The Terminator Plot Fox Killed By Canceling The Sarah Connor Chronicles

To say the Terminator timeline is pretty confusing at this point would be an understatement. The franchise, created with the release of James Cameron's seminal 1984 effort "The Terminator," has since been softly rebooted, retconned, and generally mishandled by successive generations of studios and filmmakers. So twisted is the saga's internal timeline that watching the "Terminator" movies in any kind of coherent order has become a challenge not unlike trying to destroy the T-800 himself. 

Prior to the release of 2019's "Terminator: Dark Fate," things seemed to be looking up. With the help of James Cameron on producing duties, director Tim Miller decided to forget the three lackluster films that followed the modern classic that is 1991's "Terminator 2: Judgement Day" and simply pick up where that stellar entry in the franchise left off. Unfortunately, when "Dark Fate" debuted we were treated to yet another generic action blockbuster that put Arnold Schwarzenegger's iconic T-800 in the role of a suburban Texas dad with a drape-fitting business. In other words, there's a reason why Schwarzenegger has since decided he's finished with the Terminator franchise.

But "Dark Fate" wasn't the first Terminator-related media to disregard everything after "T2." The TV series "Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles" did exactly the same thing, arguably to much better effect, back in 2008 when its first season launched on the Fox network. Created by writer and executive producer Josh Friedman — who would later go on to provide the story for "Dark Fate" — the show is often cited as a rare worthwhile entry in the canon, post-"T2," but was unfortunately canceled after its second season. Since then, there's been little information available about what the writers had planned for the unrealized season three. But the show creator has let some details slip.

The Sarah Connor Chronicles season three remains a mystery

"The Sarah Connor Chronicles" wasn't the biggest show in the world — hence the unceremonious ending — but maintains a cult following to this day. The series focused on Sarah Connor (Lena Headey) and her son, John (Thomas Dekker) as they tried to prevent the creation of Skynet after it's revealed that the events of "T2" merely postponed Judgment Day, i.e. the moment the superintelligence becomes self-aware and launches the world's nuclear weapons in order to destroy the human race. 

When the show ended, John had traveled forward in time in search of John Henry (Garret Dillahunt), a Terminator infused with a newly developed AI. While Sarah stayed in the present day, John arrived in the future only to realize that his leaving the past had radically changed the course of history. In this alternate timeline, John was no longer the leader of the human resistance but Judgment Day had still occurred and humans were still warring against Skynet. Sadly, fans of the series have since had to live with the fact that it all ended on this cliffhanger. 

Since the show's cancellation in May 2009, creator Josh Friedman has been reticent to talk about what could have been. There was talk of a possible TV movie and Thomas Dekker has provided his take on how the show could have continued, suggesting to TheTVAddict, that season three would have included Danny Dyson, the son of "T2" character Miles Dyson, who was set to be the original creator of Skynet. But unlike Dekkar, creator Josh Friedman basically vowed never to tell how he would have continued his series.

Josh Friedman talks The Sarah Connor Chronicles season three

Back in 2012, Josh Friedman tweeted, "Canon is something you do over time on a show, it's not something you explain post-hoc. Or pre-hoc for a season that never happened. #S3TSCC." Friedman was letting everyone know he wasn't going to tell how he envisioned season three of "The Sarah Connor Chronicles" playing out. But in a 2018 interview with the Paley Center, the show creator was unusually candid on the topic, touching on some themes and ideas that would have played out in season three.

Evidently, one major focus for Friedman would have been Catherine Weaver [Shirley Manson], who was previously revealed to be a T-1001 Terminator sent back in time to act as the CEO of tech corporation ZeiraCorp. Weaver was helping shepherd the creation of a new AI entirely separate from Skynet, and Friedman revealed that season three could have involved some interesting alliances potentially being formed between Weaver's side and the humans, or perhaps Skynet and the human resistance.

The show creator explained that the way he saw it, "AI and Skynet had been fighting the resistance for a long time, in probably many different iterations, and hadn't succeeded." Friedman went on to explain that, in his view, "the Weaver side was kind of an outcropping of the original AI," and that this outcropping caused "infighting," and gave rise to "different points of view on how to solve the conflict" within Skynet. But that wasn't all he spoke about.

Alliances would have formed in season three of The Sarah Connor Chronicles

During his Paley Center interview, Josh Friedman revealed that the fact that Skynet was sending Terminators back in time meant the superintelligence was resorting to desperate measures. The show creator went on to explain:

"Terminators exist as a last gasp, to turn the tide, if humanity, John Connor, beats them. And then they're gonna keep sending them back and it's a constant battle and I thought, 'Wouldn't there be a moderate wing to the party?' [laughs]. I mean, like, 'Why have we gone to DEFCON 1? Is it necessary?' I just thought if I were super intelligent, if I had this artificial intelligence, and I had an infinite amount of time to contemplate different ways to resolve this crisis, some part of me at some point is gonna think, 'Why don't we make an alliance? Why don't we reach out? Why don't we try to solve this in a different way?'"

Just how this would play out remains unclear, but it sounds as though we could have seen some unusual alliances formed had "The Sarah Connor Chronicles" continued.

Whether any of this would have helped boost the series' popularity or maintained its standing as one of the more worthwhile pieces of post-James Cameron Terminator media remains unclear, though the storyline does seem to include elements of the god-awful "Terminator: Dark Fate," which also introduced an alternate AI to Skynet known as Legion. Still, Cameron has said he wants to make a Terminator movie focused on AI, so who knows, maybe season three of "TSCC" would have proven surprisingly prescient. As it stands, however, that story belongs to a timeline that will seemingly forever remain lost in the mess that is the post-"T2" Terminator continuity.