Dark Fate's Tim Miller Helps Us Answer All Your Burning Terminator Questions

Sarah Connor’s return raises many questions in Terminator: Dark Fate. (Photo: All Images, Paramount)

“If you have a story that lends itself to a continuation, that should kind of be there in it,” director Tim Miller told Gizmodo. “It was in T2, even if you didn’t recognise it. I don’t think it was [James Cameron’s] intention to put it there but he really did leave an open-ended story because Sarah says, ‘I don’t know what the future holds.’”

One of the things that makes Terminator: Dark Fate so good is that it tells a complete story. Sure, it leaves you wanting more, but at its core, the story has a beginning, middle, and end. We don’t know what the future holds for Dark Fate either (though the weekend box office wasn’t too hot), but we talked to Miller about some of those burning questions you may have after seeing the film. We threw in some theories of our own too.

Where did Legion come from?

Legion is the name of the artificial intelligence that humanity is fighting against in Terminator: Dark Fate’s future. It’s basically the same idea as Skynet, the A.I. Sarah Connor stopped from being created during the events of Terminator 2: Judgment Day. But stupid humanity, we did it again. Another A.I is sending Terminators back to the past, just with different names.

The question, though, is how? How was Legion created after Sarah’s success in Terminator 2? Miller knows, but he’s not saying. “I can tell you that if they ever make the second movie, there’s an answer to that question,” he said. “But it’s not the same as it was in the other Terminator movies.”

That last part is important because, in Dark Fate, there seem to be a few moments where Legion’s Rev-9 Terminator is fighting Skynet’s T-800 Terminator and the Rev-9 takes part of the T-800 for himself. Miller said that despite what it may look like, Legion’s origin is not hidden in those scenes and the Rev-9 does not absorb anything. He’s just surprised to see another Terminator. “It causes him to hesitate for a second,” Miller said. “He realises that he’s fighting something that’s not normal and not human.”

All we know is that, at some point around 2042, humans created an A.I. that became self-aware, and it soon starved humanity into near extinction. Similar to what happened with Skynet, but not the same. The answers are, hopefully, still coming.

Rev-9 (Gabriel Luna) vs. T-800 (Arnold something)

So are we sure Legion didn’t come from the fact that two Terminator bodies are left at a dam at the end of the movie?

Again, Miller says Legion’s origin is not the same as Skynet’s. It doesn’t have to do with leftover Terminator pieces. Plus, he points out that 2020, which is when the movie is set, is much different from 1984 or 1995.

“You could imagine, in the original Terminator and Terminator 2, that this technology could be hidden in some way,” Miller said. “But you just can’t imagine that that is going to be the same in our [time]. It’s [all] caught on so much video, all this fantastic stuff. We don’t deal with it in our movie, but it would have to be dealt with that some people are going to know that something weird is going on and it can’t be contained in the way it could be because of the surveillance state.”

Basically, even if all pieces of the Terminators are destroyed, Miller figures that in this time period, Gizmodo and every other blog out there is going to write about those wild events captured on cell phone cameras near the Mexican border. That, in fact, may provide more clues about Legion’s origin than anything else.

What’s the deal with these other Terminators?  

One of the most shocking revelations in Dark Fate (and, frankly, the one bit of retconning that makes the whole film possible) is the idea that Skynet had sent back more Terminators than the ones we saw in the first two films—Terminators that T2's T-800 and Sarah Connor didn’t know about.

That’s why, a few years after destroying Cyberdyne, a Terminator is able to find and kill John. (More on John in a bit.) According to Miller, the way that works is Skynet sent multiple Terminators back to land at various times, and all were there to kill John, even if he was already dead.

“Skynet didn’t know when it would be able to kill John or which one would be successful,” Miller said. “So you just kind of cover the spread [and] fire all these slow bullets, hoping that one of them would hit.” Which, of course, one did, in 1998. One that (because of how young he appeared) Miller thinks had only been there a few years, so the Carl Terminator arrived after the events of Terminator 2.

