AMC’s The Terror
Season 2, Episode 5: “Shatter Like a Pearl”
Directed by Lily Mariye
Written by Steven Hanna
* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “The Weak Are Meat” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Taizo” – click here
Guadalcanal. February 4th of 1943.
Sergeant Chester Nakayama receives a letter from his mother about the death of the twins. He’s not doing well, and it’s causing friction with the other American soldiers. Elsewhere at the Military Embarkation Centre in Long Beach, California, more Japanese American soldiers hear stories of what it’s like in the jungle. One man, Sgt. Terajima, is already cracking with the hollow sounds of the yurei. He’s carrying something bloody in his duffel bag onto the ship that’ll take him overseas.
In the camp, Yamato and the others are forced to “prove” they’re ‘true Americans’ by filling out a “loyalty questionnaire.” Many are rightly sceptical, worried that filling out official paperwork will only be used against them later. They’re likely right. Major Bowen is pissed off with all the bureaucratic nonsense, only because it makes more work for him, not because of the blatant racism.
Chester’s continually convinced in the yurei’s presence. His translator partner Arthur tries talking reason. They have to go babysit a prisoner, Tetsuya Ota, from a crashed enemy plane for Colonel Stallings. Not so simple. The prisoner’s already bitten off an ear. Chester tells the colonel he can use his Japanese ancestry to interrogate the man.
Poor Luz is dubbed “the ghost woman” by little kids at the camp. She stands at the edge of a lake, her white clothes muddied, and sees a vision of her dead children beneath the water. They disappear, and she wades in trying to hold of them. She wanders back to Asako and Henry. Her father shows up to deliver news of her brother’s death during a battle in Africa. He wants to get her out of the camp.
Japanese Americans are threatened with treason should they refuse to fill out the questionnaire. Amy doesn’t think it’s as big of a deal as her man Ken. He doesn’t want to answer questions the government have no right asking. She secretly changes his defiant answers, making him look like a coward when he’s not rounded up with the others.
Chester starts talking with the prisoner when Ota utters his name. “I know all about you already,” he says. Unsettling threats come out of him, including an allusion to Chester’s now dead twin children. Ota tells him his whole family will die if he’s not let go, and the soil will “soak with their blood.” Chester takes the spirit’s photograph rather than chat any longer. He discovers Ota’s face isn’t blurred like the other yurei pictures. He believes the man’s trying to be killed, so he wouldn’t have to kill himself.
Eventually, Ota and Chester talk seriously. The translator’s been convincing himself this entire time, even as a Japanese American, that he’s totally different than Japanese people from the homeland. Yet this scene starts to change that. He notices string in a notebook and susses out it’s stitching from a baseball. Ota claims he “struck out” Lou Gehrig— the famous first basement was part of the 1934 Japan Tour, along with Babe Ruth and others.
Oh, and the new soldiers have shipped in!
Sgt. Terajima’s got his bag, with a rotting corpse inside.
The army’s going to ship Ota off to a POW camp. He’d rather die, and Chester knows there’s nothing good awaiting him. The translator undoes his prisoner’s bonds, leaving him the knife that was him in the plane crash. Ota sinks the blade into his stomach, committing seppuku. He opens his belly, then Chester holds his hand. He tells the sergeant Admiral Takahashi’s birth date— June 7th, 1894 in Sendai. He says this is “more than any white man” will get out of Japanese POWs, right as he dies.
Luz tells Asako about Yuko, giving her a rattle drum to give back to the midwife. She’s leaving the camp with her father. When she goes out the gates, she’s surprised by Henry rushing to embrace her, hoping she’ll “be safe” now. Such a beautiful, emotional moment in the midst of all the horror and tragedy. The two fathers share a look before Luz is taken off home, away from that wretched existence at the hands of fascists.
Col. Stallings is happy with Chester’s performance, despite the death of Ota. All is well, and the translator’s looking at bigger things ahead. Except Arthur’s been taken over by the yurei, coming to lead Chester away at gunpoint. They’re headed off with that bag full of festering corpse, somewhere into the jungle. Stallings tries to stop them, but Chester keeps driving. Soldiers shoot out the tires, sending the vehicle flipping into a ditch. Chester survives with a shattered femur, while Arthur looks quite dead.
A dead finger opens the duffel bag. The corpse flips out, cracking into the rotten form of Yuko we’ve seen before. It tells Chester it’s time to leave, and calls him “Taizō“— a masculine Japanese name meaning ‘third son.’
Fantastic, chilling chapter in this second season! Just, wow. Great things happening, and the Japanese folklore / culture that’s coming across in every single episode has been stunning to watch incorporated into the whole story.
“Taizo” is also the title of the next episode, too. Yikes!