AMC’s The Terror is based on the book of the same name that looks at the mysterious disappearance of Sir John Franklin and his expedition as they attempted to chart the Canadian Arctic. It’s being sold as a Gothic horror meets historical drama and is produced by Ridley Scott. Master and Commander meets The Thing? I am sold.
Synopsis: Two ships, brave captains and their crews, royal marines, all battle the elements and unknown adventure while remembering home and mission beginnings. (1) After a long winter trapped in the ice, scouting parties are sent out in search of open water. One of the teams makes a frightening discovery. (2) (IMDB)
Writers: David Kagjanich (1)/Soo Hugh (2)
Director: Edward Berger
Running Time: 90 mins (2 45-minute episodes)
Airs: Mondays at 9pm on AMC (Canada/United States)
The first episode “Go For Broke” starts off with a flash forward to a group of British men searching for a missing Royal Navy expedition that disappeared in the Canadian Arctic. An Inuit man is shown photos of three men who he says faced indescribable perils and horrors and if they want to survive, they should leave. The show then propels itself back to the beginning of its story. Leading the expedition is Sir John Franklin (Ciaran Hinds), commander of the Erebus, Captain Francis Crozier (Jared Harris), commander of the Terror, and third-in-command James Fitzjames (Tobias Menzies). As the captains convene for dinner, the crew eats on the lower decks. Suddenly one of them starts to cough up blood and already things have taken a turn for the worst.
As the Erebus hits some ice, a sailor is plunged into the icy waters and drowns in the freezing darkness. The crew member who became sick at dinner, David, has been diagnosed with consumption. While Dr. Stanley (Alistair Petrie) feels no need to help to man, Dr. Goodsir (Paul Ready) tends to him instead. As David slowly fades he begins to hallucinates and sees a disfigured person that morphs into an Inuit man. He screams in horror until silence fills the doctor’s quarters. The doctors perform an autopsy on David to determine cause of death and the crew lay his body to rest, not after accidentally dropping his coffin and spilling his lifeless body onto the rocks.
Meanwhile the Erebus has gotten stuck as ice has formed around its propeller. Mr. Collins (Trystan Gravelle) is sent into the water wearing a heavy diving suit to break off the ice. While he breaks the ice off, he notices the dark outline of the frozen corpse of the man who had fallen in earlier and instantly pulls his rope to be brought back on board. The commanders discuss among themselves the best course of action for the expedition as ice continues to become an issue. Crozier wants to sail around the eastern shore and wait for spring and suggests they abandon the Erebus. However, Franklin is blindly optimistic and sees the prize on the horizon, so despite Crozier’s pleas he decides to press on. The episode ends with the two ships becoming stuck in the icy waters of the Arctic just six days after Crozier suggested a safer plan.
The second episode “Gore” starts off with an eight month time jump. The two crews are planning a joint expedition to try to find land while the officers remain on the ship. Franklin arrives at the Terror to make amends with Crozier and they seem to be quite civil, despite their current situation. They are old friends who make everything about business as their relationship turned sour long ago. Meanwhile, Dr. Goodsir travels with the foot expedition who finally find some land past the treacherous ice. On-board the ship, crewmate Hickey (Adam Nagaitis) is found rummaging around the lower decks by his superior John Irving. Turns out he was fooling around with another crew member. While his companion seems paranoid that Irving will report them, Hickey is confident that they won’t be exposed. As the crew walks in search of any form of life, they return to their cargo ship which has been destroyed.
In a flashback we see what went wrong with Franklin and Crozier’s friendship. Crozier is rejected by Franklin’s niece and since then their bond has never been the same. That evening, Dr. Goodsir’s expedition is hit by a massive hail storm. They hide out in their tents as a roar is heard through their camp. As the hail dies down, the men arm themselves as the sound of thunder and roars surrounds them. The men fire their rifle at the ice and call for the doctor. He climbs the ice to find an Inuit woman standing overtop of an older Inuit man whom they shot. As Dr. Goodsir heads back to bring Lieutenant Gore up to make the decision, he watches him get torn apart by a monstrous giant polar bear known as a “Tunnbaq.”
In Crozier’s quarters, he bonds with Hickey over their Irish heritage and they share a drink before Irving enters and looks genuinely terrified by Hickey. Franklin and Fitzjames move to the deck when they heard the crew screaming. They see Dr. Goodsir’s expedition returning and help them aboard. While Dr. Stanley will not touch the injured Inuit man, Dr. Goodsir takes it upon himself to try to help. His daughter, Lady Silence (Nive Nielsen) refuses help, but luckily Crozier speaks Inuktitut. Unfortunately, they are unable to help him and he slowly dies. It turns out the beast Tunnbuq is controlled by her father and that falls onto her. She says he must die on the ice. Most likely as part of a supernatural ritual.
While Crozier’s wants to bring the woman aboard his ship, Franklin orders that he will not leave until the entire expedition crew is interviewed. They start with Dr. Goodsir who describes the attack of the beast and their paranoia that it may have followed them back to the ships. He explains the old Inuit man had he tongue removed, but that does not concern Franklin and wants nothing to do with the natives. The episode ends with Crozier travelling back to the Terror during the night where his crew have been looking after Lady Silence. She warns them that if they want to live they need to leave now.
Overall, this was a great two-part premiere. The first episode goes on to set up the primary aspects of this anthology series: its atmosphere, tone and characters. Instantly it gives an icy, chilling and desolate atmosphere making these people feel truly lost and alone in this vast, unknown and dangerous place.
Meanwhile, episode two looks at rounding out the supporting cast of characters and help further the historical setting of the story. The cast and characters are remarkable led by a very gripping performance by Harris as Crozier whose poise and reservedness make it a well-deserved leading role for this underused actor.
However, the best part of the premiere is the ability to create tension, anxiety and isolation without the need for jump scares, booming noise or monsters. Instead, it relies on human nature, fears of drowning and death itself. It is in these aspects that it seems The Terror will thrive. This is not a show for the faint of heart, as fairly evident in its title.
Go for Broke: 9/10
What did you think of the two-part premiere of The Terror? Let me know in the comments below!