The Terror: Infamy Blends Historical Fiction and Horror in Frightening and Clever Ways
AMC’s incredible horror anthology series is back!
Based on Dan Simmons‘novel of the same name, AMC’s The Terror returns for a second season with new characters, a new setting and a different historical backdrop.
Season one centered on the Royal Navy’s risky voyage into uncharted territory as the crew attempts to discover the Northwest Passage and confront the fear of the unknown (and a giant, man-eating polar bear). Whereas season one is a first-rate survival horror about a group of men, desperate to survive, season two turns its attention on one of the darkest, most horrific moments in the history of the United States.
For the unfamiliar, the novel does not have a sequel, nor a prequel— but AMC wisely decided to build the title into an anthology series – thus season two was created, only this time around The Terror: Infamy studies the horror felt by Japanese-Americans who saw their own country turn against them during World War II.
With the exception of executive producer Ridley Scott, nobody— not the original showrunners nor the cast or crew— are back this season. Normally a change of showrunners would be a cause for concern, but co-creators Alexander Woo and Max Borenstein have everything under control. The Terror: Infamy is a chilling follow-up to what we considered one of the best TV shows of 2018.
That said, fans of the first season of The Terror should prepare for just how different Infamy is.
The second installment takes place in California during World War II and follows a group of Japanese immigrants who are forced to relocate to an internment camp in North Dakota after the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese, spreads xenophobic hysteria across the United States. Much of the story focuses on the Nakayama family living in Terminal Island. At the head of the family is Henry (Shingo Usami), a fisherman who immigrated to the U.S. twenty years prior with his wife Asako (Naoko Mori). Henry is proud of the life he lives, proud to be an American, and proud of raising an American citizen in their son Chester (Derek Mio). Chester loves and respects his family and the sacrifices they’ve made but he longs for an American life of his own. He’s in love with a Spanish-American student named Luz Ojeda (Cristina Rodlo) and hopes to step out of his father’s shadow, get married, and chase his dream to become a professional photographer. Only after the Japanese attack, his life turns upside down, as he and his family are forced to relocate after Franklin D. Roosevelt unleashes Executive Order 9066.
If it wasn’t obvious by the title and plot synopsis, the events of the first episode patiently build to December 7, 1941 — the day Roosevelt delivered his famous speech and gave birth to the term, “day of infamy.” The second season of The Terror isn’t coy about where the story is headed using the horror genre to examine a truly shameful moment in American history. Infamy is simply put, an unflinching look at systemic oppression and how sometimes a government can violate basic human rights – and given the current political climate, Infamy feels acutely relevant.
Since this show is called The Terror, it is expected we will see supernatural elements at play, and it doesn’t take long before they are introduced. The Terror: Infamy opens with a harrowing look at the death of a Japanese woman (Yuki Morita) who strolls down a dock toward the ocean and ends her own life. From far, it looks to be a suicide but it’s not long before we suspect the woman’s death was caused by some sort of supernatural force. Soon after, other strange occurrences plague the residents of Terminal Island as Season 2 dives headfirst into Japanese folklore introducing a Yūrei-like shape-shifting spirit known as an Obake that attacks both the Japanese and white Americans alike.
Infamy plays its supernatural card from the get-go, using it as a means with which to heighten the tension, fear and socio-political troubles of the time and in the end, The Terror: Infamy blends historical fiction and horror in terrifying yet clever ways. There’s a lot to unpack here which I plan on doing as future episodes roll out but as it stands, Infamy will please both fans of season one and those who love Asian Horror.
- Ricky D