This The Terror review contains spoilers.
The Terror Episode 4
Things go from bad to worse, as mutiny begins to rear its ugly head aboard the Terror. When we catch up with Captain Francis, he’s literally sitting on a sinking ship, his glass of whiskey sliding away from him to the opposite side of the table. It’s a comedic moment that gives way to the horrors and brutality of the rest of the episode.
Before we move on to the violence, I just have to say that “Punished, As a Boy” is the most visually stunning episode of this frozen horror drama to date. Four episodes in, The Terror has made wonderful use of its icy and desolate setting. The Canadian Arctic is an empty, colorless place, but the series fills it with the hues of the greenish Northern Lights and the muddy orange rays of the final sunrise these men are likely to see. And then the world gives in to the darkness of winter.
This transition is so beautifully done that the story has to pause for a moment, all the characters stop what they’re doing, to look towards the horizon for the final light. If there’s a better-looking horror series on cable TV right now than The Terror, let me know.
The beauty of the scenery makes the ugliness of the violence in this episode all the more piercing. Mr. Hickey (Adam Nagaitis) takes the brunt of the punishment. It’s a hard scene to watch, even for the men surrounding Hickey as he’s lashed “as a boy.” The Terror doesn’t shy away from the gore here – the lacerations left behind by the whip and the blood raining down on the men’s hands are really difficult to watch.
It’s made all the more difficult by the fact that Hickey’s a character I quite like. While his actions in this episode – that is, dragging Lady Silence (Nive Nielsen) back to the Terror for no reason except superstition (as far as he knows) – are a bit radical, I have the sense that there’s more of a noble heart to Hickey. He’s trying to save the other men from being scalped by Tuunbaq and is actually pretty confused when Francis orders him whipped. If Hickey was being teased as a hero earlier in the season – both in the way he is brave, charming, and unashamed of his sexuality – those days might have come and gone.
It’s Hickey’s punishment that seems to lose Francis the confidence of his men, in fact, and perhaps even their loyalty. By the end of the episode, all but ten men have volunteered to transfer to the Erebus in order to alleviate the strain on Francis’ sinking ship. This only validates Francis’ misery about becoming the reluctant leader of a doomed expedition – one he only joined to gain the favor of his beloved Sophia, who doesn’t want him either. Francis is the biggest sad sack I’ve ever had the pleasure of writing about. I’m really enjoying Jared Harris’ performance.
Meanwhile, we get a final scene with Dr. Goodsir (Paul Ready) that warms the heart. I absolutely love the mix of emotions brought on by these characters – how each main player delivers a different tone to the story. Francis shows pure misery while James is angry and trying to recover from a shattered ego (he supported Sir John’s dumbass plan, after all). Goodsir represents kindness and curiosity in the presence of the unknown.
Throughout the episode, Goodsir’s benevolence shines through, whether it be by trying to help the brain dead soldier or feeding the Erebus’ new Inuit prisoner. His attempts to communicate with Lady Silence, to connect with her, put the episode to rest in a surprising way. In the midst of all of this cold, the sinking ship, the violence, there’s still some kindness – perhaps one last spark of light before the dark completely takes hold.