Everything up until the creature is based on real events. Franklin’s expedition really did become lost in the ice shortly after departing in 1845. Historians have pieced together the crew’s last days, concluding that they all likely succumbed to disease, starvation, or hypothermia (as well as possible cannibalism).

There’s nothing about a bear, but that’s where Simmons’ acclaimed novel comes in. In a deliciously brutal combination of actual history and horror-fantasy, both Simmons’ book and the TV series add a malevolent ice beast to the seamen’s woes. Through the first three episodes, viewers barely get a glimpse of the creature, but it’s clear that it’s large, aggressive, and intelligent.

After both ships become wedged in ice, Franklin sends out several small parties in each direction to search for signs of a thaw nearby. None find any, but one group does bump into an Inuit woman and her father.

the terror amc
Image: AMC

This woman, who becomes known as “Lady Silence” for her reluctance to speak, seems to know a lot more about the creature than she lets on. She is the only real female character in the show (some others are presented in flashbacks), which is unfortunate. But the show plays out as an effective commentary on toxic masculinity, showing that whenever and wherever jealous, prideful, or spiteful men inflict their wills on others—whether it’s in a Hollywood office in 2018 or on a rickety ship in the middle of an ice floe in the 1840s—no one comes out the better for it.

The Terror is a compelling, old-fashioned yarn that demands to be binged—ideally curled up under a heap of blankets one snowy weekend. The 10-episode miniseries moves along at a brisk pace but never sacrifices attention to detail. All the harrowing truths of life aboard a ship in the 19th century are painstakingly realized, from the logistics of the ship’s innards to the crude and cringe-inducing medical techniques of the day (which call to mind another period piece in the HBO family, Cinemax’s The Knick).

Perhaps as a nod to the show’s bingeability, AMC is making all ten episodes available to certain subscribers when the premiere airs on Monday (March 26). Everyone else, they’ll just have to wait each week in terror.

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