Fatalism in Terminator 1 & 2
The struggle to change the future in Terminator 1 & 2 is resonant with humanity’s desire to control its destiny to die. Delaying the inevitable is analogous to humans’ belief that death can be prevented, and the Skynet apocalypse is treated as such a deadly event. Sarah Connor and Young John have differing approaches to the apocalypse, which mirror their maturity and views of death.
Most prominently, Sarah Connor is in the original movie an innocent, spunky character. She’s dragged into a battle for the future like it’s a trip to the grocery store. Once again, this is an example of Sarah’s loss of innocence in the series – she is, after this event, forever corrupted by her knowledge of the dystopian future of Skynet. In Terminator 2, this knowledge drives her. Indeed, it is arguably her only motivator: even her love for John is an extension of her desire to save the human race in 2029. John is, to her, an object to be protected. Her transition to adulthood made her conscious of the fact that she will one day die, as is the realization of many adults in middle age; also like them, she has become obsessed with stopping death – or, Skynet.
Young John plays his part beautifully as well. Ever the optimist, he exudes all the idealism of a small child newly introduced to the world of men. He comes up with simple black and white solutions to grey problems – “You don’t ever kill people. It’s wrong.” – with no thought to when the rules should be broken. This thoughtlessness is mirrored in his approach to the Skynet apocalypse. John’s actions, while they help prevent Skynet, don’t treat the apocalypse as inevitable – he approaches his goals as naive and hopeful, in contrast to Sarah’s weaponized, anarchist, destructive approach. Just as children understand that death occurs but fail to think about it, so does John work against Skynet but refuse to accept its eventual reality.