TV Series Review: The Terror (2018)

The Terror is a horror television series that aired on AMC in 2018. The series is based on the 2007 best-selling novel of the same name by Dan Simmons. In short, it is a fictionalized account of Captain Sir John Franklin’s lost expedition to the Arctic in 1845–1848. The crews aboard the Royal Navy’s polar explorer ships HMS Erebus and HMS Terror venture into uncharted territory seeking the Northwest Passage. The ships are soon stuck, frozen and isolated, and those aboard must survive the harsh weather conditions, mutiny and cannibalism, all while being stalked by an elusive menace.

Terror′s Captain Francis Crozier, second-in-command of the expedition, becomes concerned about becoming stranded in the ice above the Arctic Circle with slim chance of escape and recommends to Captain Franklin that Franklin shift all the men from Erebus to Terror and steam south aboard Terror to avoid becoming trapped in winter ice, but at the expense of time. Captain Franklin overrules Crozier’s concerns and presses the expedition further into the Passage in the belief that the ships can complete the passage before the onset of thick ice. Before the ships can reach open water, however, they become frozen in the ice.

Eight months after Captain Franklin first steered Erebus and Terror into thick ice, the ships are still stuck. He sends out parties to find leads (open water passages) through the ice. The party that treks east finds nothing, but the party heading to the west travels into dangerous territory and accidentally shoots an Inuit man, mistaking him for a polar bear. As the men scramble to rescue the Inuit man, a massive, unseen creature kills their officer.

After the Inuit man dies of his wounds, the British apologize to the woman, his companion who they call “Lady Silence” because she refuses to speak to them, for killing him. One man, Petty Officer Cornelius Hickey, leads an expedition against Captain Crozier′s orders to abduct Lady Silence, bringing her back to the ships in the belief that she has some kind of connection to the creature and in any event may bring more Inuit back to attack the ships to seek revenge for the death of her father if she is allowed to return to her people. For this insubordination, Crozier subjects Hickey to a severe lashing.

A ship′s doctor, Henry “Harry” Goodsir, speaks with Lady Silence in an effort to learn her language but has little success learning about the nature of the creature other than its name, the “Tuunbaq.”

It soon becomes clear that their only hope of survival is to abandon Erebus & Terror. They must make an 800 mile walk across the ice. If that wasn’t bad enough, the volatile, silver tongued Hickey begins to coerce others into a mutiny against command. Also, Goodsir discovers that their primary source of food (tins) is likely slowly giving the crew lead poising. All the while, Tuunbaq continues to stalk the men slowly picking them off one by one.

The Terror is a slow-burn of a TV show which might lead some to make the assumption that it is rather dull. However, I can assure you that it is one that is well worth sticking with until the bitter end. At times, it may feel as if not a lot is happening and yet that couldn’t be further from the truth. This harrowing tale unfolds at a steady pace that left me compelled to watch on. The development of characters is extremely well executed. All of this made me much more invested in their eventual fates.

Francis Crozier, James Fitzjames, Harry Goodsir, Thomas Blanky, these are just a select few characters that I grew to genuinely care about throughout the duration of the show. This is testament to the tremendous performances of the actors who play them and others.

Talking of performances, I’ve reserved a special mention for Adam Nagaitis who plays the devilish Mr Hickey. At first, I was unsure of what to make of him. However, by the end there isn’t a better way of describing him than an absolute bastard. Still, Nagaitis delivers such a strong rendition that I loved to hate Hickey. He’s a perfectly cast villain, completely unpredictable in every way and that damn grin.

With only 10 episodes, the story moves along at a brisk pace. It skips ahead many months at a time which leaves you to fill in a couple of gaps. This show goes to some very dark places but no matter how horrific events become it’s impossibly difficult to look away. It’s undeniably fascinating to see how people would function and deteriorate in such a scenario. The challenges that they would contend with and their willingness to survive. They face so many problems but always attempt to press on in the most practical ways.

Another aspect of the show that is strong is the cinematography. The wintry arctic landscape has never looked so hostile. The imagery of Erebus & Terror frozen in ice is a sight to see. The fact that this is even somewhat laced with truth is madness.

As I mentioned above, the crew are hunted by a bloodthirsty polar bear. Although, I’m still unsure if the show was intentionally meant to have supernatural elements or not. The ways in which the bear acts and survives did lead me to believe that the events were supernatural in some way. Visually, the beast itself looks little like an actual polar bear. In fact, it doesn’t look very good at all which is a massive shame. It isn’t terrible but the poor effects do hurt the show somewhat. Regardless, the makeup effects used to make the crew look sick, malnourished and worn are unbelievably good.

Overall, The Terror is a horror show that is well worth your time.




The Terror
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