the terror The C, The C, The Open C review

Welcome to our weekly recaps of AMC’s historical horror show The Terror. This The Terror review takes a look at the ninth somber episode, “The C, The C, The Open C”. Spoilers follow.

In this week’s episode:

  • Everything is bad, and everyone is dying.

terror goodsir

The Best Of A Bad Situation 

R.I.P. Fitzjames. And a lot of other people, too. These final few episodes of The Terror have turned into the heart-wrenching Boromir death scene from Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, played out again and again. And again. One by one, the men of the doomed expedition are dropping like flies, and there’s little anyone can do (audience included) but sit back and watch. Perhaps this is what makes The Terror the most genuinely scary horror show on TV right now – it understands that you can only fight off death so long before you have to throw in the towel. In the end, everyone loses.

After last week’s monster attack, 32 men are now dead, while 23 are unaccounted for. Those 23 are likely all off with the treacherous Hickey, who has formed his own group against the group still lead by Crozier. In the mayhem of the attack, dear old Harry Goodsir ended up stuck with Hickey’s camp, and no one should be happy about that, most of all Goodsir.

Crozier, Fitzjames and the men still loyal to them abandon camp and march on, still hoping against hope to find rescue. Elsewhere, Hickey’s men have set up a camp of their own, and it’s clear that going off with Hickey isn’t working out any better for them than had they stayed with Crozier. Food is dwindling, so much so that Hodgson tries to eat a piece of his own boot. From the look on his face, it doesn’t taste very good.

If eating boots doesn’t sound very appetizing to you, just wait until you see what comes next. Goodsir has set up a makeshift medical tent in Hickey’s camp, and in comes Gibson, who is clearly fading fast. Hickey – who previously carried on a sexual affair with Gibson – can see the man’s days are severely numbered. All smiles and gentle caresses, Hickey tells Gibson that they’ll “make the best of a bad situation”, and then proceeds to stab Gibson in the back. Goodsir tries to stop all this, but it’s hopeless. Gibson is dead, and Hickey now has a ghoulish request: he wants Goodsir to cut the corpse up so the men can feast upon the remains.

Goodsir really doesn’t want to do this, but after Hickey threatens to torture Hodgson if he doesn’t comply, Goodsir gives in and prepares the “meal”. You likely could’ve guessed that cannibalism was coming sooner or later – it’s the sort of thing that always seems to crop up in stories of explorers stranded far from home with little or nothing to eat. The way The Terror handles all of this is haunting to the extreme while not being explicit. After Goodsir has done his deed, we’re treated to a wide shot as he hauls two bags filled with the meat of the butchered Gibson, and the damaged, near-dead look on Goodsir’s face says it all. There’s no going back now, even if the men did have a chance in hell. The show also finds ways to create macabre humor out of the entire situation – as the other men feast on Gibson, the scene cuts to Hodgson, dining alone, eating the meat from a piece of fine, ornate China.

the terror episode 9 of 10

More Than God Loves Them

“I think you love your men more than even God loves them, Sir John,” Fitzjames said to the late John Franklin at the start of the series – which seems so very, very long ago after everything has happened. Fitzjames repeats part of the line again in “The C, The C, The Open C”, only this time he’s talking about Crozier. In a scene that underlines just how good a man Crozier is, as the men of his party prepare to leave camp, Fitzjames asks if they should destroy any supplies they cannot carry. The thinking is that Hickey and his band of mutineers may return to the camp and scavenge whatever might be left over. Fitzjames wants to destroy all of this so as not to lend any aid to Hickey and his men. But Crozier orders the opposite – he wants any supplies left over to be piled up as an offering. He doesn’t want to harm any of the men, not even the ones who’ve mutinied against him (well, except maybe Hickey). Fitzjames is taken aback by this, and realizes that the compliment that he once paid Franklin – that he loves his men more than God loves them – really should’ve been paid to Crozier.

