We first saw Terminator in a movie theater in 1984. Although in the ensuing decades and subsequent stories much talk would center around John Connor, leader of the human resistance, in the beginning the story was about Sarah Connor. In Terminator John does not even appear except in a brief flash forward. Our viewing of everything thing that has come after Terminator is based on the idea that the primary character is Sarah.
There exists an almost cult-like following of John Connor, even to the point of flaw. It has been remarked that several of the stories deal with modifying the terminators to make them more human, nurture rather than nature. This concept if first introduced in Judgment Day where young John attempts to teach the T-800 to act more human, culminating in the "I now know why you cry" moment. This continues in Rise of the Machines where John works on programming conflicts in the T-800. However, with John Connor the opposite is true. Mankind cannot win against the machines without him, and only him. Nature rather than nurture.
In Genisys Pops believes this in talking with Sarah about why she must "mate with Kyle Resse in this timeline".
We know that your son will be John Connor, and that the machines cannot be defeated without him. I do not see a choice.
As we wrote about in the Chronologies we believe that in the original unaltered timeline it is Sarah who rises to leadership of the resistance, and so successfully that Skynet determines it must travel into the past to kill her. This indicates that it is not a single individual - John Connor - who must exist in order to defeat Skynet, but rather a human leader who understands that Skynet can be beaten and instills that belief in others. This concept is also supported by conversations with the writers of The Chronicles. At the end of Season 2 John jumps into future and because of this he never rose to leadership in the resistance and Derek in the future had never heard of him. After the series was cancelled the writers revealed that in Season 3 - which tragically never came to be - it was to have been Sarah who led the resistance because John was no longer around.
Within this cult-like mind-set about the great John Connor is the reduction of Sarah to the vessel. She is the Virgin Mary who is the vessel for the Messiah John. Obviously this is misogynistic, but it is also entirely unfair. In Terminator it is Sarah who guides and controls events once she understands they are real and true. She convinces Kyle, who would die for John Connor, to disobey John's orders and, rather than run and hide, follow her in an attempt to destroy Cyberdyne and stop the war before it occurs. She is the one who confronts the T-800 face-to-face and destroys it. When she tells Kyle in a deleted scene "I am not a 'mission'" she is really saying 'I am more than just my uterus'.
In Terminator Kyle refers to her as
... the legend. Sarah Connor, who taught her son to fight, organize, prepare from when he was a kid.
Even though he is in love with her and in awe of her, Kyle's belief is that his mission is to protect and preserve Sarah's womb so that she can birth his leader and hero. Sarah's attitude, of course, is closer to 'Screw that!. I am a person, I can act, I can decide. I think we should hunt down Cyberdyne and blow it out of existence and stop the war from ever happening! ' And her idea is far superior to his as preventing the war means billions of people will not have to die regardless of whether there is ever a John Connor.
To attempt to push this dynamic woman into the role of simply being the Mother of the Savior does her an enormous disservice.
In Terminator, The Chronicles and Genisys the focus is on Sarah and not on John. He becomes "John Connor" because of Sarah. It is Sarah who crushes the T-800, it is Sarah who returns to Los Angeles to destroy Cyberdyne, it is Sarah who has hidden weapons at Enrique's, it is Sarah who leaves weapons in her crypt. The Chronicles is rife with Sarah leading, guiding and molding young John and in Genisys Sarah's attitude is almost "Yes, I birth the 'great John Connor', whatever. Don't bother me, I'm busy saving the world".
Our reviews of the stories is founded on this premise that the core character in them is Sarah and not John. This very strongly colors how we feel about each of them.
This is not to ignore the other main character in the stories - The Terminator - nor the battle between humans and machines as it is against this backdrop that Sarah and John act.