A Nightmarish Groundhog Day
Serving up a crucial dose of backstory around Yuko and the Yurei, The Terror delivers a suspenseful, creepy episode chock full of interesting character development and some nicely worked set-pieces. Out of all the episodes this season, “Taizo” is the one Infamy is likely to be remembered for, combining a clever Groundhog-Day approach early on that melts away in place of a more straightforward narrative with Chester. All of this is deliberate too, with the first half initially feeling like a gimmick but slowly revealing itself to be crucial to the understanding around how the Yurei works and why it’s so interested in Chester and his family.
We begin on Terminal Island in 1919 with Yuko telling her husband that she’s pregnant. Angry, he throws her out while she pleads with him to forgive her. At this point, we cut forward a year to find Yuko hiding out in a warehouse with her baby. Distraught, she takes her child to an orphanage and slowly lets her madness eat away at her given the sacrifice she’s just made as a Mother. After talking to a strange Japanese lady on a bridge (who later reveals herself to be a woman named Chiyo), she jumps off and lands hard in the water, letting the waves consume her as she sinks further into the abyss.
When Yuko awakens, she finds herself in a large bed and faced with Chiyo, telling her she saved Yuko from her watery fate. After sharing some food, Chiyo shows her around the tranquil beauty of the palace gardens they find themselves in. The next day, she wakes up and swats a fly on her arm, watching as the blood spatters on her. However, when she looks again, the fly and the blood spatter is gone.
Offering her a kimono after her bath, Yuko continues to feel uneasy in Chiyo’s presence. After spying a dead body in the water, she hurries away only to find herself pulled into the dirt by gnarly, black hands. As the dirt appears to consume her, she awakens back in bed again; a horrific version of Groundhog Day appears to be consuming her sanity.
Only, this time she finds out she’s actually dead and there’s no way out of this hell. As the gravity of this washes over her like the water she originally died in, Chiyo hugs her, telling Yuko that they’re in their own paradise and there’s no way out.
However, Yuko betrays Chiyo and pushes her into the depths of the sand, and into the black hands, causing their paradise to fade and turn into a darkened, nightmarish world. Clawing away at the dirt behind a doorway, Yuko pushes herself free of the dirt, contorting and twisting into the Yurei she’s now become. Not quite dead and not quite human, the Yurei’s appearance back in the realm of the living puts us back 21 years later to our present day characters.
Chester arrives back at camp after his time away from the family, having been medically discharged following the dramatic jeep ride at the end of the last episode. It’s here he learns that Luz has been taken away by her Father, before his Mother gives him a letter from Luz. Sleeping off the dramatic events of what’s happened thus far, Chester awakens to find his Mother possessed by the Yurei, while the spirit of Yuko watches from afar. He asks it to let Asako go and proceeds to call it a coward. Stomping toward him, the spirit clutches Chester’s throat and squeezes. Whispering the word Taizo, it lets him, and Chester’s Mother, go as she drops to the ground in a heap.
It turns out Asako had a sister called Yuko, the same woman who’s the Yurei currently haunting him. She reveals just why it’s after Chester and why it calls him Taizo. He is Yuko’s orphaned child and given only her own blood can join her in the fantastical hell we saw at the start of the episode, she wants Chester to join her there.
Outside, he spies Yuko in an open grave and takes her to Henry and Yamato-San. Yamato-San tells them that if they destroy the body, it will also destroy the spirit and it’ll finally be set free. Despite Asako’s pleas, they agree it must be done. With the room cleared, Chester throws the lantern at the body and watches as the flames lick up the wood hungrily and consume her. As her skin sizzles and burns, the family watch as an inferno rages up and washes over the house. Pleading with Taizo to release her, Chester watches on from afar, unmoving, and presuming the Yurei has now been killed.
In the smouldering ruins of the house, Yuko’s ominous lullabies float through the air in the morning as she whispers Chester’s name. Is she really dead?
With a creepy atmosphere and some much-needed backstory for Yuko, The Terror delivers an impressive episode here, one that effectively manages to blend horror with exposition in the season’s strongest episode. The Terror hasn’t always matched the same intensity and intrigue the first season had but here Infamy certainly moves things in the right direction ready for the second half of the season. After a slow build, The Terror finally feels like its kicking into gear, leaving the door wide open for where the rest of the season may go.