Monday, May 28, 2018

The Terror - First Shot a Winner, Lads / A Mercy


I had the afternoon to watch two more episodes of the AMC series of the Simmons’ novel of the Naval ships, Erebus and Terror, First Shot a Winner, Lads & A Mercy definitely present credibly bleak conditions and deteriorating mental states as the icy cold environs of the Arctic, developing (eventually discovered by Goodsir) lead poisoning in the food, dwindling supplies and food, Crozier’s debilitating alcoholism resulting in his self-imposed rehab resulting in Fitzjames’ leadership promotion, and a “carnival” meant by Fitzjames to lift the spirits of the crew before they are to walk on foot from their trapped ships in order to hopefully reach somewhere far more hospitable (and inhabitable) all provide the viewer with insight into a proposed sequence of events that would explain the lost expedition into the Northwest Passage that went terribly wrong. With Dr. Stanley startling the crew by setting fire to himself and the tents of the carnival (killing many inside, leaving an inexplicable feeling of unexpected loss), and the needed amputation of the leg of Blanky when he scales the Erebus in an attempt to escape the creature (named Tuunbaq by Lady Silence) as his leg is clawed; those still alive are left to further contemplate how the expedition has went so totally wrong, left stranded and far away from home. Crozier trying to prepare his crews for the journey ahead, only to be cut off by Stanley’s maniacal, psychotic break, obviously places him and Fitzjames in an incredibly difficult dilemma. The cold, grim outlook, the intimidating isolation, gradual decline in health (both mentally and physically) and worsening harmony of the crew as their future appears never more perilous is painted with detailed strokes, leaving us with this portrait of an expedition doomed, warning us that in taking to the unknown can result in devastating consequences. Goodsir’s attempts to form a dictionary of the Inuit by his developing relationship with Lady Silence, the canon injury of the creature, Goodsir’s use of Franklin’s pet monkey to determine the canister food’s dangers to the health of the crew, Crozier wanting to fetch more liquor from the Erebus and falling into alcoholism so deeply he’d attempt to assault Fitzjames, and talks of darkness in the mind that creeps in when expeditions don’t go according to plan (a particular story about an expedition that led to thoughts of cracking the head of an unscrupulous captain with little regard for his ill crew is especially potent) are important pieces that serve as building blocks in regards to how this Arctic mission lost its footing, where nature and dark infiltrations of the mind and spirit can lead to ruination/annihilation. Although The Terror has not been the AMC hit they might have hoped for, it certainly knows how to offer a historical “what if”, proposing a theory on this lost expedition, adding a monstrous threat to the already terrible disaster that besought these men in the middle 1800s.


 First Shot a Winner, Lads *** / ****
 A Mercy *** / ****

As important as the capture of time and place is a triumph, the performances of the crew, their faces often wrought with concern and eroding hope, is crucial to the success of the show.





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