It’s been a long week and I’ve been thinking about the TV episodes in which a central character hits bottom and rises to fight the good fight again. Here are three episodes of television in which characters persist. I’ll be spoiling the endings so beware!
Star Trek: The Next Generation: “Chain of Command Pt. II”
This episode (Episode 11, Season 6) focuses on Captain Picard, who has been captured by the Cardassians. Picard finds himself at the mercy of an interrogator, Gul Madrid. As part of the process of breaking Picard, Gul Madrid tries to force Picard to state that there are five lights shining in the interrogation room. Picard (and the audience) can see that there are actually four lights. The mental and physical battle between these men is harrowing. Few moments are as kickass as Picard’s final words to Gul Madrid:
Buffy the Vampire Slayer: “Anne”
Buffy was full of moments in which a wide variety of sentient beings, including but not limited to humans, tried to make Buffy feel worthless and then got their asses kicked by her. However, I’ve always thought that “Anne” (Episode 1, Season 3) is underrated. Buffy runs away from home and tries to avoid any heroics but naturally she ends up fighting to free homeless teens from monsters who enslave them. In the process, Buffy gets back on her feet and gives the chance of a new life to another girl, who shows up as a hero on Angel. “Can I be Anne?” is, in context, one of my favorite moments from the show.
Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles: “Some Must Watch, While Some Must Sleep”
Sometimes you just need to accept your ferocious side and roll with it. The Sarah Connor Chronicles stars Lena Headey (pre-Game of Thrones) as Sarah Connor and Thomas Dekker as her teenage son, John, who is destined to save humanity in the future. For the purposes of this episode, you need to know that Sarah’s life is devoted to protecting John and training him to be a leader, and she has been joined by a benevolent Terminator played by Summer Glau.
This is a weird episode that tricks the viewer and the characters multiple times. Sarah begins by doubting herself. She regrets a recent act of violence. She is stuck on this violent act, which she dreams about again and again. Here’s the opening voiceover:
Midnight is the witching hour, if you believe that kind of thing, and most people won’t admit it if they do. Midnight is the time when a door opens from our world into the next and we are visited by dark spirits of the shadow lands. The incubus, the succubus, the old hag. Visitors are known by many names but each story bears the same marks. The demons come after midnight in the first three hours of the new day when we are alone and vulnerable, deep asleep and hopeless. When we cannot move. They lay on us, press on us, suffocate us, take from us what is most precious. Our lives, our love, our sanity. Our sleep. If you believe in that kind of thing.
As the episode progresses, Sarah moves beyond despair and inaction and embraces the side of her that will stop at nothing to protect humanity and protect her son. She’s not nice. She’s powerful. The episode is dark and violent and when you consider that Sarah has to let a softer side of herself die in order to become an agent of violence, it’s tragic. Still, if you need to gather some serious resolve, and you need to be a bad bitch for a while, consider these closing lines, played over the image of a coyote:
A spirit sits on a man’s chest. She is strong, beautiful. She is here to steal his children. She is here to steal his future. He is paralyzed. The terror in him will burst his heart if he cannot control it. She is a Night-Mare, a demon-woman, the oldest and most enduring story told by man. The witching hour is controlled by witches. She is a bad dream. She is a bad bitch.
You can find great commentary on this episode at
Next month we’ll look at three episodes in which, as The Doctor says, “Everybody lives” – episodes of hope and our beleaguered characters getting a freaking break for once. Persist!