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Biggest unanswered questions in Terminator: Dark Fate

Terminator: Dark Fate is finally here and big SPOILERS for the flick follow, so consider yourself warned!

When details about Terminator: Dark Fate started to emerge, it didn't take long for fans to be left with more questions than answers. Knowing that Dark Fate planned to ignore everything in the Terminator franchise that came after 1991's Terminator 2: Judgment Day, there was the question of why the human race still at risk when the heroes supposedly destroyed the potential for SkyNet at the end of that film? How was the Arnold Schwarzenegger Terminator still alive when he volunteered to be melted down at the end of Terminator 2? Where was the savior of humanity, John Connor? 

If you've seen Dark Fate then you know all the answers, but still those answers lead to more questions. In part, it's just the nature of the thing. When time travel gets involved there isn't much that isn't possible, and with so many possibilities on the table it's easy to choke the air with questions. The aftermath of Dark Fate's release also leaves us with questions regarding some of the characters' behavior, particularly when it comes to things that might be seeds planted for future installments. To see what we mean, keep reading our biggest unanswered questions in Terminator: Dark Fate.

Why didn't SkyNet send a T-1000?

Sadly, we learn early in Terminator: Dark Fate that John Connor is no longer in the land of the living. Even though the only bad guy Terminator we meet in Terminator 2 is Robert Patrick's T-1000, in Dark Fate we learn SkyNet covered all of its angles and sent more Terminators back in time that we didn't know about. After the events of Terminator 2, one of those Terminators — the same model as the classic Schwarzenegger cyborg we're used to — murders John Connor in front of Sarah (Linda Hamilton). With SkyNet no longer in existence, the Terminator receives no new orders and decides to learn to become more human, eventually regretting his actions and secretly fueling Sarah Connor's crusade with anonymous intelligence. 

It begs the question of why SkyNet sends this older Terminator model as a safety net when the T-1000 version we see in Terminator 2 is clearly superior and can take a lot more punishment. You know, the real answer is obvious — because Arnold didn't play the T-1000, and the filmmakers wanted Arnold back. But narratively we don't get any kind of explanation. Maybe T-1000s were rare? Perhaps one T-1000 per time travel kill mission was the limit in SkyNet Central? We'll probably never know.

Are they any other pre-Legion Terminators running around?

When Sarah Connor explains that the T-1000 wasn't the only Terminator SkyNet sent back during the events of Terminator 2, she also doesn't say the one who kills John is the only other Terminator. Obviously, she likely has absolutely no way of knowing how many Terminators were sent back. Could it be there are more Schwarzenegger cyborgs out there, growing old in cabins in the woods and owning modest small businesses? Maybe a Terminator who sells vacuum cleaners? A Terminator telemarketer? Or, wow, what about a Terminator exterminator? We might have a new franchise idea on our hands. 

Could there be more pre-Legion Terminators out there? There's nothing to say there isn't and this is probably by the filmmakers' design. It leaves possibilities open for future Terminator installments, particularly if they want to bring Schwarzenegger back. Of course, his death looks pretty final at the end of Dark Fate... like it does at the end of Terminator. And the end of Terminator 2.

What were the missions of the Terminators Sarah killed offscreen?

Once Grace (Mackenzie Davis) accepts Sarah Connor into the fold, Connor explains that for years she's been receiving texts from an anonymous source. They give her coordinates and always end with "For John." Once she goes to the coordinates to investigate, she finds a Terminator waiting for her. We don't know exactly how many times Sarah's done this, though it seems she's killed at least two or three Terminators offscreen. Later, we learn the anonymous informant is the same T-800 — a.k.a. Carl — who killed her son. 

The question is, why were those Terminators sent back? What were their missions? Since SkyNet is gone, they must have been Legion-controlled Terminators, so were they all supposed to kill Dani before Sarah killed them? If so, that would seem strange. We're given the impression Dani has spent most, if not all, of her life in Mexico up to this point, meaning any Terminators sent to kill her would show up there. And if all of the Terminators Sarah was directed to popped up in Mexico, you'd also think she might wonder why and maybe investigate exactly who the cyborgs were looking for. 

Since Sarah doesn't seem to have any idea who Dani is before she saves her from the Rev-9 Terminator (Gabriel Luna), it's likely Dani hasn't been Legion's only target over the years. 

We have a few questions about Carl's family

There are a lot of questions worth asking about Carl's family. 

Do they really not know he's a cyborg? Carl explains to Sarah that his relationship with his wife "is not physical." Still, the boy he's helped raise since infancy is a teenager, meaning Carl's been with his wife for over a decade. You don't live with someone for that long and fail to notice their physical "quirks." It's not impossible, but it's a tough sell.

