July 2, 2018 The Terror (Season One Review)
The H.M.S Erebus and H.M.S Terror were actual British Royal Navy Hecla-class warships that were not only the most technologically advanced of their time – being the first Royal Navy ships to have steam-powered engines and screw propellers – but they were also equipped with mortars instead of cannons. The H.M.S. Terror was even used in several battles during the War of 1812. After their service ended though, the wide-hulled warships, which were ideal for breaking through packed ice, were converted into polar exploration vessels that set sail from England in 1845 in search of the Northwest Passage to China and India through the Arctic. The ships had last been spotted by whalers in Baffin Bay awaiting proper conditions before entering the Arctic maze. Bizarrely enough, both vessels and crews consequently vanished under incredibly baffling circumstances which still remain an unsolved mystery to this very day.
The Terror is the Historical/Adventure/Drama/Horror AMC Original Series that premiered its first episode, “Go for Broke,” on Sunday, March 25th, at 9:00 pm EST. The show’s second episode, “Gore,” aired the following night at the same time, and thus, found its permanent home on Monday nights at 9 o’clock Eastern Standard Time on AMC. Viewers have tuned-in for so many reasons, one of which being the chance to witness the creative influence of Executive Producer and exceptionally gifted Director, Sir Ridley Scott (Alien 1979, Blade Runner 1982); along with the assistance of AMC Presents, Scott Free Productions, Entertainment 360, EMJAG Productions, and AMC Studios, who together were able to bring this stunning series right to viewers’ homes.
With that being said, the show would not have been possible without its ingenious Creator and Writer, David Kajganich (A Bigger Splash 2015, Suspiria 2018); who based the program on Dan Simmons’ 2007 Historical Fiction/Thriller novel sharing the same title. The series also utilized three different directors throughout the first season: Edward Berger (Jack 2014, Deutschland 83 series) for Episodes 1, 2, and 4; Sergio Mimica-Gezzan (Medici: Masters of Florence series, Designated Survivor series) for Episodes 3, 5, and 6; and Tim Mielants (Legion series, Peaky Blinders series) for Episodes 7-10.
While there was no doubt that the individuals working behind the scenes could effectively execute a masterful creative vision with surgical precision, it was ultimately the cast that breathed the breath of life into this rather sensational story. The series essentially featured Jared Harris (Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows 2011, The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones 2013) as the careworn commander of Terror, Captain Francis Crozier; Ciarán Hinds (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy 2011, The Woman in Black 2012) as the keen yet sometimes reckless captain of Erebus and leader of the expedition, Sir John Franklin; and Tobias Menzies (Casino Royale 2006, Atonement 2007) as the Royal Navy’s rising star and second in command on Erebus, Captain James Fitzjames.
It also starred Paul Ready (Utopia TV series, Cuffs mini-series) as the tolerant and tender surgeon, Dr. Henry Goodsir; Adam Nagaitis (The Man with the Iron Heart 2017, The Commuter 2018) as the astute and clever young petty officer, Cornelius Hickey; Ian Heart (Backbeat 1994, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone 2001) as the brilliant master of the ice and faithful friend to Francis, Thomas Blanky; and finally, Nive Nielsen (The New World 2005) as the Netsilik native woman and shaman’s daughter nicknamed Lady Silence; in addition to the many others necessary to the show’s success.
Aside from its incredible cast and their stellar performances, this show presented a truly intriguing story that not only delicately danced on the line between fact and fiction, but did so in a fashion that almost entranced viewers into believing its potential truth. This story follows the severe trials and tribulations encountered by the captains and crews of the Terror and Erebus as they attempt to journey through the perilous environment of the North, in search of the prized passage to China and India that has yet to be discovered.
Shortly into their trip though, they find themselves trapped in the arid vastness that is the Arctic, with their ships stuck in the packed ice that has swept in overnight. And aside from the harsh conditions they now face, there is something much more dangerous lurking in the snow; an ancient creature that is now out of control and suffering from insatiable bloodlust. Will they live to find the Northwest Passage, or are they doomed to become ghosts of a land that has only ever wanted them dead to begin with? Only time will tell for these seasoned Arctic explorers.
As a whole, The Terror was a beautifully-constructed series that offered so much richness in the form of plot, character development, dialogue, themes, cinematography, and score. To watch the characters evolve before the ultimate devolution of their humanity was unbelievably affecting. To hear them speak with such sophisticated eloquence, even in moments of dire desperation and defeat was heartbreaking. Learning that living under such horrendous conditions can break even the strongest men, or that paranoia and fear can weaken men into unimaginable monsters, were profound lessons that still reveal relevance. The most amazing elements of this series still paled in comparison to its remarkable cinematography and score, which was responsible for telling the story as flawlessly as it did. The contrast in shooting between the interiors of the ships and the nothingness that existed outside them was mere perfection.
The series was not without faults though, even as small and insignificant as they may have been. The greatest and equally minuscule drawback of this show was its pacing towards the end. Sure, the show went through sections where action was drip-fed like a slow drip IV, but there were always glimpses of mysterious moments, or glimmers of gasp-worthy instants caught out of the corner of the eye that kept viewers intently hanging on and patiently waiting for the next. Unfortunately, the last few episodes had their drip slowed to almost a stop at some parts, but again, that should certainly not prevent viewers from experiencing the many other factors that made this a truly top notch series.
Overall, The Terror is a slow-burning series that quickly blows your mind, which is why CrypticRock gives it 4.5 out of 5 stars.