If you are a fan of The Terminator franchise, you are already familiar with the predestination paradox Kyle Reese cemented when he became John Connor’s father. Regardless of how you justify the existence of this universe, and the parentage of the world’s savior, it all comes down to one detail: John Connor and Skynet are interconnected and the existence of one depends on the existence of the other. They are both an integral part of Judgment Day.
After a few discussions with my friends about the predestination paradox (we are all engineers and I just so happen to be best friends with a Physics PhD from MIT that likes to humor me), one thing became clear to me; the story wasn’t about John, or the space-time continuum problems it presented, it was about his mother Sarah. People seem to forget she is the reason all of this time travel occurs. The machines are hell bent on destroying John Connor at all costs to ensure their victory, so much so they unknowingly create the avenue for his own conception: the time machine.
Sarah Connor, the version referred to in the future, has raised John to be the ultimate military leader, an expert at strategy, great at hand to hand combat and at computer technology. Single handedly, she prepared her son for the inevitable future, one that couldn’t be avoided no matter how many terminators traveled through time. Her dedication and commitment to the war against the machines forces her to leave her life as a waitress behind becoming the ultimate female warrior and mama bear, a true badass that could take on anything the machines threw at her. Although her past version was skeptical at first, she accepts the events surrounding her, and grows into the role very quickly. She continuously embraces the possibility of a future whose fate was still uncertain: “There is no fate but what we make…” becomes her motto. We wouldn’t have this version of Sarah if it wasn’t for one person, John’s father, who uttered the infamous words that would become synonymous with The Terminator: “Come with me if you want to live.”
By uttering these words Kyle Reese became a transcendental part of the story.
“John Connor gave me a picture of you once. I didn’t know why at the time. It was very old – torn, faded. You were young like you are now. You seemed just a little sad. I used to always wonder what you were thinking at that moment. I memorized every line, every curve… I came across time for you, Sarah. I love you; I always have.” – Kyle Reese
Imagine what it would feel like to meet the woman of your dreams, to be tasked with protecting her and training her without knowing you will become the reason for her success. His interest in her is genuine since Kyle does not know that he is John’s father, a secret that apparently Sarah has taken to her grave. (In later movies this changes as it is revealed to him that he is John’s father. In T1, John knows Kyle is important but never hints he knows this is the reason why.) He volunteered to carry out a suicide mission to protect Sarah Connor out of love, a sentiment he had developed from looking her photograph. A kid born in 2007, 10 years after the war had started in the original time line, Kyle learns to survive in a cruel and cold world where everyone is suspect, especially after Skynet designed its scouting force to resemble human beings. He has learned to trust no one except John, who as a military leader and friend has made sure that his soldier retains some of his humanity. To this day my heart breaks because Kyle dies not knowing that it is because of him that the time paradox is even possible. With his sincerity and great care of Sarah he ensures humanity’s survival and becomes a role model for his son, mankind’s last hope, born out of love. He makes the ultimate sacrifice and dies protecting his legacy. Mind blown!
Kyle Reese was so impressive that Hideo Kojima used Michael Biehn’s likeness for Big Boss and Solid Snake in his Metal Gear Solid franchise.
Because of his many sacrifices, Kyle Reese became to a generation the epitome of what a man should be: strong, charismatic, driven, loyal, loving, caring and most importantly, resilient. He never gave up on his love for Sarah, which broke with all traditional notions most of us had about the subject, and introduced the world to a new meaning of loving a person at a distance. (I always wondered if Sarah had been alive, even though she was his senior, if he’s still would have fallen for her and loved her. I’d like to think he would have.) It is his love and devotion that make Sarah into a legend, the perfect marriage of brains, brawn and beauty. These two people were meant for each other.
Sarah and Kyle inspired me to become the kind of person that would rally others to act in times of need; to move forward in a world full of loss and despair. They taught me everything I needed to know about love and family, about being prepared in times of crisis and always holding out hope that we could change our fate or in some cases at least live up to it. For those of us that were born before Judgment Day, there is always the thought in the back of our minds that we may have to live with the burden of having to raise our own John Connor, and if it ever came to that, I hope we can rise to the challenge like Sarah and Kyle did.
After all, The Terminator is the ultimate science fiction love story.