The Terror: Infamy, “The Weak Are Meat” Review

“It makes the baby come out,” says the vengeful spirit Yuko, briefly displaying a set of menacing obstetric instruments to the pregnant Luz. Yuko’s cheerful expression and the language barrier between the two women keep Luz uncertain as to the spirit’s meaning, but it’s plain to see that something of Yuko’s off-kilter affect gets through to her. It’s one of the more nuanced scenes Infamy has presented thus far, uneasy and revealing beneath a veneer of bubbly ease. It drives the story forward while also playing off of the conflict between Luz and Chester’s Japanese family, exploring Yuko’s motivations, and building atmospheric tension.

Written by veteran playwright Naomi Iizuka (Language of Angels, Good Kids) and directed once again by Heathers creator Michael Lehmann, “The Weak Are Meat” is Infamy’s best episode yet by a country mile and the first to suggest that perhaps there are some good running legs under all its sloppy pacing. That it’s the first actually scary thing the season has put out to date doesn’t hurt. From Yuko’s grisly physical decay and the silent, almost balletic suicide of a young soldier she possesses to the carnage of the Pacific front where Chester, deployed as a codebreaker, is dogged by atrocities both supernatural and mundane. The war provides rich fodder for the show’s genre thrills, finally levering them up off of the ground after multiple false starts.

More Horror:

Heart of Darkness

Lehmann’s shots of the unnamed island on the Pacific front where Chester investigates the disappearance of a missing sergeant are one of the episode’s standout pleasures. Chester wading waist-deep in a pit of sucking black mud where his ostensible comrades, who look on in silence, have dumped executed Japanese POWs is an eerily affecting image, and if Derek Mio remains underwhelming he is at least much easier to swallow when surrounded by strong material. The mystery around the vanished sergeant Krittenden — who later reappears bug-eyed, unresponsive, and spouting murderous non sequiturs in Japanese — is solidly established, its grisly resolution appropriately horrifying.

The racial tension within Chester’s detachment is a little blunt but effective all the same. When his fellow soldiers bushwhack him one night, planning to beat him to death for some offense no one on either side fully understands, the ugly determination in their faces is all you really need to see. It’s what makes the Major Bowen material back at the internment camp so limply disappointing. C. Thomas Howell lacks the presence and sexual charisma it would take to land a character so thinly written that his response to seeing a man commit suicide by jumping from a watchtower is “Which one of you Japs got him drunk?” When he makes another pass at Amy Yoshida his manner is so checked out that it only registers as such in her frightened expression. 

The War at Home

The entwined threads of Luz’s attempts to win the favor of Chester’s father Henry, embittered and physically unwell after his long internment at an interrogation site, and Yuko’s coveting of her unborn twins make for riveting television. The stillbirth of the twins is a terrifying upset, as shocking to Yuko as to anyone else. The spirit’s inability or unwillingness to comprehend that it was pure happenstance imparts to her some sorely needed depth, a sense of wounded desperation which makes her campaign of terror against the internees more than just the sum of a bunch of creepy possession-suicides.

Her revenge killing of the doctor who delivers Luz’s twins is equal parts unsettling and ghastly, beginning with her slow progress across the camp in a placid, wide-faced Otafuku mask and ending with her possession of the doctor and his suicide by disembowelment. The mask, invoking centuries of theatrical tradition as well as the dead-eyed dolls featured prominently in Satoshi Kon’s seminal cyberpunk anime Paprika, is perhaps the episode’s subtlest and most interesting scare, its purpose suggested by the hanks of greasy hair and scraps of rotting scalp Chester’s mother Asako finds in Yuko’s lair even before the rotting spirit reveals herself to the doctor. If there are still a few clunky performances here, a few overwritten exchanges, it’s forgivable in light of the episode’s successes. 

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