AMC’s anthology series The Terror has a new, fuzzy historical focus for its second season; America’s internment of its own Japanese citizenry during World War II. First and foremost this is a cult horror series, so there is an eerie element involved in addition to the historical reckoning. The second season is known as The Terror: Infamy, a reference to President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s notorious ‘Date of Infamy’ speech following the bombing of Pearl Harbor and what was essentially America’s introduction into the second World War.
While there was evidently a genuine care for the story to be told from an authentic perspective, this becomes most clear in the production of the show. The season’s writers, consultants, and actors were all hand-picked by those looking to give the most accurate presentation of the circumstances possible, horror concepts aside. The show is unique for several reasons, one of which being that it will be one of the first to feature Japanese-American internment as a full seasonal arc. Playwright Alexander Woo was brought in to be this year’s showrunner and George Takei, who famously grew up in the actual internment camps, consulted on and stars in the show. Another great move from the creatives behind the show was to cast actors of primarily Japanese descent in the main roles, some of whom have a personal or family history with the camps.
As previously mentioned, it is a cult horror show; last season focused on a real-life Arctic expedition that failed in the 1840s, though it was based on the Dan Simmons novel The Terror. AMC Networks President of Programming for Entertainment Networks, David Madden, says, “The model for The Terror is to take a piece of history that people know something about, but isn’t overly familiar, that we can dramatize in a new way and that lends itself to a supernatural overlay.”
Japanese-American internment is as timely as ever, with George Takei speaking out regarding the new separation policies, saying, “The current situation is a new low. I was a child of five when I went in and eight and a half when I came out. We were always with our parents. Now, children are being scattered to the far hinterlands. That is deliberate, conscious evil. It’s really unbelievable what’s happening now. I don’t know what kind of person I would be if I had been separated from my parents.” Therefore, it’s fitting that this season’s horror element incorporates Japanese folklore as well as a good, old-fashioned haunting. The spirit involved has been identified as the semi-outdated Japanese folktale of kaidan (or kwaidan). The major principle of the kaidan spirit involves karma and usually involves people who didn’t hold a lot of power in life. The most common, Western example is The Ring, with the iconic vengeful videotape.
The second season of The Terror premiered last night on AMC. The Terror: Infamy will continue to air on Mondays at 9pm ET.