For a show about an expedition crewed solely by men, The Terror has got a fierce contingent of women. It’s a natural consequence of the historical narrative that these ladies don’t get much screen time — Sophia, Lady Jane, and Lady Silence only bookend “Punished, as a Boy” — but it’s a testament to the show’s writing that their presence is felt throughout. Of course, so is the faint tincture of the supernatural.
This week’s episode is as moody and evocative as a J. M. W. Turner painting, literally and metaphorically. It opens back in England, where Lady Jane and Sophia have come to appeal for a search party to be sent out for Franklin and the rest of the men. Jane’s no fool: She knows that her husband has his faults (pobody’s nerfect!), and she knows that the men have been gone too long without sending any word back. To drive the point home, she recounts having stood out in the snow without her coat and shoes just to see how long she could stand it (how freaking metal, honestly), stressing that the expedition is suffering through much worse, and for much longer. Though her request is met with an utter lack of concern, not least because of her gender, she’s not done yet. As they leave, Jane tells Sophia that she plans on trying to marshal their own resources to get a mission together. Franklin needs their help, she says. She can feel his spirit.
That may be true, but definitely not in the way she imagines. Franklin is dead, and his specter hangs over the expedition like a veil. Goodsir is poring over the photographs from the camp (and trying to demo Tuunbaq’s bite on his books to figure out how the creature could rip a man’s head in half), and Crozier is stewing in the dark of his cabin, attempting to drown his sorrows in liquor as the ships tilt further and further due to the building ice. He’s shaken out of his reverie when the creature returns, cracking open Heather’s (Roderick Hill) skull and abducting Strong (Freddie Greaves).
Heather, by some miracle, is still alive, though in a catatonic state. Crozier takes it upon himself to help retrieve Strong, bringing Evans (Joe Hurst), one of the ship’s boys, along with him when he asks to join the search. The sequence that follows is drawn straight from the classic horror playbook: Crozier pulls ahead when he sees the remains of Strong’s body, violating the cardinal horror rule of “always stick together.” Almost as soon as he’s separated from Evans, Tuunbaq strikes, and the boy is gone.
It’s another weight on Crozier’s shoulders on top of his uneasy working relationship with Fitzjames, to whom, perhaps unsurprisingly, Franklin had confided his misgivings with regards to Sophia. In a flashback that serves as a damn compelling case for Jared Harris as an absolutely killer romantic lead, Crozier does his level best to convince Sophia to change her mind about turning him down. When she accuses him of belonging at sea, noting how he still only uses two out of ten drawers in his home despite being back for nearly a year, he tells her he’ll use as many drawers as she requires. Jane, who overhears, is quick to make sure he knows it won’t happen, but he’s adamant: “Nothing else will do.” Like Goodsir’s photograph of Franklin, it’s a bittersweet moment. It’s ephemeral, a memory left behind by someone we know will never return.
The situation on board the ships worsens when Hickey, who is starting to slide from chaotic neutral to chaotic evil, captures Lady Silence and brings her onto Erebus. Given that this follows the discovery of the top half of one of the dead men and the bottom half of the other in a grim, Frankenstein-ian construction, tensions immediately run high. Most of the men suspect the Eskimo woman of having something to do with the creature’s attacks, and Hickey throws fuel on the flame by saying he’d seen her performing some kind of ritual with it.
Luckily, the Welsh wig wool isn’t so easy to pull over Crozier’s eyes. For “desertion, dereliction of duty, insubordination, brutality, [and] disrespect,” he sentences Hickey and the two men who’d gone with him to 12 lashes each. When Hickey keeps mouthing off, Crozier ups it to 30 lashes, “as a boy.” For those of us not versed in 19th-century punishment lingo, what this means is that Hickey is to be lashed across his rear rather than across his back. It’s not a sentence that bodes well, especially as the mood among the crew shifts when Hickey’s lashing starts to draw blood, some of which spatters on the gathered men.
The Eskimo woman, meanwhile, is put up on Terror. Stanley immediately passes on offering her any help, leaving the task to Goodsir instead. Though Stanley pretty clearly means it in derision (that’s a man with no bedside manner if I’ve ever seen one), Goodsir is more than happy to go talk to her and bring her a meal. In a telling line, he apologizes for what’s happened to her, saying that he neither understands nor recognizes the crew’s present behavior. As the audience, we know better. We’ve gotten to the part in The Thing where we know the creature is inside the station. To quote Ross in last week’s episode, these men are about to turn devil against each other.
Notes From the Captain’s Log
• Food is continuing to turn up spoilt, with the hypothesis floating around that it’s due to kinks in new canning technology. There’s something going around, too: Morfin (Anthony Flanagan) complains of a headache, and when inspecting him, Goodsir discovers that his gums have gone black. I’m not a doctor, but that cannot be a good sign.
• Doctor power hour! Stanley’s attitude isn’t winning him any friends, even among his peers. “It’s a pudding,” he says of the human brain within the skull, to which McDonald (Charles Edwards) responds, “I would’ve said cathedral. I suppose it depends on the man.” Cough, cough.
• Speaking of which, poor Heather! The guy’s out here looking like Ray Liotta at the end of Hannibal.