[Editor’s Note: The following contains spoilers from “The Terror: Infamy” Episode 4, “The Weak Are Meat.”]
On Monday’s episode of “The Terror: Infamy,” the restless ghost known as Yuko (Kiki Sukezane) finally uncovers her true face in one of the most gruesome moments in the series to date.
The unconventional ghost story, set against the backdrop of the Japanese American WWII internment has been unspooling slowly. So far, “The Terror: Infamy” has only revealed that the yurei — a spirit kept from the afterlife — has been haunting a particular internment camp, seemingly targeting Chester Nakamura (Derek Mio) and those close to him. But now there are more clues pointing to what is driving Yuko.
Previously, Chester had left the camp to work as a Japanese translator for the military, hoping that the spirit would follow him to wherever he was stationed. Yuko, however, stayed behind. Masquerading as a midwife, she has been providing prenatal care and checkups to Chester’s pregnant girlfriend Luz (Cristina Rodlo), even appearing to care for the health of the babies. That’s right, babies; Chester and Luz are expecting twins, which Chester’s mother seems to indicate is bad luck.
When Luz goes into labor, she’s taken to the camp’s Dr. Kitamura (Hiro Kanagawa) and Nurse Hasegawa (Emi Kamito). In the back room, Yuko appears to the nurse, who then undergoes a transformation like others have before her. She begins to shudder, creating a blurring movement, which indicates Yuko has taken possession of her body.
“We experimented with a few things. But I think, to me, that shudder visually gives you the notion that she’s entering someone,” said Woo. “Is it not a remote control possession. Her spirit is actually literally entering someone else.
“There aren’t defined rules that everyone knows about with yurei,” he added. “This is probably new to a lot of people. We just wanted to make that as clear as possible what’s happening.”
Taking over another body doesn’t go that smoothly though. As has been shown previously, possessions are often accompanied by a crackling noise as feet and bodies jerk and bend in unnatural ways as the person who is being possessed resists.
“They’re trying to fight it a little bit. Different people can fight it to different extents. Not every character fights it in quite the same way. But you see when they’re not able to walk, or they’re a little stiff, it’s because they can’t help themselves from doing what she wants. That’s a big part of the horror, when our characters realize what’s happening to them. They have no control over it.”
In the nurse’s body, Yuko attempts to assist in Luz’s birth, but sadly, neither baby boy survives. It’s a heartbreaking outcome that leaves both the family and viewers feeling confused and somewhat bereft, a helpless grief that reflects the experiences of those forced into the concentration camps. It’s not clear if the outcome would’ve been different if Luz hadn’t had to seek medical care in the camps, but the conditions probably didn’t help.
As for Yuko, her reaction during the births do not seem to indicate any malevolence toward Luz or the babies. In fact, the ghost appears distraught and upset with the doctor for failing to save the infants’ lives. It’s not revealed how upset she is until the end of the episode.
During Obon, a festival to commemorate the spirits of those who have died, Yuko is seen wearing the traditional smiling otafuku or okame mask, which allows her to walk through the crowds undetected. When she confronts the doctor privately, however, she removes the mask to reveal a horrifying, decayed face underneath. Whoever Yuko is, she’s been dead for a while, and she’s been hiding her true face under flaps of skin and by possessing other people.
“She’s walking around in her own corpse, which also means she leaves her dead body behind when she possesses somebody,” said Woo. But Yuko can’t abandon her body completely since it’s an anchor for her spirit. “If she wants to go all the way to Guadalcanal to get Chester, then she can’t just possess someone. She’s got to keep her corpse around, nearby the whole time.”
Yuko possesses Dr. Kitamura’s body and makes him pick up a scalpel and slice open his belly from side to side, killing him.
“He’s giving himself a C-section. It’s almost like she’s saying, ‘You should’ve given Luz a C-section. If you’d only known how. Here’s how you do it,'” said Woo about the nightmarish self-surgery.
The actions are horrifying, but they’re done in defense of the babies or Luz, which gives a clue about Yuko’s past. From his co-worker, Chester has learned about the yurei’s onnen, “a crazed hunger” for something or to right a wrong she experienced in her lifetime. In an upcoming episode, Yuko’s backstory will be more fully revealed and the origins of this onnen.
“In a movie you might not have the opportunity to get into the why of it,” said Woo. “At that point in the show, hopefully we’ll put the viewer in this uncomfortable position of where we have otherized the monster and then find ourselves maybe starting to build a little bit of sympathy and empathy for this Other.”
And so the lessons and parallels of “The Terror: Infamy” continue. Learning to see the ghost as anything but an Other may prevent future heartbreak if her onnen can be satisfied peacefully. If only the American government could have seen past the otherization of its own innocent Japanese American citizens before deciding to cage them behind barbed wire fences.
“The Terror: Infamy” airs Mondays at 9 p.m. ET on AMC.