Terminator 2: Judgment Day is a great sequel, but oddly concludes with an untied loose end, one that becomes a plot hole in its follow-ups.
Terminator 2: Judgment Day is a great sequel but oddly concludes with an untied loose end, one that becomes a plot hole in its follow-ups. Time travel stories are always hard to get right as the potential for creating paradoxes is high and it’s easy to get confused by the timeline, even when one is its creator. While the first Terminator movie presented a fairly tidy, stable time loop – even if some fans still don’t get how John Connor’s parentage worked – the franchise continuity as a whole has gotten more twisted up over the decades since.
Things didn’t really get bad on that front until the sequels after Terminator 2, which benefited from still having creator James Cameron at the helm. Terminator 2 was more or less precisely plotted, rendering it a bit of a shame that its seemingly conclusive ending of Sarah and John Connor preventing Judgment Day has been undone by multiple films attempting to continue the story.
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Or at least that’s how things first appear. If one pays closer attention to Terminator 2‘s ending, there’s a plot hole created that has somehow never been addressed by any of the four sequels made after it, and one it’s baffling to think Cameron and company missed: Terminator 2‘s ending left the T-800’s arm unaccounted for. During the final battle of Terminator 2, which pits the T-800, John and Sarah Connor against the T-1000 in a steel mill, the liquid metal villain proceeds to beat its outmatched cybernetic adversary so viciously that it almost kills the older model Terminator. During this fight, one of the T-800’s arms gets caught and crushed in a piece of machinery, breaking it off. The heroes then go on to send the T-1000 flying into the vat of molten steel, killing it. To John’s dismay, the T-800 then makes clear that he must go into the steel as well, to fully destroy all traces of Skynet from the earlier timeline.
It’s one of the saddest endings in sci-fi history, but unfortunately, gets undercut in hindsight by one major factor: the missing arm. Terminator 2 reveals that it was Cyberdyne discovering the arm that survived the first movie’s battle between the evil T-800 and Sarah that led to Skynet’s creation, in another example of a time loop. They throw this arm, found in Miles Dyson’s lab, into the steel as well, but Terminator 2 ends without anyone thinking to retrieve the T-800’s other arm from the machinery. While the arm is admittedly damaged, this oversight sets up a potential scenario in which what remains of Cyberdyne, or the government, or another entity, could get their hands on that arm to start the project up again.
Despite this obvious setup, none of the following Terminator movies have acknowledged or resolved the mystery of the T-800’s lost arm. Interestingly, Terminator 2‘s novelization actually fixes the issue, making a point to say that the arm was retrieved and also thrown into the steel, so it’s not like no one around the project ever noticed the error. One wonders why it just continues to be ignored by the actual movie series.
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