The Terror show runners talk Tuunbaq justice in ‘Terror Camp Clear’

Interview by Tara Bennett for SYFY Wire, 8th May 2018

The Tuunbaq returns to wreak havoc on the surviving men in “Terror Camp Clear.” The eighth episode of The Terror also gives us some moving character moments for Fitzjames (Tobias Menzies) and Lady Silence (Nive Nielsen). In this week’s exclusive postmortem, we ask showrunners David Kajganich and Soo Hugh to break it all down for us.

The scene that opens the episode between Fitzjames (Tobias Menzies) and Crozier (Jared Harris) is really moving. This unexpected friendship has bloomed between the two men, and from that comes Fitzjames’ confessional.

Soo Hugh: Dave and I were so impressed by what Tobias did with that scene. When he [auditioned] with that scene — I wish we were joking, but we’re not joking when I say — Dave and I were crying. Edward, our director, and Kate, our casting director, were looking at us like, “Are you guys okay?”

David Kajganich: More like “Try to maintain your dignity, Dave and Soo.” (Laughs)

Soo: So it was amazing on set when Tobias was shooting it. Dave and I started tearing up (again), but at different parts of his speech. And know that Tobias had to reshoot part of that scene because the original scene that we shot had some technical issues. We had to go to Tobias and say, “I’m sorry, we have to reshoot some of it.” He was so gracious, but then when we shot it again, Dave and I cried at another portion of that scene. It’s a long scene, and each time he delivered it and really crafted it. There was so much Tobias in that scene, in the best ways. It’s beautiful because there’s an honesty about the performance.

It’s such a surprising place for the “peacock” to end up.

Soo: Yes. In the first episode, people were led into thinking he’s gonna be one of the antagonists of the series. When Dave and I were in the writers’ room reading Fitzjames’ letters, we learned so much about him. He wrote these really beautiful letters, and there was just so much humanity in the real Fitzjames that we wanted to pull out.

David: And one thing we were looking to do in the editing is make sure that this conversation gives you all this context about Fitzjames, and also a great deal of his self-loathing. He’s really judging himself harshly in that scene. It’s Crozier who steps in and says, “But you’re wrong. I can tell you, you may feel that way about yourself, but this isn’t how I see you, and my respect for you has only grown, not diminished over the last months.”

At the end of that episode, Fitzjames takes the reins and is the person who drives the Tuunbaq out of camp. In the editing room, we wanted to make sure that it felt like those two things weren’t as related as they might have been, in the sense that Crozier had given him a pep talk and now he was a genuinely brave person. We just wanted it to feel like, this is something Fitzjames would have done regardless of whether we started the episode that way. But by starting the episode the way we did, and ending the episode the way we did, we were finally turning Fitzjames in the light and seeing all of his facets.

And the way that Tobias plays that scene at the end was really helpful, just in making sure that it didn’t feel reductive. He laid out a problem at the beginning of the episode, and he solves it at the end of the episode. His performance also didn’t give us the option of being reductive about it. It’s a strange, secret structure of that episode, in that it seems to be about a mutiny and Crozier versus Hickey, but it’s really in a lot of ways Fitzjames’ cotillion, if you will.

In the book, there’s a specific outcome regarding Lady Silence and Crozier. If you were a book reader watching the show, you might assume that maybe you guys were shifting that dynamic to Lady Silence (Nive Nielsen) and Goodsir (Paul Ready). Instead, we get their goodbye in this episode.

David: It speaks to a larger concern we had about making sure that Lady Silence’s arc in the season never felt submissive to any of our male arcs. We knew from the beginning in the writers’ room, we did not want her to leave the story having been relegated to being the girlfriend, or wife, to one of our Western characters. Then we asked, what would her relationship with these men be if we remove the romantic?

We started to realize that there was a relationship we could build between Goodsir and Lady Silence that was almost like a sibling relationship. It had affection. It had vulnerability. It had respect, it grew in intensity, but it didn’t have to be romantic, or sexual, for it to have power. The way that Paul and Nive played those scenes, it’s just wonderful what came out of that. Soo and I really hope for a lot of different reasons that that’s as satisfying, if not more satisfying, than if Lady Silence were to become one of these men’s romantic partner.

Soo: And the whole scene is very much a mirror scene to the scene in Episode 4 when she’s eating and he’s telling her why they’re there and trying to gain the Northwest Passage. He says farewell to her, asking, “Come with me, back to England” and then his words trail off. You realize that she’s very much in some ways the mirror of Goodsir. And that scene follows the moment after the massacre where she’s seen what Hickey has done to her people. I love her face there, because it doesn’t stretch too far, but you realize she cannot live with these men anymore after that. There’s so much being communicated between them, and (Goodsir) understands that.

David: I remember the day we shot that scene. I kept running up to Nive saying, “Just keep in mind, you are pissed. They have murdered your friends. What’s breaking down in this group of men has now touched your community with tragedy.” And she kept saying, “I can’t do that.” She said, “I know how my character feels about Goodsir at the end of this scene. I can’t not smile with him, but I need him to know that he’s good.” It was wonderful.

The climatic hanging of Hickey sequence is very haunting. The environment creates a tension of expectations, with the audience thinking Hickey (Adam Nagaitis) is finally going to pay, and then all hell breaks loose.

Soo: That was a difficult sequence. It took many, many days to shoot, and we had to go back and fix some stuff. What was interesting about that scene is that Dave and I, as well as the actors, understood the layout of Camp Terror really, really well. You wouldn’t think that would be important, but the men had to know which direction they were going. It was such a complicated set piece to choreograph that something as simple as where the boats are, or where the gallows are, was important, because if they’re confused, it lost a lot of the urgency. You didn’t want it to be chaos. It’s a meticulously planned action sequence.

David: One thing I’ll add is the moment when the Tuunbaq roars into the camp and interrupts this court-martial, we would understand why people would think that the timing of that is a contrivance. And particularly in a show where we have a real allergy to those kinds of contrivances, and then suddenly there’s a giant one in the end of that episode. We’d be lying if we said it wasn’t helpful, as most contrivances often are in terms of keeping something moving in a surprising direction. But one thing we wanted to make sure you could feel under that decision was that the timing of it becomes meaningful to Hickey. He now believes something has been confirmed to him.

When he’s standing on deck in Episode 4 and finds the bodies of Strong and Evans, and then sees the Tuunbaq, we actually see them regard one another through the snow. There’s a charge Hickey felt from that experience, that it didn’t kill him, and it spared him for some reason. If you are a narcissist, you’re going to imagine there’s a significant reason. So, even when life presents you with a random coincidence, it means something about you, and probably something quite ennobling about you.

When the Tuunbaq runs in and prevents his execution, Hickey runs off thinking, “I’ve just been given permission to fully evolve and start to imagine how I might utilize this power. I’ve just been spared by a God, which must mean that God has plans for me.” It’s the same way that being given a drink by Crozier earlier in the season meant to Hickey that he was being prepared for better things. We know that’s how Hickey looks at the world. And so when that happens, we felt comfortable using it, mostly because we knew what it was going to do for Hickey’s arc. It was gonna turn it in this completely different, energized direction.

This article was originally posted on SYFY Wire but has since been deleted. It has been recovered and reposted here for posterity.