Aside from the literal threat of nuclear warfare, there’s another nuclear element that “T2” touches on quite a bit: the nuclear family. Sure, Arnold’s T-800 isn’t exactly John’s father, but he inadvertently takes on the role throughout the film. As Sarah says while watching the Terminator with her son, “Of all the would-be fathers who came and went over the years, this thing, this machine, was the only one who measured up. In an insane world, it was the sanest choice.” 30 years later, James Cameron would further emphasize that point, saying, “The heart of the movie is that relationship” (via The Ringer).
Although the film no doubt challenges traditional gender roles, it often acknowledges that the T-800, Sarah, and John make up their own makeshift “family unit.” The T-800 steps into the masculine ideal as a strong and powerful force of nature, especially when protecting his “family.” He’s even willing to sacrifice himself at the end of the film to save John, something a good father would do. But the Terminator also admits that it cannot cry. By contrast, Sarah has no problem showing her emotions in the moment, though she remains closed off to John for most of the film. That is, until the end, when she learns to become more of a mother to John than just a robotic drill sergeant.