'The Terror' Review: 'Terror Camp Clear' Is An Unbearably Tense Episode

Welcome to our weekly recaps of AMC's historical horror show The Terror. This The Terror review takes a look at the eighth tension-filled  episode, "Terror Camp Clear". Spoilers follow.

In this week's episode:

  • Near-mutiny!
  • Fog!
  • A tender moment!
  • Lady Silence departs!
  • The monster returns!
  • Brothers

    Look how far Crozier and Fitzjames have come. I'm not talking about actual distance – although I suppose they've done that too. Instead, I'm talking about the remarkable opening scene of The Terror episode 8, "Terror Camp Clear." Last week's episode concluded with a horrifying, pulse-pounding murder committed by the treacherous Hickey. But rather than launch right back into the fall-out from such a deed, The Terror decides to take a step back, and present us with a lovely, quiet moment between the once-at-odds remaining captains of the doomed expedition.When The Terror began, it was safe to say that Crozier (Jared Harris) and Fitzjames (Tobias Menzies) couldn't stand each other. Fitzjames in particular complained to the late John Franklin about how miserable Crozier was, and Crozier later took a swing at Fitzjames. But now, here, at the end of the world, with many men decimated and the fates of those remaining in doubt, Crozier and Fitzjames share a moment. After leaving a note about the fate of the expedition (a note from which Crozier intentionally omits any mention of the Tuunbaq monster) for potential future rescuers to find, Crozier and Fitzjames walk and talk. Fitzjames speaks of his deteriorating health, and then begins to break down as he confesses that he feels like a fraud. Yes, he's done noble, even heroic things in his life, but here, now, he feels as if they were all done for show. They were acts he didn't do out of gallantry or nobleness, but rather for self-promotion. He confesses he was born a bastard, and his name – "James Fitzjames" – was made up for his baptism. "James...FitzJames...it almost sounds like a joke," he mourns.But Crozier won't hear it. He counters that he thinks Fitzjames is indeed brave and courageous. And more than that, he adds that he thinks of Fitzjames as a brother. The camera lingers here on actor Tobias Menzies' face as a single tear streaks down his cheek. It's such a lovely, simple moment, and I wanted to just stay in it forever. The Terror is a bleak, often hopeless show. To find a small moment of hopefulness here, as we get closer and closer to the end of the series, is a remarkable, even miraculous thing. It's also the only respite we'll receive, as the rest of the episode descends into misery and chaos.the terror fitzjames

    The Fog

    Last week's episode turned the tide on Hickey (Adam Nagaitis) for me. I went from having a smattering of sympathy for him to washing my hands of the man. This week pushes me into full-blown hatred mode. Hickey is more of a monster than Tuunbaq will ever be, because Hickey is cold and calculating. He's a force of banal evil man; a man willing to obliterate anything and anyone in his way simply for the hell of it. Perhaps he acts out of a need of self-preservation. Or perhaps it's just his nature. Either way, his actions come close to plunging every single surviving man into the abyss this week.After slaughtering Farr and Irving in the last episode, Hickey proceeded to tell everyone else that it was the Inuit who killed the men. To drive this point home, Hickey mutilated the bodies of the dead men – scalping them and even castrating them. In Hickey's warped mind, this is the type of mutilation the "savage" Inuits would enact. As a result of Hickey's frame-job, the helpful Inuits we saw in the previous episode have been slaughtered, and back at camp, the men are on edge.There's a fog rolling in, and who knows how many "savage" Inuit warriors are lurking in that fog? Crozier and Fitzjames, however, smell a rat. They go to investigate, and once they clap eyes on the dead Inuit party – which is clearly no band of warriors, but actually a family, including a child – it's clear that Hickey isn't telling the truth. But things are clearly spiraling out of control.At camp, the men are arming themselves, and those who have already spoken with Hickey about mutiny are slowly but surely putting all the pieces into place. The result is an episode that's like a powder keg with a very, very short fuse. It seems at any moment, something, or someone, is going to go off.Things get so bad that Lady Silence must depart the camp or risk bodily harm. This leads to another heartfelt moment – a goodbye between Lady Silence and dear old Harry Goodsir (Paul Ready). Goodsir both wants Lady Silence (Nive Nielsen) to go and to stay. He pleads with her to believe that not all Englishmen are as brutal and stupid and violent as the men of the camp have become, but it's clear Lady Silence doesn't believe him. Still, she gives Goodsir a slight smile as she leaves. A sad smile, but a smile all the same.the terror episode 8 review

