“Infamy: A Sparrow in a Swallow’s Nest” blends historical fiction with the supernatural to promising effect in this topical second season of AMC’s horror anthology series.
This recap of The Terror: Infamy Season 2, Episode 1, “Infamy: A Sparrow in a Swallow’s Nest”, contains spoilers.
The secret to The Terror: Infamy, the redubbed second go-around of AMC’s anthology horror series, is that it would be scary without any ghosts at all. “Infamy: A Sparrow in a Swallow’s Nest”, the opening hour, begins with something suitably ghoulish, but the season’s real horrors don’t properly reveal themselves until episode’s end — and they’re of a mundanely human variety.
That’s not a criticism. Where we’re eventually going is to an internment camp in North Dakota, where Japanese immigrants were sent in a xenophobic overreaction to the attack on Pearl Harbour during World War II. That’s the real-world history that The Terror: Infamy blends with a generational ghost story to unsettling and topical effect. That story, which in broad strokes is a sprawling family drama and only in the details is a tale of horror, is notably different from the first season’s expeditionary escapades. Again: Not a criticism. It might be different now, but “Infamy: A Sparrow in a Swallow’s Nest” trafficks in the same slow-burning sense of dread and despair. What has changed is the perspective.
The United States’ relationship with immigrants is as topical now as it has ever been. Through the lens of a Japanese-American immigrant family, The Terror: Infamy introduces us to the fraught lives of those considered “other” by the majority of the populace, and that’s before Japan even enter the war. In “A Sparrow in a Swallow’s Nest” this attitude is mostly espoused by Stan Grichuk (Teach Grant), a heavy-drinking manager whose bullying of Henry Nakayama (Shingo Usami), the father of the series’ ostensible American dreamer protagonist, Chester (Derek Mio), proves to be only a mild taste of what’s to come.
What else might come is anyone’s guess. “Infamy: A Sparrow in a Swallow’s Nest” frontloads its most gruesome moment but doesn’t skimp on further unpleasantness, despite a notably unhurried pace. This second season is proudly up-front about its supernatural leanings, one assumes to make a rather unsubtle point about the barbarism of men and demons not being entirely different. That kind of heavy-handed messaging will no doubt earn The Terror: Infamy a contingent of detractors that the first season mostly avoided, but that’s the name of the game when you blend historical fiction with otherworldly hauntings. The parallels are clear, but so too is the show’s craft and effectiveness. “Infamy: A Sparrow in a Swallow’s Nest” was a strong opener that promised plenty more horrors — both those that really happened and those that didn’t. It remains to be seen which will be the scarier of the two.
Jonathon is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has been Senior Editor and Chief Critic of the outlet since 2017.