“A Mercy” is the sixth episode of the TV show “The Terror”, an adapatation of a novel by Dan Simmons with the same title, and follows “First Shot a Winner, Lads“.
Note. This article contains spoilers about “A Mercy”.
Captain James Fitzjames (Tobias Menzies) wants to abandon the Erebus and Terror with all the survivors to try to walk to safety. To try to improve the men’s morale, he decides to have a masked party on ice. Dr. Henry Goodsir (Paul Ready) finds further evidence that they all risk lead poisoning but Dr. Stephan Stanley (Alistair Petrie) doesn’t seem to pay any attention to him.
In “A Mercy” the attention seems to fully return to natural dangers and personal demons while the threat of the Tuunbaq creature is put aside for a moment. So far, in “The Terror” the supernatural element has been a secondary element for a historical drama and in this episode is included only in connection with Lady Silence (Nive Nielsen) confirming that the woman needs to fully replace her father as a shaman.
Captain Francis Crozier (Jared Harris) is going cold turkey and Thomas Jopson (Liam Garrigan) has to take care of him, one of the few moments of light in an episode very dark not only because of the Arctic night but also from a human point of view. Captain James Fitzjames realizes that the situation is becoming increasingly difficult and he thinks it’s time to leave the ships behind but first he organizes a party.
Tobias Menzies was one of the cast members of the TV show “Rome”, in his case in the role of Brutus, so the fact that he dresses up as a Roman legionnaire is a nod to the audience. It’s appropriate in a party that’s rather surreal in which men try to forget for a few hours the death that hangs on them and get lost in drunk dances.
The sun that rises in the ending of “A Mercy” is in some ways a joke as it sheds light on the tragic events that close the party. The inner darkness is likely to be darker than ever despite Captain Crozier’s intervention following the twists that lead to further death and destruction. Basically, when the element of supernatural horror is in the background there’s that of psychological horror that becomes important.
“The Terror” is above all a historical drama concerning an expedition that suffered a tragic end and initially the doubt was on the cause of death of the crews of the two ships. Now, however, the doubt is on which of the possible causes will kill them first because they all seem plausible and the deaths so far have been due a them all.
“A Mercy” is a well-constructed and well-acted episode that represents a turning point in the show. After those events, the situation for the survivors becomes much more difficult.