We Are Gone: The Terror’s season finale is as tragic as it is beautiful

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– The Terror _ Season 1, Episode 10 – Photo Credit: Aidan Monaghan/AMC

The Terror’s final episode was not a finale so much as an aftermath: a slow walk through the field of the dead, and an accounting of what remains.

From the title card of the series premiere, we’ve all understood how this was going to end. But somehow, knowing from the get-go that none of the characters were going to make it home didn’t make it any less painful in the end. Getting to watch the guy holding a sledgehammer practice his swing doesn’t make it hurt any less when the hammer finally makes contact with your kneecap.

As stylishly jarring as ever, the episode’s title sequence comes on the heels of two words: “to survive.”  In the last episode, we saw the men being stripped to their most basic selves. But while some have been reduced only to the will to live, others have lost it entirely. Back in Hickey’s camp, Crozier is holding on to hope; but he cannot instill that hope in Goodsir. After emphasizing to Silna on multiple occasions that he doesn’t recognize the behavior of these supposedly civilized men, his naïve perspective has been wholly shattered.

But his life, though almost over, has not lost all its meaning. His lines to Crozier end up resonating with the theme of the entire episode: “Is God here? Any God? It doesn’t matter. This place is beautiful to me even now. To see it with eyes as a child.”

It’s a lovely sentiment — that whether or not a higher power is aware of their suffering, the beauty around them remains. As tragic as Goodsir’s death is, we can at least get some comfort in knowing that he died on his own terms. And his final thoughts — images of the natural world against a white void, so sudden and bright they are almost surreal — are peaceful, even as he dies in an agony akin to rapture.

But Jopson. Oh, Jopson. His may well be the cruelest death of the series — I mean, I’m honestly almost angry at how painful that scene was. He dies thinking Crozier betrayed him, and yet never flags in his devotion (which makes it all the more heartbreaking). The image of a starving Jopson pushing aside heaps of delicious food just to reach an oblivious Crozier at the head of the table? Pure visual poetry, but ouch.

Not all the deaths in the finale were tragic, though. After chaining half his men to the boat sledge and having them drag it to the top of the hill, Hickey attempts to summon the Tuunbaq while belting out “God bless our native land” and screaming profanities about popular figures of Western admiration, in a performance by Adam Nagaitis which is almost delightfully unhinged.