With the ships now in the rearview mirror, “Horrible From Supper” is something of a transition episode. Since Tuunbaq tangled with Blanky in “First Shot a Winner, Lads,” it’s been nowhere to be seen, which has allowed a fundamental truth to come to light: The men are in more danger from themselves than they are from anything supernatural, and the final stretch of The Terror is doubling down. To that end, the entire color palette of the show has shifted as well, with the blues of the ice fading into “gritty reboot” tans. (If you haven’t checked on that prayer candle I told you to light — and your crew member of choice hasn’t already bitten the dust — you might want to do so now.)
Let’s start with the hour’s big revelation: Cornelius Hickey is not who he says he is. In a flashback, we see the real Hickey collect his papers. The man who shows up a month later to report for duty is someone else entirely. It’s not clear what happened to the original boy, nor exactly why the Hickey we know decided to take his place. But if you needed any more evidence that he’s the living embodiment of chaotic evil, here it is.
Naturally, Hickey being Hickey — or not being Hickey, I guess — the trouble doesn’t stop there. He’s begun to plan a mutiny, reasoning that their chances of survival will be improved with a smaller group. It’s just a matter of waiting for the right moment to spring into action, and recruiting a few more men so that they aren’t simply stopped when the time comes. To make matters even worse, he’s pieced together that the tinned food has been poisoning them based off of gossip (as well as spotting Goodsir pulling Lady Silence out of the rations line), and his friendship with Hartnell has clued him in to the most damning piece of information yet: The rescue party sent out after Franklin’s death didn’t end up getting far. While on patrol, Hartnell discovers the remains of their camp, their severed heads littering the site. Though Crozier orders him not to tell anyone else, the bombshell is too big to keep mum.
In other words, the give and take that Blanky cautioned Fitzjames about is starting to become precarious. With all of this information under his belt, Hickey doesn’t have to try particularly hard to make his sales pitch effective. After Hodgson is left out of the deliberations of a promotion (in the episode’s one bright point, Jopson is quite deservedly made a third lieutenant), Hickey calls him over. In a one-two punch, he uses what he knows, as well as a cut of meat from Crozier’s dog (may it rest in peace) in a real Chekhov’s dog moment to wheedle him into joining up.
By this point, Hickey is a character you’ve either come to hate to love, or love to hate. If you’re still wavering, the episode ends with a slaughter that ought to seal the deal. (For the record, I am in the latter camp!) One of the search parties that Crozier sends out, made up of Irving, Hickey, and one other crew member, encounters a group of Inuits. Irving goes ahead to speak to them, telling Hickey and the other man to stay behind. For a single moment, it looks like there might be some hope for the expedition. One of the Inuit men gives Irving a piece of seal meat, for which Irving gives him his telescope in exchange.
During the space of that conversation, however, Hickey and the other man disappear. When Irving goes back to investigate, he finds Hickey, shirtless, crouched over the man’s dead body. In the space of an instant, Hickey springs to his feet, and stabs Irving to death. As the episode ends, we see another flashback, this time to the Hickey we know arriving upon the ship. Hodgson, who’s checking everyone in, doesn’t suspect a thing. Only Irving, who helps Hickey settle in with his things, picks up on anything strange. But it’s too late.
The flashbacks are especially wrenching as we see everyone bright-eyed and bushy-tailed in stark contrast to how worn out they are now. Take Morfin, for instance, who smiles as he comes onboard for the first time, but is now barely a shell of his former self. The headaches of which he complained to Dr. Stanley (also R.I.P.) have only gotten worse, and as night falls over the camp, he wakes them all with his screaming, begging them to kill him and put him out of his misery. Though Crozier manages to talk him back from the edge, his rifle misfires as he puts it down, and he’s shot anyway.
The incident serves as something of a breaking point for poor Goodsir, who is also laboring under the stress of knowing that all of these men are essentially poisoning themselves due to the tins. As he returns to his tent, he begins to have a panic attack. It’s the beginning of the end: If someone like Goodsir, who for all intents and purposes is the heart of the expedition, has begun to buckle, the days ahead look dark indeed. It’s only Lady Silence, who slips into his tent simply to hold him, who manages to calm him down.
Notes From the Captain’s Log
• Pour one out for Ronan Raftery, who does an exceptional job balancing desperation, exhaustion, and relief as Irving fumbles his way through speaking to the Inuits.
• This is neither here nor there, but there’s something about the image of the severed heads of Fairholme’s party that’s reminiscent of Ian Holm’s severed head in Alien.
• The scene of Jopson’s promotion really is sweet. All of the assembled officers figure out what’s going on one by one — Jopson’s the only person in the tent who doesn’t realize it, right up until Fitzjames hands him his promotion papers. The look between him and Crozier is especially touching, what with their relationship falling somewhere between friends and father-and-son.
• Once again, I have to praise the show’s editing. Morfin’s breakdown is intercut with shots of Collins lying in his tent, as perhaps the only crew member who doesn’t come out to investigate what the hubbub is about. He’s fraying further and further, as evidenced by his earlier conversation with Goodsir, which provides the episode’s namesake. He tells Goodsir that he can’t stop smelling the fire that had taken down the carnival — more specifically, he can’t stop smelling the burning flesh of the men who hadn’t made it out. “They were cooking, like fillets grilling,” he tells Goodsir, as he confesses that he’d begun to drool. “My nose and my stomach, they don’t know horrible from supper. But I do.” Start your cannibalism clocks!