So after 10 weeks of yurei hauntings, questions of what it means to be American, and the past yielding the consequences of the future, we have finally reached the end of The Terror: Infamy. We know Yuko has Chester and Luz’s son, setting up a final clash. Will we get an epic climax or will the show end “not with a bang but a whimper”? Let’s find out.
We open not on Yuko or Chester, but on the criminally underused George Takei. Yamato-san is on a long, possibly infinite path in a strange wilderness. How did he get there? He bumps into an old school friend who is now an old man too and reveals that this must be the afterlife. Yamato-san takes this news with great grace but doesn’t recall the moment of his death.
His friend recalls his family, his children and grandchildren, even great-grandchildren. And Yamato-san is surprised to find them all standing in a row behind his friend, defiant, ethereal. “All of you?” asks Yamato-san. Where had they been?
Thankfully for the Yamato-san fans amongst us (myself included), he is alive and awakened now by a great raucous noise from outside. With the accompaniment of Amy Yoshida, Yamato-san hits the streets to find a free-for-all of drinking, cheering and celebrating. “We bombed Hiroshima!” a young white American yells excitedly.
Amy and Yamato-san can only look on in stunned, silent disbelief. The Americans are celebrating the decimation of a place, an act they condemned when it happened to Pearl Harbor. But of course, Hiroshima wasn’t “theirs.” The double-standard attitude to violence is still shocking even if historically we know this would have been the case.
Amy and Yamato-san, on the other hand, can only look on in horrified astonishment as their dual citizenship is at the end of its tether. It is telling that while the Americans are celebrating their defeat of Japan, they are happy to answer Yamato-san’s questions, the others being oblivious to their presence. After so much racial abuse of their Japanese-American citizens, a bomb in Hiroshima seems to wipe the slate clean (in all sorts of ways). This is the danger of extreme, organised violence and the flimsy, inconsistent thinking of those who engage in it.
The war might be over, but a little piece of it will always remain as a trauma in the Japanese-American heart.
Into the Forest
Back in New Mexico, Yuko as Luz, complete with kidnapped baby, is picked up by a young family, soon to be discovered dead at the side of the road by Henry and Asako. In the meantime, Chester finds Luz collapsed in the road, but Yuko has gone, as the dead bodies in the car attest to.
Luz is taken back home to rest, but Henry and Chester hit the road again and go to look at the bodies. Chester realises there is a teddy bear in the back seat but no child.
Not to worry, said child/young teen reappears out of the woods saying that she’s sorry and it wasn’t her. Luckily, she can at least point Henry and Chester in the right direction through the woods, where they come to a shack covered in Japanese writing. It seems Yuko has been using this shack as a base for a while (even yurei need a roof over the head). Chester presumes the Japanese writing is a series of sutras (surely Chester can read enough Japanese to be able to tell?) but Henry corrects him. It is the names of Yuko’s many ancestors, which suggests just one thing to Henry: a burial.
This isn’t the first time Yuko has attempted a burial with a live child. It failed back at the camp as the baby was not of the same ancestry as Yuko. This time the same barrier does not apply; the bloodline matches. But where to find Yuko now?
Chester knows there is a quarry nearby and heads off there, which is a reasonable action based on a sensible deduction. So of course it has to fall to my favourite character Luz to make a convoluted leap of logic to also reach the same conclusion.
I really wanted more for Luz as a character. Early on she was fiery and she was vulnerable. In other words, she was complex and she felt real. By this point she has become just a plot device to put Chester in certain situations or to aid him in such. A waste of potential, in other words, and I do hope actress Cristina Rodlo moves on to better things soon.
In this case, she finds an old photo of Yuko and Asako together and realises there are similar bushes nearby to ones the two sisters are standing next to in the photo. So of course Yuko has chosen that as her burial spot. Because she had plenty of time to examine the local foliage for reminders of home in amongst all the killing and baby-napping.
It goes to show a truth about this show that has been consistent throughout. For every good idea or character, there is a lapse in logic in the writing just waiting to bring things to their knees.
Into the Grave?
Chester and Henry reach the makeshift grave of Yuko just in time to see her preparing the burial. Chester tries to reason with her and, still pursuing the suicide idea from last week, offers her the chance through Taizo’s photo to let Chester’s son live and claim her real son.
