster than you.

    • 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.
  • Bloodstained-Glass Windows: A couple of episodes in second season, complete with booby-trapped baptismal fonts, crossfire (no pun intended) ambushes in front of the altar, and crucified villain shots.
  • Blue and Orange Morality: Cameron's concept of morality begins and ends with John Connor.
  • Boot Camp Episode / Gender Separated Ensemble Episode: "Goodbye To All That" has John enroll in military school and Derek sign up as a teacher while Sarah and Cameron protect a little boy wrongfully targeted for termination..
  • 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, though 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 Backstory 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.
  • Bullet-Proof Fashion Plate: Weaver
  • Cancelled by the Network (yep, it's officially done).
  • Casting Gag: Shirley Manson's interview comments about a certain fetish are well-known. It can't be a coincidence that her character can morph into a urinal.
  • The Cast Showoff: Summer Glau's ballet skills pops up again. Subverted by "Catherine Weaver" (played by the lead singer of Garbage) because Savannah says her mommy can't sing.
  • Cat Fight: Averted with great force in the truly brutal, and emotionally wrenching, fight to the death between Jesse and Riley.
    • Played straight between Cameron and that other terminator who she twisted up like a pretzel.
  • Catch Phrase: Several characters.
    • 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."
    • Any Terminator: "We'll see."
  • Celebrity Paradox: Wonder how the Connors reacted when they found out who became the Governor of California during the time skip.
  • 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.
  • Cheshire Cat Grin: Anytime a Terminator smiles.
  • The Chosen One: Subverted in the series finale. John Connor travels to the future, where not only has no one ever heard of him, but the resistance is still alive and well without his leadership.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Cameron's out-of-the-blue comments early in the series, and her even more out-of-the-blue commentary after her chip was damaged.
  • Color Coded for Your Convenience: Cameron's eyes, HUD and 'internal brain lights' are blue; while those of the Terminators of the Week are red.
    • 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.
  • Color-Coded Patrician: Weaver
  • Come with Me If You Want to Live: Cameron does this in the first episode, unsurprisingly.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Cool Shades: In "The Demon Hand," Cameron finally dons a pair of motorcycle cop sunglasses. Very large ones.
  • Cop Boyfriend: Sarah's landlady had one. Ultimately subverted.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Weaver appears to be, then turns out to be a Terminator, then turns out to be on John Conners side.
  • Crazy Prepared: The Connors as a whole, including the shotgun in the umbrella stand and the recliner filled with kevlar.
  • Creepy Monotone:
    • Summer Glau plays both its use and its absence to chilling effect.
    • Cromartie, especially when he becomes part of the Turk/John Henry.
  • Cute Bruiser: Guess who?
  • Dangerously Genre Savvy: Sarah: In the shoot out in the first episode, Cromartie shoots at Sarah and she dives behind a chair. Later, when police are investigating the scene, Ellison comments that the chair was lined with Kevlar.
  • Dangerous Sixteenth Birthday: And how.
  • Darker and Edgier: Wins bonus points for making The Terminator darker and edgier.
  • Dawson Casting: Summer Glau as Allison, and as the cyborg named Cameron that is based on Allison.
    • Pointed out by John when he said that he's technically 23 but he's stuck looking 15 because of time travel.
  • Dead Ex Machina: When Kyle Reese appears to Sarah.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Cameron and Derek seem to take turns at this, though John and Sarah have been known get a few in too.
  • Death Glare: "Its not safe for you here."
    • Cameron's death glare is good for intimidating fellow students as well, though one nerdish boy on Pizza Day seemed rather turned on by the experience. "Hectic!"
  • Death Is Dramatic: Totally, completely, and absolutely averted.
  • Dead Person Impersonation / Kill and Replace: Cameron impersonating Allison, and the machines impersonating Vick and Greenway.
  • Determinator: Well, yeah.
  • Died in Your Arms Tonight: Michelle Dixon.
  • Disc One Final Boss: Sarkissian.
  • 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.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: This.
  • Doppelganger: Cameron impersonating Allison, the unnamed Terminator impersonating Ellison.
  • Dramatic Wind: Happens to Cameron in "Vick's Chip" during the Death Glare scene. It's very brief but so awesome.
  • Driven to Suicide: Riley Except, maybe not. It may have been a Batman Gambit. Also, Cameron suggests this is the cause of John's gun 'accident'. Derek also contemplates suicide.
  • Driving Question
  • Dysfunction Junction: Find someone on the main cast who isn't screwed up.
    • Catherine Weaver. Maybe.
    • 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 who 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.
  • 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.
  • Eye Scream:
    • The end of "Some Must Watch While Some Must Sleep".
    • And earlier, in "The Turk"; "It took his eyes, James. It took his freakin' eyes."
    • Cameron killing a terminator by twisting its body like a pretzel and stabbing its eye with the heel of its own boot.
