Terminator Zero Could Bring the Franchise Out of Its Long Rut

Let John rest.

The Terminator (voiced by Timothy Olyphant) in Terminator Zero

The Terminator saga has always been hyperfocused on Sarah Connor and her son, John. Admittedly, there’s a good reason for that: the former was destined to give birth to the latter, a potential savior of humanity who would deliver a post-apocalyptic world from robotic domination. There is no future without either character, and while the Terminator sequels have had fun exploring and subverting their importance to the franchise, the series has long run out of things to do with the Connors. If this story is going to evolve, it may be time to move on and explore a new corner of the world.

Fortunately, that’s exactly what the latest Terminator project is poised to do. Netflix has teamed with Skydance, Japanese animation studio Production I.G., and The Batman II writer Mattson Tomlin for Terminator Zero. The eight-episode series will be the franchise’s first animated project, and the first to break away from Sarah and John altogether. There will, of course, still be murderous cyborgs; the threat of SkyNet will always be looming. Otherwise, though, Terminator Zero will focus on all-new characters, along with a new AI entity that could compete with SkyNet.

Netflix’s upcoming Terminator anime could be the reset the franchise needs.


Terminator Zero will staddle the timeline, with one story set in 1997 and the other in 2022 post-Judgment Day. The series will also introduce a new Kyle Reese type in Resistance fighter Eiko (Sonoya Mizuno), who’s sent to the past to stop programmer Malcolm Lee (Andre Holland), who’s been working on an artificial intelligence program for a decade. Unlike SkyNet, which sees humanity as an immediate threat, Malcolm’s program Kokoro (Rosario Dawson) takes a more measured approach.

Per the series synopsis, “Kokoro must calculate for itself: Is humanity the plague Skynet believes it to be? Or are human beings worth saving?” Timothy Olyphant will also step in as a new Terminator, one that Tomlin, who serves as showrunner, says is “wholly its own thing.” The cyborg’s role in this new story remains under wraps, but Terminator Zero still feels like the reset the saga needs.

A pivot into a new medium signals a willingness to take a risk. Moving from Sarah and John is also a risky move, but one that’s long overdue. The Terminator sequels have tried and failed to remix the same premise; now it’s time for something new. Hopefully, Terminator Zero will wipe the slate clean and push the franchise to evolve.

Terminator Zero hits Netflix on August 29.

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