Terminator 2: Judgement Day Ending, Explained

Born in the tense final decade of the cold war, ‘The Terminator’ saw the rise of Arnold Schwarzenegger as a prominent figure in the Hollywood pantheon, which also introduced the world to the now prolific directorial voice of James Cameron. In many ways, it was a revolution in cinema, which would dictate the course of intrinsically American action-adventure movies for the coming years. The follow-up, ‘Terminator 2: Judgement Day,’ ups the ante with technological innovation combined with action-driven storytelling. In context, this is the film that takes the bold, if inevitable, step to “morph” pre-recorded images at will, in effect, ushering a new era in cinematic reality.

The dialogues are kept to a minimum to make room for more action, while Schwarzenegger’s steely Austrian accent is highlighted through dialogues that are pithy and memorable – like a short and simple “I’ll be back.” The quasi-mythical story progresses the narrative to a destined future, but the imminent doom can perhaps be averted. Sarah and John team up with a reprogrammed terminator to change the course of history while they are left to tackle the unyielding T-1000. By the end, things turn out quite well, but some questions pop up in the mind of the unversed viewer. Without further ado, let us get to the ending. SPOILERS AHEAD.

Terminator 2: Judgement Day Plot Synopsis

In the aftermath of the first movie, we meet Sarah, who is now kept in confinement in the Pescadero State Hospital under the supervision of Dr. Silberman. Young John Connor, the future savior of the world, stays with his foster parents Todd and Janelle. John hacks into an ATM, gets some money, and heads towards a gaming parlor, hoping to put the money to use. In the gaming parlor, John is attacked by a seeming policeman, but Schwarzenegger’s Cyberdyne systems model 101 reaches the scene in the nick of time and rescues John. The policeman, we get to know, is an advanced terminator model called T-1000. Made of liquid metal, the terminator is virtually indestructible.

Future John has reprogrammed the old terminator, sending him back in time to protect adolescent John in the present timeline. John attempts to inform his foster parents, but T-1000 has already killed them. After snapping out of the shock, John convinces the protector terminator to rescue Sarah. It is potentially dangerous, as the first line of action of T-1000 would be to kill and replicate Sarah to beguile John. The dangers notwithstanding, the duo manages to pull off the rescue mission. The three of them head south while being chased by T-1000. The world is about to disappear on August 29, 1997. After some questioning, Sarah finds out that Miles Bennett Dyson is the name of the man responsible for creating Skynet.

After stopping at a friendly abode to stack up supplies, Sarah heads to Dyson’s residence to eliminate the source of imminent threat, while John and his “Uncle Bob” rush to stop Sarah from doing anything impulsive. Dyson is shocked by the display of his future achievements, and he agrees to destroy his Frankenstein while it is still in the embryonic state. They head to the Cyberdyne headquarters to destroy all the research and development data. A hair-raising car chase sequence leads to a factory where the bittersweet final moments are left to unwind.

Terminator 2: Judgement Day Ending: Why Did the Terminator Kill Himself?

Sarah gets the idea that maybe if she can kill Miles Bennett Dyson, the creator of Skynet, she can stop the “Judgement Day” from happening. She leaves John and the terminator behind to face Dyson on her own. Building on the message of John to his mother Sarah, the story toys with the idea of fatality. Sarah inscribes the words “no fate” on the table before leaving, which makes John remember his message. The film puts forth the suggestion that there is no fate, except for what we make of it. Sarah prepares her sniper outside the house of Dyson, aiming to kill him and change the course of the would-be myth of the story. But Sarah stops short of killing Dyson as John reaches the scene right on cue.

He urges the terminator to show the metal core of his body to convince Dyson. After showing it, the terminator breaks down the future course of events before Dyson, who is overcome with shock. Dyson divulges that he got the technology from the CPU of the earlier terminator, and we come to realize that Sarah is a victim of a massive cover-up. Dyson agrees to destroy everything at the research lab and abandon the project. As they break into the research lab, a hoard of police rushes to the scene to stop them.

Sarah and Dyson set up explosives to burn down the place, while John tries to hack the safe that contains the key – one of the keys – to open the vault. In the backdrop of an unfolding spectacle of mayhem, John manages to get a hold of the key. Together, he and Dyson go to the vault that contains the pieces of technology from the earlier terminator. Sarah, John, and the terminator make a daring escapade while Dyson takes the fall. In the finale, T-1000 chases the party with a helicopter, and subsequently, a truck carrying liquid nitrogen. The truck crashes into a factory, and a final encounter ensues.

In the end, T-1000 is finally terminated as the old uncle Bob comes back to life for one last shot. But every piece of future technology is to be demolished to avert the possibility of a nuclear collapse, and thus the terminator urges Sarah to destroy him. As his job of protecting young John is finished, his existence has become null. In the course of the story, the cyborg becomes more humane, and he is given a choice in the final moments. When he takes this leap of faith, he exercises free will to avert the danger of the apocalypse since he has developed empathy for humans.

Why Didn’t T-1000 Kill Sarah?

In the fitting conclusion of this nerve-racking saga, both Sarah and John come out alive. Reintegrated from drops of metal, T-1000 catches Sarah by surprise. It urges Sarah to call John while threatening to kill her. In the meantime, the old terminator appears on the scene and diverts the attention of T-1000 from Sarah. T-1000 engages in a fight with uncle Bob, churning his inner organs.

From its encounter with Sarah, T-1000 has acquired the physical data of Sarah and replicates her body and voice to call John. But in a final twist, old uncle Bob has an alternative power source, which he can access to conclude the story. It seems that T-1000 does not kill Sarah because the old terminator saves her twice in a row. Moreover, killing Sarah would look really bad for the box office, and the fate of the future installments would be dwindling. Therefore, Sarah is kept alive to warrant a happy ending.

What was the Alternate Ending?

Speaking of the fate of the future installments, which have now come together to become a franchise worth a billion dollars, we are left to wonder whether the film has an alternative ending locked away in a vault. And as a matter of fact, it does! In the alternative ending, we see that Sarah and John have both grown up. Sarah is a grandmother reminiscing over an ominous past that was never realized.

The world does not end on August 29, 1997, and John does not become the “savior of the world” that he was destined to be. We see Sarah recording a message in the same park that she sees in her dreams while her granddaughter runs to her to get the shoelaces tied. The ending was dropped at the last moment since it would bring the franchise to definitive closure.

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