AMC’s The Terror
Episode 5: “First Shot a Winner, Lads”
Directed by Sergio Mimica-Gezzan
Written by Josh Parkinson
* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “Punished, as a Boy” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “A Mercy” – click here
A group of the men are monitoring temperature and ice thickness in the areas surrounding the HMS Erebus and Terror. Right now, it’s all a matter of survival, and what the plan will be when the next thaw comes allowing them to sail free. Commander James Fitzjames (Tobias Menzies) finds relations with Captain Francis Crozier (Jared Harris) eroding, as the latter won’t even make the trek with his men over to Erebus to meet with Fitzjames face to face. James also wants Lady Silence (Nive Nielsen) taken to Terror. Seems men are “upset by her,” which is causing a problem. Not Henry Goodsir (Paul Ready), though. He and Silence get to know one another well, and Goodsir’s been learning her language; he’s compiling a “dictionary of Inuktitut.” Henry offers to go with the men taking Silence over to Crozier and the Terror.
Yet Terror’s where the men who intended on killing the young Inuit woman are bunked, so this could well turn out ugly. Simultaneously, it’s a tug of war, really. Two hardheaded men pushing and pushing back against the other. Between Silence as a sort of perceived negative bargaining chip and Crozier’s alcoholism, things aren’t exactly peachy between the ships.
Another man dies on the ice, but likely from a heart attack. Just another casualty. Crozier’s told of Silence being brought back. He isn’t upset, mostly glad to hear Goodsir is making progress learning some of the Inuktitut language. All this time they’ve got to keep an eye on the pressure ridges of the ice, et cetera, and Francis is getting more desperate with regards to his alcohol consumption: “Put a bullet in my head before I drink gin.”
Goodsir mentions to Dr. Alexander McDonald (Charles Edward) there are signs worse than scurvy on the Erebus, trying to figure out Morfin’s gum problems. He’s showing his skills for the medical profession. He may not be a doctor, but he’s damn sure inclined to doctoring. I love how The Terror includes so much in terms of history, from naval procedures to life on the ships to the evolution of medicine, and so much else in between. That was one of the big reasons I loved the Dan Simmons novel because of how it brought so much re: history into a kind of melting pot, in addition to the horror elements.
In the belly of the Terror, Magnus Manson (Stephen Thompson) says he doesn’t want to go down to the “dead room.” He believes he hears the corpses trying to “get out.” He’s ordered to go on by Lt. John Irving (Ronan Raftery). Except it’s Cornelius Hickey (Adam Nagaitis) that convinces him to go, along with himself and Tom Hartnell (Jack Colgrave Hirst). An eerie scene.
In the Captain’s quarters, Crozier meets with Goodsir, and he wants to know about the creature out there. Yet Silence hasn’t said much about it, almost refusing to speak of it. So, the Captain wants to try and get more out of her. Silence sits there with them, as Crozier tries speaking to her a bit with what he knows of the Inuit language. She’s nervous, naturally, stuck on that ship with all those white men. She doesn’t really have much in the way of information to offer, either. Finally the Captain threatens to toss her out of both ships if she doesn’t help them kill the beast. The other men don’t agree with that.
In the middle of the antagonistic conversation, Fitzjames turns up to confront Francis about his drink consumption, the stealing of liquor from the stores. This ends with Crozier throwing a punch at James. Oh, that’s just fantastic for morale!
Topside there are problems. The creature shows up to start killing again. The men try fending it off. However, it’s as if the creature is everywhere and nowhere all at once. It moves faster than anybody can anticipate. The mystery of the creature is SO PERFECT! Atmosphere is key in the Simmons novel, which is why keeping a shroud of secrecy around the monster itself is serving the series so well. Here, we get the biggest glimpse yet, and it’s the fifth episode, so there’s excellent suspense being paid off now. In a suspenseful sequence, we witness the power, speed, ferocity, and dexterity of the creature in a terrifying chase.
The men shoot at the beast, and it drops from the ship’s mast. It doesn’t die, though, it just runs off into the stormy weather. Meanwhile, Silence slips away, and Crozier sees her; he decides not to say anything. Maybe he realises it’s more useful to give Lady Silence her freedom than to lock her up, that way they could learn more.
Nothing’s any better inside the ships. Goodsir finds rat droppings around the provisions, and then there’s poor Thomas Blanky (Ian Hart), whose run-in with the creature topside has resulted in the need of an amputated leg. Nothing a bit of whiskey can’t dull, for the time being.
In the Captain’s quarters, Crozier is upfront about being “unwell” a.k.a drying out from alcoholism. He charges Fitzjames and the others with caring for him, as well as hiding it from the remainder of the crew. Moreover, Fitzjames has to takeover the mission until Crozier gets better.
Upon further inspection of the canned provisions, Goodsir finds they’ve been spoiled, and he’s testing on the ship’s little monkey, Jacko. Ironic, in a way, that Jacko will likely be poisoned by the canned food, and he was originally gift to Sir John from Lady Jane; almost a doomed, self-fulfilling prophesy.
Man, The Terror just keeps on swinging. I had hesitations about whether this adaptation was going to work well. Each episode, I swallow my own pride seeing how well Simmons is being represented onscreen. Even more thrilling than reading the book, simply because of the impressive and brutal visuals. Really can’t get enough of the all around atmosphere, plus attention to detail.
“A Mercy” is the next episode.