There are a couple of other things. First, when Carl tells his wife and child to leave home and that he "won't be back," they don't make a lot of fuss. They certainly don't appear happy, but you would think a family might have a few discussions before agreeing to completely split forever. Second, the family has a dog. Anyone who's seen 1984's Terminator knows that dogs don't like Terminators. It's why human communities in the future keep dogs at their entrances, and why at the end of the film Sarah Connor has a new dog in the back of her jeep. How is this dog hanging out with Carl without constantly freaking out?

Could it be something more is going on with this "family" than we know? Could Carl have been protecting them for reasons other than the goodness of his diodes? And what happened the boy's abusive father anyway? Did he just back off, or is he buried in their yard?

When Future Dani meets young Grace, has she already met her before?

At first Sarah Connor assumes that, like in her case in 1984's Terminator, Dani's unborn is the key to defeating Legion. Once we find out it's Dani herself that Grace is desperate to protect, you might wonder about how much the Dani of the future has seen of the events of Terminator: Dark Fate. Are Grace, Sarah, Dani, and Carl succeeding in creating a new future, or has the Dani of the future seen all of it before? When we meet the older, more battle-hardened Dani, does she know the young girl she saves from scavengers is destined to sacrifice herself for her? She seems to be a little affected by learning Grace's name, so that could be the case. 

But there are some reasons to believe the heroes are genuinely changing things. The future Dani tells Grace not to tell her younger self that she'll grow to become humanity's unifying figure, yet Grace does reveal it. So why would Dani bother giving her that advice if she already knows Grace is going to ignore it? Also, if future Dani knows how things will unfold, why bother tattooing the coordinates to Carl's home on Grace's skin if she knows Grace will get the coordinates from Sarah's phone?

What's going on between Sarah Connor and Major Dean?

One of the most inexplicable things that happens in Terminator: Dark Fate is that the heroes get a very unlikely ally — the U.S. military. Deciding they'll need an EMP weapon to fry the Rev-9 Terminator's systems, Sarah gets in touch with Major Dean (Fraser James), who says he's committing treason by stealing the item for Sarah. The Rev-9 attacks during the handoff and the heroes escape to a nearby military airfield. All on Major Dean's say-so, the heroes meet no military resistance and are allowed to abruptly commandeer a C-5 Galaxy transport aircraft — ditching the cargo on the runway in the process – all while receiving a fighter escort in the air. 

Just who is Major Dean that he can get them all of this? From Terminator 2 we know that offscreen Sarah had brief relationships with lots of military "types," but the impression given is that none of them were high-ranking military officers but rather survivalists and mercenaries. The idea that this rag-tag crew of cyborgs and wanted criminals could peacefully commandeer a military aircraft without any paperwork or a single phone call suggests one of two things: some lazy storytelling, or in the world of Terminator the U.S. government knows more about what's going on with these time-jumping cyborgs than they're letting on. Maybe certain officers like Major Dean are tasked with giving people like Sarah Connor off-the-books support if the opportunity arises.

Why does Legion trigger Armageddon?

In Dark Fate we learn that while Sarah Connor and the other heroes of Terminator 2 succeeded in ridding the future of SkyNet, another artificial intelligence — this time a cyberwarfare AI called Legion — is what spells doom for civilization. There is one question left unanswered — though to be fair, the same question is left unanswered in the other Terminator films. Specifically: Why? 

Why is it in the Terminator films that as soon as these powerful new forms of artificial intelligence go online, their first thought is to eradicate or subjugate humanity? Do these AIs simply see us as inferior beings who are wrecking a planet they could be better caretakers for? Do they see us as a threat and coldly conclude killing us all is the best safeguard? Could it be like Ultron in Avengers: Age of Ultron and the machines are somehow trying to make us evolve through hardship? 

Any of the answers could work, but we've yet to hear them. All we know is that apparently when computers become self-aware, they immediately want to kill everybody. Maybe it's all the memes we made them endure? Who knows?

Exactly how many times will it take the heroes to get this right?

In Terminator 2 Sarah Connor destroyed the potential that SkyNet would ever come to pass. Unfortunately, rather than paving the way for a brighter, better future, Connor just opened the doors for another AI — Legion — to rise and slam its foot down on the neck of humanity. If now, or in a future film, the heroes ever manage to stop Legion from being created, what then? Yet another AI is created worse than SkyNet or Legion? Where does all this end?

The smart money is that "all this ends" when "all this" stops making money. But narratively speaking if there's ever any chance of tying up all the threads in the Terminator saga, its future storytellers have a tough job ahead of them. Now not only do they have to explain how the heroes stop one dystopian future from manifesting, they'll have to explain how those same heroes stop every dystopia from manifesting. 

