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A new take on an old story

Delilah was a woman, she was fine and fair
She had good looks and coal black hair
Delilah, she gained ground on Samson’s mind
When he saw this woman she looked so fine
Delilah, she climbed up on Samson’s knee
Said, Tell me where your strength lies, if you please.
Then she spoke so kind and she talked so fair
Until Samson said, Delilah, Cut off my hair . . . .

--from the lyrics as sung by Shirley Manson and written by composer Bear McCreary for the second season premier of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. From what I've found out, the song is a rearrangement of an older one. According to Wikipedia, the most popular arrangement is a Grateful Dead version (see a performance on YouTube) but it has been sung by other artists “from Charlie Parr, Ike and Tina Turner to Peter, Paul and Mary.” The lyrics differ a little from the Grateful Dead version. [Update: I originally posted a transcription of the lyrics to the entire song because I couldn't find Manson's version online to link to (which you can now find here), but later removed them as I want to respect any copyrights that might exist. My intention is to show the relevance of the song's lyrics to the material in my post below and a sampling of the lyrics is enough for that.]

It looks like second-season premiere of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles—which follows the pre-Judgement Day adventures of savior-to-be John Connor, his mother Sarah and those who both aid and fight against him—is following in the footsteps of last season’s finale. “Samson and Delilah” was steeped in biblical allusions and imagery from both the Old and New Testaments, even taking its name from and loosely basing its story structure on the biblical story (complete with the song above playing during the opening scene—which effectively sets up the story and the themes—and ending the episode with John cutting his hair). Sarah and John take refuge in a church (where an infant baptism is taking place), images of Jesus appear throughout the episode, and there’s even a conversation about Jesus’ resurrection between Sarah and the newly “resurrected” Cameron.

While I’m not sure the writers intended it, I found the use of images and stories from both testaments an interesting reflection on the story of Samson and Delilah. In this episode, Cameron is damaged in an explosion and reverts back to her original programming: to terminate John Connor. She becomes the Delilah to John's Samson, knowing his weaknesses and secrets and out to destroy him. But while Delilah is ultimately Samson’s downfall, in this rendition John not only escapes Cameron’s attempts to destroy him, he also saves her.

John plays his savior role fairly literally in this episode. Cameron is lost, doomed, damaged. Everyone believes she’s got to be killed. But even after he heartbreakingly removes her command chip (she’s professing love for him, but he knows it’s a trick) and renders her helpless, John refuses to let her go. His mother and their companions prepare to destroy her, but John believes he can fix her and—against the fears and commands of his mother—replaces the chip he believes is repaired. He risks his life for Cameron's, even though as a machine she cannot even come close to returning the love he has for her. It doesn’t matter: the point is that he loves her.

I’ve long believed that Scripture is not a flat book of religious precepts or how-to-live principles, but a Story of God’s relentless love for us—and a Story best viewed through Jesus. Jesus changes how we tell that Story, how we understand and embrace it. I think in some ways, this episode gets at that. If I were to remake a story of Samson after Jesus, perhaps I would tell it a bit like this—a Samson strong enough to defeat his enemies but who uses that power to try to save them instead of destroy them.

It’s not perfect, I know. And we have no idea how Cameron’s been changed, if she’s still damaged, if that damage will make her better or worse, if John really did save her or condemn himself.

But, for the story itself, I liked it.

(Images: Fox) ttsccctgy


Anonymous said…
That's one of the most articulate reference frames given the Bible: "a story of God's viewed through Jesus."
Questing Parson said…
I'm always amazed at how in this world of declining participation in religious institutions the stories keep showing up in subtle and not-so-subtle ways in the mass media.
Carmen Andres said…
part of me thinks it may be an example of the stones crying out, but i always seem to come back to the way Lewis and Tolkien talked about God finding ways to tell his stories through the story-tellers of the day. thanks for stopping by, parson. always an honor.

and vada, your words are gracious--thank you.
SolShine7 said…
That was a really nice scene. Great interpretation of it! I didn't see the Samson and Deliah connection until now but I think John and Cameron are going to fall in love somehow. That would be an interesting storyline.
Carmen Andres said…
or, perhaps, at least something will happen to cameron where she becomes more "human"? she's already been showing more "human" charactistics, becoming less "perfect" and more "flawed." who knows.