  • Face Heel Turn: Enrique, a bit character from Judgment Day who helped Sarah, tries to snitch her out to the feds.
  • Failure Is the Only Option: The characters can try to keep casualties to a minimum (it doesn't work) and/or delay Judgment Day as long as possible, but "winning" much of anything would end the series.
  • Fake American: Sarah is played by a Brit.
  • Fan Service: 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 Sleep, While Some Must Watch" 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.
  • 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.
  • Faux Symbolism: Used with constant Christian references, with an oblique Lampshade Hanging when the Corrupt Corporate Executive's underlings show chagrin at her constant Contemplate Our Navels Bible references.
  • 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).
  • Five-Man Band
  • Flash Back: Monkeywrenched - -Derek has a Flash Back, but since he comes from the future--or one possible future--it's confusing what to call it.
  • Foreshadowing: "Mr. Ferguson Is Ill Today" is filled up the gills in little clues as to Riley's origin from the future.
  • Freudian Trio: Sarah (ego), John (id), Cameron (superego).
    • John's mentors: Sarah (id), Cam (ego), Derek (superego)
  • Friday Night Death Slot
  • Full-Frontal Assault: In the pilot, Cameron obtains clothes for her, Sarah and John by walking up naked to a car full of guys and beating the crap out of them while Sarah and John full frontal cower nearby, probably rather closer 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."
  • 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.
  • Glowing Eyes of Doom: No need to mention any.
  • Godiva Hair: See pic.
  • 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.
  • Hell-Bent for Leather: Cameron seems really attached to her leather jacket.
  • Heroic BSOD: Cameron - quite literally - goes through several of these in "Allison from Palmdale."
  • Heroic Sociopath: Catherine Weaver is one of the good guys.
  • Hot Mom: Sarah Connor, obviously.
    • Weaver.
  • Honor Before Reason: John runs rampant with this.
  • Hot Sub-On-Sub Action: The USS Jimmy Carter vs. the SkyNet Kraken.
    • Mostly consisting of the Carter spotting the Kraken and then running like Hell.
  • I Cannot Self-Terminate: Cameron gives John a kill-switch for a bomb in her head at the end of "Ourselves Alone."
  • Imagine Spot: A lot in "Self Made Man".
  • I'm Not Hungry: Allison Young refuses to eat while being held prisoner by SkyNet.
  • Implacable Man: Cromartie is a T-888, slightly more advanced than Arnold's T-800, and thankfully unrelated to Arnie's Made of Explodium T-850 from Terminator 3.
    • Cameron also shows just how unstoppable she is in the second season premiere.
  • 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.
  • Innocent Fanservice Girl: Played with with Cameron. She's not innocent, per se... she just doesn't care.
  • 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".
  • Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique: Played with a twist in "Complications," where Derek tortures Charles Fischer's younger self to get the older version to talk.
    • 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
  • Killer Robots
  • 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.
  • Knife Nut: Cameron with a hunting knife anyone?
  • Kryptonite Ring: Cameron giving John the detonator.
  • 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.
  • Lady of War: Cameron and Sarah.
    • Weaver, with her tailored suits, perfect hair and deadly blades.
  • Laughing Mad: Dr. Peter Silberman in "Demon Hand."
  • Look Both Ways: Terminators show utterly no ability to do this. Perhaps they figure cars are machines, and thus should be on their side against the humans?
    • 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.
  • Mama Bear: Sarah again.
    • 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.
    • Papa Wolf: Derek Reese, toward John.
  • 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.
  • Meaningful Funeral:
    • 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-Out to 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.)
  • The Medic: Charley Dixon.
  • Morality Pet: Savannah, to John Henry.
  • Mugging the Monster: The crime boss who goes after the Connor, unaware that all of them can fight and one is a killer robot.
  • 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.
  • Murder Is the Best Solution: Cameron advocates this theory, which is only natural, as she is a Terminator.
  • Names to Run Away From Really Fast: Queeg
  • Neck Lift
  • No Social Skills
    • 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's changes across the first season.
    • Not to mention Cromartie's changes in personality. He goes from Cromartie to John Henry and then possibly Cameron.
  • Offscreen Teleportation: Catherine Weaver seems to do this a lot.
  • 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.
  • Older Than They Look: Because of time travel.
  • Ominous Walk: Cameron, especially in "Samson and Delilah."
  • Omniglot: Cameron: English, Armenian, Russian, Spanish, and Japanese as of the end of the second season.
  • The Other Darrin: Sarah, John, Dr. Silberman, Mrs. Dyson, played by different actors than their film equivalents
    • Also, Cromartie has been played by two different actors, but they justified this with the original Cromartie being burned to his exoskeleton and needing a new body and face. This was presumably intentional, not the result of actors being unavailable or aging out of their roles like the other examples.
      • Garret Dillahunt was the actor that they wanted for the pilot, but there was a scheduling conflict. So if they'd gotten him in the first place we might not have gotten the neat Cromartie-regenerates-himself subplot, OR we might not have gotten Dillahunt in the series proper (which would have been a TRAGEDY).
  • Out-of-Genre Experience: The bridge scenes in "The Last Voyage of the Jimmy Carter" could easily be mistaken for scenes from a Darker and Edgier version of SeaQuest DSV.
  • Parental Substitute: Both Charlie Dixon and Derek Reese act as father-figures to John.
  • 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 Power of Trust: John trusts Cameron absolutely, to the point that he tells Jesse that even if he did believe Riley's death was caused by Cameron, it would not have broken his trust for her.
  • Product Placement: John Henry playing with Bionicle figures and even acknowledging the storyline behind them.
    • 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.

Cameron: Breaking the computer won't help.

  • Put Down Your Gun and Step Away: Subverted by Derek Reese, who simply shoots.
  • 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.
  • Retired Monster: Charles Fischer.
  • 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.
  • Robo Cam: "Termovision"
    • 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.
  • Robot Girl: Cameron. A very scary one, too.
  • Room 101: The basement in "Dungeons & Dragons."
  • Room Full of Crazy: The basement in season 2 had names, numbers and dates written on the walls in blood.
  • Running Gag: Cameron wants to kill birds. No less than three times she's portrayed as wanting to do this, and are we really expected to believe the one she did was was an accident?
  • Sarcastic Confession: Really, that is where she got the car.
  • Scannable Man: Derek Reese and his fellow future resistance fighters who spent time in SkyNet work camps have barcode tattoos. We even get to see Derek's being applied in a Flash Forward.
    • "Allison From Palmdale" shows Allison getting a bar code burned onto her skin as well.
  • The Schlub Pub Seduction Deduction: You just know the plant manager is toast in "Goodbye to All That."
  • Screwed by the Network: Oh hey the fourth movie is coming out, no need to have a TV show to build hype for it anymore or anything.
  • Screw Destiny
  • Series Mascot: Take a guess...
  • Seventh-Episode Twist: "Brothers of Nablus" in season 2 ends with Cromartie finding out where the Connors live.
  • Ship Tease: The series is constantly teasing at John/Cameron, and there are hints of Future!John and Allison Young.
  • Shoot the Dog: Derek does this sometimes. Cameron, on the other hand, doesn't shoot the dogs; she nukes them (although this is sometimes Played for Laughs).
    • And now that The T-1001 has been "revealed" to haven been one of the good guys all along, or so she says, her multiple murders seem to fall here too.
  • Sixth Ranger: Derek Reese, who starts off a mysterious guy from the future.
  • Small Girl, Big Gun: Sarah and Cameron, on a regular basis.
  • Smart People Play Chess: A flashback scene shows Sarah Connor entering a South American guerrilla camp; sitting in a jungle clearing is her son playing chess with their commander.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: Cromartie slaughters an entire FBI HRT unit to the upbeat but lyrically disturbing Johnny Cash song "When the Man Comes Around".
    • "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.
  • Spotlight-Stealing Title
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Talking To Herself: Cameron having a series of very creepy interviews with Allison.
  • 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.
  • Temporal Sickness: Time-lag.
  • Terminator Twosome: Cameron and Cromartie, sort of.
  • That's What I Would Do: Cameron predicts the actions of enemy Terminators this way, in a possible Call Back to T2.
  • 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.
  • There Are No Therapists: Both played straight and averted.
    • Hey, even AIs need therapists.
  • There Was a Door: But the wall was much faster.
  • Thou Shalt Not Kill: Only the Connors subscribe to this.
    • 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).
  • Time Travel
  • Took a Level in Badass: John, during the season 2 premiere.
    • 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.
  • Two First Names: John Connor, John Henry.
  • Unflinching Walk: "Weaver," after destroying the warehouse in the desert. Complete with an Out of the Inferno moment.
  • The Voiceless: The Nameless 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 not impossible to ignore the existence of sexual tension between the actors playing Sarah and John. Fortunately, the writers chose not to go there...
  • Unusual Euphemism: From the pilot: "You might want to put those back in the holster." Cameron is initially confused.
  • Very Special Episode: "The Good Wound" obliquely dealt with domestic violence.
  • Waif Fu: Cameron, albeit justified by the fact that she's a superstrong cyborg assassin.
  • 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.
      • Plus they frakking killed Derek!! Out of nowhere! Towards the beginning of the episode, even! What is it with FOX and out-of-the-blue deaths lately?
      • 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 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.
  • World of Badass
  • Xanatos Gambit: 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.
  • 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 and simple, pure apathy. She's gotten what she needs from them, so now she's got no reason to care about them anymore.
  • You Shall Not Pass: Charley Dixon.
  1. April 2011