Or, alternatively, they don't have to tie up any threads. They could always just tell us, "the future's going to be horrible — deal with it." 

Do the heroes of Terminator: Dark Fate inadvertently create Legion?

Terminator: Dark Fate ends with three dead cyborgs — The Rev-9, the T-800, and Grace. What should not escape the notice of any Terminator fan is while the Rev-9 body seems pretty well slagged, Grace's body and the T-800 are more or less intact and we never get any indication that the bodies are destroyed. It could be that Sarah and Dani destroyed the corpses offscreen, but if not, there's a chance Sarah forgot a very important lesson from the first two Terminator movies. 

In Terminator 2: Judgment Day, we learn it was largely because of the body of the T-800 Sarah Connor kills in Terminator that SkyNet was being developed. At the end of that film, the T-800 who protects John Connor (Edward Furlong) chooses to descend into molten liquid, destroying his body. He knows that with the T-1000 dead and SkyNet a memory, the only thing left in 1991 that could lead to the creation of SkyNet is his body. 

Unless there's a body disposal scene we don't see, Terminator: Dark Fate ends with the bodies (more or less) of three cyborgs for someone to pick apart, reverse engineer, and create Legion or an AI just as bad. In fact, even if the bodies were destroyed off-screen, there are still the scans of Grace's body taken while she was in Border Patrol custody.

Why does Legion only send one Terminator?

This is a question that someone should have asked a long time ago. In Terminator, the super-intelligent AI SkyNet sends a single T-800 Terminator back in time to kill the mother of John Connor. It almost succeeds. In Terminator 2: Judgment Day, the same AI sends a new and improved liquid metal cyborg, the T-1000, back in time to kill John Connor. In spite of a T-800 sent by the humans to protect John and the fact that Sarah Connor is — unlike in the first movie — trained, heavily armed, and expecting an attack from the future, the T-1000 almost succeeds. And now, in Terminator: Dark Fate, the new super-intelligent AI Legion sends a single Rev-9 Terminator back in time to kill Dani Ramos. Dani has at her side a cybernetically augmented human soldier, another T-800 Terminator, and an even more heavily armed Sarah Connor, and still the Rev-9 almost succeeds.

Do you think... you know... one of those obscenely intelligent AI world-killers might just splurge and send back, maybe... two Terminators? Sure, we find out SkyNet did just that, but the Terminators SkyNet sent back weren't working together. If one Terminator, completely on its own, almost does the job, why not send back partners? What's the big deal? Maybe even a three-fer? Four? Hell, make a party of it. If you really want to rule the world, commit. What's with this weak "one at a time" noise?

Is this really the end for Arnold Schwarzenegger's part in Terminator?

Everything about the journey of Carl the drapery-selling T-800 feels like the end of Arnold Schwarzenegger's involvement with the Terminator franchise. Just as the earlier T-800 does at the end of Terminator 2, Carl sacrifices himself to make sure the Rev-9 is down for the count. When he talks about telling his family that he "wont be back," if feels like he's telling us the same thing. Also, Schwarzenegger's in his 70s, and his best killer android days are arguably behind him. 

But you never know. Terminator: Dark Fate leaves the door open for Schwarzenegger's return. In Dark Fate we learn that during the events of Terminator 2 SkyNet sent at least one other Terminator to 1991; there's no reason it couldn't have sent others. Not to mention that from the texts Carl sends Sarah over the years to warn her of Terminator infiltration, Legion was sending more cyborgs to the present day and there's no way to know for sure if Sarah got them all.

Schwarzenegger's not getting any younger — but if Harrison Ford can keep raiding tombs in his late 70s, Arnold can keep fighting cyborgs for a couple more years if he wants. 

Is this really the end of Sarah Connor's part of the story?

There's probably a greater chance that this really is the end for Linda Hamilton's involvement in the Terminator than it is that Schwarzenegger won't return. For starters, Hamilton apparently didn't even initially want to come back for Terminator: Dark Fate. In an interview about the movie, Hamilton called working on Dark Fate "the hardest and the greatest I've ever done." She seemed less than eager to return to the franchise, quipping, "I've been threatening to fake my own death so I wouldn't have to do the next one if there is one." 

Ironically, while it does seem more likely we'll see Schwarzenegger than it does we'll see Hamilton, it's Sarah Connor's story that's left with more potential. By the end of Dark Fate Connor seems to have found whatever peace she's likely to find over the death of her son, so in that sense you could argue her story is over. But Dani Ramos still has a big fight to prepare for, and Sarah Connor is her only surviving ally. As a bonafide badass Terminator hunter who's been killing time-hopping cyborgs for decades, Sarah Connor is the best mentor the future savior of humanity could ask for.