The easiest way to make sense of all the (emotional) carnage on last night’s finale of “The Terror” is just to list it…
5. “Close”…Last night’s arc of Lt. Little was one of the more devastating. Almost all of Crozier’s loyal officers are either dead (Tobias Menzies’s excellent Fitzjames, the senselessly murdered Lt. Irving who was the first victim of Hickey’s savagery) or halfway there (the about-to-be-eaten Blankey, the poor-shape Jopson is in). Little is the only man alive and capable of standing who thinks rescuing the kidnapped Captain Crozier is worth it. [The look on his face when he realizes none of Crozier’s other men feel the Captain is worth the resources it would take to rescue him broke my heart.] He can’t believe the men are so disloyal, and is practically pleading with them to go back for the only man in their party who speaks the Intuit language and has been in the Arctic before–although perhaps he shouldn’t have been too surprised considering how enthusiastic the other men were about leaving the wounded behind.
When Crozier finally comes across the pitiful remains of his once proud men–who had not only refused to rescue him and left the wounded behind without a word of explanation, but had devolved to a charnel house of cannibalism, murder, and seemingly torture and/or insanity before the end–he finds only Lt. Little halfway alive. The man has ghastly gold chains studding his face like some mad pirate king (or, just as likely, someone tortured by the other men, as we’ve seen how flailing leaders are treated on this show), and tells Crozier “close.” As in the first episode when Crozier says getting “close” to the Northwest Passage would be worse than turning around because “close” would mean they’d all died. After already seeing the other two remaining bands of his men eaten by Tunnbaq or left to die eating poisoned tins, you feel this is the straw that broke Crozier’s faith in the life he’d had, leading to his ultimate decision of where to wind up.
4. Dr. Goodsir making a meal of himself…I know many, many “Terror” fans would rank this as the episode’s saddest moment, and I won’t dispute that at all. Dr. Goodsir was one of the kindest souls on a boat that was actually loaded with good men when you really think about it (Crozier, Fitzjames, Blanky, Irving, Jopson, and many others before they went insane or grew desperate), and I know I was hoping-against-hope that he’d find a way to be with Lady Silence. Perhaps he and Crozier would both shun British society that had reduced them to such unspeakable acts, and go live with the Intuit people since, really, neither of them would’ve been comfortable at home anymore. But if Goodsir had to die, then I’m glad it was this way: poisoning himself to take out Hickey’s band of mutineers once and for all, and warning Crozier so that he might live. [When he first gave Crozier that warning, I was hoping he might’ve been telling him there’s a knife in Hickey’s boot he could use rather than what seemed an inevitable act, so much is the love for Goodsir.]
Perhaps the poison could’ve kicked in at a different time than when the men were facing Tuunbaq, but maybe it also helped along the creature’s demise too after already ingesting so many lead-filled men, Blanky’s throat/stomach scraping forks, Hickey’s toxic soul, and Crozier’s literal chains of bondage. To me, the saddest moment of Goodsir’s death actually came when Lady Silence saw his body naked and being eaten on that cold table. Seeing that and Francis’s chains to the creature, she didn’t even need to ask what had happened there, despite not knowing of the mutiny and division of the men beforehand.
3. Hickey wearing Fitzjames’s Boots…A man like “Hickey” (who admitted the last-minute plot twist that he’d actually murdered someone named Hickey and took his place on the voyage) isn’t fit to wear Fitzjames’s boots. After Fitzjames’s heartbreaking death last week–mercifully put before the finale since they knew we’d have our tear ducts full already–Crozier wanted his body well camouflaged among the rocks because he was worried the creature would be pawing at it. Needless to say, the real creature he should be worried about is the man calling himself Hickey. [After Hickey admits his cold-blooded murder and identity thief, Crozier cracked me up with the line “You could’ve just signed up.” That’s the truth, he didn’t need to kill anyone to get on that voyage, he wanted to. And why someone didn’t kill him immediately after that, I’m not sure.]
