What happens when you stick over one hundred men on two ships and strand them in possibly the most unforgivable environment on the planet? Welcome to AMC’s new show The Terror, which is based loosely on the true life story of an 1845 expedition by the ships Terror and Erebus to find the Northwest Passage, both of which never returned and the fate of the crews remained unknown. Suffice to say, everything that could go wrong does and the frozen wasteland becomes just one of the huge obstacles these sailors face.
Jared Harris plays Captain Francis Crozier, a standoffish but smart and seasoned who commands the Terror while Ciaran Hinds as Captain John Franklin commands the Erebus and the overall mission. Franklin is past his prime, over his head and wants one last shot at glory, which is not the best person to have in charge of a mission like this. Not only that, he and Captain Crozier have, shall we say, a complicated history that only makes it harder for the two to work together. Suffice to say that when things start to go bad, these two do not see eye to eye on what the proper course of action should be.
It is a testament not only to the actors but those responsible for the sets that made this episode, and most likely the whole show, feel so claustrophobic in a setting of such vast emptiness. Those two things, the emptiness, and claustrophobia, help set the stage here as the two ships begin their voyage into hell. The crews are a mixed bag of seasoned and rookie crewman who are soon faced with the prospect of this voyage taking much longer than they had ever imagined.
There are some interesting characters in this episode that bear watching as the series moves on. Dr. Harry Goodsir (Paul Ready) is not that experienced but he is willing to listen and learn, something I think will come in handy down the road. Crewman Cornelius Hickey (Adam Nagaitis) has an air about him that screams he’s hiding something but there is also something intelligent in the way he acts as well. There is already a heightened sense of tension on board these two ships, and with what they are attempting it’s no wonder, but the circumstances of the very first episode help push the tension to a whole new level.
There is a lot of time spent on the backstory’s of the captains and the mission in this episode but also some incredibly detailed camera work as well. From the tension on the men’s faces to the underwater scene to the incredible artic territory, it has a wonderful sense of realism that only adds to the dark clouds that seem to be gathering over this mission. Everything looks beautifully haunting and authentic, making the actors jobs that much easier when it is time to go to work.
With an incredibly solid and well done first episode, dripping in tension and dread, I can’t wait to see if both the actors and the showrunners can keep building this to what will undoubtedly be a very bad but hopefully entertaining end.
Four and a half stars out of five
- Incredibly authentic look and feel to the show
- Wonderful feeling of claustrophobia and dread
- The ships are a ticking time bomb of tension
- Challange will be to keep the intensity level spread out and building over ten episodes