Let's be honest here: The timeline of the Terminator franchise is, to put it mildly, a bit of a mess.
James Cameron's 1984 sci-fi/horror flick and its 1991 follow-up, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, were straightforward action films with some fairly coherent time-travel elements. Since then, there have been a mess of sequels, reboots, and spinoffs that have steadily gone more and more off the rails. (Looking at you, Terminator: Genisys.)
Anyway, Terminator: Dark Fate not only brings Cameron back into the fold as a producer, but director Tim Miller has detailed how it'll connect directly to events in the first two films — and only the first two films. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Miller said that his upcoming sequel takes place in the aftermath of Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) undoing Cyberdyne, the AI that kept sending killer robots back in time to wipe out humanity in the future.
"The first two movies really deal with time as a loop, what’s happening is the same thing that happened before and everybody is fighting to ensure that happens again," Miller said. "And Jim [Cameron] had this lucky break that he only broke that rule at the end of Terminator 2 when Sarah destroys Cyberdyne, it’s the first thing that happened that hadn’t happened before, and so it was going to change the future — but no one knew how."
It was this variable that ended up being the jumping-off point for Miller, which also necessitated Hamilton's return as an older, wiser, bazooka-wielding Sarah Connor.
"I don’t think the movies that came after it really explored that in a clean way like I believe we are, with true consequences, and it makes perfect sense for Sarah to be the one to face those consequences since they were her choices to begin with," he continued.
It was Sarah Connor who said at the very end of Terminator 2 that she was facing the future "for the first time with a sense of hope." Although it's clear just from what we've seen in the trailer that she hasn't exactly been kicking back on some beach these past 30ish years. She might have destroyed Cyberdyne, but those time-traveling robots have a tendency to be persistent.
We'll find out exactly how Terminator: Dark Fate ties its way into the franchise when it opens in theaters on Nov. 1.