The first two episodes of AMC’s The Terror: Infamy introduced us to a group of characters and set them in an impossible situation where their only hope for survival is each other. In this week’s episode, we start to see the very fabric of these family units fall apart. Where there was once solidarity and pride, only brokenness and despair remain.
“Gaman” is an interesting episode because it feels like it is setting us up for the remainder of the season. Not a whole lot happens, but unlike other (ahem… AMC produced) horror shows, the quiet moments in this episode are filled with the ominous shadows of things to come. They aren’t trying to stretch this story out. They have a deadline, and they know how they need to get there.
“…when you remove the mystical, the horror becomes truly visceral and impossible to escape.”
We pick up back in the “War Relocation Center” in Oregon, where Chester, Luz, and the rest of the group are trying their best to acclimate to their new surroundings. They are sitting in a mess hall watching a John Wayne western, dubbed in real-time by other Japanese prisoners. As the movie goes on, Chester keeps reliving the dramatic death of Mr. Yoshida. As John Wayne fills the bad guy with lead, he keeps envisioning the guards shooting his life-long family friend. He gets up to leave, and as he walks across the yard to the latrine, a spotlight follows his every step. This spotlight will continue to be a factor in this episode, and while its operator’s motivations remain mysterious, its effect is seen everywhere you look.
Just as Chester and Luz begin to get into a rhythm at the camp, Henry returns from his incarceration in North Dakota. Henry is a completely broken man. His feet are half-black with frostbite, he barely speaks, and he flinches at every slow pan of the spotlight. When he sees his father hide his face from the beam, Chester runs up the guard tower to see that the spotlight is unmanned. He takes his anger out on the lamp, breaking it into a thousand pieces with a stool.
This whole time, Chester is thinking about what Mr. Yoshida said before he was killed. “Chester, you have to go”, he said before being taken over by an unseen force. This saying appears again and again in this episode, most notably when the now-blind Mr. Furuya attacks his own son in the mess hall. He is taken over by a spirit, choking his son and lifting him off the floor. Later, in the jail, he tells Chester that it wasn’t him that did it. Something was inside of him, forcing his hands to do their bidding. As the young man turns to leave the jail, he again sees Mr. Yoshida’s face, telling him that he has to go.
Chester is starting to think that Mrs. Yoshida was right in last week’s episode. There is an evil surrounding him, and Luz loses her balance and falls due to a gust of wind, he decides that the only way to keep her safe is if he leaves. Unfortunately, there are few ways a person of Japanese descent gets top leave the camp. This means that Chester has to do what his father commanded him to do at the end of Episode One. He has to join the Army, and fight for his country.
Here is where the episode truly begins to take shape. After passing a test from the officers at the camp, Chester goes to tell his father what he is doing. Henry is livid. He can’t even bring himself to look at his son. Shaking with anger, Henry tries to explain himself to his son:
Henry– Leaving your family so you can run off and be a spy.
Chester– You told me to enlist
Henry– That was before I knew what they were capable of. Roosevelt, the government, they see us as rats…”
Chester– Once we win the war, they won’t think of us like that”.
Henry– I used to think like that. You treat people good; they see the good in you. The truth. But then you get older and you learn they don’t. They beat me, they left me in the cold, and now you join them.
Chester– But they sent you back here. Youre back here now, with mom. You have a grandbaby on the way. And yet, you just sit here. That’s no way to live.
Henry– It’s not. But this is what we do. Gamon (Persevere). But you, you run away. Go. If you have to go, Chester. You have to go.
Henry isn’t just broken, he has been broken by his country. He is nothing like the loving father and simple fisherman that we met just a few weeks ago. He is filled with distrust, paranoia, and a newly found hatred for the country he once loved.
It’s this distrust and paranoia that drives the episode, but it’s not the only thing we are given. Yuko has shown her face, and she has taken an unnatural interest in Chester’s baby. It appears that the spotlight, and not to mention the breeze that made Luz fall down, are all being controlled by Yuko. She is apparently chasing Chester away from the camp, leaving her to act as Luz’s midwife in his absence. After leading Mr. Furuya into the woods with a possessed guard, she all but confirms that these men knew her before her death. She sits on his chest and asks him if he remembers what he told her that night, just before she rips out his tongue with her teeth.
Yuko is a supernatural being, we know that already, but this week’s episode perfectly melds this brand of horror with the themes of betrayal from last week. When Henry meets Luz for the first time after returning from North Dakota, he smacks a bowl of warm water from her hands, screaming “How do you know that she is who she says she is?”. Their charms and prayers can protect them from the yurei, but Henry has learned that nothing can protect them from the evils of mankind.
You see, when you remove the mystical, the horror becomes truly visceral and impossible to escape. You can no longer hide behind the claims that “ghosts aren’t real”. Last week, Henry was terrified of the ghostly spirits of his homeland’s folklore, but now, he has realized that there is evil everywhere in this world. Shapeshifting ghouls are a force to be reckoned with, for sure, but the allegiance-shifting ghoulish Japanese spies and the brutal devils wearing Red, White and Blue are the true terrors of the world.
The Terror: Infamy airs every Monday night on AMC. Keep your eyes on Nightmare on Film Street as we continue to recap each episode and give you the latest and greatest horror news available on the web. While you’re at it, join our Facebook group, Horror Fiends of Nightmare on Film Street and let us know what you think!