I know you might think “Alabama Liberal, poaching a dead man’s boots is nothing compared to what else we saw last night,” and it’s true that it’s more a sentimental thing than actually life-or-death. But grave robbing is just one of those things that gets to you, and it’s not the first time Hickey had done it (snatching the man’s ring in an earlier episode that went from Gibson to Goodsir to Crozier now). You think if there’s no peace for you in life, maybe there will be in death, it’s a nice thought–even if I’m skeptical–shattered when some jerk steals your boots.
2. Jopson believing Crozier betrayed him…This easily could’ve been number one, and I went back and forth several times before listing the final two this way, but they are essentially tied they’re so close. This one bothered me beyond words because Little and Crozier’s other departed men not only left Jopson behind to die, but did not even tell him the Captain had been kidnapped. That is not only wrong on the most obvious levels, but shows you they had so little regard for the wounded, they don’t even consider them “alive” enough to be informed of a situation. Little’s men merely left a few stacks of poisoned cans outside their tents–no different than you would a stray dog before you go on a long holiday, hoping they can fend for themselves–and Jopson was screaming for his “Captain,” imagining Crozier well-fed at a fancy dining table, completely forgetting him. [Although perhaps he doesn’t know Crozier so well since that’s not really his scene, but you can completely believe he would think that in the moment.]
Jopson cared for Crozier during his alcoholism, never questioned the Captain’s sometimes alcohol-soaked orders, and in turn Crozier not only promoted Jopson to Lieutenant but tenderly cared for him last week when he was beginning his lethal sickness. It was a cruel end for one of the show’s best friendships (to call it “bromance” might cheapen it, but you could call it that too), and that’s why most of the season finale’s other deaths–which happened mostly on people’s own, self-sacrificing terms–were a lot easier to take.
1. Lady Silence not winding up with Crozier, and most likely dying. This is one of the rare changes made from the book to the screen, but in the book’s ending Lady Silence and Crozier wind up together and have several children. They are happy. It is nearly perfect. The series’s creators decided to go in a different direction by having Lady Silence punished for letting Tuunbaq get killed (thought how she could’ve avoided it, I’m not sure, not like Tuunbaq was much into constructive criticism or taking orders), and set out on the ice alone, basically to die.
When Crozier frantically tries to locate her–correctly believing that enough pain, loss, and “noble self-sacrifice” had taken place on this voyage–he’s simply told everyone agrees this must be the way. If that doesn’t feel emotionally satisfying, that’s because it isn’t really, and I don’t think a thing would be lost if Crozier and Lady Silence wound up together, two wounded people making the best of a very, very hard life. [I won’t go into another rant about Hollywood’s insistence on keeping interracial couples apart, but longtime readers know how I feel about that, and, yes, this does apply. In a post-show interview I read, one of the creators practically tied himself in knots trying to explain the motivations behind this change from the book.] I think that because the book ends that way, and, yep, not a thing is lost.
The last shot of Crozier on the ice with a kid snuggled up underneath him wouldn’t even have to change, because he’d still be a man out on his own no matter where he was: a British society that denied him love because he was Irish, a naval society that would never have properly promoted him because he was Irish, and a de facto member of the Intuit tribe because he had seen all three of the last band of survivors fall victim to Hickey’s madness/Tuunbaq’s rage, being abandoned to die, and starving to death/insanity after making selfish decisions. This would be enough to break anyone, but without Lady Silence it’s not entirely believable he would choose to be forever alone in the harshest climate on Earth rather than go back to England to tell a tale that would put Sir Arthur Conan Doyle to shame. If there’s nothing for him back there, but also nothing immediately compelling for him in his new life, Crozier is enough of a survivor–and there’s really no other way to look at him–to think he might take the easier path.
Grade for the Season: A…Grade for the Season Finale: A I used 1,700 words to say something very basic: you should watch this show. It is fantastic. It will take at least two years for another season to come around (with an entirely different storyline and creators), and not much else on TV comes close to this, let alone tops it. Even little line readings like “the reason [to arm some of the men] is sound, but some of those men are not,” the pilot’s “tell them we are gone,” or the rousing call “South!” still make me smile or feel excited just thinking about them. This show’s fan base is passionate in a way I haven’t seen for a new show in years, and I couldn’t be happier something like this is on AMC again, still one of TV’s best networks.