This wasn't my favourite episode of the season, I must admit. I watch the show for the women, Sarah and Cameron, and this was episode focussed more on John and Reese. However, it was intriguing, and I found myself liking Reese more than I have previously.
The scene I liked best was the one where he shouted down the annoying little military pipsqueak who thought counting kills was a game. You could see that it challenged Reese to see all these young men training for a war they knew nothing about: on the one hand it brought back memories of the real war for him, and on the other he felt a disconnect with them training/playing at something that wasn't real yet. The difference in tone between him and the students was very marked.
I am finding the dynamic between John, Reese and Sarah very interesting. John is taking more leadership this season, acting independently and openly challenging Sarah. Reese is in an awkward position--he supports John, but answers to Sarah. Sarah staved off an argument by agreeing to let John go on this 'mission', but it feels like only a matter of time before another scenario arises in which she's less willing to agree with John's judgement.
The emotional burden for John just keeps deepening and deepening... I think he may have guessed that Martin died for him before Reese told him, but it didn't stop the impact of hearing it. John resists the idea that everyone just plays out their allotted roles to support his future self, and to know they had just persuaded Martin to stay and follow the destiny that would ultimately lead to his death must be hard to face. Reese has no such qualms, yet he says 'we all die for you'. He's one of the ones who will/would lay down his life in the greater plot of John Connor's destiny--and he has less problem with it than John.
It's hard for me to imagine how this John, our John, will become the hardened leader of the future after seeing all these stories and sacrifices up close for so many years, especially given how sensitive he is. He does seem to be closing off from people (his mother especially) more than before, and there is bitterness in answers like 'I've got to' (when asked if he believes it all matters). I think there's a strong streak of nihilism in John--it's pretty hard to believe it really does matter as much as Reese and Sarah assert that it does, yet he has no choice but to do so. He'd like to wake up and have that taken away--of course he would--but instead he must go on facing the burden of responsibility, which he's constantly reminded that he's not ready to fully undertake yet. I'm going to find watching him hardening more and more pretty damn difficult because I like the emotionally open young boy version of John so much.
Ellison confuses me! I am not in his headspace at all. Does he realise he's being played? How can he not? I'm beginning to think he's not very bright because he stood out like a sore thumb in that factory bar, yet he seemed genuinely surprised that the bartender picked him as a cop. Now he's seen Sarah involved, will he begin to question things? Will he be smart about it? I'm not loving Weaver: I'm still more confused by her than anything else. That plot better firm up a bit ... I feel the suspense is weakening for me simply because it's opaque at the moment.
It seemed like little!Martin was meant to echo John... Sarah spoke of other Sarah Connors dying before Skynet found her, here is a young boy who may have been killed because Skynet thought he might be connected with her own son. She rescues him in part to assuage her own guilt. She takes on the role of 'mother' for him while he's in her care, and he looks to her to do so, acts like a son, though is quick to point out that she's not very good at it. The moment where he thanked her was very powerful for me--Sarah doesn't get thanked, her own son doesn't thank her. And she may not be great at traditional mothering but she is trying to protect and save John, time and time again. It was clear that that moment meant a lot to her, even if the words didn't come from the real John.
Did they deliberately dress little!Martin in Dorothy-like blue and white check? It seems like it. I wasn't sure what to make of the Wizard of Oz parallel at first, but I did like that they used a book with a young girl protagonist but had the male reader identifying with her. And also, of course, John is Dorothy.
I guess there are two good witches: Sarah and Cameron. Silver is definitely more of a 'Terminator'-verse colour than ruby. And very obviously Skynet, personified this season in the female form of Weaver, is the 'wicked witch'. In the Wizard of Oz, Dorothy's companions were all-important, and this episode was very much about those that will stand (and fall) beside John as well as about John himself. They have their own journeys, seek their own fulfilment (Martin wanted to follow his 'heart'--tin man?), but ultimately they are Dorothy's companions because she's the main protagonist. The tension between their role as individuals and their role in a particular narrative is what was explored here, and there's no easy resolution. Ultimately they'll always be both an individual and someone playing a certain part in a bigger story.