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The Terror: Infamy prepares to drop the bomb

Photo: Shingo Usami as Henry Nakayama (Ed Araquel/AMC
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“Government property, in the middle of New Mexico???” You had to know this was coming, even if Chester Nakayama and his family did not. The moment—the moment—Yuko the yurei escaped the fire Chester set in that cabin in the internment camp a few weeks back simply by showing some hustle, I thought to myself “You know what kind of fire she won’t be able to escape?”

Sure enough, we’re now in the Summer of ’45, the Nakayamas are in a bunker in the middle of the New Mexico desert, a random British guy with security clearance is wandering around drunkenly celebrating mankind’s conquest of the laws of nature, and a certain vengeful spirit almost certainly has a date with nuclear destiny. You didn’t think a series as heavy-handed with history as The Terror: Infamy would let the specter of Hiroshima and Nagasaki pass by unmolested, did you?

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At least it appears as if America’s actual atomic attacks on those two Japanese cities will, mercifully, not be yoked into the service of this cut-rate ghost story. Anything’s possible of course—I didn’t expect a random detour to Guadalcanal, and look what happened—but it seems that the Trinity nuclear test on July 16, 1945 will be where the story of Chester and his sinister ghost-mom Yuko comes to an end.

Not a moment too soon. While nothing in this episode was as actively infuriating as the past few installments—except perhaps no one connecting Amy Yoshida’s broken arm with the disappearance of Major Bowen, or the lack of legal consequences for Chester breaking out of military detention—it goes to The Terror: Infamy’s very shallow well of spooks and scares several times too often.

In short order, Yuko possesses the priest the Nakayamas and Ojedas enlist as protection against her, Luz’s newborn son, Luz’s grandmother, and Luz herself. Nevermind how it’s possible that her physical body transported itself across the desert to chase them when they went into hiding from her; we’re simply assured “she’s been here all along” and expected to take the rest for granted.

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We’re also expected to be okay with the series laying the blame for Yuko’s supernatural rampage right at the feet of the persecuted population, in the person of Chester’s mom Asako. Freed from the internment camp by order of the Supreme Court, she and her husband Henry find themselves homeless and living in cramped quarters on Los Angeles’s Skid Row. Their freedom enables them to come out to New Mexico when Chester calls them for help against Yuko now that Luz is nearly ready to give birth. (How did he track them down? Who knows?)

After fleeing the Ojedas’ house, which has been infiltrated by their possessed priest (Yuko memorized the snippet of a Spanish-language song they’d been using as a password), the Nakayamas, Luz, and her grandma wind up in the aforementioned bunker. Once the baby is born, Yuko hopscotches from host to host in order to kidnap the baby and bring him to her constructed afterworld. That’s when Asako spills the beans: She was meant to be married to the abusive alcoholic Furuya, not her sister Yuko. When she found out the truth about the man to whom she was supposed to be wed, she switched around the paperwork, inadvertently trapping her secretly pregnant sister with exactly the kind of person who’d throw her out on the street for it.

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Once again, I have to marvel at the tone-deafness of it all, to say nothing of the hole-ridden plot. (For example, we never get an explanation of how the Nakayamas were able to track down one of Yuko’s twin sons but never even knew the other existed.) Everything that has befallen these poor people, supernaturally speaking, has been of their own making—yet they are the persecuted people here. The Terror’s astonishingly good first season was about many things, but colonial hubris was right up there at the top; those guys really did bring the horror on themselves. It’s as if The Terror: Infamy, unsatisfied with the indignities the internees suffered, decided to really stick it to ’em. It’s such a deeply weird storytelling choice I’m actually second-guessing myself, wondering if there’s something I missed.

At least the episode ends with a storytelling choice that kind of does make sense, given how the yurei is assumed to operate. Chester realizes that his son is basically a consolation prize for Yuko, who really just wants to be reunited with her twins. If Chester kills himself, he reasons, Yuko can then draw forth his spirit from an old baby photo of his and carry it off into the afterlife with her, sparing his son further grief.

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Of course, if he goes through with it, there go his chances of rescuing his late twin brother’s spirit from Yuko’s clutches, which you’d think would be important to him too. For that matter you might well expect him to fight a bit harder to track down and destroy Yuko once and for all now that he has a family of his own to live for. But this is The Terror: Infamy, and you might as well take what little you can get.


Stray observations

  • Credit Where Due Department: The shot of Luz and Chester leaning against their car with the big overcast sky as a backdrop while they wait for his parents to arrive was lovely and emotionally affecting. For that moment, you could see the shape of the family drama the creators wanted to make.
  • The shots of the camp on “Closing Day”—the graveyard, the abandoned gardens, the nearly empty mess hall—were evocative and melancholy as well.
  • First with the priest and his memorized snippet of song, then with a tripwire getting set off by a rat while Yuko astrally projects herself right past it and into Chester’s baby, the Nakayamas and Ojedas have a pretty weak track record with anti-yurei defense systems.
  • I want to state for the record that it’s not merely the use of the atomic bomb as a plot device I’m objecting to here; Twin Peaks: The Return did it with terrifying, awe-inspiring effect. It’s more that the filmmakers once again abandon the perfect claustrophobic setting of the internment camps to toss one more bit of Japanese-American World War II history into the mix. With horror, less is often more.
  • I also want to state for the record that nothing actually frightening takes place in this episode, same as every other episode. That’s like making a sitcom that never makes you laugh.
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