The Terror: is there a monster in this or what?

The Terror: is there a monster in this or what?

By Tim Surette,

AMC’s latest series may be the scariest thing it’s put out in a long time. It’s right there in the title: The Terror. The show is based on a true story and follows an 1840s British expedition into the Arctic to find safe passage to Asia, and, as was the case with most things involving boats in unchartered territory in the 19th Century, things went horribly wrong.

The show’s title is a bit of a misdirect; one of the two ships in the expedition was actually named The Terror, and it’s reasonable to assume that’s the reference there. But as you’ll quickly find as you watch the show, the title is apt even if you never know the name of any boat in it. The Terror‘s logline says “A Royal Naval expedition crew searching for the Northwest Passage is attacked by a mysterious predator that stalks the ships and their crew in a suspenseful and desperate game of survival.” I’d like to highlight one part of that: Mysterious predator.

Those two words transform the show from a sleepy historical drama featuring guys in funny hats who used to be in Game of Thrones to a potential weekly monster movie! Is there a Leviathan? A Kraken? An oversized seagull? Or is it the worst copout: MAN?

These are the only questions you need to have going into your The Terror watch, because for all the atrocities that come with men trapped in a boat in the days before electricity, the idea of a monster eating them one by one tops them all. But there isn’t even a guarantee that there’s a monster in this at all! So we’re here to ask: Is there a monster in The Terror or what!?!?

We’ll be breaking down the question each week right here.

Episode 1: “Go For Broke”

AMC teased you with promises of a monster or some other beast in its loglines, and then in the first episode of The Terror, all it gave you was a man spouting blood from his mouth and a quick overview of how navigating Arctic waters in wooden boats is a really bad idea. But we did find out there was a monkey! And a dog! Will the dog Cujo out and eat people? Is he the “mysterious predator”?

As non-monstrous as the first episode felt, there were some tidbits that indicated monsters may be afoot in subsequent episodes. For one, there was a shirtless ghost Inuit elder who appeared before that poor young man as he was dying. DING DING DING! Now we’re getting somewhere. Was it just a hallucination, or was it something more? All indications point to nature sending a message to these snooty Europeans to stay out of this sacred land lest you feel the wrath of the Great White North, but we can’t call that ghost a monster quite yet.

However, the episode over all? I am totally on board. This looks like the worst cruise in history, and I can’t wait to watch these men suffer horrific deaths from the comfort of my couch while eating freshly popped popcorn. The Terror may end up being more of a psychological horror show than a historical drama, and that’s a GREATthing. (Imagine if Turn: Washington’s Spies had a Swamp Thing in it to spice things up!)

But for all the misery we saw — two men died, one by the icy fingers of the Arctic waters and another to a mystery disease that turns your mouth into a Mt. Vesuvius of blood — the biggest clue that there’s a monster somewhere came in the opening flash-forward conversation between one man trying to figure out what happened to The Terror and The Erebus and a local. In addition to pretty much letting us know that every single person aboard those boats was dead (spoilers, dude!), something called “Tuunbaq” was “behind them, coming, always coming. From the shamans.” And “this thing made of muscles and spells.” Sounds promising, like Arnold Schwarzenegger in a wizard hat!

Is there a monster? Not yet! But for now, the crew of both ships have other things to worry about. However, there’s a chance we’ll see something soon, because look at the title of the next episode…

Episode 2: “Gore”

Eight months have passed between the first and second episodes, so I’m assuming there were no monster attacks in that time or else we need to have a serious sit down with the writers of the show. But it appears as though they were just skipping ahead to the good parts, because we have contact! An on-foot expedition to find, well, anything ended predictably in horror as a local was shot and another man maybe had his spine ripped out by a giant frickin’ polar bear! Is that the mysterious predator we’ve been waiting for?

Fun fact about polar bears: They’re mean sons of b***hes. Fun fact about this polar bear: Its paws are about 20 inches across, says Dr. Goodsir/Dr. Muttonchops (Paul Ready). According to Sea World, polar bear paws can grow up to about 12 inches across. Maybe polar bears in the old days were bigger, you know, before we started melting their ice caps with our V8 engines and hair spray. Or maybe this ain’t no polar bear at all. Could this be the “tuunbaq” that the Inuit woman was speaking of while her father was dying? And what does she mean about not being able to control it?

Francis (Jared Harris) gets it. “[These are] the signs that nature does not give a damn about our plans,” he tells Sir John (Ciarin Hinds) early in the episode, giving more credence to the idea that the extreme conditions these British men have to survive aren’t just passive, but they’re aggressively encouraging them to turn around and go home. The giant hailstones, the endless white horizon, the angry bears… c’mon guys, get a clue. Go home!

Is there a monster? Despite its ability to rip a man to shreds, I’m not ready to call a polar bear a monster by definition. However, it’s certainly something to keep an eye on as we trudge further into this snowy hellscape that these idiots volunteered to explore. Final verdict: no monster! Yet. Another verdict: After two episodes, this show is awesome.

Episode 3: “The Ladder”

Coming soon…

The Terror airs Monday nights at 9/8c on AMC.

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Published at Tue, 27 Mar 2018 08:00:00 +0000

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