'The Terror' Finale 'We Are Gone' Follows Goodsir Beyond the Arctic

Kidnapped by Hickey's men in the previous episode, Captain Crozier (Jared Harris) reunites with Dr. Goodsir (Paul Ready) in "We Are Gone," the series finale of The Terror. Goodsir, ashamed of the cannibalistic butchery he was forced to perform, finds no comfort in Crozier's promise that a rescue party is on the way (one already undercut by a scene back at camp, where the men decide to leave Crozier behind). Instead, he gives Crozier a cryptic warning. "If you're still in the camp when a meal is made out of me, honor bright, Captain, do not accept," Goodsir says. "If he insists, eat only of my feet, do you understand? My feet. The soles if possible, the toughest part. Do you understand? Everything depends on this."

When men died in "The C, the C, the Open C," they did so under variable conditions, but ultimately alone. Extraordinary intimacies were brought out, such as Crozier (Jared Harris) massaging poison down the ceasing and too-weak throat of Sir James Fitzjames (Tobias Menzies), or its dark inverse in Hickey's cannibal party, who sit down for a meal that's strangely familial despite their shared shame and suspicion. But while some men die under more grotesque circumstances than others, each death is individual. The dying cannot be reached, their last state ultimately unknowable, whether surrounded by friends or miles forlorn, like Thomas Blanky (Ian Hart), who ties forks to himself and leads the Tuunbaq away, hoping to give it an upset stomach. The Terror doesn't allow the comfort of believing more noble deaths have a different outcome. But after establishing the material reality of death in "The C, the C, the Open C," "We Are Gone" explores its mystic possibilities, adding a surprising spiritual power to what could have been a relentlessly bleak conclusion.

After washing his body with poison, Goodsir swallows a vial of more poison. He dresses himself, lies down in bed and, as his body begins to convulse, slits his own wrists. It's agonizing to watch Goodsir die, but there's an astonishing compensation. As his head spasms back against his pillow, Goodsir is struck by visions of nature's perfect geometry. First, a flower, floating in white space, then a shell, lit with a yellow radiance from within. Goodsir's words to Crozier—"This place is beautiful to me, even now," he says, "there is wonder here, Captain"—take on a startlingly physical form.

Goodsir's final vision, so evocative of 19th century naturalist art, could be read as a redeeming feature of British exploration: it was occasionally motivated by the pursuit of knowledge itself, rather than imperialism. But attached to Goodsir, a gentle man whose moral revulsion has made him the viewers' closest proxy, the hallucinations become an ecstatic and unexpectedly poignant closeness. The thematic falls away and only the personal remains. Instead of standing aloof, as we are for every other death, we are brought into Goodsir's eyes, to share his final thoughts.

Goodsir's reverie isn't the only surreal touch in "We Are Gone," which leaves behind the bodies of previous episodes for almost psychedelic dips into the unknowable places between life and death, as well as the profound subjectivity of individual experience. After the party abandons the sick men to march south, leaving only a handful of canned food at their tent doors, one sailor crawls from bed and out onto the rocks. "Captain!" he croaks, as the party, with no captain at all, leaves him behind to die. He experiences a final hallucination with all the frustration and agony of a stress dream: crawling across a banquet table, shoving aside roast ducks, cakes and cordials to reach Captain Crozier, in his dress uniform, conversing amiably and ignoring his suffering.

And, of course, the last episode of The Terror delivers what is probably expected: a final confrontation with the Tuunbaq, the Inuit spirit stalking them across the rocky desolation of King William Land. "What mythology is this creature at the center of?" Hickey (Adam Nagaitis) asks Crozier, before dragging chained men to the top of a peak and luring the Tuunbaq to their position. "We were not meant to know of it," Crozier replies.

Hickey leads his men to a final confrontation with the Tuunbaq. Aidan Monaghan/AMC

But it doesn't matter, because Hickey no longer listens, instead staring off into space, an affected gleam of grace and wisdom in his unseeing eyes. When Hickey brings up the glass of whiskey they once shared, not even Crozier's withering rebuke can dissuade Hickey from what he's come to believe: that he is one of the elect, the special people, for which this horrific chain of events was first set in motion. He needs nothing from Crozier, except for the captain to witness his ascendancy. After luring in the Tuunbaq, he cuts free his tongue and attempts to take shamanic control of the creature. It doesn't go as well as Hickey had hoped. As with his ill-fated mutiny, Hickey's belief in his right to control what he doesn't understand leads him to ruin. Unlike Goodsir, he has no humility before nature. And unlike Crozier, he has no humility before his fellow man.

Even if Goodsir's sacrifice—the poison in his system permeating the Tuunbaq and Hickey's men—points to a cosmic design, The Terror never allows for the pat comfort of inevitability. Despite Hickey's fatalistic belief in a grand narrative, or even the Inuit shaman's certainty that Tuunbaq balances the scales of nature through its slaughter, the expression of disgust on Lady Silence's face when she sees Dr. Goodsir's cannibalized body says otherwise. Stark, gorgeous, violent, frightening and uplifting, The Terror masterfully grappled with environmental imbalance, the boundaries of masculinity and the finality of death, but its biggest triumph will always be its preference for the individual men, each as intimately detailed and beloved as Goodsir's revered conch shell.