When fans and viewers argue over when and whether Terminator the Sarah Connor Chronicles actually jumped the shark, the episode Self Made Man will likely be a major entry in the field. When taken together as a whole, Terminator the Sarah Connor Chronicles 2×11 Self Made Man isn’t a bad episode, so much as it’s an episode with a goofy premise. And that isn’t a distinction without a difference.
When you break down Self Made Man, it becomes two episodes. The first episode is an interesting and occasionally unnerving look at what Cameron does when everyone else is sleeping. The second episode is a goofy look at a Terminator who goes back to the Jazz age and meets Rudolf Valentino. And while the footage of jazz babies and a Terminator nitpicking Valentino’s movie to his face is a small part of the episode, it’s the most striking and eye rolling part of the episode.
The idea behind Self Made Man is strong enough, a Terminator accidentally going back in time and killing a man who was responsible for building a skyscraper that will be the forum for a speech in 2010 that the Terminator has been sent to enter and assassinate the Governor (nice Arnold reference too). Being a purely logical machine, the Terminator robs banks to gain money to open his own construction company, destroying his rival, seizing his land, building the tower and going into hibernation to await the time of the assassination. The idea of that kind of relentlessness is disturbing on many levels, but what Self Made Man does is distract you from that for as long as it can with goofy historical references and a cheap attempt at a trip in time.
The actor cast is a big part of the problem, looking more like a zombie than a killing machine, stumbling around in clothes that don’t fit, and discussing movies with Valentino, just doesn’t pass. But the series has had a lot of problems casting its Terminators, and few of them really fit.
Overlaying all that we have Cameron’s interaction with a crippled librarian, that brings out too much of her nurturing side to be credible, but still manages to close on a chilling question. Behind that we have John’s ongoing relationship with Riley, which is playing on the dark side of the street, but not actually going anywhere interesting.
So while Self Made Man isn’t the ridiculous mess you would expect from the previews, it is a mistake in many ways.