Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles (Fox, Monday nights)
Wow! Fun! The Terminator series has always set the bar high for strong female leads (think Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor doing pull ups and then taking her psychiatrist hostage to kick off T2) She's back, in the title, in a new iteration, with an excellent addition!
Teenage John meets a girl at school, Cameron, and she is unfortunately shot by a terminator sent to kill him. When John is saved a few minutes later by a truck smashing into the terminator, we presume it's his kick-ass mom. But no, it's his kick-ass cyborg protector, Cameron the teenage terminator!
And when she said "Come with me if you want to live," I was all in!
We've seen other female action heroes in the last 2 seasons, but Cameron has one thing they don't: worthy enemies and the ability to fight them. When Cameron beats up some (admittedly obnoxious) teenage boys to get their clothes, it doesn't really seem like a fair fight. And perhaps that's my problem with the Bionic Woman. We know she can beat these guys - she's got a freakin' bionic arm. But when Cameron has to take on the bigger, older male terminators, that's a battle worth rooting for!
Like Claire on Heroes, we know that Cameron can survive being hit or stabbed or shot. But what makes her much more fun to watch is that she fights back. Claire seems relegated to getting beat up or killed, and then healing -- pretty passive for a hero.
Cameron is anything but passive. In fact, Sarah has to reign her in from killing. Yes, Cameron has robot issues. Sarah calls her "the tin man." When Cameron shoots an old friend of Sarah because "He was possibly lying," Sarah asks "Why did you do that?" Cameron replies "Because you wouldn't." So an interesting dynamic is born of Cameron being able to push the envelope in terms of taking actions that even Sarah, with her unique moral universe, will not.
Sarah's ability to draw the line at not killing other humans is part of how she defines herself, and the theme of identity plays large in the show. Sarah and John have to change their identities all the time to stay safe. The second hour starts with Sarah ruminating, "Through it all I knew who I was and why I'm here." But now she feels she's gone too far, taken on one alias too many: "Maybe if you spend your life hiding who you are, you might finally end up fooling yourself."
After going through a lot of trouble, Sarah obtains new identities for the three of them. Again, this is a profound action for her: "A new identity, a chance - you can't put a price on that."
But by the end of hour two, she despairs, "I don't even know what my name is." Cameron doesn't hesitate: "Sarah Connor."
Cameron has no self-doubts wracking her. She says that John taught her the phrase "Know thyself and thou shalt know all the gods of the universe." But her version is this: "Know thyself because what else is there to know?"
But Cameron also knows the future. She knows how strong and brave Sarah and John can be and will be, even when they doubt. And for Cameron, it's clear who Sarah is. Future John has told her: "You're the best fighter he knows." Bring it on!