This The Terror review contains spoilers.
The Terror Episode 10
The Terror can’t quite stick the landing in its season finale, opting for an hour heavy with action and gore rather than a more thoughtful conclusion to this tale of survival. That said, even the weakest moments of this series have been a true delight and “We Are Gone” is far from a bust.
One of my main issues with the episode is that it rushes through the fate of the remaining crew, choosing to leave Lt. Little and the other survivors out in the cold, while Captain Francis and the maniacal Mr. Hickey deal with Tuunbaq. What exactly happened to the crew at the very end and why was Little’s face so horribly pierced? It’s likely that the madness displayed by Collins and Morfin eventually afflicted these men as well, but it feels like we were deprived of that final moment of chaos. After all, The Terror spent its entire run chronicling the decay of this crew and exploring what these men would do to survive. Making a monster the focus of the final episode seems shallow in comparison. Or maybe I’m just a masochist…
That said, we do get proper endings for most of the main characters. Jobson and Goodsir suffer cruel fates as all kind men do on these sorts of shows. The lieutenant spends his final seconds calling after his comrades as they leave him for dead among the sick. It’s a striking moment of cruelty for Jobson, who believes the captain has abandoned him. His vision of Francis enjoying a decadent meal and ignoring him is absolutely heartbreaking.
Meanwhile, Goodsir sacrifices himself to save the captain. Paul Ready has delivered a stunning performance as the good doctor these past few weeks and “We Are Gone” is the cherry on top. His ultimate sacrifice is heroic but so incredibly dreadful. In order to poison Hickey’s men, he must allow himself to be consumed by them. What a shocking moment it is to see Goodsir’s carved body on a slab while the men feast on his flesh. (A round of applause to the effects team for the horrifying visual!) Watching Francis carve out a piece of Goodsir’s heel and chew on it is absolutely stomach-churning.
I love that the ring given to Goodsir by David Young, the dying sailor in the series premiere, makes a return in this episode. Goodsir explains that the ring found its way back to him and asks the captain to deliver it back to Young’s sister. Unfortunately, to make matters all the more tragic, Goodsir promise to the young sailor is never fulfilled. He can’t even remember Young’s name…
Adam Nagaitis’ Hickey is a complete cipher to the very end, an agent of chaos that could only be introduced in such a hopeless and harsh situation. The villain reveals his true identity — or rather, that he’s not Hickey at all but a criminal who killed the real Hickey in order to start a new life across the world — to the men as they prepare to face Tuunbaq. As they pull Hickey’s “chariot” towards the monster, the men realize too late that Hickey has completely lost it.
Of course, Hickey pays for his crimes in full, devoured by Tuunbaq along with his lackeys. How Hickey knew to cut out his own tongue and offer it to the monster as a sacrifice remains a mystery (Lady Silence did the same in order to become Tuunbaq’s shaman), but what’s important is that it didn’t work at all. Hickey’s shock as the monster chomps down on his arm is cathartic as hell.
Moments later, Tuunbaq dies at the hands of Francis, thus ending the monster’s reign of terror across the Arctic wasteland. It’s unfortunate that the beast turns out to be the weakest part of the series, a shallow threat used to shock the audience instead of as a deeper exploration of Inuit mythology. By the end of “We Are Gone,” having abandoned any explanation of Tuunbaq’s origin or his role in the order of things, The Terror leaves us to wonder why this monster was on the show at all… (Dan Simmons’ novel does a much better job of explaining what Tuunbaq is all about.) Tuunbaq feels tacked on to an otherwise enjoyable tale, a failed attempt at a creature feature.
The remarkable Jared Harris doesn’t disappoint, though. His performance as Captain Francis has been top notch through all ten episodes and he closes out the series with one of his strongest hours yet. Harris lends every scene an air of tragedy that I’d call Shakespearean, even in the most outlandish of moments. As a fan of his characters on Mad Men and Fringe, it’s been a true delight watching Harris headline this series.
Francis is the only character who gets a happy ending. It’s a bit troubling that the captain’s survival is at the expense of Silna, who is forced to live out the rest of her life in isolation due to the death of Tuunbaq. Silna was almost as ill-defined a character as the monster itself, but it’s hard not to feel that she got the short end of the stick. After all that she’s suffered, from the death of her father to the loss of her tongue, it would have been nice to see Silna get something in return. That she’s instead forced to roam the wasteland on her own for the rest of her life is one cruelty too many.
As for Francis, he gets to begin a new life among the Inuit people, quietly hunting seal. The final shot of him kneeling on the ice is almost violently peaceful, a harsh juxtaposition to the rest of the series. Francis enjoys an earned tranquility while the men who have finally come looking for him are left to wonder what happened to the men of the Terror and the Erebus. For better or worse, we’re the only witnesses and will have to keep the secret for the rest of our days.