“As a trusted friend once put it, this place wants us dead,” says Captain Francis Crozier (Jared Harris) to his friend and Captain of the other ship in the expedition, John Franklin (Ciaran Hinds). Captain Crozier warns Franklin and the other officers of the serious and deadly possibility of ice freezing most of the ocean and trapping their vessels in episode one of AMC’s dramatic series, The Terror.
Based on historical events, AMC’s new thriller tells the story of the two British explorer ships that set off in the Arctic in search of the Northwest Passage to India and China in 1846. Captain Franklin is commanding the flagship HMS Erebus with Captain Crozier in charge of the secondary ship, HMS Terror. As episode one titled “Go for Broke” begins, two members of the Royal Navy ask a local Eskimo about Captain Franklin and Crozier. The Eskimo points to Crozier’s photo and calls him Aglooka. He also repeats a message that Crozier asked him to tell anyone who came looking for him. He says, “Tell them we are dead and gone.”
Next, the episode flashes back four years and shows the two ships in the Arctic, slowly making their way but running into more and more ice. While Crozier hosts dinner for Franklin and Captain James Fitzjames (Tobias Menzies), his men are eating dinner when one young sailor begins to cough up blood. The lad is taken care of by Dr. Harry Goodsir (Paul Ready) and as he realizes that what he suffers from is lethal, the young man begs the doctor not to perform an autopsy after he’s dead. Just before he dies, the young man hallucinates an Inuit man at the foot of his bed. Before he dies, the young sailor screams at Dr. Goodsir that the native is telling them to run.
The doctor performs the autopsy but can’t find anything wrong with newly deceased sailor. Dr. Goodsir informs his superiors that it was not scurvy. Once the autopsy is complete, a few men are given the task of burying him on a nearby desolate shore. After they drop the body in the large hole they dug, the coffin’s top pops off. One of the men, Cornelius Hickey (Adam Nagaitis), doesn’t feel right about leaving it like that so he climbs down to place the cover on correctly.
There’s more trouble for the Erebus as a big piece of ice gets stuck in its propeller. Collins (Trystan Gravelle) is assigned the job of getting the ice out. As Collins goes under the water in the 1845-style diving suit, he sees the dead body of a sailor who fell overboard floating towards him eerily, almost as though it’s a ghost. When he reports later about removing the ice from the propeller, he doesn’t mention anything about seeing the dead sailor.
The next day, Erebus is able to move again and Captain Franklin is delighted he’s about to be the first person to find the Northwest Passage. Crozier and Thomas Blanky (Ian Hart), the ice master, try to make the argument that this winter is already colder than last year’s winter and the likelihood of both ships becoming trapped by the ice and the cold is great. Their concerns fall on deaf ears. Fitzjames ignores their warnings; he doesn’t like or respect Crozier or Franklin, the latter of whom he believes has become a blinded, glory-seeking, arrogant fool.
Six days later, both the Erebus and the Terror are stuck in the ice. The men try to break it up manually with dynamite but to no avail.
Episode two titled “Gore” begins in the spring of 1847. Eight months have passed and the ships are still trapped in the ice. Captain Franklin has decided to send a company of men out onto the ice, instructing them to head east and west to see if they can find a path to open water. Both groups drag a small lifeboat along with them to use in case they do in fact find the open sea.
Captain Franklin visits Captain Crozier on his ship, surprising him. It seems Franklin is concerned Crozier hasn’t visited him onboard the Erebus during the winter and fears their friendship is in trouble. Crozier assures Franklin they’re still friends and that he just doesn’t like to be away from his ship for any real length of time. Franklin pushes, asking if it would help if he admitted he was wrong. Crozier assures him there isn’t a problem between them.
Not happy about how his visit went, Franklin vents to Fitzjames about Crozier. Fitzjames supports Franklin, telling him that Crozier wasn’t the first choice for this expedition. Franklin admits to him that he wasn’t either.
In a flashback scene, it’s revealed Crozier asked Franklin’s niece to marry him but she turned him down. Franklin was glad because he viewed Crozier as not truly his equal in class due to his Irish heritage. Crozier overhears the unpleasant conversation before he leaves the building.
Back out on the ice, the group of men who headed west – including Dr. Goodsir – finally come across some ground that’s not completely covered in ice and snow. The group drops off a note at the outpost for others to find and then heads back to the ice where they left the rowboat and provisions. When they get there, they discover the boat’s been destroyed.
Later that night, the men are huddled close together under a tent during a wind and hail storm when they hear something large growl. Believing it to be what attacked the boat and thinking it’s most likely a polar bear, the men emerge from the tent with the goal of shooting it. In the confusion and darkness, one of the men accidentally shoots an elderly Eskimo in the chest. As they’re dealing with the shock of the shooting, the thing that attacked their boat attacks again and kills Lieutenant Gore.
Back at the Erebus, the other team that went east has returned. They report they had no luck finding an opening to the ocean and worse yet, their food provisions rotted. Captain Franklin orders an early dinner for the men and waits for the return of the party from the west.
The company of men who went west return to the Erebus with the wounded Eskimo and his distraught daughter. Dr. Goodsir wants permission to try to get the bullet out and is given it by Captain Franklin. Captain Crozier is there and speaks the Eskimo’s native language so he’s able to explain to the daughter that they’re trying to save her father.
Unfortunately, the Eskimo has suffered a mortal wound and the doctor can’t save him. His daughter begs him not to go and tells him that Tuunbaq won’t listen to her, however her father dies from his wound.
Crozier has the Eskimo woman taken to the Terror while he and Fitzjames grill Dr. Goodsir about what happened on their search for open sea. Dr. Goodsir tells them he believes the Eskimo had surgery done to him before. He had marks on his body and his tongue had been cut out.
That night, Crozier speaks with the Eskimo woman and tries to convince her he only wants to help her and her people. She tells him if he really wants to help, his men and his ships need to leave. Crozier informs her the ships are stuck in the ice and can’t leave until the ice melts. The Eskimo woman tells Crozier that if he and his men don’t leave soon, they will disappear.
The Terror Episodes 1 and 2 Review:
Capturing the bitter cold and bleakness of the freezing voyage of the two doomed historical ships, AMC’s new series The Terror is a moody, suspenseful thriller with superb performances, wonderful sets, and impressive camera work. The production with its costumes, the set of the two ships, and the frozen wasteland of the arctic, brings vividly to life the bold and life-risking voyage of these men who wanted to be the first to find the mythical Northwest Passage. The audience can almost feel the icy wind and hail as it falls around the party that headed west in search of a way out of their frozen trap.
Jared Harris gives a subtle yet commanding performance as Captain Crozier, the seasoned commander who seems to know before anyone else the lethal dangers of their surroundings. A modest man but with serious conviction and knowledge of the elements, Crozier is the one leader of the voyage who could have saved not only his ship but both ships from disaster if only he’d been the man in charge.
Ciaran Hinds delivers an effective performance as Captain Franklin, the glory-seeking, pompous, and arrogant Captain in charge of the expedition who, with his refusal to listen to the experience and warnings of his second-in-command, has doomed both ships and crews to a cold and watery end.
Paul Ready is perfectly cast as Dr. Goodsir, the caring, decent, and responsible doctor on the voyage who wants nothing more than to take care of the men’s health and pitch in wherever he can to help. He is, without question, the most likeable character in the series.
With the ice and cold getting worse and the warning from the Eskimo woman that if they don’t leave the ships and crew will disappear, things are sure to get much worse for the men of the HMS Erebus and the HMS Terror.
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