Welcome to our weekly recaps of AMC’s new historical horror show The Terror. This The Terror review takes a look at the fifth monstrous episode, “First Shot a Winner, Lads.” Spoilers follow.
In this week’s episode:
- The monster gets a close-up!
- Crozier needs to get his shit together!
- Stolen booze!
A Wake-Up Call
This week on The Terror: more snow, and more bad news. The winds are howling, the snow is picking up, and the men of the Terror and Erebus are clearly not handling things well. Perhaps the person handling things the worst is the person who really should be keeping his cool: Captain Crozier (Jared Harris). With Franklin dead, Crozier is in charge of the whole expedition now, but he’s given in to the bottle and spends most of his time heavily intoxicated now. So much so that he orders men to not-so-discreetly sneak off and steal whatever whiskey Fitzjames might have around.
As for Fitzjames (Tobias Menzies), he’s clearly growing tired of Crozier. He’s also tired of keeping Lady Silence on his the Erebus, and decides to send her back to Terror. Obviously, this raises a few eyebrows – it was on Terror that Lady Silence (Nive Nielsen) was nearly attacked. Good old Harry Goodsir (Paul Ready) in particular is troubled by this news, because he and Lady Silence have grown (somewhat) close.
Goodsir accompanies Lady Silence across the ice, back to Terror. Along the way, another member of the expedition – Hornby – collapses and dies, his heart apparently giving out. Just another death to add to a growing list of dead men.
While Goodsir and Lady Silence are returning to Terror, most of the men of Terror have transfered over to Erebus, since the situation on Terror has become precarious due to the ice. Almost immediately, stick-in-the-mud Fitzjames begins chastising the men for their shaggy appearances. Sure, they’re all stuck in the middle of the frozen nowhere and in danger of being eaten by a monster, but that’s no excuse for sloppiness, god damn it!
Speaking of sloppiness, Crozier is a mess for most of this episode. The captain was three sheets to the wind last week, but this week, he’s positively blotto, complete with drool running out of his mouth. On one hand, you can understand why Crozier has given into hopeless drunkenness. On another, you really wish he’d get his shit together. Crozier needs a wake-up call – and in this episode, he’ll certainly get it.
An already tense situation grows worse when Crozier decides to question Lady Silence about the monster. Goodsir comes along too, as does Blanky (Ian Hart), who is the only real friend Crozier has on this whole doomed mission. But as the conversation between Crozier and Lady Silence grows more heated, Crozier finds himself turning on everyone – even Blanky. At one point, Crozier grows so fed-up with Lady Silence not providing adequate answers to his questions that he orders her thrown out onto the ice – something Blanky refuses to do.
Lady Silence provides a name for the monster – “Tuunbaq” – which roughly translates to “spirit that dresses as an animal.” She says that, with her father dead, there’s no one left to “control” the monster. Crozier asks if Lady Silence can communicate with the Tuunbaq, to which Lady Silence replies that she hasn’t tried. Fed up with all this, Crozier gets to the point and asks Lady Silence if she knows how to kill the damn thing. But Lady Silence counters that Crozier doesn’t want this either – Crozier just wants to die. Just when you think this scene couldn’t grow any more dire, in strolls Fitzjames, accusing Crozier of stealing whisky. This leads to Crozier attacking Fitzjames in a fit of drunken rage. Disgusted with everyone and everything, including himself, Crozier orders everyone out of his sight. Which inadvertently leads to our first real look at the monster that’s been stalking everyone.
Up on the deck of the Terror, Blanky comes face to face with the Tuunbaq, which looks like a cross between a polar bear and the werewolf from An American Werewolf in London. The Tuunbaq chases Blanky up the ship’s mast, hoping to get away from the beast – but he has no such luck. The monster comes climbing up right after him, roaring and clawing against all the billowing snow.
