Monday, August 12, 2019

REVIEW: 'The Terror: Infamy' - Chester Aspires for More From His Life in Terminal Island in 'A Sparrow in a Swallow's Nest'

AMC's The Terror: Infamy - Episode 2.01 "A Sparrow in a Swallow's Nest"

In 1941, Chester Nakayama finds himself caught between his insular Japanese American neighborhood on Terminal Island, California, and his current life as an all-American guy. When extreme circumstances push both his community and personal life to the brink, Chester must grapple with what kind of a man he wants to be, all while someone watches closely.

In 2018, there were 495 scripted shows airing amongst the linear channels and streaming services. The way people are consuming content now is so different than it used to be. It happens according to one's own schedule. As such, there is less necessity to provide ample coverage of each specific episode in any given season from a show. Moreover, it is simply impossible to watch everything. As such, this site is making the move to shorter episodic reviews in order to cover as many shows as possible. With all of that being said, here are my thoughts on the season premiere of AMC's The Terror: Infamy.

"A Sparrow in a Swallow's Nest" was written by Max Borenstein & Alexander Woo and directed by Josef Kubota Wladyka

The first season of The Terror was not established as an ongoing drama or a series that could continue in an anthology format. It's what AMC has created though with a new creative team coming in for the second season to tell a completely new story. The first season had a solid launching off point because it was based on a novel. It also just happened to tell its story incredibly well. It was a fascinating narrative that deconstructed the toxicity of masculinity in a cruel and unforgiving environment. One that was riddled with eery and potentially supernatural happenings. That appears to be the thing that gives the show its anthology hook. Every story has to have some basis in history. But it also intends on amplifying the various personal stories of the time by including some mystical threat that isn't so easy to explain. It's just clear that it plays a significant role in the story and how the main characters perceive the world. In the first season, it was an actual beast that tormented the crew of the ship. In the second season, it appears to be a spirit that looms over the Japanese-American community on Terminal Island. It's a presence that can certainly signify horrifying things are about to occur. The premiere opens with a suicide that is absolutely brutal and gruesome to watch. It highlights how things are not perfect in this world. The premiere then closes on the disturbing visual of a woman's skin easily pulling apart and needing to be sewn back together. This is a vicious world that can come crumbling apart at any given moment. Chester sees himself as a man straddling two worlds. That's the narrative that is also confirmed to him by Yuko who says that his aspirations can still be achieved. He can still run away with Luz and have a family with her somewhere else in America. He doesn't have to stay in this community with his family. He doesn't want to be trapped and never experience what else this world has to offer. And yet, that's a somewhat typical conflict for a main character. It's not original to depict the protagonist of the story struggling to balance his inner goals with his outside reality. With Chester, he sees his father's passiveness as him not being man enough to confront the problems of this community. He doesn't see a person who has endured so much and managed to build a nice life for himself in a new country. Instead, he sees a person who is willing to be pushed around and bullied. Henry is naturally a good man who believes that the spirits of the world will ensure that karmic justice is delivered no matter what. Chester stole the family vehicle back from the man who took it from them. Then, that man turned up dead. The community sees it as a bad omen. They see the spirits being angry with them. Their culture has extended far from home. It has followed them to this new country. It's important for them to keep their history and identity alive in this foreign land. But the fears and superstitions that inform their beliefs also permeate throughout their culture. There may not be any spirits doing any harm in this world. That's just what people fear. That's how they cope with the unexplainable of this world. It's easy for Henry to be disappointed in his son for getting a woman pregnant and not wanting to deal with the responsibility. He sees his son as not an honorable man because he keeps making mistakes in the world. The clashing between father and son appears to be the core conflict of the season. And yet, Henry is taken away following the attacks at Pearl Harbor. The military immediately rounds up the men of this community simply because they are of Japanese descent. It's horrifying. Henry has the trust that the system will protect him. He believes in the American dream. But the audience knows fully well that the tragedy is much more grim than that. The monsters that lurk in this world don't have to be supernatural. In fact, most of the tragedy and chaos can come from humanity being unable to empathize with each other in a way that strengthens and builds bonds. Instead, America is designed to hate the community at Terminal Island even though they are just as American as the rest of the people that comprise this great country.