We see an evolution of the Terminator throughout Terminator 2: Judgment Day. He develops from a machine programmed to protect John to something more humanized. Although still a cyborg; he is able to adapt to his surroundings so he can fit in better with an all-human society.

We witness part of this development when John tells the Machine how to speak with a more colourful vocabulary.

There are also other moments where we get a glimpse of the Terminator becoming more self-aware of how he feels (e.g. When he smirks at John after picking up the Gatling Gun; when he explains to John the an understanding of why humans cry; to the final thumbs up he gives John as he's lowered into the vat of molten steel). Wow...even thinking about that scene still gives me chill-bumps :)

Anyway, as much as I loved these scenes, I can't help but wonder if the Terminator could have eventually started to feel negative emotions towards John. Emotions that would have eventually made the Machine either "feel" annoyed or angry.

Obviously, there's no code we can look at to determine if this could happen; but is there any evidence in the Terminator Universe that would draw the conclusion that the Terminator in T2 could have gotten angry at John?

Assume that it's with his existing programming; no virus or upgrades.

  • 6
    @Pureferret The Terminators always refer to themselves as cyborgnetic organisms. Apr 12, 2012 at 16:10
  • 9
    @Pureferret Terminator 1: Reese: "Not a robot. A cyborg - cybernetic organism." Terminator 2: T-800 "I'm a cybernetic organism. Living tissue over a metal endoskeleton." Terminator 3: T-800 "T-X is designed to terminate other cybernetic organisms." Apr 12, 2012 at 16:23
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    He knows now why John Connor cries. But it is something he can never do. Apr 9, 2013 at 22:49
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    @PaulD.Waite because that model didn't came with lacrimals
    – jsedano
    Sep 10, 2013 at 15:44
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    Sarah Connor said it best, "There are things machines will never do. They cannot possess faith, they cannot commune with God, they cannot appreciate beauty, they cannot create art. If they ever learn these things, they won't have to destroy us. They'll be us."
    – arkon
    Apr 4, 2016 at 13:02

2 Answers 2


Regardless of any feelings he might get, he's still programmed to carry out his orders to protect John Connor. His orders usually win out, as we see in T3 in the hanger bay when he's infected with the Nano virus and shuts himself down to avoid harming John Connor.

  • 6
    It's the nature vs. nurture debate for robots! Can his inherently programmed directives override all learned directives?
    – Dylan Yaga
    Apr 12, 2012 at 14:46
  • As a robot, I doubt his primary objective could be overwritten by anything learned along the way, unless it nullifies his orders.
    – Gortron
    Apr 12, 2012 at 14:49
  • I would hope they programmed against that :3
    – Dylan Yaga
    Apr 12, 2012 at 14:53
  • Probably, but sticking with the original question's assumption of his existing programming; no virus or upgrades.
    – Gortron
    Apr 12, 2012 at 14:54
  • What about when John becomes a teenage know it all brat who takes up heroin and cutting himself? Would the terminator do something like break an arm to prevent John from self-mutilation?
    – Kai Qing
    Dec 6, 2017 at 16:44

I would say yes, he could get angry, but no, he couldn't turn against John. In the scene where John and the T-800 rescue Sarah from the mental hospital, a guard hits the Terminator in the face, breaking his sunglasses. The look on his face certainly seems to suggest that he is angry, so I think he is at least capable of feeling something like anger.

Later, when they are in the steel foundry, the Terminator wants John to get in a cart and get out of the area where the T-1000 is. John refuses, and says "We've got to stick together!" They go back and forth like this for a bit, then the Terminator seems to lose patience with John, and almost shouts, "John, GO! NOW!" or something to that effect.

At the end of the movie, John orders the Terminator not to go (into the molten steel), and the Terminator seems to show affection and even sympathy for John. Clearly, he is capable of feeling- or at least showing- something like real emotions.

All of this suggests that he could conceivably be angry with John. I imagine that, if John picked up a baseball bat and began hitting him over the head with it, the Terminator would get annoyed very quickly.

However, his programming definitely requires him to protect John at all times and prevent John from being hurt or killed, so clearly, he would not be able to hurt or kill John himself any more than he could let the T-1000 hurt or kill John.

So as I see it, yes, he could become angry with John, but no, he could not turn against him. He is a machine, and his software would not allow him to harm John in any way.

You specifically said we shouldn't take into consideration the possibility of the Terminator being corrupted by a computer virus or whatever, but it is worth mentioning that when this very thing happens in T3, the Terminator's initial programming manages to override the virus, and he deliberately shuts himself down rather than allowing himself to hurt John. This suggests that the impulse to obey his programming is very, VERY strong, and it would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, for him to go against it.

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