Henry puts a dampener on this plan, however—a large, bullet-sized dampener. He rips the photo of Taizo, preventing Chester’s suicide, and blasts Yuko to the ground. In a touching moment, after all of Chester’s ungratefulness, Henry defiantly states “I am his father. He is my son. I will not allow my son to pay for our sons.” As a mini-tract on personal responsibility, this line works very well. Henry possibly has become my second favourite character over the series, going from an annoyance to a grumpy but stoic hero. I wish we could have a Henry spin-off.
Alas it is not to be. After painting Yuko’s face with sutras to keep the spirit in Yuko’s body, thereby preventing her from possessing anyone (which did not work last time because the fire burned away the sacred words), Yuko rips the skin from her face to remove the words and possess Henry. Chester tries to run with the baby but trips and falls. At which point Yuki forces Henry to point the gun into his gut and pull the trigger. Goodbye Henry.
With that, Yuko returns to her body and stumbles with injury across to take the baby (why didn’t she get Henry to take the baby first, put it next to Yuko’s body then have him kill himself? It would have saved her having to stumble around). Yuko falls into the grave with the baby, as Luz and Asako arrive, and that’s it, game over. Well, not quite.
It seems with his last gesture Henry had been able to throw fabrics holding the sacred words into the grave, preventing Yuko from escaping back to the afterlife. Henry: the man Chester could have been. Luz rescues the baby as Yuko crawls out of the grave. What furious vengeance will she unleash?
As it happens, none. And this is where things get a little silly. Asako in a fit of rage at the death of her husband, stabs Yuko over and over. Chester knows this is useless. The demon will just return and the chase begins all over again. Luz has an idea: she holds a photo of Yuko that, through flashback, shows her “perfect moment,” where she was made to feel completely special. She was about to travel to America to marry who she thought was a perfect gentleman, she was pregnant and even the photographer flatters her with how wonderful she is. What if they could use the magic her grandmother practices to return Yuko to this moment?
My problem with this is that why would Yuko listen when she could kill them all, take the baby and dog to another grave, one free of sutras. But listen she does. Another point: in the photo magic previously, it was said that the living could go back and some may not return. But it was never said that the dead could return and possess their living counterpart. When was this rule established and how does it work?
In the name of a short, sharp, tied-up ending, the show neglects to tell us. Indeed Chester takes Yuko back in time through the photo and Yuko seems to inhibit, rather than possess, her living self, as if she is absorbed into herself. She strolls away amongst the beautiful cherry blossoms in the garden and that’s it. Away she goes. The end of Yuko’s story. What an anti-climax.
So much pain left in her wake, but we are supposed to feel sorry for her and relieved that she has achieved some sort of resolution. It doesn’t work. The balance between empathy and evil is not even enough for the show to pull this off. “You sacrificed yourself,” says Chester, “for us. Now let us live. So we may all remember you. So your sacrifice will not have been in vain.” But you can’t have Yuko kill as she has done and have her be almost a heroic martyr at the end. There has to be some sort of retribution, or victory. Is this supposed to be an example of how the Japanese are better than the Americans, because they can show empathy to their enemies? If that was the point, it was far too vague to be meaningful.
Fast forward to 1950. Chester owns a photography studio, and he photographs the family for posterity. Yamato-san, a still-mourning Asako, Toshida in his army uniform. Most importantly, Luz and his three kids. I think that might be the nicest thing to come out of the climax, that Chester and Luz were at last allowed to have a family. Later, the clan launches a mass convoy of paper lanterns across a river to remember the dead. But the dead still live, in their own way, as it turns out Chester named his son Henry. Perhaps he was grateful to the old man after all.
The Terror: Infamy has to be one of the most frustrating shows I’ve ever watched. There were plenty of good ideas but they were often lost amongst bad leaps of logic in the writing. Still, I look forward to a new series, as the show has plenty to offer, but as long as it learns from its mistakes. Much like the characters in Infamy.
Thank you for reading my Terror reports each week. I hope they have been at least enjoyable and have added to the experience of watching in some way. Please let me know your thoughts on the show in the comments below. I love (respectful) debate and would especially love to hear from anyone who thinks I’ve been too harsh on the show.
Goodbye for now!