Blu-Ray Review: ‘The Terror: Season 1’

Getting stuck in the ice for an entire winter sounds like the fucking worst, but when you’re being hunted by a mythical polar bear monster thing and your fellow sailors are going batshit crazy, I guess everything is relative.

The first season of AMC’s The Terror, available now on Blu-ray, is an entertaining 10-part miniseries that doesn’t always work but delivers enough suspense and increasingly disturbing turn of events to make it worth it.

The story, based on a book which in turn is inspired by the disappearance of the HMS Terror and HMS Erebus in 1847, is one that methodically amplifies over its nine-hour runtime. Despite a few early run-ins with some kind of mythological monster, the first few episodes serve primarily to develop its characters—led by Mad Men’s Jared Harris—so that when things really start deteriorating for the crew, you at least like a few of them.

The show is well written and patient in this regard, though I had to turn the volume up extremely high to hear the dialogue and even then it was hard to make out everything the British accents were saying. Harris is terrific, and Adam Nagaitis serves as a sufficiently love-to-hate antagonist.

The final five episodes are often gripping, though not in the ways you’d expect. Episode 6, “A Mercy,” kicks things up several notches as The Terror reveals its true intentions, and the descent into madness continues with its excellent seventh episode, “Horrible from Supper.” While the show offers up some solid monster mayhem (though the special effects are certainly TV-level special effects), it works best as an examination of man’s psychological limitations.

The Terror concludes in a largely satisfying though not perfect climax, where in some ways the monster serves as a convenient way to wrap up loose ends. Frankly, the show would have been better as a pure psychological thriller—no supernatural elements whatsoever—as the showrunners’ efforts to bring everything together in a competent way do not entirely work.

Despite some flaws, The Terror is an often fascinating exploration of madness that feels different than most other shows on the market. Between giant monsters and some twisted developments, The Terror has plenty to offer.

Buy The Terror: Season One on Amazon.

By Erik Samdahl
Related categories: TV Series