    Welcome Back, Tuunbaq

    After the emotional goodbye, Goodsir gets to perform an autopsy (lucky him). He cuts into the stomach of Irving's corpse and finds seal meat within. For Crozier, this seals it (no pun intended): here is proof that Hickey was lying. The Inuit didn't kill Irving – they fed him.With this information in hand, Crozier orders Hickey and his chief co-conspirator Tozer (David Walmsley) arrested, and for a gallows to be constructed. Soon, Hickey and Tozer are about to be executed, but not before Crozier offers up a speech to the men in which he finally admits that the rescue party they were hoping to encounter is dead, and that he hid this info from them. But he goes on to say that while he may have lied about this one fact, it pales in comparison to Hickey's lies, and actions. Hickey then gets to have a last word, which he uses to sneer and condemn Crozier, and says that Crozier was willing to abandon the men and let them die. Tensions are at an all-time high, and it's clear there are two distinct factions here: those still loyal to Crozier, and those who want to throw in with Hickey.Before anything can really happen, though, Collins (Robert Golding) comes stumbling in from the fog, clearly stoned out of his mind on a drug swiped from the medical tent. And Collins isn't alone – hot on his heels is our old friend Tuunbaq, roaring and ready to kill.After this: chaos, anarchy, screams. The men scatter. Hickey and Tozer are able to free themselves, raid the armory, hook up with the men still loyal to them, and make an escape with a boat. As for Tuunbaq, the monster proceeds to over-power and kill Collins. But it doesn't just feast on the man's flesh – it sucks his actual soul out in a truly jarring moment.What's most remarkable about "Terror Camp Clear" is that the episode is full of dread and horror long before the monster shows up. The monster only makes the briefest of appearances here, but nearly every single moment of this episode is practically drenched in fear. An uneasy, unpleasant and downright nightmarish series of events play out before our eyes.Here, we witness how truly destructive and stupid human beings (particularly men) can be when they've grown frightened. One by one, most of the men of the camp conjure up an entire phantom army of Inuit closing in on them. What better way to react than to grab some guns? I'm not going to say that this episode is going so far as to be a comment on America's gun-obsession, since these characters aren't even American. But it's easy to draw that distinction. The second the fear of an imaginary "other" presents itself to these men, their first reaction is to arm themselves to the teeth.We've truly reached the endgame stage of The Terror here. The men have split off into two factions, the monster is back, and only two episodes remain. We already know the fate that awaits everyone – the question is, how will it arrive?

    Stray Observations

  • Tim Mielants directs the hell out of this episode. Nearly every shot of every scene looks as if it's been pulled from a painting in a quiet, eerie museum. The Terror is a work of art, full of stunning cinematography and masterfully directed moments, and this episode might be the best-directed yet.
  • The note that Crozier and Fitzjames leave is a replica of a real note that the real Crozier and Fitzjames left behind. Crozier's insistence that they not mention the monster in the note is a clever way of explaining why there's no mention of a killer monster in the real note that was found.
  • The quiet, tender moment between John Bridgens and  Harry Peglar, who is growing ill from lead poisoning, isn't quite as wonderful as the Crozier/Fitzjames scene, but it's close.
  • Hickey's smug little smile as Crozier gives his big speech at the end is enough to make you want to punch his face in. That's some great acting from Adam Nagaitis, who is really leaning into Hickey's villainous nature in these final episodes.