There are a few different types of fear that horror television attempts to tap into. First, there’s the fear of the unexpected. This includes the jump-out-of-the-shadows tricks that many great series have taken advantage of. Secondly, there’s the fear of violence and the desecration of the human soul. The first season of The Terror used this fear like a fine-tuned instrument, playing it to a terrifying crescendo in its final episodes. The third, but not the last, is the fear of the real world. This is what this season is throwing at us, and it is so effective that it changes us after watching. We turn off the television and feel a cold hollowness in the pit of our stomach, recognizing this fear as something that we feel and see every day. This is what makes this season great. Not the monsters or the spirits, but the tragedy. What The Terror: Infamy might be lacking in jump-scares and gore, it more than makes up for in tension, hatred, and soul-shattering grief.
Full disclosure, here: This is the third time I’ve tried to write this recap. I watched the newest episode on Saturday, and it has taken me three days to get my words out onto the page. This isn’t because I was too afraid. No. It’s because I am heartbroken and angry.
“What The Terror: Infamy might be lacking in jump-scares and gore, it more than makes up for in tension, hatred, and soul-shattering grief.”
We see a lot of death in this episode. There is a sinking pit of decomposing Japanese bodies that Chester wades through to find intel. An entire group of American soldiers is engulfed by a flamethrower. A guard and a doctor are both possessed and take their lives as punishment for their actions. I sit here and can barely distinguish these deaths in my mind. For me, none of them mattered. For me, the death of the twins being carried by Luz left me feeling empty.
As the parent of newborn twins, watching Chester and Luz’s children die before my eyes hit me hard and left me feeling helpless and broken. As she was on the table, hopelessly screaming for her babies, I felt the anxiety of the delivery room wash over me all over again. Those precious few seconds after your child is born, as you wait to hear their cries, feel like an eternity and this episode delivered on that existential dread you feel better than any slasher or ghost ever could. The sound cut out of the episode as the doctor just sat there in shock, woefully unprepared for what he was attempting to do. The nurse, possessed by the ghostly Yurei Yuko, tried her best to revive the stillborn babies. Luz, destroyed by the pain of childbirth, could only weep alone on the table. We, the viewing public, could only weep with her.
Yuko would take her anger out on the doctor at the end of the episode, but why was she there in the first place? We haven’t spent much time digging into her motivations, because she was inconsequential in comparison to the atrocities of history being played out on the screen. So, let’s take a closer look at her character and see what we can glean from her actions and her big reveal in episode four.
We have gathered through the first few episodes that Yuko is interested in Chester’s child. She lured Luz into her room and convinced her that she was a midwife, whispering, and singing to the children as she took care of the scared young woman. We also know that she has a connection to the parents of the show. Mr. Yoshida recognized her before he was killed by the guards, and the other parents remember her name and glance at each other meaningfully whenever they hear it. This week, we get another glimpse of their guilt during an interaction between Mrs. Nakayama and Mrs. Yoshida. “Chester is not to blame,” his mother said to her friend as they stood before the twins’ altar. “No, we are,” Mrs. Yoshida responded, “but it follows him. We all know it.”
“…it has become increasingly obvious that Yuko knows what they did last summer.”
So, something they did in the past has followed them across the sea and has attached itself to Chester. Why is that? Why did it choose him? Another interaction, this one between Luz and Mrs. Nakayama might hold the key to that question. After asking her soon-to-be mother in law what it was like when she gave birth to Chester, Mrs. Nakayama said “I don’t remember. It was so long ago.”
I might be in the wrong here, but I have never met a mother that “doesn’t remember” what it was like giving birth to their child. Unless they were put under for medical reasons, every woman would remember bringing their baby into the world. Does Mrs. Nakayama not remember because she wasn’t the one who gave birth to Chester? Is it possible that Chester is actually Yuko’s son, possibly taken from her before she met her fate? This might explain her obsession with Chester’s child, if they are in fact her grandchildren. Did they kill her? Did they rape her and take her child? However they might be involved, it has become increasingly obvious that Yuko knows what they did last summer.
Yuko is as angry as anyone after the twins die. We see this, because, she finally shows us her true face at the end of the episode. After donning a mask, she goes to see the doctor in his office. She removed the cherub-like adornment to reveal a hideous form. She is rotting away like she has been submerged in a swamp for a decade. Her jaw is out of place, but it doesn’t stop her from calling the doctor a “Murderer”. After possessing the elderly man, she forces him to grab a scalpel and commit harikari, punishing him for his incompetence and bringing shame upon his head.
The title of the episode is “The Weak Are Meat”, which comes from an interaction between Chester and a recently rescued officer in the Pacific. The man, a white American, is only speaking Japanese when he is found. “I kill white devils”, he keeps repeating, “The weak are meat, and the strong eat”. That’s the dynamic in this episode between Yuko, the families she is after, and the soldiers at war. The Japanese may be a “family of 9,000”, but they are almost powerless against the supernatural and natural threats they face. As the season progresses, they must find a way to come together and overcome the forces fighting against them. Or else the strong will eat.
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!