And, of course, if you’re thinking “Skynet was gone, how could it still be sending back Terminators?” That’s smart thinking. But, as per Miller’s statement, it sent Terminators back to various times before it was destroyed, they just happened to arrive after. Time travel!

He said he’d be back. And he has been, time and time again.

Why would Skynet send T-800s and not T-1000s?

By the time of Terminator 2, we know that Skynet has moved beyond the T-800 model Terminator to the liquid metal T-1000. It would seem only logical for Skynet to send those more advanced Terminators back across time as “slow bullets” instead of the T-800s. Alas, Miller reminds us that in Terminator 2 we’re told the T-1000 was an advanced prototype, and so Skynet only had one. “More on that later,” Miller teases.

So what happened to the other Terminators that came back before the events of the movie? 

Dark Fate reveals that in the years since John’s murder, Sarah Connor has been getting texts with GPS coordinates of Terminators who come through time. Miller explained those Terminators are more of the “slow bullets” Skynet sent to kill John Connor and Sarah took care of them all.

“In the movie, as it currently stands, Sarah mentioned killing two of them,” Miller said. “Originally, that scene had slightly more talk of killing and there were more. [I wanted to make it] explicit that Sarah killed these things. She’d find out where the time bubbles were going to appear. She’d be waiting and she’d fuck ‘em up.”

Miller also pointed out that when Grace’s time bubble appears on the bridge near the beginning of the film, Sarah’s car can be seen in the background. She was there.

“This was the first time that something new came through,” Miller continued. “I even wanted to imply that something else had had possibly come through. And she began to think that she was clued into the fact that, ‘OK, I changed the future, but it may not have worked the way I thought because these new things are coming back in and they’re terrible.’”

Are there still Terminators out there or coming?

Yes. We’ll see if that plays into the future.

It’s great to see Schwarzenegger and Hamilton back on screen together.

How exactly is Carl hearing about the other Terminators?

In the film, Carl very quickly explains that he gets an alert when a Terminator is coming from the future, and then texts the coordinates to Sarah. But his seemingly crucial explanation goes by so fast, we asked Miller for some clarification. And it turns out there was originally more to the scene.

“There was a much, much longer piece there where [Carl] actually built a cell phone app,” Miller said. “We had this whole scene where he shows it to Dani and is like, ‘See, I did the graphics myself.’” Cameron wrote the scene, but it was cut because the humour didn’t balance with the serious tone of Sarah meeting the killer of her son. It may end up on the DVD, though, and worked to further explain this mystery signal.

“Jim said all these cell phone signals go out and they’re all built off some sort of synchronised time signal. And he had this idea that an incoming time wave from the future glitches these signals before the event,” Miller explains. “And that’s what [Carl] says. He says it’s a signal recognisable before the event...It’s sending a signal ahead of when it actually gets there and then he built a simple device that they can pinpoint where and when that’s going to happen.”

So how did Sarah find Dani and Grace on the bridge?

Putting together some of what Miller said above, we think she got texts from Carl, saw at least Grace arrive (as mentioned above, her car is there) and then, we think, followed her, finally intervening when the second Terminator revealed himself.

Was it crucial for John Connor to die?

Another shocking choice Dark Fate makes is killing John Connor. According to Miller, early iterations of the story flirted with him being a bigger part of it and there was even some talk that the new saviour could be his daughter—but, ultimately, they decided a clean slate was best.

“That’s the best way to do it because John Connor been explored in all the other movies quite extensively,” Miller said. “And I can honestly say that nobody in the [writer’s] room thought twice about it. Nobody thought this should be John’s story. It was always [Sarah’s] story.”

Natalia Reyes will be carrying the banner ahead, if we get more Terminator movies.

Would Dani still become a leader if Legion didn’t send a Terminator back?

Think about it. If Legion didn’t send back the Rev-9, Dani’s family would still be alive, Grace wouldn’t have been sent from the future and neither of them would’ve have met Sarah. As a result, Dani probably wouldn’t have risen to become this great military leader. In fact, sending the Rev-9 back almost ensures Dani’s role as Legion’s greatest enemy. Maybe the best thing Legion could have done would have been not to send any Terminators back at all.

