Synopsis: In 1848, two real life warships, HMS Terror and HMS Erebus, sent on a Royal Naval expedition to find the treacherous Northwest Passage become trapped in ice near Arctic and face starvation, mutiny, cannibalism and a demonic polar bear.
FULL REVIEW: CONTAINS SPOILERS
For the most part, AMC puts out quality first seasons for their shows. They have been able to create great content in a variety of genres from horror (The Walking Dead) to fantasy (Into the Badlands), crime (Breaking Bad) to historical (Hell on Wheels) so the notion that they were producing a show based on the mysterious disappearance of the Franklin expedition in the Canadian Arctic was intriguing. After further investigation, Ridley Scott was an executive producer and that the show was being compared to The Thing meets Master and Commander so of course it was worth a shot.
The main story of season one revolves around the crew aboard the Royal Naval Expedition ships HMS Erebus and HMS Terror as they venture into uncharted territory in search of the Northwest Passage. Led by Sir John Franklin (Ciaran Hinds), Captain Francis Crozier (Jared Harris) and Commander James Fitzjames (Tobias Menzies), the ships become stuck in the frozen Arctic waters and the crew must adapt to survive the harsh weather conditions, each other and an unforeseen creature that stalks them through this desolate land.
The Terror is set up as an anthology series in which one season is a contained story that finishes by the finale with no cliffhangers looming until next fall. With that in mind this show should be tightly packed full of narrative to waste no time in its limited episode count, but that isn’t the case. The show uses its first few episodes to set up what is essentially a prologue to the season’s main storyline revolving around the real protagonist Captain Crozier.
Crozier, portrayed masterfully by Jared Harris, is a fleshed out and extremely developed character that has a captivating arc throughout the season. He deals with an immense amount of pressure and inner demons which help to build a character you want to see get out of this situation. However, he isn’t the only one. In fact, the entire cast does a phenomenal job at creating characters that are easy to follow and invest in. In a show like this where no one is safe, it is important to have enough likeable characters so that audiences are constantly on edge about whether their favourites will make it out alive and The Terror does that perfectly.
The show’s initial focus is on that of its monster of the week format that pits the remaining crew against the onslaught of a mysterious creature. This horror element begins to lose traction and would start to become repetitive if not for the change in direction this show takes. The narrative shifts to the themes of morality, life, survival and mythology as these characters start to deal with the psychological effects of their harsh environment. The ongoing paranoia this creates along with further complications on the expedition cause tensions to rise between crew members to a boiling point that sees an ideal return to its original monster premise. The blending of these two horror elements create an edge-of-your-seat narrative for the final few episodes. The sense of isolation and dread that looms over this crew is only accented by the story as the desolate and cold Arctic paired with the superb cinematography create an immersive and horrifying atmosphere.
This season of The Terror was a tense, psychological horror fest that weaved its way through a dark and chilling tale. While the narrative feels a bit slow at times and seems to get a bit repetitive with its use of horror elements, the story adjusts course and builds its intensity to a terrifying and satisfying end. From its psychological themes, fleshed out characters and icy atmosphere, this show made you feel like part of the crew so it’s definitely worth the watch.
What did you think of The Terror? Was the finale a satisfying end to this gruesome tale? Let me know in the comments!
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