“The Terror” (2018) Episodes Four & Five
Developed by: David Kajganich
Featuring: Jared Harris, Tobias Menzies, Paul Ready, Adam Nagaitis, Ian Hart, Nive Nielsen, Ciarán Hinds
“The Terror” is a fictionalized account of Captain Sir John Franklin’s lost expedition of HMS Erebus and HMS Terror to the Arctic, in 1845–1848, to locate the Northwest Passage. Franklin and his crew are plagued by starvation and illness, and forced to contend with mutiny and cannibalism, they are stalked across the bleak Arctic landscape by a monster.
Most of the characters featured in The Terror are actual members of Franklin’s crew, whose unexplained disappearance has warranted a great deal of speculation. The main characters in the novel include Sir John Franklin, commander of the expedition and captain of Erebus; Francis Crozier, captain of Terror; Dr Harry D. S. Goodsir; and Captain James Fitzjames.
Episode Four: “Punished, as a boy”
Cinematographer: Florian Hoffmeister/ Directed by: Edward Berger
A series of cunning attacks on the ships proves to the men they are not battling an ordinary bear.
The battle for the survival of the crews of both ships is surely afoot but as we begin the next episode “Punished, as a boy” we see the survival of the crews being waged by the wife and daughter of Sir John Franklin five months after the ships went missing, all being done in London – the way in which Lady Franklin (Greta Scacchi) fights ‘the powers that be’ to send some help or at least look for the ships is admirable but of course as was the want in those days as a woman she is looked down on as well as dismissed outright. The only satisfaction she has is that she is advised that the British Navy will wait two years before sending assistance. Once again, this excellent show illustrates with ease the difference from the world we live in today to the one that existed in the mid 1800s. The attitudes towards not only women, but indigenous people as well the technology of the time.
As ‘the terror’ of the piece starts to encroach on the ships we see the body count start to climb as well as the attacks becoming more brazen. As the fourth episode moves on the reality of the situation starts to move into the fantastical, the decision making by the officers is questionable at best. As many lovers of the horror genre will be able to recognize there are bad choices on bad choices, it would appear that at least one of the officers played by Tobias Menzies starts to hint at the supernatural possibilities in the air. The relationship to “The Thing” (1982) is no more direct than in this as well as the following episode, it is not a ripoff but a descendant of one of the greatest movies ever made.
It is interesting that in the first three episodes that the character of Francis Crozier(Jared Harris) is seen as a possible hero especially when he is at opposition to his Captain, the ill-fated John Franklin. However, when it is him that is the person with all the responsibility it becomes obvious pretty quickly that he is out of his depth. In fact, it is a flashback that indicates he may never have been appointed as a Captain of any ship, he is chasing glory to secure his future, even though at his age it was possibly never going to happen for him.
Once again, the use of the juxtaposition of the interior as well as the exterior in the Artic is interesting to view especially with the addition and upping of the deaths and gore, especially in episode four. Early on Francis Crozier ventures onto the ice to recover a taken crew-member, we witness some long lenses with the aurora borealis in the background, there is some action where we see the remains of a man, basically a red smudge on the ice – it is at once terrifying but also a point where Crozier realises there is definitely something else going on, that he has no comprehension of.
As we move on in the plot, there is a definite feeling that Crozier is losing the respect of the crew until we come to the reason of the naming of the episode. Being ‘punished, as a boy’ is a particularly harsh punishment where an offending crew member is lashed by a whip directly on his posterior – something that proves no matter what outside forces do to this crew, it is man himself that is the cruelest animal of all.
This is one of the larger differences to the traditional isolationist horror movies, in that the standard fair would be to have some external force pick of the characters until one or two remain. The separation here is that we are also seeing the interplay between ranks of hundreds of ship’s crew above as well as below decks – the cruelty and superstition that we witness is an added man made horror. Because this is based around a true story as well as real people there is the added benefit of being able to make this show feel authentic – as well as trying to guess what the real decisions would have been so the cruelty and back biting we see throughout is very realistic.
As per the usual human condition when we are faced with experiences that are negative and outside our wheelhouse we will always blame something, that something is normally the ‘other’ – in this case that ‘other’ is the indigenous population – the character is the Inuit girl from the previous episodes. Interestingly while she of course is not to blame, however the truth of the matter may be a lot closer than anyone realizes at this early stage.
Episode Five: “First shot a winner, Lads”
Cinematographer: Kolja Brandt/ Directed by: Sergio Mimica-Gezzan
A strange illness begins to show itself while another more familiar one jeopardizes the expedition’s most valuable resource – its captain’s judgment.
At times of great stress, the character as well as the nature of man will always shine through, no matter how someone thinks they will behave or act under pressure, until that time comes no person can truly say who they are. In “The Terror” we are seeing at this stage some of the real men start to reveal themselves, it all starts at the top. The new Captain, Crozier is an alcoholic who is starting to increase his intake of whiskey, while those stores are running low – this will be a point of contention for him as he will not function sober. In saying that, the Inuit woman is starting a conversation with one of the only truly educated men on the ship, Harry Goodsir who is the only person really trying to understand what is going on, as well as acting as an interpreter which I am sure will come in handy in the episodes to come.
Whilst this episode is relatively creature free (until much later on) we are witnessing the effects the hostile surrounding has on the human body – we witness crew members losing body parts to the cold so that frost bite is halted in its tracks. At one point the cold stops a man’s heart as he moves from one ship to another – the loss of life to the natural conditions is staggering. From the outside it may look cold but the real situation is far more grim as well witness the cold that has taken over the ship, touching any outside surface without gloves will remove the flesh from hands, any open wound will cause infections and much worse.
If there is one major element that is becoming more apparent it is that that Crozier feels time is running out, so he forces a confrontation or interrogation with the Inuit woman. Not only that but secrets are the name of the game, as not only Crozier’s alcohol consumption is to remain unknown to others but also the fact that the creature is known is to remain a secret. The mystery of the creature, the Tunnbaq, starts to become real to the officers but without a key to the knowledge Crozier decides to use a crowbar. Of course this is an animal let loose that was bound to a man, who is now dead – the question is am I referring to Crozier or the Tunnbaq.
As with many horrors similar to this, “Alien” (1979) or “The Thing” (1982) the motivations of the victims become important, so much so that they betray their fellow crewmembers or friends. This of course begins to happen in “The Terror” from the very beginning, even before they leave on their journey, there are betrayals going on in England. The Lovecraftian horror that has been unleashed on these people is unknowable as is witnessed in the grand action part of this episode. The creature of course resembles a Polar Bear, but like many monsters in the Lovecraft mold it only resembles that. The truth is starting to become apparent to the crew as is the danger they are in from Crozier himself when he confesses his addiction. Much of the dangers are under surfaces, not only of the ice of the ships but people as well.
As with all the episodes the acting in this show is excellent with Jared Harris being the standout in the lead role. Harris has to play many parts, the cocky anti-hero, the man with many flaws as well as someone who thinks he is owed, not only a command but respect because of that command. As time moves on we are seeing chicks in his armor, not only that but we are witnessing a man truly coming apart against something he has no comprehension of. I am looking forward to the last five episodes.
If you want to start watching an excellent genre show then I recommend “The Terror” now streaming on AMC.