Alas, that love can only get them so far. Not long after leaving camp, Fitzjames succumbs to his illness and dies. It’s a heartbreaking, as Crozier stays by his side, and as Bridgens, who has become the medical man in camp now that Goodsir is gone, gives Fitzjames a tearful goodbye. “It was an honor serving with you, sir. You’re a good man. There will be poems,” he tells Fitzjames, and I may or may not have teared up ever-so-slightly at John Lynch‘s delivery of the line.

This won’t be the only death that gets to Bridgens here. Later, Harry Peglar, whom Bridgens is very close with, also dies. And that’s the last straw for Bridgens. There’s no hope left; no happiness. He strolls out of the camp and simply lays down somewhere to die.

Bridgens isn’t the only person who willingly throws in the towel this week. Blanky’s severed leg has grown infected, and he, too, knows his days are numbered. It’s become clear that the Tuunbaq is still out there, hunting them. Blanky’s suggestion: he’ll go off in another direction to draw the Tuunbaq away, while Crozier and the men march on. This leads to perhaps the most emotionally devastating moment of the episode: after Blanky has stalked off on his own, he makes a discovery: the Northwest Passage. The men were so close to their original goal. So damn close. It reminds one of the scene in Apollo 13, where the astronauts are only a few miles away from the surface of the moon, but have no hope of landing there anymore. So close, and yet so far.

Tuunbaq finally does show up, albeit off camera. And Blanky has a surprise for the beast: he’s wrapped himself in a dozen or so forks, so that when Tuunbaq tries to eat him, he won’t find Blanky so easy to digest. Blanky has a pretty good laugh at this before the episode ends.

terror 9

The C, The C, The Open C

All is not well in Camp Hickey. Hodgson takes the traumatized Goodsir aside and says that, were he a braver man, he might try to kill Hickey himself. Then he launches into an eerie monologue about attending a “papist church” as a child and eating the Eucharist. Meanwhile, some of Hickey’s other co-conspirators want to turn tail and just head back to Terror and Erebus. There’s a chance, they believe, that the ice will thaw and that they can finally sail the hell out of here. Hickey has plans of his own, and sends men out to capture Crozier.

Crozier agrees to go to stave off any more bloodshed, and orders Little to continue leading the men onward. Then he goes off with Hickey’s men to meet his fate. What’s Hickey’s plan? Why does he want Crozier? Knowing Hickey, the answer can’t be good.

Elsewhere in the episode, Lady Silence converses with an Inuit man, who tells her that the Tuunbaq is technically still “hers”, but a new shaman is coming to take control. Cue the mysterious music

Oh, and back in England, Lady Jane is trying to raise enough money to launch a rescue mission. I’m not a betting man, but I wouldn’t put any money on the success of this particular idea.

Once again, I’m struck at how well this show can convey so much horror without featuring anything supernatural. Yes, this is ultimately a supernatural show, and a supernatural creature is lurking just off frame. But it’s almost as if the monster has become an understudy; someone waiting in the wings, should he be needed. But he’s not needed. The horror is here already. It’s like a glove dipped in ice wrapping itself around everyone’s throat. Tightening, and tightening, until escape, and survival, is impossible.

terror fitzjames

Stray Observations

  • Yes, that is supposed to be Charles Dickens who introduces Lady Jane at the start of the episode.
  • When Bridgens goes off to die, he carries Peglar’s journal with him. This is all drawn from the actual story of the doomed expedition, although the individual has changed. Per Wikipedia: “an expedition found a human skeleton on the southern coast of King William Island. Still clothed, it was searched, and some papers were found, including a seaman’s certificate for Chief Petty Officer Henry Peglar (b. 1808), Captain of the Foretop, HMS Terror. However, since the uniform was that of a ship’s steward, it is more likely that the body was that of Thomas Armitage, gun-room steward on Terror and a shipmate of Peglar, whose papers he carried.” It seems the show has changed the real-life Thomas Armitage into Bridgens here, for whatever reason.
  • This is it, folks. Next week’s episode will be the last. Prepare yourselves.
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