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Terminator odds and ends.

The final episode of the second season of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles aired tonight, but I won't be seeing it just yet, since I only started catching up on this year's episodes about a week ago. It's been fun blitzing through the season so far, though; while there's a certain hit-and-miss quality to the series as a whole, it does explore some fascinating ideas, and I am particularly intrigued by the way it has introduced explicitly religious elements in places where I always thought the original films were somewhat lacking.

For example, when former FBI agent James Ellison tries to teach the artificial intelligence known as John Henry that it is wrong to let someone die, he bases this assertion on his belief that human life is made in the image of God and is therefore sacred. The viewer may or may not share Ellison's belief in this regard, but to my ears, this is at least a more potentially engaging argument than the one John Connor made in Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991), when he tried to persuade the reprogrammed Terminator that you can't go around killing people "because you just can't, okay?"

I still have several episodes to watch, so I can't say much more about the series just yet. But for now, let me say that I am one of the many people who hopes Fox renews this show for at least another season, despite its low ratings.

Meanwhile, in other news, io9 (via Carmen Andres) has posted a chart that attempts to show the entire history of the Terminator franchise, including all the timelines that have been revealed in the movies and TV episodes to date. It looks fun, but if I were to take it at all seriously, I think the chart makes three errors:

First, it assumes that the various shows agree on the elements that ought to be common to all of the timelines, including the birth of John Connor. But this is not so; while the first two movies established that John Connor was conceived in May 1984 and born in February 1985, the TV series has pushed his date of birth back to November 1983, and the third movie seemed to push it even further back, to the late 1970s.

Second, it assumes that the various shows are all part of the same continuity, even if that continuity is constantly being rewritten by the multiple jumps back in time. But everything I have heard indicates that the franchise hits a fork in the road after the second movie, and that all the subsequent movies are completely separate from the TV show. There simply does not seem to be any cross-pollination between the timeline of the later movies and the timelines of the TV series.

Third, it seems to assume that the franchise has followed a consistent approach to temporal mechanics, such that every leap back in time creates a new and slightly different timeline; the chart even goes so far as to refer to a "first John Connor" who existed before Kyle was sent back in time to become the father of all the other John Connors. But one of my own longstanding complaints about the second movie is that it radically disagreed with the first movie on this point. The first movie – like other time-travel films of its era, such as The Final Countdown (1980) and The Philadelphia Experiment (1984) – followed an old-fashioned closed-loop approach to temporal mechanics, wherein the future fulfills the past and vice versa; but the second movie posited that one could break free of that loop and act in ways that rewrite the future. To keep the franchise going, the subsequent movies and TV show have had to find some sort of middle ground between the two approaches, and they haven't always been successful.

Let's put it this way: If the John Connor who existed before Kyle came back in time was not the John Connor who existed after Kyle came back in time, then what do we do with that photo of Sarah Connor that Kyle fell in love with before he came back in time? You know, the photo that was created after Kyle had come back in time and impregnated Sarah with John?

If we follow the io9 chart, then we would have to posit that the photo was created on the second timeline but somehow ended up in Kyle's possession on the first timeline – but that doesn't seem very likely.

Turning to other news – and speaking of the photo! – SlashFilm reports that that famous snapshot of Sarah Connor will make an appearance in the fourth movie, Terminator Salvation, which opens May 21. CHUD.com also reports that Linda Hamilton, the actress who played Sarah Connor in the first two movies, has recorded a brief voice-over for the "very beginning" of the new movie.

As for Arnold Schwarzenegger, the original Terminator, whose possible involvement in this film has been the subject of much speculation over the past few years, former football star Terry Crews recently told the MTV Movies Blog that both he and Arnold will have cameos in the film – but the shoot was so secretive, Crews says he has no idea what sort of cameo Arnold will have.

Meanwhile, Moviehole reports that the ending to Terminator Salvation has been completely changed because a major spoiler got leaked last year. And if there was ever any truth to that spoiler, then I have to say, I'm kind of glad it's been written out of the movie.

Finally, you can see a new poster for the upcoming movie here, the first five pages of the comic-book adaptation here, and one of three brand new TV spots here:

Click here if the video file above doesn't play properly.

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