The Terminator franchise has always been a bit scattered, to say the least. Each new installment tends to take what it wants from what came before, and ignore the rest, something that it was uniquely capable of due to the mechanics of time travel it used. Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles was one of these, drawing from the first two films while ignoring all but a few select points (like Sarah’s cancer) from the third. It also ended up in the particularly strange situation of having a film come out during its run that subsequently ignored its continuity AND most of Terminator 3‘s. The show actually got off to a great start, with high ratings and critical praise, until it had the bad luck of getting caught up in the 2008 Writer’s Strike. The first season was abbreviated, but fans were reassured that it would return for season 2. And it did, but without Fox’s confidence this time. Finding itself in the Friday Night Death Slot after the mid-season hiatus, it languished there until cancellation. While the showrunner, Josh Friedman, has absolutely refused to give any clues as to how the show would’ve ended or where it would have gone after that agonizing cliffhanger it signed off with, other people involved in the show have been willing to share what they knew. From these threads, let’s piece together The Sarah Connor Chronicles season 3 that could have been.
The last scene of season 2 has John Connors and Catherine Weaver (a T-1001) arriving in the future, right in the heat of the war with Skynet. When human troops come up and find John, they’ve never heard of him and have no idea who he is. This is a really wild point to have to pick up from, since it essentially indicates that the Connors family wasn’t as vital to the effort against the machines as both the heroes and Skynet had believed. John Henry has also made his way to the future, with the critical chip from Cameron’s terminator body, but the title character is still left in the past with Agent Ellison and Cameron’s inactive body. How could they deal with this split between timelines?
- According to John Connors’ actor, Thomas Dekker, one of the strong possibilities was running into an aged Sarah in the future, one who had somehow survived Judgment Day and spent the life that had once been dedicated to her son without him. The show might also have followed the Sarah in the present, sort of like a flashback, which would help to bridge the gap.
- Furthermore, he has stated that John would have to struggle with the conflict between his relationship to Cameron and Allison Young, this woman whose appearance Cameron uses (and who was shown in the last seconds of the finale, as seen above). It’s not known how exactly Cameron might come back; perhaps her Terminator body had been well-hidden by Sarah or others for all those years.
- There would also have been an adult version of Savannah Weaver, who would have been left an orphan in the previous timeline. Given that Ellison is entrusted with her care by the Catherine T-1001, might he have ended up raising the kid? It seems like she’d have just been another love interest for John, which is… eh. Enough of those already. Perhaps more interesting would be seeing Catherine’s reactions to the future Savannah.
- Another new front, revealed in the DVD commentary, would be the as of yet unrealized importance of Danny Dyson, son of Miles Dyson from Terminator 2. He was mentioned very briefly in the finale as having gone missing for 3 months, presumably to foreshadow his role in the next season. It’s not clear if his role would have been in the present, or a fully grown version in the future, however.
- Revisiting the “basement scene,” which (I believe) refers to the discovery of the bloody wall of information in season 2, was likely. Many of the things scrawled on the wall weren’t yet relevant, and remained a mystery by the time of the finale. The phrasing is unclear, so it might also be referring to the scene in the finale when Cameron is in the basement with John Henry; I honestly can’t tell. There’s also a joke in this chat log about a dog episode which looks about 95% screwing around and 5% “actually wish we could do that.”
That’s really all I can find about The Sarah Connor Chronicles Season 3 (until Friedman decides to open up, anyway), but there is one other interesting possibility to consider. I mentioned earlier that Terminator Salvation was released not long after the series ended (just over a month). Well, it was, at one point, explicitly stated that a connection between Salvation and TSCC would happen. While ultimately, Friedman and McG decided to do their own things separately, there was clearly some discussion of overlap, even well into the first season of the show. It seems like the sticking point was largely around Sarah Connor herself, and what each would be able to say or do about her. It’s ironic, then, that Sarah had absolutely nothing to do with Salvation, aside from a few clips of audio. Both the film producers and the TV show’s producers have since taken to accusing each other of ruining the franchise for them, but just imagine that: Terminator beating Marvel to the TV/Film shared universe idea by a good 4-5 years. Terminator is getting around to this idea again with the new film Genisys, which is said to have an accompanying series, but I’m not sure much hope should be placed in it if that title is any indication (UPDATE 2016: and it was; the idea’s been scrapped). One can’t help but wonder if tying the show into the movie would’ve been a good thing or not; fans of TSCC expected Salvation‘s success to save the show, but the movie bombed and killed that hope. Would changes to T4’s script to better mesh with TSCC have helped it to perform better? Doubtful, but not impossible. It certainly wouldn’t have been an Agents of SHIELD/Winter Soldier situation, either. Still, the possibility of cross-promotion might have kept TSCC alive through what was supposed to be the start of a new trilogy.
But instead, we’re left with What Could Have Been. In this case, I’m a little more okay with the cancellation than I was with Stargate Universe or Caprica; that cliffhanger would’ve been incredibly difficult to pick up from, especially on a network TV budget, and it makes an epic ending to the series, giving fans questions to wonder about for some time. Was John Connor a red herring? Some kind of obvious trap that the resistance set up for Skynet to obsess over while allowing its machines to be destroyed in a future that it no longer sees as having any consequence? A brilliant twist, if so, and a worthy installment to the Terminator franchise.
Do you wish Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles season 3 had been produced? Are there any other shows with lost seasons you’d like me to research? Leave a message in the comments, or tweet @RetroPhaseShift. You can also subscribe to the “What Could Have Been” RSS Feed here. If you’re up for a rewatch, you can always check Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles out on Amazon Instant.