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    The "Terminator" Timeline Explained For Everyone Who Is Confused

    Let's break down that confusing timey wimey chronology. Warning: contains spoilers for Terminator: Dark Fate.

    Terminator: Dark Fate is here, and with it a whole new timeline for the Terminator franchise.


    This is far from the first time the timeline has been rebooted, but Dark Fate does it in an interesting way: it totally scraps all of the events of the third, fourth and fifth movies, picking up not long after the events of Terminator 2: Judgement Day before jumping forward to the present day.

    This means yes, everything that happened in Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, Terminator Salvation and Terminator Genisys are no longer canon – they've been sidelined as alternate universe plot.

    As if that wasn't confusing enough, though, Dark Fate reveals there are now multiple timelines within the three movies that are still canon. Let's break it down...

    Sarah Connor's timeline is the original one that appears in The Terminator and Terminator 2: Judgement Day.


    In this timeline, a corporation called Cyberdyne Systems develops artificial intelligence called Skynet. In 1997, Skynet becomes self aware and decides to wipe out the human race by launching all the nuclear weapons in the world. Skynet then develops Terminators to wipe out the remaining humans, as well as time travel capabilities to send Terminators back in time to kill human resistance leaders before they can threaten Skynet in the first place.

    This is where Sarah Connor comes into it. She is the mother of John Connor, leader of the human resistance. Skynet sends a Terminator back in time, to 1984, in order to kill Sarah before she can become pregnant with John.


    John, meanwhile – the John of 2029 – sends a human soldier, Kyle Reese, back in time to protect Sarah from the Terminator.


    Kyle does protect Sarah, and the two fall in love, have sex and conceive John Connor.

    Yes, John Connor sent his own father back in time to have sex with his mother. He essentially uses time travel to bring himself into existence.

    And John isn't alone – Skynet also does this.


    See, when Sarah Connor destroys the Terminator sent to kill her in the first movie, the leftover parts of the machine are discovered by Cyberdyne and used to develop advanced technology – thus leading to the creation of Skynet.

    Time paradoxes, yay!

    Let's skip forward to 1995. Sarah Connor is in a mental institution after trying to blow up a computer factory to prevent Skynet, John Connor is in foster care, and two Terminators have been sent back in time again – one by Skynet to kill John, and the other by future John to protect his younger self.


    John, Sarah and the good Terminator manage to successfully destroy the bad Terminator as well as Cyberdyne. The good Terminator then destroys itself.

    Skynet has successfully been prevented. 1997 – the year Skynet originally achieved singularity and subsequent unleashed a nuclear apocalypse – comes and goes, and everyone is safe.


    But the following year, according to Terminator: Dark Fate, a rogue Terminator sent back in time by Skynet before it, er, ceased to ever exist, catches up with Sarah and John and kills the latter. John never grows up to lead a human resistance.

    But he doesn't need to, because the apocalypse has been prevented right? Er, not so much.

    We learn in Dark Fate that while Skynet was never developed, a different AI called Legion was. Legion seized control of the world's servers and humans tried to destroy it with nuclear weapons. Instead, they brought on the apocalypse. Legion subsequently developed Terminators to wipe out any human survivors.


    Like Skynet before it, Legion sends a Terminator back through time, to 2020, in order to destroy the future leader of the human resistance – this time, a woman named Dani Ramos.

    In 2042, Dani sends a cybernetically-enhanced soldier Grace back to 2020 to protect the younger version of herself.

    Sarah Connor and the Terminator that killed John – now reformed much like the machine in Terminator 2 – team up with Grace and Dani to take down Legion's Terminator.

    Which brings us up to date. By the end of Dark Fate, both Terminators and Grace are dead, but Sarah and Dani survive. No doubt if another movie happens, they'll try to prevent Legion's existence, much like Sarah prevented Skynet in the past.


    And a whole new timeline will be born again.

    Whew! Makes total sense, right?