The Terror: Infamy

“Infamy, infamy, they’ve all got it in for me!”

Dennis Norden / Frank Muir

And so to The Terror: Infamy, a confusingly named follow-up to the 2018 TV series based on the ill-fated Franklin expedition to seek the Northwest Passage. Only this is about a different group of people being beset by terrors both material and supernatural. In this case it was their own government, ably assisted by the usual pitchfork-wielding suspects and people who ought to have known better who had it in for them.

Yes, that Dr Seuss

I reviewed the AMC TV series The Terror a while ago, and had a little moan about the lack of parts for women in the show. And now, belatedly, here comes this second series (which has appeared on the BBC iPlayer over here), and what do we have? Why, not only are there plenty of women in it (see? it can be done!), but there are women behind the camera, directing, writing episodes, and producing.

Infamy first appeared on AMC in 2019, a year after the original series. I said that it’s confusingly named because it has nothing to do with the original Dan Simmons novel, nor the series based on it. Instead, this sequel (?) is based on one of the most shameful events in the history of the United States. Which is saying something, because there are so many to choose from.

Following the Japanese attack of Pearl Harbor, American citizens of Japanese heritage were rounded up and sent to prison camps. Their fellow Americans mostly stood by and let this happen. Beloved children’s author Dr Seuss draw a cartoon for a New York newspaper depicting all Japanese Americans as potential saboteurs.

So on one level, this show is about that horrorshow. People being rounded up and sent to camps. In America. Denied their civil rights, their livelihoods, due process, dignity, fairness, recognition. One member of the cast, George Takei, was there in one of the camps. Other members of the cast and crew had family members, grandparents, and so on, who were there. Many Japanese-Americans joined (still! joined!) the 442nd Infantry Regiment and were involved in fierce fighting in the Vosges mountains in 1944. All of this we learn in a touching post-script to the final episode.

On another level, because this is The Terror, we have a story of a Yōkai – or perhaps a bakemono –, a mysterious spirit, which is variously haunting, possessing, and shapeshifting as it seeks something lost, and which will destroy anybody who gets in the way. In summary: scary Japanese ghosts, in America. Soldiers throw themselves from watchtowers, babies are still-born, people behave – and move – in disturbing ways.

So if you enjoyed being creeped out by the weirdly-moving ghosts in Ringu, you will probably enjoy this too. It probably lasts a couple of episodes too long, but that’s a fault with all kinds of shows. There are quite a few subtitles too. Still, this is a step up from the original, and it’s good to see that so much of the story (at least half!) centres around women.

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