“Yes, unless, it’s not the way you think it is,” Miller said. “[For example] what if Legion is winning in the future, and he knows the way he was created and the things that lead to his near-victory in the future, all of this stuff, he had to lose along the way? It’s really which side of the Ouroboros do you want to be on.”

Plus, you know, then there wouldn’t be a movie.

Who gave Grace her tattoo?

Grace explains that her commander put a tattoo of Carl’s location on her so she wouldn’t forget and Miller confirmed, yes, that commander is Dani. In fact, there’s a deleted scene of Dani sending Grace back in time that will be on the DVD.

Speaking of commanders, who was the commander Grace was trying to get back to base and why was it so important? 

If she was referring to Dani when talking about the tattoo (Natalia Reyes also told us she believes that), it seems more than likely the commander Grace was referring to and protecting in the future was also Dani. That also explains her passion about it. She and Dani are very close.

So did Dani consciously send Grace to die?

Yes, in a way, but Miller isn’t happy about it.

“I always have a little bit of a problem with Dani sending Grace to die,” he said. “We set up this whole [story] where Grace is kind of Dani’s surrogate child and a mother sending her child to die for her is just... yeah, I had a different scene in mind.”

Director Tim Miller loves Terminator, and has an answer for everything.

So, did the movie always end the way it ends?

Yes and no. Here’s what Miller had to say.

“The playground scene at the end was a pretty late edition,” he said. “It was funny because we had had so many different versions of the ending. Most of them were fairly heavy. It was Sarah and Dani at Grace’s grave as they buried her. Or some kind of Viking funeral as they pushed her body down the river and she burned or whatever. And I said, ‘I’m all for the heavy, dramatic ending. But Grace is still alive out there in the world. And why wouldn’t Dani go and see her?’ And everybody went, ‘Oh, yeah, that’s a good idea.’ And then the conscious homage was the playground. I thought what better way to say ‘There’s still a chance to fix this’ then than that. It’s just such a potent icon for Sarah that I thought it would have meaning.”

If that’s a Rev-9, are there other Revs?

Yes. Though the movie doesn’t explain it, the Terminators Grace is fighting in the future are actually Rev-7s, which suggests there have been various upgrades to the Terminators. The 7s are faceless infantry and the 9s are infiltrators, hence the ability to copy anything it touches.

Why isn’t the Rev 9 just always split in two?

It’s not addressed in the movie but, in the film’s press notes, it explains when the Rev-9 turns into two entities, neither is as strong as when they’re whole.

Here’s hoping we get to see Mackenzie Davis’ Grace back in another Terminator movie.

Did Dani believe what Sarah said about her?

One of the odder moments in Dark Fate is when Sarah suggests that Dani is the mother of the future saviour, not the saviour herself. It speaks to Sarah’s antiquated way of thinking and, of course, we find out later it’s not true. But, we asked Natalia Reyes what Dani is thinking in that moment.

“Yeah [she believes Sarah],” Reyes told Gizmodo. “She doesn’t even think it would be her. I think she’s so confused and lost in the middle of this journey...she doesn’t know who to trust. So she doesn’t really believe or know. And that’s the thing. She says ‘I don’t care. I don’t care if I’m the mother of whoever. We have to do things now.’ That’s what makes her the leader...So, at the end, when finally Grace tells her it’s you, I think that’s the shock. Like, ‘Oh, god, I never thought that was me,’ but this whole journey is like telling her, ‘Yes, you are.’”

How is it possible Carl’s family never realised he was a cyborg?

No one can actually answer this. We’ll just let it slide.

What’s next for Grace, Dani, and Sarah?

According to Miller, the Terminator writers’ room outlined three movies, but once production started with this film, they focused just on this one. So while he thinks he knows where it all goes, he admits that could change in the future.

“I honestly was very conscious of, you want to give people enough information, but I don’t want to back any future director into a corner that they couldn’t, you know, write themselves out of if they wanted a different idea,” he said.

It seems like there’s no fate but what the writers make.

Terminator: Dark Fate is in theatres now.

Trending Stories Right Now