Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (August 16, 2018)
With AMC’s series The Terror, we find a thriller with historic overtones, as it introduces us to a naval expedition through the Arctic circa the 1840s. This three-disc set includes all 10 of Season One’s episodes, and the plot synopses come straight from the AMC website.
Go for Broke: “An accident at sea cripples a Royal Navy expedition 200 miles from finding the Northwest Passage, forcing its captains to make dire choices.”
With a pilot episode, I really just look for something that establishes basic character and story information. “Broke” achieves those goals, though it starts slowly. After a sluggish first half, though, it offers more intrigue the rest of the way and points ahead reasonably well.
Gore: “After a long winter trapped in the ice, scouting parties are sent out in search of open water. One of the teams makes a frightening discovery.”
Like “Broke”, “Gore” takes a while to get into gear, but it eventually develops some momentum. On the surface, it seems like a spotty show but it boasts intriguing elements.
The Ladder: “With something stalking the ships, the expedition's commanders debate their dwindling options.”
Should one expect “Ladder” to continue the pattern of episodes that take a while to get into gear? Yes, one should, and this trend frustrates. Still, half of an involving program beats none.
Punished, as a Boy: “A cunning attack on the ships proves the men are not battling an ordinary enemy, and that the region's Inuit culture may hold a key to their survival.”
Miraculously, “Punished” delivers a show that starts well and continues along that path. It focuses more on horror elements than usual, and these make it dramatic and impactful.
First Shot a Winner, Lads: “A strange illness begins to show itself while another more familiar one jeopardizes the expedition's most valuable resource - its captain's judgment.”
Like most episodes, “Shot” tends toward character exposition in the first half and action in the second. Like most episodes, this makes “Shot” a bit spotty, mainly because I don’t yet find its characters to be especially interesting. As death carries off some and narrows the participants, hopefully this will change for the better.
A Mercy: “With the end of their provisions in sight, officers contemplate a tough, risky strategy while struggling to raise the men's worsening spirits.”
As much as I like individual aspects of Terror, I still don’t really find a way to dig into the characters. That becomes more of a problem as the year progresses – we should get more invested in the roles but I don’t yet feel that way. “Mercy” moves along elements well enough that this lack of character impact doesn’t quite turn into a substantial impediment, but it holds back the series’ potential.
Horrible from Supper: “As the men make new attempts to find rescue, a series of shocking events underscores how vulnerable and exposed their situation has become.”
“Supper” takes the show down an inevitable path but not one that seems trite. It finally starts to develop the characters in a more satisfying manner as well.
Terror Camp Clear: “Deaths under mysterious circumstances create paranoia among the men, and some of the crew may be considering mutiny.”
Given the nature of the series’ events, it makes sense that the men finally snap under pressure. “Clear” depicts this in a semi-predictable manner but it nonetheless delivers pretty good drama.
The C, the C, the Open C: “Hope comes in strange forms, and the question of what the men are willing to do to survive begins to be settled in both noble and horrifying ways.”
With little time left in Season One, the men get more desperate and the body count increases. “Open C” manages a fair amount of intrigue as it pushes toward the finale.
We Are Gone: “The expedition's epic journey reaches its climax as men find themselves in a final confrontation with the Inuit mythology they've trespassed into.”
Because Season Two of The Terror will launch in 2019, one might think that means “Gone” brings a cliffhanger of sorts. Nope – instead, it firmly concludes the story it started with “Go For Broke”, as Terror’s second collection of shows will tell an entirely new tale.
That causes me relief, as I really couldn’t figure out how this particular narrative could extend to another 10 episodes. “Gone” brings matters to a natural conclusion and acts as a compelling finish for the year.