The Terror Recap: First Contact

The Terror

Season 1 Episode 2
Editor’s Rating *****
Photo: AMC Networks Entertainment LLC.

“Gore” is the kind of title that lets you know straight off the bat that this episode will be the business. We pick up eight months after the end of “Go for Broke.” The men of the Erebus and the Terror are still stuck in the ice, and there’s no sign of things getting better. The body count hasn’t gone up quite yet, but don’t worry, we’ll get to that.

One of the most harrowing things about The Terror is just how human all of these characters are. Take Franklin, for instance: His hubris has steered the expedition into deadly territory, but for now, it’s difficult to begrudge him too much given the fact that he really does seem to care about his men (though, to quote Sondheim, “Nice is different than good”). When he sends out lead parties to figure out which direction is the most manageable in terms of ice, he takes a beat to ask Crozier if he has anything to add. Crozier, being Crozier, leaves it at, “Travel well.” This is hardly the motivational speech Franklin was looking for, but still, he goes over to Terror try to make amends after months of the silent treatment, even going so far as to admit that he was wrong not to heed his advice. Though Crozier appreciates the gesture, he still can’t approve of Franklin’s determination to move forward. As far as he’s concerned, their circumstances are only going to get worse.

Miffed, Franklin returns to the Erebus, where he expresses his unhappiness with Crozier to Fitzjames. After Franklin notes that neither he nor Crozier were the first choices for the expedition, Fitzjames reveals a little about himself, saying that how a man gained his position is less important than what he does with it. Franklin, however, has other matters on his mind: Namely, that part of the unease between him and Crozier stems from Crozier’s failed attempts at wooing Franklin’s niece, Sophie (Caroline Boulton), the girl from the theater. Crozier had proposed to her multiple times, only to be refused, not least because of Franklin’s opinion of him. In a real nightmare scenario, Crozier actually overheard Franklin speaking dismissively of him after Sophie turned him down yet again.

Part of this bias has to do with Crozier’s Irish ancestry, which comes a little further to light as Crozier bonds with Hickey, another Irishman on board the ship. Hickey, having been caught having sex with Gibson (Edward Ashley) by Irving (Ronan Raftery), is assigned to fix a hole in Crozier’s cabin in lieu of any punishment. (Gibson worries, but Hickey tells him not to; Irving is too religious to even mention any instance of homosexuality.) When Crozier finds Hickey in his cabin, he notes that he wouldn’t have known Hickey was Irish if he hadn’t gone over the ship’s records, as he doesn’t have a discernible accent. As they talk about the discrimination they’ve faced in so many words, they share drinks, which Irving is more than a little peeved to discover when he walks in to inform Crozier that one of the lead parties has returned.

Surprise, surprise: None of the lead parties do well! One doesn’t find anything, one has trouble due to rotted provisions, and one … well, one encounters a monster. The party in which Goodsir tags along is, at first, fairly peaceful. The worst thing that happens after they start out is that Goodsir swaps in to pull the rowboat filled with provisions for their trek, and ends up falling flat on his face because he’s not used to that kind of physical exertion. Eventually, the party finds the shore. The ice has backed up into a great ridge, forcing them to temporarily abandon the boat as they continue on, stopping at an outpost to drop off a message containing an expedition update for others to find.

With that done, they return to the boat to make camp, only to find that something has overturned it and strewn the contents everywhere. The men, pelted by upsettingly large hail as night falls, guess at the presence of a bear, but that assessment turns out to be a lowball. The thing that tears into their camp and kills Lieutenant Gore (there it is again!) doesn’t look like any old polar bear. On top of that, in their failed attempt at hunting the creature, the men accidentally shoot an old Inuit man (who looks suspiciously like the hallucination the dead boy had in the last episode). The Inuit man is still alive but in poor condition, with matters made worse by the fact that nobody knows how to communicate with him, given that his tongue seems to have been cut out long ago, and his daughter (Nive Nielsen) only speaks Inuktitut.

Crozier speaks Inuktitut, but the man is beyond rescuing by the time the party returns to the ships. Notably, Stanley refuses to treat him, and Franklin, too, seems reluctant to have him on board at all. He only allows Goodsir to continue his work when he says that the man had nothing to do with what happened to Gore. The woman weeps, begging her father not to go and saying that “Tuunbaq” won’t obey her. Though Franklin tries to have her ejected from the ship, Crozier takes her aboard the Terror. When he interrogates her further, all she tells him is that if they don’t leave now, they’ll all disappear.

She doesn’t seem to be far off the mark. Blanky confirms that the ice is only getting worse, and that as it piles up, it’ll either drive the boats up — or under. Even Crozier’s doomsaying is worse than usual. He reminisces with Blanky about a past mission in which they’d tried to bring reindeer along, but even as they laugh, the memories give way to a more profound question. The deer had been clueless, useless, helpless, and eventually slaughtered despite the men’s best efforts. As Crozier looks out over the ice, he wonders, is the same fate to become of them?

Notes From the Captain’s Log

• Crozier introduces himself to the Eskimo woman as “Aglooka,” as per the pilot episode.

• One of the sweeter moments is a seemingly throwaway scene between Bridgens (John Lynch) and Peglar (Kevin Guthrie). They appear to have something of a book club going, as Bridgens brings Peglar something new to read as the men mill about on the ice.

• The watermark for things getting worse can be tracked by football. At the beginning of the episode, we see the men happily kicking a ball back and forth out on the ice. By the end of it, the ball has been abandoned and half frozen over.

• If you aren’t in love with Paul Ready by this point, I don’t know what to say.

The Terror Recap: First Contact