In the case of most sequels, the producers want to bring back the same old characters we knew from the last movie and put them in an eerily similar situation. Did you enjoy watching Tony Stark become a responsible hero in the first Iron Man movie? Than you’ll love watching that happen again in Iron Man 2!

James Cameron didn’t play it safe in Terminator 2: Judgement Day. He took our lovable hero from the original 1984 film and re-invented her. Sarah Connor isn’t still waiting tables and worrying about boys like she was in the first film, oh no. Sarah has evolved into a badass killing machine more akin to the monstrous cyborg who killed her beloved protector, Kyle, than to a human being.

Sarah Connor is the most fascinating female hero in all of science fiction. Unlike Ellen Ripley from the Alien franchise, who was originally written as a man, Sarah is a woman through and through. Her strength in the second movie, as well as the short lived television series The Sarah Connor Chronicles, comes from being a mother. Being a woman makes her more of a warrior than if she were a man.

When we first meet Sarah in Cameron’s classic Terminator she is a bit of a ditz. She’s a young woman who just wants to get through college and party. She likes playing jokes on her roommates boyfriend and isn’t very good at her job. Her life is forever altered when a time-traveling soldier arrives from the future to tell her she’s being hunted by an unstoppable killing machine before she can give birth to the future savior of humanity.

As played by Linda Hamilton, Sarah’s evolution begins right away. In keeping with her less than capable character, she spends much of the first films running time being dragged around by Kyle, screaming like a stock slasher flick female. However, we also see a strength that Sarah herself isn’t even aware she possesses. When Kyle is killed by their pursuer, a now pregnant Sarah summons the will to destroy that which she was told couldn’t be destroyed. She is a changed woman, one that will stop at nothing to protect her son.

More than a decade passes between the first film and the second. In that time Sarah goes off the grid, raising John as an outlaw. Gone is the timid waitress. Sarah is now a woman who pals around with criminals and terrorists, determined to not only keep her son safe but to also prepare him for his destiny. Eventually, while trying to blow up a computer factory in an attempt to change the future, Sarah is captured by authorities and institutionalized. John is put into foster care, and Sarah cracks up.

Lets be clear about something: Despite Cameron’s attempt to portray Sarah’s captors as incompetent villains, this is a woman who it makes perfect sense to lock up. She is not stable. In order to prepare for the future, Sarah has switched off her ability to feel joy. She is single minded, a woman on a mission. Sarah has become a Terminator.

This is confirmed when John and a second Terminator, this one re-programmed to protect John from a more advanced killing machine, break Sarah out of the mental hospital. It’s the first time she’s seen her son in years, and what is Sarah’s first reaction? She embraces her son, but not out of love – she is checking for wounds. She then chastises him for saving her and turns her back on him, focusing on the mission ahead. This is a woman who feels no emotion but anger, who has no room in her life for love.

Over the course of the second film, Sarah evolves further. While she never loses her warriors edge, her son does manage to help her reclaim her humanity. After spending her entire adult life trying to keep John safe, it is John who saves her from her own paranoia and ruthlessness, bringing her back from the abyss she’d been teetering on for so long.

While the third and fourth films in the franchise made the mistake of not including Sarah, The Sarah Connor Chronicles recognized that she was the most important element in the series and not the more popular and marketable Terminator. Picking up a few years after Terminator 2, the series shows a still tough as nails Sarah (now played by Lena Headey) doing everything she can to not only protect John but to also give him as normal a childhood as she possibly can.

The parallels between Sarah Connor and the Virgin Mary are undeniable. James Cameron took the mother of Jesus and stuck an AK-47 in her hands, giving us a modern day take on classic mythology. While many believe that the Terminator franchise is dependent on Arnold Schwarzenegger, I personally think you can’t have a Terminator movie without Sarah Connor.
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