Down below on the deck, the man attempt to fire a cannon at the monster – but they’re unable to see it up above, lost in all that snow. Blanky remedies that by setting the beast on fire with a lantern, but not before the Tuunbaq shreds one of Blanky’s legs to ribbons. The cannon is fired, the Tuunbaq is struck – but it lives to fight another day, running off into the snow and leaving a trail of blood. Lady Silence seizes the opportunity of all the chaos to escape as well.
Like the monster, Blanky lives to fight another day as well – but he has to have his leg amputated. All of this has finally shaken Crozier to his core, and he decides enough is enough. He orders all the alcohol removed from his sight, and he tells his officers that he’s going to soon be “unwell and unfit for command.” In other words, Crozier is going to quit drinking cold turkey, and likely end up going through some heavy withdrawal.
Monsters and the DTs aren’t the only problems plaguing the men. There’s also a mysterious illness that seems to spreading – one that causes headaches and turns the gums of several men gray. It seemed like scurvy at first, but Goodsir realizes it’s not scurvy – it’s something else, and it probably has something to do with the spoiling provisions. The best way to test this? Feed some of the food to Jacko, Franklin’s monkey. Poor Jacko.
First Shot a Winner, Lads
While this week’s episode concludes with a big, scary monster attack, “First Shot a Winner, Lads” is mostly another exercise in mood-building for The Terror. The trepidations of the men are on full display. There’s Crozier and his death-wish, giving way to drinking; there’s Fitzjames, who attempts to combat fear by keeping up foolish appearances of decorum, even though such things really don’t matter right now; and then there are simple mates like Magnus Manson (Stephen Thompson).
In one of the episode’s spookier scenes, Manson is tasked with taking the shrouded dead body of Hornby below the ship, into the “dead hold”, which is growing more and more stuffed with corpses. Manson is afraid to do so, because he claims he’s heard the dead bodies moving around down there. This complaint infuriates Lieutenant John Irving, who wants to punish Manson by forcing him to spend a night in the dead hold. But before things get out of hands, Hickey (Adam Nagaitis) arrives to help Manson out.
I have to say, I love the way The Terror is handling Hickey as a character, especially compared to his portrayal in Dan Simmons’ book. I don’t want to give too much away, but let’s just say the Hickey in the novel is a detestable, unredeemable creep. The Hickey of the show is flawed, and his episode with Lady Silence last week shows he’s even dangerous. But he also has his more humane moments, and that makes the character seem more rounded.
Once again, the look of The Terror is magnificent. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that everything we’re seeing is built on a set and not some real icy landscape. This week’s director, Sergio Mimica-Gezzan, handles the big reveal of the Tuunbaq nicely, having it appear contrasted against impenetrable snow.
There was a not-so-subtle shift in Jared Harris’ Crozier performance this week, and it’s yet another reminder of how good Harris is on this show. Last week, we saw the beginning stages of Crozier’s hardcore drunkness. In that episode, Harris played up the almost comical angle of Crozier being drunk – slurred speech, staggering gait, squinting eyes. This week, Crozier’s alcoholism has fully engulfed him, and it’s no longer a laughing matter. It’s pitiable, and downright disturbing, and Harris handles that distinction perfectly.
While The Terror remains an excellent show, the narrative needs to start pushing itself a bit more now. How many more times can the show recycle the same set-up of “the men are desperate and cold, and then the monster attacks”? There needs to be a bit more momentum. And perhaps we’ll get that next week.
– One detail I particularly liked: when Crozier is communicating with Lady Silence, his subtitles are often grammatically incorrect, revealing he doesn’t quite have a firm grasp on the language.
– I really wish the show didn’t have to go and start inflicting danger upon animals now. I get it – Goodsir needs to test his theory about what’s making the men sick. But I wish he could leave Jacko the monkey alone. Look – people being torn apart by monsters? I’m fine with that. Animals getting hurt? Not cool, The Terror. Not cool.
– Lots of nasty amputations this week. Besides the scene near the end where Blanky has his injured leg sawn off, we also get a shot of someone’s frostbitten toes being casually snipped off.
– This week’s biggest moment was, of course, the reveal of the monster. The video below shows how the creature was created.
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Source: Slash Film