The Terror premieres March 26th, 9pm on AMC.
By John Baker
In the frozen hell that is the Arctic, there is far more to worry about than simply ice and cold.
Early on in the new AMC offering, The Terror, one of the officers helping to lead this Arctic expedition offers up his summation of the situation to colleagues by saying “This place wants us dead.”
But that is the place Sir John Franklin has taken two Royal Navy ships in search of the Northwest Passage.
And it is those five words that prove frightfully accurate during this 1847 journey into the cold and frozen wastes. As it turns out, the crews of the HMS Terror and HMS Erebus will face a trial on the ice few could describe.
There’s something else, something with claws, razor-sharp teeth and the ability to cut a man in half with one swipe of its paw lurking in the cold. It’s not a man, nor a beast, it’s something quite different.
The Terror offers a look at what happens to men when they are faced with the harshest of environment, the cruelest of conditions, and the harsh reality that they are not alone on the ice – and they are being hunted.
Fortunately, the 10-episode initial offering of The Terror puts an incredibly talented cast to work in a period piece that is gritty, tough and sometimes grisly. It’s also very entertaining.
Captain Franklin (Ciaran’ Hinds) is the early glue that binds the expedition together, but has much to prove as he also realizes that he wasn’t anyone’s first choice to command. There are a lot of interesting men and officers on this expedition and that adds to the tension and closeness you feel for them as they simply endure the unendurable.
I’m a fan of period pieces and certainly a fan of shows that hang their hat on exploration – of both territory, heart and soul. There’s an awful lot to like about this show, even when it’s unnerving and bloody. There are loyalties forged, betrayals occur, some men rise to the occasion while others struggle to keep their nerves in check.
Hinds does a great job as Capt. John Franklin and is aided nicely by a sterling cast, including Jared Harris, Tobias Menzies, Christos Lawton, Matthew McNulty, and others, including Nive Nielsen as Lady Silence, an Eskimo woman who has some sort of connection to the creature that terrorizes the English crew.
The show delivers a very jolting look at men living in close quarters in ever-increasing pressure as they simply hope to survive. The goal of the Northwest Passage soon falls by the wayside as ships and men learn the hard truth about the icy conditions they find themselves stuck in. They also learn the realities of the natives living in this world, as well as their connection to the spiritual realm. It’s here that the beast that haunts them, kills their friends, and seems bent on retribution of some kind does its bloody work.
As the battle to survive continues, and the likelihood of the food and morale running out, a decision is made to try and walk out of the freezer – an 800-mile stroll through inhospitable territory with a Gothic beast stalking them the whole way. It is a walk that will end in tragedy and ultimately lend further fuel to the legend of a true story that this show is based on.
In the end, ships abandoned, and the trek to a Hudson Bay Company outpost 800 miles away, the crew discovers man by man that hope is a fleeting thing on the ice and there are many ways to die or simply lose their minds.
I give The Terror a B+.