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Terminators and ‘The Man’

"The Man Comes Around" by Johnny Cash

(Opening: spoken)
And I heard, as it were, the noise of thunder:
One of the four beasts saying: "Come and see."
And I saw. And behold, a white horse.

(Song)
There's a man goin' 'round takin' names.
An' he decides who to free and who to blame.
Everybody won't be treated all the same.
There'll be a golden ladder reaching down.
When the man comes around.

The hairs on your arm will stand up.
At the terror in each sip and in each sup.
For you partake of that last offered cup,
Or disappear into the potter's ground.
When the man comes around.

Hear the trumpets, hear the pipers.
One hundred million angels singin'.
Multitudes are marching to the big kettle drum.
Voices callin', voices cryin'.
Some are born an' some are dyin'.
It's Alpha's and Omega's
Kingdom come.

And the whirlwind is in the thorn tree.
The virgins are all trimming their wicks.
The whirlwind is in the thorn tree.
It's hard for thee to kick against the pricks.

Till Armageddon, no Shalam, no Shalom.
Then the father hen will call his chickens home.
The wise men will bow down before the throne.
And at his feet they'll cast their golden crown.
When the man comes around.

Whoever is unjust, let him be unjust still.
Whoever is righteous, let him be righteous still.
Whoever is filthy, let him be filthy still.
Listen to the words long written down,
When the man comes around.

Hear the trumpets, hear the pipers.
One hundred million angels singin'.
Multitudes are marchin' to the big kettle drum.
Voices callin', voices cryin'.
Some are born an' some are dyin'.
It's Alpha's and Omega's Kingdom come.

And the whirlwind is in the thorn tree.
The virgins are all trimming their wicks.
The whirlwind is in the thorn tree.
It's hard for thee to kick against the pricks.

In measured hundredweight and penny pound.
When the man comes around.

(Closing: spoken)
And I heard a voice in the midst of the four beasts,
And I looked and behold: a pale horse.
And his name, that sat on him, was Death.
And Hell followed with him.

Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles upped its God-talk factor in last week’s season finale when it played Johnny Cash’s "The Man comes Around" (which drips with biblical allusions and references) during a final (and admittedly uniquely filmed) scene depicting a shootout with a terminator.

The song adds a haunting element to the both the scene and the series, but I must admit I’m not sure I completely get the intent of the writers in using the song. Is the terminator being tied to the pale horse rider, Death (who is referred to at the end of the song but not in the portions played during the episode)? Or is it one more allusion tying the series' Judgment Day war brought on by the terminators to the biblical apocalypse and Judgment Day—or at least Agent Ellis’ growing suspicion and fear it is such? The last one makes more sense to me as the man in the beginning portion of the song Cash wrote (and is used in the episode) seems to be Jesus, though I can see how it might seem to be referring to the Death, the final rider referred to at the end of the song.

For what it’s worth, it was this song that birthed my love of Cash. Sadly, I didn’t “discover” him until his American IV album was released. I heard "The Man Comes Around" during an interview with him on NPR one afternoon, and I was mesmerized by the lyrics. I am an easy target when it comes to biblical imagery and good poets. So, I was hooked.

(To see the T:TSCC scene, go here. Warning: the scene contains violence)

(Images: Johnny Cash from Look Magazine via Wikipedia; second image copyrighted by Fox) ttsccctgy

Comments

Ken Brown said…
Sigh. After watching the first episode I decided against getting involved in this show, figuring I didn't need to subject myself to any more mindless violence. After reading your posts I rather wish I had stuck with it; it sounds like the series has been every bit as philosophically engaging as T2 was.

Hopefully FOX will play reruns (since they only have a few of the episodes available online) so I can catch up before next season.
Carmen Andres said…
heh, it definately doesn't hold a candle to BSG, but if you like 'Jericho' (which it sound like you do), then chances are you'll be interested in this one. it has it's moments. i really like that it's mostly from Sarah's point of view, and her voice-overs are some of my favorite aspects of the show (as you've probably noticed).