The Terror's Gruesome Series Finale Explained

The Terror series finale

Warning: MAJOR SPOILERS ahead for The Terror


AMC miniseries The Terror has come to a gruesome close in tonight's series finale, with the villainous Cornelius Hickey and the weary Francis Crozier finally facing the Tuunbaq - the spirit-monster that has been hunting them. Based on the novel of the same name by Dan Simmons, which in turn was based on the true story of the ill-fated Franklin expedition, The Terror has spent 10 gripping episodes blending fantasy-horror with the grim truth of the 19th century voyage that claimed the lives of 129 men.

After abandoning The Terror and The Erebus to embark on a long and difficult journey back to civilization, things went from bad to worse for Captain Crozier and his remaining crew. Hickey led a mutiny that split the survivors into two groups, and the spoiled tins of food began to take their toll on the men. Hickey forced the men in his camp to turn to cannibalism in order to survive, and in the penultimate episode he sent some of his followers to kidnap Crozier. In the series finale, the true nature of Hickey's plan finally comes to light - and things don't really end well for anyone.

Goodsir's Sacrifice

The Terror - Harry Goodsir

Resigned to die in the tundra, Harry Goodsir decides to go out on his own terms and find a way to make his death serve a purpose. He tells Crozier that, when Hickey and the others make a meal of him, to "eat only of my feet" if he is given no other choice, and to eat from the soles of his feet if possible, where the skin is toughest. Later, Goodsir mixes up a poison and rubs it over his skin. Then he drinks a bottle of poison as well, to make sure his "meat" is thoroughly spoiled. So that Hickey and the others will not suspect that he poisoned himself, Goodsir then cuts his wrists with broken glass. He dies shortly afterwards.

Hickey takes the bait, declaring that Goodsir "made a gift of himself," and ordering Crozier to eat from his corpse with the rest of the men. Crozier refuses, and Hickey orders one of the remaining men to stand up - clearly implying that he will be killed if Crozier continues to refuse. Crozier relents, but following Goodsir's instructions he takes a slice from the sole of his foot. Hickey is satisfied, and the rest of the men eat the poisoned meat.

Hickey's Ritual

The Terror - Hickey

The men drag the lifeboat up to the top of the hill, on Hickey's orders. They believe that they are going there to kill Tuunbaq, but Hickey has other plans. He finally reveals the truth: he is not actually Cornelius Hickey at all. He murdered the real Cornelius Hickey after hearing about the expedition and deciding that it would be worth a yearlong trip to get to the other side of the world. He stole Hickey's identity in order to join the expedition, and declares that after three years spent in the freezing Arctic, he has no intention of going back to London.

Hickey begins shouting the hymn "God Bless Our Native Land" at the top of his voice to draw Tuunbaq in, as around him the men start vomiting, succumbing to the poison. The Tuunbaq arrives, and despite the sailors' attempts to fight it off, they are slaughtered one by one, until only Crozier and Hickey remain. As the Tuunbaq kills the men, Hickey cuts out his tongue - part of the Inuit ritual through which a person can tie themselves to Tuunbaq and become a shaman. Hickey brought the men with him not to kill the creature, but as sacrificial offerings to it.

The last of the men to be killed is Hickey's fellow mutineer Tozer, who is chained to Crozier. Tuunbaq swallows Tozer, the chain sticking in its throat. Hickey then holds out his hand, with his severed tongue in the palm, clearly expecting a reward for all his offerings. However, Hickey is not fit to become a shaman: his soul has been spoiled by the sin of cannibalism, and his body has been spoiled by the poison that Goodsir used. Instead of accepting the tongue, Tuunbaq bites down on Hickey's arm and then rips him in half, teaching us all a valuable lesson about the dangers of cultural appropriation.

Page 2: Tuunbaq's Death, Lady Silence's Departure & Crozier's Fate

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