Roush Review: ‘The Terror: Infamy’ Is as Fresh & Original as It Is Frightening

Ed Araquel/AMC

The horror, the horror. Seems an appropriate response to any account of one of the most shameful chapters from our not-so-distant past, when more than 100,000 Japanese Americans were displaced and sent to U.S. internment camps after the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor.

The Terror: Infamy takes this tragedy a step further. In the second season of the provocative anthology series, which adds a creepy layer of supernatural shock to its re-creation of historical events, the dehumanizing indignities of racism and war-fueled hysteria are compounded by “an ill omen from across the sea.” That’s how Asako Nakayama (Naoko Mori), a fisherman’s wife in coastal California, describes it when a funeral is eerily disrupted by inexplicable winds. “We forget when the old spirits call to us.”

That’s certainly true of her son, Chester (Derek Mio), who scoffs, “I thought we left that old-country stuff behind.” A college-educated photographer who’s involved in a secret and complicated romance with a Mexican-American nurse (Cristina Rodlo), Chester feels confined and trapped by tradition. But how to explain the blurry, spectral images he captures in his viewfinder? Or the visions so many in the community are having of an old-school geisha, who may be as lethal as she is lovely?

Chester is haunted by his own encounter with this beautiful phantom, named Yuko (Kiki Sukezane). During a tea ceremony in a brothel, Yuko intuits of his restless soul, “You live in two worlds, but are home in neither.”

Infamy tantalizes with mysteries about Chester’s past and why the ghostly wraiths are so persistent — and, in many instances, deadly — conjuring a freaky aura of grisly ritualistic retribution that follows its callow hero all the way to Guadalcanal. “Any face we see can be that of an evil spirit,” warns a local elder played with wily gravity by Star Trek icon George Takei.

With its powerful depiction of once-proud families uprooted and separated, the series is gut-wrenching enough, even without the scary stuff. And yet by weaving ancient terrors into its all-too-relevant story of prejudice and fear, this fable feels as fresh and original as it is frightening.

The Terror: Infamy, Season Premiere, Monday, August 12, 9/8c, AMC