“So help me,” says Toshiro Furuya to his recruitment officer, “but all I wanna do is kill.” That’s about as good as the writing, courtesy of screenwriters Alessandra Dimona and Shannon Goss, gets in “My Sweet Boy,” the eighth episode of The Terror: Infamy. Along with the Hallmark card opening shots of Luz’s family farm in New Mexico, the flatly disinterested closing of the camps, and the out of nowhere addition of Mexican folk magic to the arcane proceedings with Yuko, it’s enough to cement this as Infamy’s worst episode to date: ugly to look at, boring to listen to, and slapdash in its characterization and pacing.
And man, those shots of the farm deserve a long second look, if only out of sheer disgust. They’re like a masterclass in everything not to do while setting a scene. The angle makes the barn and the windpump look like they’re on different planes, while the crops in the foreground and the tree mid-shot foul the sight lines, reducing the whole thing to a tangle of poorly framed nonsense. The clutter persists across multiple shots until finally we come to rest on a sterile, sweatless image of Chester — who looks like he’s just stepped out a bad historical reenactment video — hoeing a patch of earth.
Nothing to See Here, Folks
Director Toa Fraser’s only real accomplishment in the episode is a set of enjoyably slow closeups of Amy Yoshida riding in Major Bowen’s Jeep. That Bowen’s falsely cheerful shtick is perhaps the overplayed acting hand of the year — downright clownish next to Miki Ishikawa’s tense, brittle restraint — only slightly mars the small pleasures of the car ride. And then it’s over. Nothing before or after this thirty-second glimmer of enjoyable competence is worth much of anything.
Indifferent shots and boilerplate dialogue pile up atop one another until it starts to feel like the show is sleepwalking, marking time but fundamentally uninterested in itself. Why, for instance, does Amy send the recordings of Bowen’s breakdown and murder of Ken Uehara to Washington offscreen? The plot point forms the backbone of her place in the episode, but we crash into its fully-formed consequences without experiencing anything of the lead-up to it.
How did Yuko know that Chester would use Catholic folk magic to visit his dead twin brother’s memory? Why didn’t Chester’s adoptive parents tell him about his twin? You could get away with this stuff if the characters were interesting or the performances nuanced, but Chester and Luz staring at each other dully before getting married hardly qualifies as scintillating work.
Who are these people? What do they see in each other? What are we, the audience, meant to see in them? Why did Yuko even kill Luz’s father? Again, “because the story needed to introduce the death detector magic” is only an acceptable answer if the story in question is interesting to watch. It isn’t, and the show’s pointless plot contortions only serve to render its already unremarkable content incoherent in addition to tedious.
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Bridges to Nowhere
The show’s waning moments in the relocation camp really hammer home how little it did with such horrific and relevant subject matter. What does the inside of the Nakayamas’ barracks look like? What do the prisoners eat? Has anyone died here aside from Ken and the people Yuko killed?
Even Ken’s death is a case of the show turning away from depicting institutional violence in favor of showing a lone bad actor — the corrupt and paranoid major Bowen — killing outside the system for his own reasons. Where’s the starvation? The tuberculosis? The substandard medical care and malnutrition and violent guards? The show presents the camps not as the inhumane meat grinders they were but as places of mild privation and indignity that wrapped up more or less without ceremony.
As for Amy’s drugging and her brief spell as Bowen’s hostage, the whole thing plays out as indifferently as possible. We do get to see a glimmer of ugly humanity in Bowen when he says “I liked you, Amy” like a lovelorn eleven-year-old, but beyond that it’s just a rotten guy being rotten at such a slow, aimless pace that some convenient blackouts allow Amy to escape and drown him in a puddle.
What’s his plan for her, anyway? Why does he spend most of their time in his hidden torture basement just sitting on the steps after breaking her finger? Why did he give her a very particular injury that directly allowed her to slip out of her restraints? The only answer I can come up with is that in spite of a few flickers of promise toward the middle of its run, Infamy is a lazy, disinterested show with little human insight and even less creative talent.