Television

The Terror: Infamy Episode 5 Shatter Like A Pearl-Recap and Review

An overstuffed episode filled with No No Boys, LaLarona, onnen, and Seppuku ended as Yuko appeared in unsettling fashion in Guadalcanal.

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Courtesy of Ed Araquel/AMC
Every good Yurei needs a target for their vengeance and grief.  In this case since Luz and Chester’s twins have died she is hunting down Chester in Guadalcanal.  All she needs is a young Japanese American translator and her true demon body.  Yurei can possess other people as we have seen throughout the last four episodes, but only if their true body is nearby.  Trekking across the country is not an option for Yuko either in her decomposed state or as a more palatable soldier, without her body close by.  So she has shoved herself into a ruck sack and gotten herself shipped to the war while inhabiting the body of the poor translator.  If Chester thought he was seeing the Yurei everywhere before, he’s definitely seeing her now.
Episode five was split into two emotional parts with the heavy lifting being done by Chester and his prisoner.  A POW Tetsuya Ota played by Kazuya Tanabe is brought into camp to be interrogated.  Tanabe does an incredible job escalating the encounter early by pretending to be the Yurei and later by taunting him with hateful slurs.  His rabid hurling of barbs makes the tender moments later all the more meaningful.   Ota is smart but vulnerable and uses what he has overheard to confuse and enrage Chester.  Later, after it is clear Chester will not take the bait, a much weightier conversation strikes up between the two. 
These two men on opposite sides of a war share common beliefs in the old spirits.  Chester believes Yuko is coming for him, Ota believes he has shamed himself and doomed his spirit by lacking the ability to use his dagger.  Ota’s verbal abuse of Chester was intended to result in his own death.  Japanese naval pilots were given a dagger to be used to perform Seppuku or suicide rather than fall into the hands of the enemy.  The title of the episode “To Shatter Like A Pearl” pays homage to the belief that it is better to take your own life than to be used as a weapon against your own people.  To fail to impale himself he has dishonored himself and his family.  It is this fear and guilt that guide his initial interactions with Chester.  The two men ultimately bond over something ironically as American as baseball.  It does also bear noting that the red stitching of the baseball used to mark the soldiers journal is a call back to the funeral scene in episode one when Chester tried to unravel his own skin. 
The genius of the writers to weave human commonalities with horrific supernatural powers has transformed The Terror: Infamy in a similar way as season one did.  Director Lily Mariye brings a sensitivity to both the debilitating grief of Luz and the tragedy of war.  In particular the framing of the two men who fight for differing countries both sitting on the floor across from each other as the viewer rotates from one perspective to the other drives home the deep sadness that death brings.  As sympathy overcomes Chester he unties Ota and allows the man one final chance at redemption.  Just before Ota stabs himself in the stomach he pays Chester the ultimate compliment without even meaning too.  He tells Chester he would have struck him out just as he did Lou Gehrig implying the two are alike.  Similar to Asako comparing her son’s looks to Gary Cooper this comparison is one more reminder that just because they are immigrants does not mean they are less American.
C. Thomas Howell continues to shine as the ignorant buffoon Major Bowen.  He is not a bright man and he doesn’t understand that the residents of the camp are equal parts hope and fear.  They are terrified to answer the questionnaire wrong and end up dead or stuck there forever but desperately cling to hope that they could get out.  By forcing their hand he was sowing the seeds of distrust and dissension.  His casually flung comments to Amy highlight just how racist and out of touch he is.  Their lack of obedience is a bewilderment to him.
The loyalty papers were an unfortunate addition to internment camp life.  The Application For Leave Clearance Form or more commonly known as the “loyalty questionnaire” were distributed to all Japanese and they were forced to prove their loyalty to America by answering the thirty questions without exception or disclaimer.  Specifically questions 27 and 28 became rallying cries for protest.  The No No Boys were born.  After threats of violence, imprisonment, fines, and food-withholding the group chose to answer no to both questions angering both the Americans and Japanese Americans alike who despite their harsh treatment still valued loyalty and military service over all else. 
Using her position in the office Amy took action and changed Ken’s answers to protect her boyfriend.  She was understandably afraid for him but he was angry with her.  He appears to be a coward as he was so vocal earlier as a result.  However unhappy he is with her, she saved him from being segregated to Tule Lake with the rest of the dissenters.  This maximum security center located in Modoc County California near the Oregon border became a prison of malcontents who were labeled traitors.  Food shortages, work strikes, and martial law awaited anyone unlucky enough to find themselves there.  
Giving hints to the true nature of Yuko, Luz is presented as a La Llorona of sorts.  The Mexican woman in white who mourns her children’s drowning for eternity is a striking and fitting persona for Luz to fill.  The children even refer to her as “the ghost woman”.  She is presented in a nightgown of white and is shoeless and disheveled.  She is hollow in her sorrow.  This poor woman is postpartum depression personified and it is heartbreaking.  Her father comes to get her after losing his son and learning of her babies loss.  Poor Luz still doesn’t understand her midwife and friend Yuko was anything but an ally as she asks Asako to return the rattle drum shortly before leaving the camp with her father.  Henry who has lost so much is the one to hug her in a tear jerking scene that features the most breathtaking overhead shots of the season to date.  Henry and Luz as they stand on either sides of the camp gate in the stark white is as pretty as it is painful to watch.  Seventy five years later it is the Mexican Americans caught in the middle of a struggle no one quite understands.
In the final moments, Chester’s partner becomes possessed by Yuko and commands him at gunpoint to drive “home”.  Just where that is is anyone’s guess.  The soldiers begin shooting at the jeep and it flips killing Chester’s partner.  Chester has survived but he may wish he hadn’t as he comes face to face with the Yurei he has suspected was haunting him all along.  A tumbling, twisting bit of contortion work is very successful in unveiling the undead and very gross demon that has been hiding in the sack.  Coupled with very strong sound work this is by far the most disturbing scene of the series.  As she reaches for Chester she tells him it’s time to go home and calls him Taizo which means third son.  Since Chester is supposed to be an only child this is a curious moniker.  His fate awaits in Episode six.

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