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Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles was a great television program. Unfortunately it was pretty much doomed from the start by virtue of being on the Fox Network, which seems to take some sort of perverse delight in scything down promising shows in their prime and replacing them with generic crap (which is also cancelled after one season). To make things worse, season two ends on a brilliant cliff-hanger that just screams ‘renewal’. This must be how the Firely fans felt after the Foxy boneheads cancelled their beloved series. We received our second season review copy after the release date so this review is a little on the late side, for which you have our apologies.

 Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles - The Complete Second Season
Although initially sceptical about the prospect of a serialised Terminator television show, The Sarah Connor Chronicles quickly became one of my favourite series. I really enjoy its mix of compelling character-based storytelling and action, and I genuinely believe it to be one of the most intelligent and satisfying sci-fi dramas to come out of the States in recent times. One of the major reasons I took to the show was its willingness to take an established franchise and inject some fresh ideas. It could easily have gone down the ‘Terminator of the week’ path, but instead the writers chose to offer up a complex overarching story with numerous converging timelines, along with an exploration of just what it means to be human. Admittedly it wasn’t always entirely successful, but it worked more often than not and certainly made a better fist of such things than Terminator Salvation.

Although a lot of the credit must go to the writers, the actors deserve their share of recognition. The performances are almost universally excellent, with Thomas Dekker proving convincing in the central role of John Connor, the young man struggling to come to terms with what it means to have the fate of humanity on his shoulders. Lena Heady’s portrayal of Sarah Connor is softer than Linda Hamilton’s, but this is a slightly different Sarah from the ‘tooled-up Rambo’ of Terminator 2. Of course when you talk about a show with Terminators most people are going to focus on Summer Glau’s Cameron, and although she is but one piece of the puzzle the young actress does give a remarkably assured performance as the deadly killing machine. This season also affords Glau the opportunity to do a lot more with the character, especially in the episode ‘Allison from Palmdale’, in which she gets to show greater acting range than ever before.

 Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles - The Complete Second Season
It wouldn’t matter how great the leads were if the supporting cast weren’t up to the job, but thankfully Richard T. Jones’ James Ellison, Brian Austin Green’s Derek Reece, Levin Rambin’s Riley Dawson and Shirley Manson’s Katherine Weaver are all well-rounded characters with a surprising amount of screen time, and their contribution to the show’s success should not be underestimated. However, the standout turn belongs to Garrett Delahunt’s Cromartie, the ‘chief’ Terminator who relentlessly pursues the Connors before becoming part of something much larger as the series progresses. The show also has pretty decent production values and good (if not great) effects, and the season contained very few filler episodes. It’s just a pity that a show like Heroes can get away with pumping out mediocre episode after mediocre episode while still pulling in the viewers, but a consistently great series like The Sarah Connor Chronicles failed to find an audience.

Video


Episodes are presented in an HDTV-friendly 1.78:1 (1080/24p VC-1) ratio that looks a lot better than the broadcast versions I originally saw. After the slightly worrying episode recaps, which look almost like up-scaled standard definition content, the detail levels jump up a notch. Although not up to the standards set by the best film transfers the image is generally clearly defined and the essence of the series’ gritty trademark look is captured perfectly. I say generally because there are a number of scenes where the image looks a little soft, possibly filtered, but it never spoiled my enjoyment of the show. Colours are also strong and natural, the often intentionally blown-out highlights are handled well, and black levels are decent. Grain is fairly consistent across the episodes, and although it is more obvious during the many desert sequences it is never distracting (if anything it adds to the atmosphere). All things considered I was very happy with the visual representation of The Sarah Connor Chronicles presented on the Blu-rays

 Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles - The Complete Second Season

Audio


Episodes are presented in plain old Dolby Digital 5.1 (640Kbps), which I suppose was to be expected. It’s a bit of a shame though, especially when you consider that companies such as Universal are pumping out their TV shows with full lossless audio. However, the episodes still have a lot to offer aurally even without the benefit of HD sound. The soundtracks are actually quite expansive, with plenty of stereo and surround utilisation, the latter mainly for the music (which has numerous references to the ominous T-1000 theme from Terminator 2). However, effects do occasionally find their way into the rears, and we’re talking everything from ambient effects like chirping birds to full-on Terminator-on-Terminator action, with some especially memorable moments during the future war sequences. Dialogue is always clear and crisp and there’s just enough bass to let you know that something has blown up without rocking you out of chair. The audio is never going to win any awards when stacked up against a feature-length Terminator movie, but it’s still a suitably impressive accompaniment to the visuals.

Extras


There are a reasonable number of extras spread across the set’s five discs, but for me the biggest draw came in the form of the cast and crew commentaries. Admittedly there are only four such tracks—to be found on the episodes Samson and Delilah, Allison from Palmdale, Adam Raised a Cain, and Born to Run—but each one is very entertaining and offers up plenty of interesting facts and anecdotes despite some periods of dead air. The cast commentaries are slightly more entertaining than those with the production staff, but I enjoyed them all and learned some things about the actors that I didn't know. For example, I'm now going to keep a fireman's uniform handy on the off chance that I bump into Summer Glau.

 Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles - The Complete Second Season
The only feature to make use of Blu-ray's enhanced interactive features is 'Collision with the Future: Deconstructing the Hunter Killer Attack'. By using the coloured buttons, viewers have the choice of watching one of four video feeds—Production, Direction, Special FX and Visual FX—or an overall view with commentary by Josh Friedman.

'The Continuing Chronicles: Terminator' is a collection of eight featurettes presented in high-definition. Featurettes include 'Write the Future', 'Conceptualization', 'Blood and Metal', 'Designing Deconstruction', 'Choreographing Chaos', 'War Stories’, 'Setting the Tempo' , and 'Motivations', and cover a lot of the work that goes into making a successful television show.

‘The Storyboard Process: When Cameron Goes Bad’ is a short featurette that shows the importance of storyboarding the complex actions scenes. Another short featurette entitled 'Cameron vs. Rosie: Fight Rehearsal' takes a closer look at the choreography for the fight scene between Summer Glau and the contortionist who played the other Terminator. Ten deleted scenes of varying length are also included.
 
Finally we come to the gag reel, which is just the usual series of flubbed lines and people cracking up. It's amazing how many shots were ruined by planes flying overhead. All bonus material is presented in high-definition.

 Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles - The Complete Second Season

Overall


Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles is a fantastic show that was undeservedly axed before its time. I actually found it quite hard getting to the end of the series and realising all over again that none of my questions would be answered. We can only hope that there’s some sort of TV movie that ties up the loose ends, or better yet that someone commissions another season. I can’t really see either of those things happening, but I live in hope. As for the Blu-ray set, well it contains some interesting extras, and as much as I would have liked commentary tracks on every episode the impressive audio-visual experience makes up for it. If you’re a fan of the show this is a must-have purchase, and even though cancellation was a bitter pill to swallow I can at least take heart in the fact that we still have two great seasons of the show to look back on with fond memories, and what better way to do so than on Blu-ray.

* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.


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