The opening sequence of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles‘ season 2 premiere “Samson and Delilah” is tightly-edited, and seems like it was structured beat-by-beat off of the soundtrack used for the scene, “Samson and Delilah,” as sung by Shirley Manson, former lead singer of the rock group “Garbage” who also happens to be playing a new recurring character in the series.
As I watched the opening, I couldn’t help but read the sequence as if it were a fan-vid, as in ‘vidding.’ My friend/colleague Alexis Lothian, author and maintainer of Queer Geek Theory (http://queergeektheory.wordpress.com/) has been working on/with vidding of late, which almost certainly helped inform my viewing. Vidding has a great deal of transformative potential, in that juxtaposing specifically-edited scenes from one or more show/film to a soundtrack can easily and affectively change the original scenes and create/unlock new or underprivilidged readings. Vidding is an argument, constructed and polished as any other, an argument using audio-visual elemets edited together in the proud tradition of a Henry Jenkins-style Textual Poaching.
More than just in that opening sequence, the whole episode seems to be a riff on the title/content of the song, casting John Connor as Samson and Cameron as Delilah. It’s not terribly surprising to have this tightly-coded opening, considering the potent use of Johnny Cash’s “The Man Comes Around” at the end of last season to support the inexorable menace of the Terminators.
Most of the time, a TV/film score is a supplement, a way of re-inforcing or undercutting the tone of a scene. It’s more rare to have a scene where the music takes the foreground, and it seems as if the visual and diegetic-audio component is supplemental to the score. But sometimes the music tells the story, sets the tone. It remins me of the sequential art form, where the narrative relies at different times more on the text or more on the art. Using the song “Samson and Delilah” allowed for the show to immediately set the stakes for the second season and ride the driving emotion of the song to open the episode and the season with a great deal of momentum, which then is carried forward by the relentless pace of the chase-and-hide-and-chase episode. “Samson and Delilah” felt more like a Terminator film than most any of the other episodes thusfar, emphasizing the lack of fatigue or remorse on the part of the Terminators.
The Samson/Delilah dynamic is the latest layer of what is a growing theme in the show, a meditation on faith and the role of a messiah. John Connor is the Promised Hero who is destined to save humanity, with his own personal angel he himself sent back to ensure that he could fulfil his destiny. Agent Ellison (named for Harlan Ellison, whose story “Demon With a Glass Hand” was an inspiration for the original Terminator) is a man of faith, who comes to view the Terminators as agents of the Adversary, falling into Dr. Silberman’s paradigm, viewing the coming Judgement Day as being that of Revelation (the title of that episode “The Demon Hand” was another nod to the Ellison story. The Terminator series has always had those strands running through it, but the series has the advantage of being able to develop these themes over time, subtly and incrementally. In addition, with Cameron inquiring about the ressurection, we see another thread in the tapestry of that theme, as her character develops both along the Delilah angle, a continuing possible threat, but since she was just ressurected, her sins washed away, she is re-christened as a savior figure herself as John’s guardian angel.
The show has clearly found its stride, and if the rest of the season to follow the cues of the premiere, I think we’ll be in for a good year for Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles.