After the finale’s opening sequence, the bombing of Hiroshima largely recedes into the background. The action centers on the protagonist Chester Nakayama (Derek Mio) as he tries to save his infant son from the yūrei, or ghost, that’s been terrorizing his family and who was revealed to be Chester’s birth mother, Yuko (Kiki Sukezane). Tricked by her older sister into marrying a cruel man, Yuko took her own life shortly after arriving in America. Her angry spirit has since been exacting bloody revenge—and not just against those who once hurt her, but also against her son’s wife, Luz; Luz’s father; and Chester’s adoptive father. Despite portraying Yuko as a menace for most of the season, the show ends her rampage with a poignant scene that treats her with surprising compassion.
Unable to ward off Yuko using a combination of religious and folk traditions drawn from Luz’s Mexican heritage and from Japanese Buddhist beliefs, Chester takes a different approach. He tells his mother that, if she allows him and his family to live, they will be able to honor her memory for generations to come. In a surreal sequence, he travels back in time with Yuko to the last happy moment of her life: when she was pregnant in Japan, excited about the future, before her fateful journey to America. The gauzy look of the scene recalls the episode’s opening dreamscape: Like poor Kazu, Yuko can only find peace in another world. But unlike Kazu, Yuko’s descendants will live on and keep her memory alive.
This theme of remembering the past, however ugly or frightening, is central to The Terror: Infamy and infuses the finale. “Into the Afterlife” closes a few years after the end of World War II with a scene of Chester, Luz, and their children celebrating the yearly Obon festival honoring the dead. When the credits roll, the show emphasizes just how personal the subject of remembering is for the people behind Infamy. A gently rollicking gospel tune plays as images of various cast (Mio, Takei, Sab Shimono) and crew members (the directors Lily Mariye and Jason Furukawa) scroll by, alongside old photos of their family members who were interned during the war. The very existence of the show, this sequence implies, is a profound act of memorializing, of ensuring that the sacrifices and struggles of previous generations are never erased.
However moving, the conclusion can’t overcome the series’ many misfires. “Into the Afterlife” brings only a small amount of comfort and resolution to an ensemble that endured unfathomable trauma over 10 episodes. In some ways, Infamy was doomed by its premise: A malevolent spirit targets characters who are already victims of state-sanctioned prejudice, xenophobia, and violence. (By contrast, the first season of The Terror featured empire-building colonialists on an ill-fated 19th-century British naval expedition and told a morally complex story.) As someone whose parents and grandparents were also sent to U.S. prison camps during World War II, my first reaction to the idea of a horror show set in this environment was, Didn’t these people suffer enough?