The Terror showrunners discuss the Hickey twist and more in ‘Horrible from Supper’

Interview by Tara Bennett for SYFY Wire, 1st May 2018

The Terror‘s seventh episode, “Horrible From Supper,” serves as a literal game changer for the story as Captain Crozier (Jared Harris) and the surviving crew of the HMS Erebus and HMS Terror abandon ship.

Knowing their tainted food stores will kill them sooner than later, Crozier hopes the caravan he sent out months before will meet up with them on their way back with supplies. But as the men set out on foot upon the ice, Crozier quickly discovers the caravan search party is dead, massacred by the Tuunbaq only 18 miles away from the ships. Keeping that secret to himself and a few trusted men, they continue inland until they reach dry land. Rocky and void of any game to feed them, Hickey takes advantage of the situation by fomenting the idea of mutiny among the desperate men.

This week in our exclusive post-mortem with showrunners David Kajganich and Soo Hugh, the two talk about the big moves they make in the story that sets up the last days of this doomed expedition.

With the ships left behind with a skeleton crew, The Terror is now a show on the move. Crozier abandoning his ship is a momentous one for any captain who has to make that choice. Tell me about how it changed the show going forward.

Soo Hugh: I have a feeling audiences will feel the way we felt. After being in Budapest, which we loved, for so many months, you’re nervous about abandoning ship. But there’s hope about facing what’s out there and in a new experience. You see it in the men, when Irving (Ronan Raftery) yells, “Onward!” He doesn’t say it in a voice that’s tinged with foreboding-ness. There’s a sense of optimism there. We felt that when leaving Budapest. We were happy it was our home, but when we went to Croatia, it just felt like a new expanse opened up for us.

Let’s talk about the locale you chose for the men’s inland camp. It’s almost as bleak as the ice surrounding the ships. Did you have a clear idea of what it needed to look like, or did you know it once you saw it?

David Kajganich: Well, we knew we wanted it to feel as alien as the icescapes did, so that we never lost the feeling of them being explorers, almost space-age explorers. And we knew it was going to be tricky to find a location that looks like the actual King William Island looks. We reached a point where we were considering trying to do it on stages. We were thinking about maybe trying to do it with a combination of green screen and practical environments in quarries. We were really pulling our hair out trying to figure out, “How do we bring King William Island into this show?”

And then someone finally sent us location photographs of Pag island. We couldn’t believe our luck that it wasn’t that far away. And apart from having a bit more elevation than the actual King William Island does, it looks remarkably like it. So we were just really grateful to the gods of television and cinema that they handed us a lifeline. We were able to go somewhere that evoked what we wanted to evoke, which was this strange, gravel wasteland that goes on for so many miles.

Hickey (Adam Nagaitis) has been an odd guy from the start. He’s clearly been an opportunist and manipulative, but then we see what he does to Irving at the end of this episode and discover that he’s not who anyone thought he was. So now all bets are off with him. Talk about charting his arc to this point.

David: One thing we should say out of the gate is that when we were in the writers’ room, we were very cognizant of the fact that these pawns in this narrative were real people. We thought that this was a very interesting way of taking the character that’s been plucked out of real history and given the most villainous set of choices in the novel, and that there was actually a way that we could further complicate his character while also alleviating us from having to say that one of these real men was this sinister.

That’s when we thought, people probably stowed away on ships all the time. It’s not that much further of a jump to imagine that you might kill someone to take their place on an expedition if you’re running from the law, or if you want to reinvent yourself. And as far as Hickey’s concerned, murdering this man that we see at the beginning of the episode, who’s saying he’s Hickey, was a small price to pay to relocate to Hawaii and start over.

Adam was really excited with the idea that we have no idea about who this man is. We may never know who he is. We have a set of initials in the episode that mean nothing to us. And yes, now all bets are off. Not only do we not know what he’s capable of, we are no longer beholden to an audience’s assumptions about who he is, and why he’s doing what he’s doing. It’s a complete wild card in our seventh episode, which is really hard to pull off without it seeming like a contrivance. But in this case, we felt like we could earn it, in a way, by underplaying it.

Soo: With Hickey and Irving, from the history that we’ve set up from Episode 2 to get to this point in Episode 7, we wanted the audience to question motives. There should be just a lot of questions swimming. Did he kill Irving? What was the practical motivation for killing Irving? Or is there in all of this a sense of resentment, or a sense of self-hiding?

But no matter what answer the audience comes up with, the most interesting reality that this now sets into is there’s one person on this expedition who does not want to get off this island. By killing hope with the Inuits, he does not want rescue under those terms. And that’s really interesting. You wonder, what is this person planning? That was really exciting to us.

David: It gives the narrative back an element of surprise, in the sense that everyone thinks they know how the show is going to end. But throwing a wild card like this into play, now you realize, “Wait, we’re back in a different genre again, and it’s really unclear how the show is going to use them, or subvert them.” We thought it gave the show a bolt of unexpected energy in a way that maybe people won’t have seen coming.

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