How does the Terminator timeline work, with John Connor's conception?
Did John Connor purposely give his father the picture of his mother so that he'd fall in love with her and travel back through time to protect and give her a son? But if that's possible, then how was John created on the original timeline or was the time travel always an inevitable factor?
It's a bit of a clusterf**k isn't it?
I think it's best just to sit back and enjoy the films. At least it's not as convoluted as the Matrix Reloaded and Revolutions.
I agree with @solvemymaze on this one! I watched Terminator Salvation with my son recently and he started asking similar sorts of questions and when you try to get your head around the timelines you end becoming even more confused!
Let's discard the other films for a minute and just look in terms of "The Terminator." I mean you could use Terminator 2 as well because these two seem to be a complete story arc and compliment each other well. I'm not discrediting the other films, just saying T3 is where we start to break away from the already established mythology (like Judgement Day being preventable, hence "No fate") and the other two completely ignore this premise.
One does not have the capacity to program someone to love someone else.
One way to look at it is a circle, or loop, with no beginning or ending. There is no alternate time line. In 1984 Kyle and a Terminator came on the scene. The encounter ended with Kyle dead, the Terminator destroyed, and Sarah Connor pregnant with John. These events set into motion a series of events which resulted in Kyle and a Terminator being sent back to 1984. All these events were inevitable. There is a scene from the movie Slaughterhouse 5 where the aliens know the end of the universe will come when one of their pilots will press a button that destroys the universe. When the earthling says they should try to stop him the aliens explained, "He always presses that button, he wouldn't know what else to do".
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